With Rob Eager
Hey hey, it’s Christina Kaye, and you’re listening to the Write Your Best Book the podcast. As most of you are aware by now, I’m an award-winning best selling author, editor, author coach, public speaker and instructor for authors. I’m the CEO and Founder of Write your Best Book and Top Shelf Editing, which are the main sponsors for this podcast. Each week, we discuss topics that can help authors write their best book. Most of our weekly topics are “how-to” issues regarding the craft of writing a novel. But every now and then, we’ll dive into some topics on publishing and marketing.
This week’s topic – “How to Write an Effective Hook” – straddles the fence between the craft and marketing. On one hand, it takes some level of skill and practice to write your hook, but it also is a device that quite possibly can make all the difference in how well your book sells.
We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of hooks, in just a minute, what they are, and how to write them, here shortly when I bring on our guest for today, Rob Eager. But before we do that, I want to bring you this week’s book plug.
MIDNIGHT TOUCH is a great shifter/paranormal novel written by L Ann. Here’s the blurb:
Trouble always finds Shaun Jacobs…
So, really, the sizzling hot alpha male shouldn’t have been surprised when a move to a new town and a fresh start doesn’t go according to plan – especially when Shaun’s wolf lays claim to the beauty he unexpectedly finds on his property.
Passion soars, but Cassie comes with her own brand of trouble in the form of an ex who can’t take no for an answer.
To make matters even worse, there’s a hunter on Shaun’s tail. One who will stop at nothing to take down the Midnight Pack once and for all.
The stakes are high but Shaun won’t be going down without a fight.
You can find a direct purchase link in today’s show notes, so be sure to get your copy today!
Now, let’s get back to the topic at hand and bring on this week’s guest host, Rob Eager. Rob is an author coach, who has worked with over 800 authors throughout his career. His most successful client sold over 10 million novels. He’s also a successful author in his own right. Let’s bring him on and talk to him about writing a compelling hook.
CK: Okay, welcome Rob and thank you for joining us on the show today!
RE: Thanks for having me on the program!
CK: Great, great! I’m excited to talk to you today. But first, Rob, let’s start by telling my listeners all about you and how you help authors.
RE: Well I’ve had the pleasure, blessing whatever you want to call it, of being a full-time marketing consultant for the last 13 years. And I’ve had the privilege of coaching over 800 authors. A few of those have hit the New York Times Bestseller list. So I am one of the few who can say I have helped both fiction and non-fiction authors hit the bestseller’s list. I’m also an author myself, I have written 5 books, and I actually got started back in 2002 as a self-published author, and I was successful enough with that self-published book that some traditional publishers began to pursue me. They offered me a contract so I switched from being self-published to traditional published, wrote a couple of books that way, and have recently converted back to being an indie author and self-publishing a whole series of books called The Author’s Guides. I’ve already got 3 books in that series and I have more to come in the future. I’ve got the Author’s Guide to Write Text That Sells Books, the Author’s Guide to Marketing Yourself on Amazon and also the Author’s Guide to E-mail Marketing. So I have been in the industry for a long time and have walked the different paths of traditional publishing and self-publishing. And the role that I love to play is to just help authors understand how to avoid the mistakes that I made, and give them short-cuts to help them sell a lot more books a whole lot faster than even I did in my own career.
CK: That’s great. And we can link to those books in the show notes, too. So be sure if we don’t have the link that we get those.
RE: Sure. And for everyone listening, I have- when author’s join my email list, I give them three free e-books. In fact, one of them will be a perfect fit for what we are going to talk about in this episode. I’ve got an e-book called “Mastering Book Hooks for Authors”.
CK: Oh, that is perfect!
RE: I’ve got two more called “How to Find Readers and Sell Books on a Shoestring Budget” and “the Ultimate Book Marking Plan Template for Authors” and they are welcome to get those on my website for free at robeager.com or you can go to startawildfire.com.
CK: Good deal! Thanks for sharing that! And again I will put the- those links that you read off in the show notes, too, so if anyone wants to they can click on it and go straight there. Well, as you know, today’s topic is “how to write an effective hook for your novel” or “how to write effective copy” you know we talked about two different titles there. But before we dig in any deeper, first, explain what is a “hook?”
RE: Well, a hook is one part of marketing language that you allow readers to see or that you put forth for readers to see to encourage and convince them to want to buy a copy. And the principle that I teach all of my clients, whether fiction or nonfiction is that language is the power of the sale, not technology. And if anyone is happening to take notes you can write that one down.
CK: That’s a good one!
RE: Language is the power of the sale. And what I mean by that is yes, we have wonderful technology that we can take advantage of today. We’ve got social media. We’ve got Facebook Ads and we’ve got Amazon and all of their algorithms, and that’s all good stuff. And podcasts! But always remember as an author you are selling books to human beings. And humans buy books based on either the words they see or the words they hear. And the words they hear, that would be word of mouth, a friend telling them “oh, I just read this book it’s amazing you’ve gotta buy a copy!” Or they may see a recommendation when authors are giving a radio or a TV interview. And then the words that you see, that’s going to be the language that you see on an Amazon page or a book detail page that you see or the back cover copy. Maybe the language that you put in an email blast that you send to people. So language is what is going to actually cause the book sale to happen or not happen. Not technology. And the more that authors begin to learn that, you begin to take greater control over the book sale. Because if you learn to create persuasive language, you are now tipping the scales in your favor that more people will convert from being a skeptical shopper to a customer and a happy reader. So that’s what I mean when I talk about creating hooks, creating book descriptions, or promotional copy, you are just creating the type of language that’s going to help you convert more readers into customers.
CK: Okay, and what are some examples of places where authors could use this promotional copy? You talked a little bit about that, the blurbs and the Amazon descriptions and emails. Are there any other ways that authors can use this kind of copy when marketing their books? Or maybe just dive a little bit deeper.
RE: Well, sure. The number one place that that language is going to matter the most is on your Amazon detail page. And that is because Amazon is selling so many more books than anyone else. I teach an online course called “Mastering Amazon for Authors” and the reason why I created that course is because we’ve now seen enough industry statistics to know that Amazon is now selling almost half of all print books in the United States. And depending on genre, anywhere from 70-90% of all e-books.
RE: When you look at that dominant market share that Amazon has created, then that means that the vast majority of people, when they think of buying a book, they are going to Amazon’s website. So you better make sure that the language and the book description that you are displaying on your book detail page is- it’s gotta be sharp and sizzling and enticing as possible. And this is when somebody walks into a bookstore, they are going to pick up the physical version of your book. They will look at the front cover, then they will turn it over and look at the back cover copy. So certainly that is where language is going to make a difference. Your author website is also a place where you get the opportunity to put good powerful language in front of people….
CK: Oh that’s a good point!
RE: Certainly social media, email blasts. You know I tell all of my clients never forget the power of you might be sitting on an airplane next to someone and they say “so what do you do?” and you say “oh I’m an author, I write books.” “So what’s your book about?” Do you know how to have a good hook, that, then you can get their attention even when you are just talking to someone in casual conversation?
CK: Good! You just mentioned hooks, can you dig a little deeper and tell us explain what you mean by hook and how can we go about writing it- an effective hook?
RE: Well a hook is kind of taking a page from the Hollywood playbook. Think about whenever you see a commercial for a poster or a picture that is advertising a movie, they usually try to boil down that whole movie into one sentence. And- especially if you write fiction- essentially you are writing the seeds of what could be an amazing movie because almost all movies come from great books. So a hook is that one sentence that is designed to capture the reader’s attention, give them a sense of what this story is going to be about and draw them in to want to know more. So the mistake that I see so many novelists make is they think about a plot summary first and maybe think about a hook later on down the road. And you want to flip that because that is putting the cart before the horse or petting the tail to wag the dog. The first language that anyone sees should not be a boring matter-of-fact plot summary. The first sentence that anyone sees about your novel better be one statement or question about that draws them in and really grabs their attention. I’ve got- for example- I’ve got eight incredible hooks that I have seen from some of my clients and some other novels that I have seen that to me represent dynamite hooks. If you will give me like 30 seconds here I am going to read these off
CK: Please do! Absolutely!
RE: And we can see the emotional power behind what this language can do. So, here is 8 good hooks I’ve seen over the last few months:
- Beware a calm surface, you never know what lies beneath. That’s actually from Paula Hawkins, she’s a New York Times Bestseller, I forget what novel that is, but I saw that on her Amazon page and I was like
CK: Yes I know what you are talking about, it’s great.
RE: Think about The Martian. I think it was a movie with Matt Damon recently, and the hook is “The first man to walk on Mars is sure he will be the first one to die there.” That is a good hook. Here’s another one: “A heartbroken man grieves over his dead girlfriend until she reappears.” That’s going to grab someone’s attention. Especially if that is a thriller. Or a suspense novel. Another one would be “could you let thousands of strangers die in order to save your family?”
RE: Excellent hook!
CK: That is good!
RE: Here’s another one. And I’m using a lot of different types of hooks to show how you can be with this type of strategy. Another one you could use is a “what if” question. “What if you could see your life as if you were never born?” Or here is another one: “Machines have calculated that the best source of energy…is human beings.” That’s the one from the matrix back in the day. And here are two more.
RE: “Lydia is dead, but they don’t know this yet.”
RE: and one that I helped a client create recently was “Breaking the law never seemed so right.”
CK: Ha, that’s a good one.
RE: So you see that is what a hook is designed to be. It’s one sentence that draws you in to go: “Wow that is amazing, I gotta know more. I gotta find out what happens.” And the point of all of that- there’s a lot of emotion usually tied to a great hook. In fact, you know you have a great hook when you say it out loud, or people see it written down on a screen- you’ll get some sort of audible reaction like “Woah” or “that’s amazing”.
CK: I was doing that! As you were reading them I was going “oh, ooh! wow! Oh.”
RE: That’s how you know you have a good hook. And one of my favorite hobbies is to fly fish. So you think of the whole principle of fishing. You use a hook with bait to catch a fish. You know you’ve got a good hook or not. Because when I go fly fishing, I’ve got to make sure that I’ve got the right lure or the right type of hook that I throw into the water to catch the fish. And usually, within 15 minutes I can tell real fast if I have got the right hook or not. If I have been fishing for 15 minutes and haven’t even gotten a bite, I know I better change up my hook because it just ain’t working.
RE: And so as an author you can know pretty quickly, even just coming up with a few hook ideas and sharing those with friends or beta readers or some family members. Just someone you know who can give you honest feedback. Usually, you are going to know right away whether you’ve got a good hook or not. And so what I encourage all authors to do- don’t just write a good hook and just assume that it’s good. You go test it on other people. And if you don’t get that kind of audible wow or that audible “wow, that’s really good” then keep working on it until you do get a good hook like that that generates that type of response.
CK: That’s great! And I really appreciate you sharing those hooks because that puts it into, into you know, where we can see exactly how they should be written. So those were great examples. We’re going to take a quick break Rob, and really quick we’re going to hear from one of our sponsors. We’ll get back to our conversation with Rob soon, but first, I want to remind you that this episode of Write Your Best Book is brought to you by the Write Your Best Book. The Academy, the Write Your Best Book Academy, established by little old me, has launched its first digital online course for authors called “How to Write a Novel.” It’s available now and it walks authors through every step of the writing journey from before they start writing, as they write their novel, and what to do after they finish writing, including publishing and marketing strategies. The course includes about 30 lessons, about 15 worksheets that you can download and keep, and videos and it’s broken down into three modules (which are before, during, after). There are bonus lessons and worksheets you can download, as well. If you’d like to sign up for How to Write a Novel, simply visit our website at http://www.topshelfedits.com and click on the Author Resources Page. Once the drop-down menu appears, select “Courses,” and you’ll find a link you can click on to take you right to our sales page. There, you can learn all about me, this course, and why you should take it right away and how we can help you write your best book. Now, let’s get back to our discussion with Rob.
CK: Ok, we’re back with Rob and we’ve got just a few more questions for him. Hey, so what advice do you have for authors that are trying to write that back cover blurb or that Amazon description and are stumped on those?
RE: You know it’s difficult to write and kind of represent your own story to the world. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to talk about someone else’ book to your friend than your own book. Just because we all get so lost in the weeds and kind of have that forest for the trees mentality but think about- especially if you are a novelist- when you are describing your book, think about this whole principle. You’re never telling a story, you are selling emotion.
RE: Because the whole point of why we write novels isn’t really. Let me back up and say it this way: the reason why readers buy novels isn’t necessary for the story, it’s for the emotion that they are going to feel when reading the story. Because most novels are purchased as a means of escape. We’ve got some downtime, we come home from a tough day, we just want to read while we are relaxing on vacation. And we don’t buy the story for the factual evidence represented by “this character is going to do this, and it is set in this country and in this city” we buy novels for the emotions, for the way that it makes us feel. So when you are thinking about the way that you are going to create your book description, always couch it under that principle. You are not selling a story, you are selling emotion. So if you don’t layer and soak your book description in emotion, it’s going to be too flat and it is never going to be as powerful as it needs to be. In other words, don’t just give a boring plot summary, give the reader the most suspenseful or the most scary or the most heartwarming and hopeful part of your story and just let that be the book description. In other words, I have got a four part kind of template or technique that whenever a novelist comes to me for coaching and I work with them on their book description, I boil it down to just these 4 simple parts; step one: display your book hook, you know, that one sentence or that one question or one statement. And step 2 just describes your main character at the height of conflict. Because it’s a conflict that draws people in and sells the story. Whether that’s romance, SCI-FI or even dystopian or whatever. It’s the conflict that really draws people in. Number 3, book description with a strong cliffhanger. In other words, don’t give the reader too much where they kind of figure out “oh, I know what’s going to happen”. You’ve gotta really bait them so they are like “ooh, I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.”
CK: I gotta read this book!
RE: And step number 4 just gives them a call to action. And this is the one that can be the easiest to overlook, but it can also be the most powerful. Always still close out with something like “purchase a copy today!” or “find out what happens” or you know “if you love Harry Potter, you’ll love this, get a copy today!” So it’s just those simple 4 steps. Display the book hook, then describe the character at the height of the conflict, close with a cliff-hanger, give them a call-to-action. It can be that simple, as long as you layer it with tons of emotion.
CK: That’s great! You’re giving away all of the secret sauce! Good, very helpful! I”m learning something. This is amazing! So what about then, let’s change it up a little bit and talk about promotional copy for social media. Because we all know that authors are very involved, a lot of us are involved with social media and were trying to sell our books through Facebook Ads or even just through our posts on our feeds. What is an effective way that we can promote our books when posting in groups or even in our own feed?
RE: Well, there’s a couple of different layers in the way I would answer that question Christy. It would be: don’t do too much promoting of your book on social media cause social media is meant to be social, not commercial. And I think that’s a mistake that I see authors and especially a lot of publishers make. It’s that they think they can just hi-kack social media for commercial purposes, and usually it doesn’t work too well that way when you try to do that. But what you can do, for example if you are going to post, if you’re going to talk about your book, in a forum, a chat room or a social media group, talk about the emotion that you know readers want to feel and explain how you deliver or how you enjoy writing stories that deliver that type of emotion. Cause then that is going to still be more of a social interaction or social conversation. You can certainly use, for Facebook Ads or Bookbub Ads, use that one sentence hook like we talked about earlier. That will give you the most traction and allow you to use language that you can control for promotional purposes. You know cause a good hook will be easily shared and people will want to pass it on. And it kind of, when I teach clients how to generate word of mouth, think about word of mouth goes along a whole lot better when you give the reader kind of something to tell their friends or grease the skids or make it a little bit easier for the word of mouth to take place. And again, that is where a great hook can give you that type of language that when you place it on a Facebook Ad or they see it on our social media or on your book description, you are giving them something that they can take and then go to their friends and say “hey, I heard about this book and listen to this hook it’s amazing! The first man to walk on Mars is sure he’ll die there” It’s always easier for word of mouth to spread, to give them that first nugget to use and then they pass it on to their friends.
CK: That’s good. And you mentioned earlier that you worked with a lot of fiction and nonfiction books and authors….
RE: That’s right.
CK: … Is there a difference between the way you write copy for a fiction and non-fiction book?
RE: Well certainly like we have talked about over the last few minutes that fiction is going to rely a lot more on emotion and getting the reader to feel what the conflict is going to be about. Feel what the quest or feel what the challenge is. But also feel how wonderful its going to be when the hero of the story actually breaks through and archives or gets what they want or solves the problem, what have you. So fiction is different from nonfiction in that you are relying much more on that emotional communication. Nonfiction is more about communicating the need. The results and the credibility of the author. Especially for self help or that type of advice books and things like that. You know the history is going to be a little bit different. In many cases a memoir has more to do with fiction than it does non fiction. Even though you might be telling about your life, you are kind of catching more in the context of a story than just straightforward advice. But if you are writing a self help book or faith based or religious, or how to guides, the focus there on your book description needs to be more about identifying the need that the reader has than showing examples of what the results can be, what the reader will achieve after they have read your book and applied whatever the content is. And in the credibility, you have as authors, who is worth listening to. Because it is about that simple. Readers can have a need when it comes to nonfiction and are looking for a book that is going to give them the types of results that they want and make sure you are very clear about what those results can be. And when you are saying that you understand their need and you have results that can be satisfactory, they are still going to go, but wait a second, I’ve never heard of you before. How do I know that you are a voice or an expert worth trusting and that’s where you want to give some examples of your credibility. That might be that you have won an award or you have, have 20 years experience in your field or that you have a certain job title- I mean if you are the president of a company or a nonprofit or that you have coached over a thousand women over the last 5 years. Anything that you can use to show that you have legitimate credibility. Use that- and when you combine that with the needs and the results, you’ve got a pretty powerful aspect of language that will allow people to get over their skepticism and make a purchase.
CK: That’s good! Okay! That is going to help me a little bit. Cause I do get some nonfiction clients from time to time, that’s going to be really helpful for me and all of our listeners who are writing memoirs and other types of nonfiction books. So thanks for that! And the final question that I have for you: do you have any parting advice for my listeners when it comes to writing and implementing the perfect hook?
RE: Well, I would certainly reflect back on the things that we talked about- the language, the power of the sale- and focus on that emotion. And certainly don’t tell yourself that you’ve got a hook until a few other people have told you that you’ve got a good hook. Test it for you. Make sure you’ve got that wow factor. And the best parting advice that I could give is to take advantage of my free e-book “Mastering Book Hooks for Authors.” So the eight that I went through earlier-
CK: Oh, good!
RE: Additional hooks. And again, I wanted to make that available to authors for free all around the world. It’s been downloaded I think 2 or 3 thousand times off my website. It’s also available on Amazon. Again, it is called “Mastering Book Hooks for Authors”. When authors join my email liat they get that for free along with two other resources. That would be my best advice. Dive into the free guide and absorb all of the information I have put in there for you. And then just, let other people tell when you’ve got a great hook. Then you will know that you’ve got some really great language you can use to your advantage.
CK: That’s great! This has all been very helpful and very insightful! Thank you Rob for joining us today, you’ve been very helpful! Thank you so much.
RE: My pleasure. You can always get everything for free as I described on robeager.com
CK: Okay, good. Thank you so much! we will talk to you soon.
That’s all the time we have for this week’s episode, folks. If you love Write Your Best Book, the guest hosts we bring on the show, and all of the free advice we share with you each week, be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you can be notified each time a new episode drops. And if you really love what we’re doing, rate our show and leave us a review. I read a new review live each week, and I just might choose yours for a shout-out soon.
Talk soon, and in the meantime, go write your best book!