Book Hooks: How to Snag a Reader (Hook, Line & Sinker)

“What you think might snag a reader may turn out to just be a tiny nibble. And what you need is the hook, line, and sinker. Keep fishing until you get a bite.”

There are quite literally millions of books in the world. Google Books reported that 129,864,880 books have been published since the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in 1440. Fun fact though, that number doesn’t factor in books published after 2010, or any self-published book title. You do the math. That means there are an insane number of books that are not accounted for in that statistic.

It’s no secret that the digital world of publishing has exploded in recent years. Since 2010, Bowker reported that digital publishing has increased by 246%!

So, with all these books saturating the market, how do you make yours stand out?

The answer…

You need a book hook. And it better be good. Because it’s quite literally the bait you’ll dangle in front of potential readers. So, if there is anything you want to write, re-write, and re-write again, it’s this. Your book hook should be no more than 100 words. It’s your story told in a single breath that grabs the attention of a reader and invites them inside the cover (err…gets them to flick their finger to the next page).

You have four goals when writing a book hook:

1 – Pique the reader’s interest

2 – Leave the reader wanting more

3 – Be 100% focused on the primary subject or character

4 – Be short and sweet (and pack a punch)

As an author of contemporary romance, I firmly believe that this is where books either fly or flop. Romance is a billion-dollar industry, and the market is saturated with happily ever after stories. Some are good… and some really are not. But one thing is true: books sell because of the hook. Take my two examples for instance:

I Loved You Yesterday

Joshua Templeton wants a second chance with childhood flame, Mavis Benson. But it’s not that easy… after all, now she’s in bed with his twin brother.

I Love You Today

What do you do when a girl trips and falls down a staircase, and crash lands into your broken heart? For Austin Templeton, the answer is easy. You quit your job and become a Chicago Cubs fan.

Has your interest been piqued? Do they make you want to want to read more? Are they focused solely on the main character(s)? How about packing a punch?

I think they hit mark (or come close to it).

When I sat down to painstakingly draft these book hooks, I approached them as if I were drafting a tweet. Twitter allows for 280 characters per tweet, which is comparable for the 100-word book hook. So, if you’re a social media savvy author, put on your content creation cap and approach this task from this perspective.

The book hook will also lay the foundation for your pitch (a 100-300-word paragraph you’ll use for your query letter). Oftentimes, your hook will be used as the pitch opener (or at least a variation on it). Combined, your book hook and pitch then become your book blurb (the enticing string of information you’ll find on the back of a book cover).

Writing about your writing is harder than actually writing.

Read that again.

Writing about your writing is hard than actually writing.

My best advice is to write several variations of your book hook and poll your intended readership. What you think might snag a reader may turn out to just be a tiny nibble. And what you need is the hook, line, and sinker. Keep fishing until you get a bite.

Published by julienavickas

Julie Navickas is a nationally recognized contemporary romance novelist with Inkspell Publishing, known for her keen ability to weave heart-wrenching, second-chance love stories through relatable characters with humility, humor, and heroism. She is also an award-winning instructor and academic advisor in the School of Communication at Illinois State University, the public relations manager for Burning Soul Press, the social media strategist for Labyrinth Made Goods, and is a continuing education instructor with Heartland Community College. Julie is a mom to three children: Lily (5); Colton (4); Brady (2), and has been married to her high school sweetheart, Thomas, for ten years.

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