Lately, smart publishing professionals have been saying “it needs a great hook” to describe books they seek. Recently I wrote about the all-important first page, which of course should seize the reader and not let go.
However, that’s not the same as the story hook itself. The hook must make the consumer say, “I’ve got to read this!” even before she turns to page one.
The nonfiction hook shows weighty questions the book answers, also known as “felt need” in editorial circles. Here, the title can be a major selling point because it immediately lets the reader know the book’s purpose. Examples:
The Art of Loving God: Simple Virtues for the Christian Life by St. Francis de Sales
Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind by Joyce Meyer
And to illustrate how subtitles can be changed to hook various audiences at different times:
The Death of Death in the Death of Christ: A Treatise in Which the Whole Controversy about Universal Redemption is Fully Discussed by John Owen. Published 1959
Death of Death in the Death of Christ: Why Christ Saves All for Whom He Died by John Owen. Published 2016
Which version of Owen’s book would you prefer to read?
In fiction, the hook tells us how the plot entertains and answers questions. Novels can be more challenging to name, but you want the reader to pick up your book based on the title, then intrigue the consumer to read the blurb to see if the story is of interest. For example:
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Michell answers the question: How does one Southern woman cope with the loss of everything she knows in the wake of war?
1984 by George Orwell answers the question: What happens when Government exerts too much control?
Granted, no matter how excellent your hook is, a specific portion of the reading public will not bite because the book doesn’t resonate with them. Not to worry. Your job isn’t to attract all readers. Your mission is to lure your intended audience. With a great hook, you can.
Are you reading a book with an exceptionally good hook now?
What type of books currently get your attention? Why?