I recently attended the Romantic Times Reader Writer Con in Atlanta and discovered one very important truth. I had no idea what a hook was! As a historical writer, I always assumed I would take key points from the history surrounding my characters to try and hook my readers. People who enjoy westerns and historical fiction are my main readership after all.
Thus the error in my thinking. In order to catch new readers or people who don’t yet know they may be interested in my books, the average person, you have to be able to get to them on their level, in their everyday lives, at least if you want to reach that million reader mark. I have always heard people say that you have to sell yourself as much as you sell your book, and I thought this meant I had to sell my ideas or thoughts on my own books. While in one media marketing workshop I learned, however, it is not me I am selling as much as my expertise. Not only am I selling my expertise, but I am selling base knowledge that relates to the topics covered in my book.
Destiny’s Purpose (https://www.amazon.com/Destinys-Purpose-Destiny-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00V1B46YS) for example, introduces a series of book about the black cowboys that came out of the Mexico Texas Border. It covers the untold border wars that went on between the bounty hunters and the escaped slaves in that region. These books span the pre, post, and civil war era. Thus, most of my articles and blogs covered that time frame and those topics.
One media expert asked me what my books were about. When I told her she astonished me with her response. She told me the books I wrote were a very hot topic at the moment. I didn’t follow her reasoning until she said my own words back to me. Border Wars: The Untold History. With the controversy going on in the United States over the Borders, my topic could be made very relevant.
My understanding of a hook has always been that you must use your book itself to hook the audience. I have used the most exciting lines or scenes in my books to try to hook my audience. This method is fine if your reader has time to really go through and read or listen to more than a thirty second description. The average person is not going to take more than 13 seconds to really read or listen before their attention wanders. The marketing experts at the conference also encouraged us to think outside of the box about your topic.
If you are writing a story about a librarian who discovers her mother has cancer, and both mother and daughter hav
e to meander through the tragedy together, the first thing you might think of is covering cancer or even cancer survivor stories as your hook. On average, however, any one news outlet might receive six hundred stories on cancer survivors. Not to demean the event, but it is a story that is covered a lot. How about Children Coping with Parental Cancer, or Bald is the new Beautiful. It hovers on your story but presents it in a new and interesting perspective. Your hook should be different than what other people most commonly cover.