Does Your Book Have a Hook?

With more than a million new books hitting the shelves of brick-and-mortar AND virtual bookstores each year, one thing is clear: Your book needs a hook if it’s going to stand out. That’s not saying that building a platform, having a solid marketing plan, and all of the other things that go into selling a book aren’t important. They certainly are. But, if your book doesn’t have an “AHA!” factor — all of the marketing in the world won’t turn it into a book that people talk about and recommend to their friends, family and colleagues.

So, What’s a Hook?

Before you can determine if your book has a hook, let’s first define what a “hook” isn’t when it comes to nonfiction books. A hook is NOT what you’re book is about. If your book is about how to be a better leader — that isn’t the hook. That’s the subject matter. There are TONS of books that address leadership — but it’s not the topic that makes one book stand out from the others. And it’s not why a potential reader will choose your book over those of your competitors.

However, let’s say your book takes the topic of leadership and turns it on its head — like Simon Sinek did in his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. The idea of starting with why your company does what it does rather than what it does or how it does it grabbed the attention of business executives and entrepreneurs around the world. And it also was the genesis of Sinek’s TEDx Puget Sound presentation — which is now one of the 25 Most Popular TED talks ever! If you haven’t seen it, check out:

Although Sinek’s book was about a topic — leadership — which has been covered in so many other great books over the years, his stood out because the concept his book presented caused people to look at leadership differently. “Starting with why” was the hook.

How Do You Find a Hook?

There are different ways to find a hook for your book. Some authors do it by conducting original research about a particular topic and then using their findings to bring something new to the party. For example, Brené Brown conducted groundbreaking research regarding vulnerability. That research uncovered new insights about something that so many people feel — and are often ashamed to admit. In her book, Daring Greatly, How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, Brown shared her insights, which resonated to such an extent that the book ended up as one of the Top 10 business books in 2012. Her TEDxHouston talk about her research on vulnerability became one of the Top 10 Most Viewed TED Talks ever. And she’s appeared on shows including Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday — which you can check out here:

But, what if you aren’t a researcher? How can you get a hook for your book? Start by researching other books written on the same topic you’re considering. If you’re thinking about writing a book about productivity — you’ve got a LOT of competition out there. So, you’ll need to:

  • Find out how other writers have approached the subject (because you don’t want to be a “me, too” author)
  • Determine why potential readers should listen to you instead of everyone else about the topic
  • Nail down exactly how you’re going to write a book about the topic that will be truly unique

At the heart of the matter, a hook for a book revolves around finding that one thing that you can offer — whether it’s a process, a manifesto, a new model, a new perspective, better and/or more thorough content, etc. — that no one else does.

If you had to explain the “hook” of your book in a single sentence, what would it be?

You’ve probably heard about the need for elevator pitches more times that you care to remember. Well, guess what? You’ll need one for your book. If it takes you more than a sentence (or two at the most) to explain what your book is about, how it’s different, and how it’s going to help the reader in a significant way, then you don’t really have a hook. Let’s look at Start With Why again. A simple elevator pitch for this book might be something like this: There’s a reason the most successful leaders are able to motivate teams to greater-than-expected success and to grow companies that leave competitors in the shadows. And it flies in the face of everything you’ve ever learned about leadership and marketing. The goal is not only to provide an accurate description of your book and it’s benefits — but, also to do so in a way that makes a potential reader want to open up her wallet and buy it on the spot.

I’m not going to sugar coat this. Finding the hook for your book can be hard. Like really hard. BUT — it’s worth it. Because by putting in the work to find whatever that hook is, you’ll position yourself to stand out in a marketplace that is overflowing with books competing for readers’ attention. And it also positions you as a leader in your field — as someone who’s bringing something new and valuable. That can lead to all kinds of good things — speaking gigs, more books, new (and more profitable) clients, material for new revenue streams (like courses, workshops, etc.). So, take the time. Do the research. Put in the effort. And find that hook for your book.

Like this post? GREAT! Check out more info at The Business Author Edge where the mission is to help you gain recognition, grow revenue and get results with your book. And download the FREE workbook — Turn Your Book Into a Money Magnet.

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