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Hook, Line, and Snag ‘em By Writing a Book Hook that’s Sure to Reel Them In

With so many books to choose from, today’s author has to step up their game to snag a potential reader’s attention. And a hook that reels them in is just what you need.


That first line is what snags the reader’s attention and hooks them into reading the rest of that book blurb or listening to the entire elevator pitch with rapt attention. And that’s when you’ve got them wanting to buy your book!


So, when it comes to creating a hook that works, my first piece of advice is to remember this: Whether it’s an elevator pitch, your online book description or the blurb on the back of your book, your goal should be to leave the potential reader with questions that have them excited to open that book and find the answers, not questions that need answers before they can get excited.


My second piece of advice is: Don’t forget to include a hook, that single line that snags their attention and has any potential reader wanting to hear more.

So, how do we write a blurb or pitch that’s as close to perfect as we can get?

 


Step One:

Start by honing in on the tone of your story. Why? Well, because you don’t want to lead the potential reader astray. If the reader is turned off by horror and you’ve written a horror story, that particular reader isn’t your audience. And if they’re led astray by your book description because the tone doesn’t match the story inside, then they’re buying your book under false pretenses. And if that happens, you’re just asking for a bad review.


Besides, the intention here is to capture your reading audience, so that’s where your focus should stay.


So, whether you’ve written a mystery, a horror, a romance or a fantasy, ask yourself: What three adjectives best describe the tone of my story? Then, focus on that tone and be sure your blurb or pitch takes the potential reader along the same path.


For instance, is your story Funny, Sweet and Charming?

Perhaps it’s Twisted, Scary and Dark.

Or maybe it’s Fast-moving, Action-packed and Gritty.


Now, keep those adjectives in the forefront of your mind as you craft a few lines that are sure to reel the right readers inside your book.

 


Step Two:

Next, experts will tell you that your book blurb or elevator pitch needs to answer five important questions: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. But we need to do better than simply providing the basics.


For instance, the following example answers those questions and might grab a reader’s attention, but would it have them hooked and ready to buy the book?


Four siblings step through a wardrobe door and into a frozen land. Enslaved by a witch, they fear all hope is lost until the leader of this land returns, signaling a great change… and a great sacrifice.
 

Now, you probably guessed which book this blurb describes, but C.S. Lewis did a lot better than that with the following:


Open the door and enter a new world!

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change... and a great sacrifice.

Worlds better, right?


With a memorable hook and just two sentences, C.S. Lewis had me and millions of others hooked and picking up The Chronicles of Narnia. So, don’t just answer those five important questions. Snag their attention with a great hook and reel them in with a book blurb or elevator pitch that’s sure to turn potential readers into definite ones.

 

Tip:

When you start crafting answers to those five questions, don’t be bland. Be creative.


1. Who?  Identify the main character(s) in an interesting and intriguing way.

2. What?  Describe the protagonist’s main conflict and goal without giving away the entire story or the outcome.

3. Where?  Give your potential reader a hint as to where your story takes place. Think setting, i.e., a mountainous terrain, oceanside, crowded city or maybe something more rural or backwoods, and climate, such as tropical, frozen tundra or maybe something in between or more dangerous.

4. When?  Give your potential reader a taste of when your story takes place, i.e., medieval times, Victorian era, or perhaps something more contemporary or far into the future.

5. Why? Describe in just one sentence what’s at stake should the protagonist fail. Don’t be generic, and keep the tone of your story in mind. 

 


Step Three:

Now that you’ve honed in on the tone of your story and answered those five questions, you’re ready to start crafting your full book blurb or elevator pitch consisting of just a few sentences.


Keep in mind that the best blurbs or elevator pitches can be read or recited in approximately thirty seconds, so don’t try to fit in too much. Think of this as you would a movie trailer and focus on the highlights.


Start by asking yourself: What makes my story unique? Then, pull out some of those unexpected details, keeping in mind that these hints as to what a reader will find inside your pages are meant to entice, not provide spoilers. So, don’t give away too much, but also, don’t be so vague that you leave the reader with questions they need answers to before they’re ready to make that purchase.


Next, ask yourself if each sentence you’ve come up with succeeds in building an urgency that has the potential reader saying, “I have to read this book!” by accomplishing at least one of the following:


  • Prompt questions the reader can’t wait to have answers to

  • Introduce a compelling character potential readers want to know more about

  • Provide a visual, vivid peek into the world inside your book

  • Give your story a unique voice that tells the potential reader this is the book they want

  • Build narrative tension by exposing the conflict and/or touching on the consequences should the protagonist fail to reach their goal

 


Step Four:

Now, read what you have and put all of those elements together in a single attention-getting line, and that’s your hook. That’s the first line, the headliner for your blurb or pitch. That’s where you grab the reader’s attention. Then, you reel them in with the rest.


For The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis gave us a hook that reads:

Open the door and enter a new world!

 

Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons hooks us with:

An ancient secret brotherhood. A devastating new weapon of destruction.

 

And Karen Robards’ thriller Sleepwalker (one of my favorites!) pulls us in with a clear and simple line that says a lot:

Cops and Robbers don’t mix.

 

Sounds easy, right? Just kidding. But don’t panic. You can do this!

 


Step Five:

Next, it’s clean-up time. This is where we get that book blurb or elevator pitch as close to perfect as we can.  


Your elevator pitch or book burb should be smooth and clear, never choppy or confusing. So, once you’ve crafted those sentences, be sure to read them out loud and run what you have by a few people who specifically fit your reading audience. Those are the readers who will truly be able to tell you if you’ve got a hit on your hands.


 

One Last Tip:

If you’re having trouble getting started, try browsing through some of the blurbs on the back covers of your favorite novels for inspiration. Obviously, the closer to the same genre as your story, the better.


A good exercise is to watch a movie trailer and then try putting it into words. After all, that’s exactly what we fiction writers do.


The mood music, the sights, the sounds, the body language, the facial expressions, the emotion, the tension, everything you see on screen we have to show the reader through the words we choose.


So, if you can write the story, you can definitely handle the highlights.

 


You’ve got this! 

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