Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Book Hook Hall of Fame (Part 2 of 2)

This post comes from marketing consultant Rob Eagar’s blog, “Wildfire Marketing.” It's used with his permission. (Cec)

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As a book marketing consultant, I like to help my author clients develop book hooks using the "what if I told you" technique. For fiction authors, I remind them that a good hook should present a heroic quest and the implied conflict that the protagonist will experience.

Every great book hook has this quality in common: you want to know how the story, the history, or the non-fiction advice will play out.

Sometimes it's easier to create a hook for your book when you see effective examples displayed. Below are 10 excellent samples:

1. What if a suicidal man had an angel show him how his town would turn out if he'd never lived?

2. What if I told you four Jamaicans decided to enter the Winter Olympics as a bobsled team...and had never seen snow?

3. What if you could be debt-free in 12 months, no matter how much you owe?

4. What if you can actually train your brain to win?

5. What if two people who hate each other start anonymously writing each other online and fall in love?

6. What if I told you the amount of rainforest equal to 31 million football fields disappears each year?

7. What if you can learn when to say and how to say no without feeling guilty?

8. What if you discovered your entire life was just a computer-generated illusion?

9. What if the first man to walk on Mars suddenly realizes he'll be the first to die there?

10. What if I told you everyone speaks, but not everyone is heard?

Notice how these "what if" questions naturally make you want to know more. That's the purpose of a book hook. Make people curious. Make them wonder. Make them want to purchase and read what happens next.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Book Hook Hall of Fame (Part 1 of 2)

As I finished creating my 10-part series on writing aphorisms, I read marketing consultant Rob Eagar’s blog, “Wildfire Marketing.” The next two posts are reprinted with his permission. (Cec)

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What if you could convince people to buy your book with just one sentence?

Would you want to learn how? Of course, every author would be curious to know the answer.

That's the power of a hook. And it just worked on you. (Ha!)

A book hook is a statement or question designed to generate immediate curiosity and make the reader desire to know more.

Why are hooks so important? Language is the power of the book sale. You're not selling books to machines. You're selling books to human beings. A book hook is powerful language that naturally makes people notice and want more.

How do you create a great book hook? Use this simple technique to get started. Imagine that your book is about to become a movie. Think like a screenwriter instead of an author.

For example, if you write fiction, picture your novel as an upcoming major motion picture, such as a thriller, a romantic comedy, or a horror film. How would you grab the reader's attention in one sentence?

If you've written a memoir, imagine your book as a dramatic tale on the silver screen. How would you make people curious about your story using one question or statement? If your genre is non-fiction history, education, religion, or self-help, imagine your book as a feature documentary.

Another effective technique for a great book hook is related to the way ESPN promotes their popular sports documentaries on TV called "30 for 30." They market every film using a narrator who asks the question, "What if I told you ____?" For each documentary, they fill in the blank to that question with a provocative statement.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Aphorisms (Part 10 of 10)

When we sell manuscripts to publishers, they retain the right for the title. In my early days, I had no choice when editors insisted on changing mine. For example, one of my early books carried the title Put on a Happy Faith, and sold 40,000 the first year. My follow-up book I titled Have a Faith Lift. An editor said, “You’ve made an inroad with the cutesy title, and now we want to reach out of the more sedate readers.”

I had no voice in the matter and it came out as How to Live a Christian Life. It sold a total of 6,000 copies.

These days, however, publishing houses usually confer with their authors. Most of my books have kept the original title with sometimes a minor tweaking. My title was 90 Minutes in Heaven: A Story of Life and Death. Revell editors reversed the subtitle to A Story of Death and Life. I think they were correct.

On the other hand, another book I wrote for Don Piper carried the title of Departing Instructions for the Life Ahead: A Study of John 13 to 17.

Sad to say, the New York house didn’t seem to understand our audience, and they called it Getting to Heaven, with the subtitle Departing Instructors for Your Life Now. I still think it was a dreadful mistake on their part. (That publisher has since closed its Christian book division.)

Think about your title. Play with it in such a way that attracts readers. The use of aphorisms can work there. One of my titles was Making Sense When Life Doesn’t. The book didn’t have outstanding sales, but I still believe it was a good title. It also was a terse summary of my book.

The more faithfully I write aphorisms, 
the more I see many practical uses for them. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Aphorisms (Part 9 of 10)

Once we get used to writing aphorisms, we discover they do more than make clever statements. They’re also useful in writing articles and books.

The concept of several of my books began with a single thought. My personal favorite, Knowing God, Knowing Myself, found its genesis in a comment by St. Teresa of Avila: “We shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God.” That stayed with me for weeks while ideas tumbled through my mind. Then I wrote the book.

My awareness that learning to write aphorisms could lead to creative articles happened in the mid-1990s when Lin Johnson, editor of The Christian Communicator, asked me to write an article on how to get a literary agent. (Christian agents first came on the scene around 1990, and I was one of those early ones to sign with one.)

In writers magazines, I’d read articles on how to get an agent and had fairly well digested the material. As I pondered the piece Lin wanted, out of seemingly nowhere I thought, Why would an agent want me for a client?

I used that as my starting place and kept the focus on the literary agent instead of myself. The material was the same, but I used a different approach. (And, as I recall, I had five requests for reprinting the article.)

I realized that once I distilled the dozens of ideas and concepts, I was ready to write. And the major factor in the distillation process was one simple maxim.

We can learn brevity that leads to creative ways to express ourselves.

Once we learn to write maxims,
they become guides in creatively writing for publication.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Aphorisms (Part 8 of 10)

Think of the times you’ve read an article or a book and afterward thought, Yes, it was all right. Nothing special. Or you might think, It reinforced what I believed, but didn’t shed light or give me a deeper understanding.

Or I can look at this from the position of a public speaker. At a writers conference years ago, each speaker was told to introduce their classes in one minute. Three of them gave almost their entire message—in at least five minutes. As I listened to the third one drone on, here’s an aphorism that popped into my head:
Those who have the least to say
take the longest to say it.
In another conference, as a joke as much as anything else, I defined two types of bad writers:
Fat writers like and enjoy writing lengthy sentences, with parenthetical phrases, set off by commas, (or sometimes in parenthesis), and occasionally inserting the em dash—an attention getter—and always writing many words that go on endlessly and redundantly.

Skinny: Writes nouns, verbs, one adjective.

I decided to write about aphorisms on this blog because they do one special thing for me: they force me to think clearly and to make sentences meaningful. They remind me of a dictum from a long-time pastor who offered me advice on how to be effective: “Stand up, speak up, shut up.”

I grapple with words, constantly trying to say them better. I’ve sometimes said to beginning writers, “I enjoy rewriting more than I do the writing.”

My first draft flows out of passion, believing I have something to justify killing another tree. I toil over the second draft to refine my thinking. If I expend high-level energy in my writing, readers will find it easy to stay with me.

I labor with my prose 
so readers won’t have to.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Aphorisms (Part 7 of 10)

Memorable sayings need to have a twist—a surprise. Knowing or informing doesn’t grab us because we read nothing unexpected—that is, it holds no surprise. A good aphorism moves in one direction and abruptly challenges the first statement.

These sayings often contain a smidgen of humor.

Here’s an example I wrote recently:
I refuse to judge other Christians—
even when I see them doing something wrong.
How does this one by Ashleigh Brilliant grab you? “I wish somebody would expose me for what I really am, so that I would know.”

One of my all-time favorites comes from the witty Oscar Wilde, who said, “I can resist anything, except temptation.”

Here’s another of mine, borne out of my own experience:
God, today help me to be kind and compassionate to everyone—
especially to myself.
Maxims charm us;
they also surprise us.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Aphorisms (Part 6 of 10)

I once read that the adages we quote lead us one of two ways. The first is directive. That is, they subtly nudge us to change our behavior by pointing out a better way to live.

Those dictums come as reflections on our own issues and struggles—as they did with me. I wrote this one after being ashamed and immobilized by something I had done long ago. Here’s the result:
Nothing I can do alters the past;
everything I do reshapes the future.
The second way aphorisms lead is by challenging our thinking. Aphorisms are outlaws—they don’t tell us what to do, but by focusing on life as it is, they take us to a deeper level.

Here are two of mine:
God heals the sins of our past, but the scars remain.
If I say, "You made me angry,"
I'm holding onto my expectations of your behavior.
These are the kind that, once we read them, we say, “Yes, I hadn’t thought of that way.”

Why not write your own?

I share my experiences in pithy statements
to nudge and encourage others.