Marketing hooks are key to connecting with your readers. This is the first part of a chapter for Don’t Sell Your Book. It may end up as a standalone, but probably not.
What are Marketing Hooks?
The “hook” of a song is a short piece of it, a riff or phrase, that catches the listener’s ear. If you’ve ever had a line of a song that you couldn’t get out of your head… that’s the hook. Trivia: Mac Davis’s hit song “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me” was written when his record company demanded he write a song with a good “hook.” It worked. It hit #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Easy Listening Charts in 1972.
In marketing, a hook can be a catch phrase or jingle, something that makes the prospect remember you. It is something that catches your prospect’s attention and pulls them in for more. For our purposes, a hook is the bait that you put into your book to get your readers to take a specific action. Some hooks are very obvious: “Go to www.whateversite.com/getthisinfo to get your free downloadable workbook. Some are more subtle: “I worked with a client who had no email list, no social media following, and no idea where to start. Here’s what I did to help her…”
Different hooks are designed to do different things. We’ll start with the most important marketing hook:
The Title of Your Book
Full Transparency: I am horrible at coming up with titles and headlines. I’m getting better, but I have a strong aversion to over-the-top claims (and too much fondness for alliteration). I am not a fan (to put it mildly) of clickbait headlines. You know the ones I’m talking about: “When you read these nine shocking facts, you’ll never trust your water supply again!” “This intense video proves you can think your way thin!” Those titles are at best cheesy, and that’s probably NOT how you want your business to be perceived.
So, you don’t want to hire me to brainstorm titles with you. But I will give you some tips and guidelines, especially in the context of titling a book that is designed to bring you business.
First, your title should have your main keyword(s) in it. If your book is about dog training, the words dog and training should be in your title. If it’s about starting a landscaping business, landscaping and business should be in the title. You want to use words that someone searching on your topic would use and you also want to use words that will weed out the people who are not your readers. Using the dog training business example, if you titled your book, Pet Training for Dummies, you will get people with dogs yes, but also cats, birds, horses, etc. (We won’t go into the psychology of people who self-identify as dummies. But, obviously, it’s a huge market.)
Second, you want it to be attention-grabbing. Not clickbait, shock-jock attention grabbing (unless you are a shock-jock), but something that will make your reader curious enough to pick the book off the shelf (real or virtual) and flip to the description. My title–Don’t Sell Your Book–is slightly reminiscent of Abbie Hoffman’s title: Steal This Book. His book sold a quarter of a million copies. How many were stolen remains to be counted. But the title is contraindicative, tongue-in-cheek, and certainly attention-grabbing.
I almost hate to say this, but from personal experience, you want your title to be something that is easy for people to spell. There’s a reason why Michael Gerber used the word E-Myth and not Entrepreneur Myth. Pay attention to the old writing rule about writing to the eighth grade level. Your titles should be at that reading level, too. Along the same lines, your title should be easily pronounceable. You don’t want people stumbling over your title when they tell their friends about this great book they are reading.
Your Subtitle: Promises and Intrigue
Your subtitle should highlight the solution you’re providing. Tim Ferriss has created a franchise with The Four Hour Whatever. If you look at his subtitles, you see that he offers an intriguing promise to his readers. For example, The Four Hour Body carries the implied result of An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman. (FYI: Not so much if you’re a woman over 30 with anything hormonal going on. Just sayin.) But WOW! What a subtitle! It hits two of the three things that one of my mentors told me were factors in selling anything, to quote: “Get laid, get paid, and live forever.”
Let’s look at something less sensational, but still a strong pull. Look at Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The title is actually a keyword. I think “motivation” is the closer keyword, but it is also one that is highly competitive in terms of ad spending. He chose to put “motivate” in the subtitle, which does the job of covering that keyword. He has actually used “The Surprising Truth About” in the subtitle for To Sell is Human so we know that is a successful phrase. But the promise he is making is that he has uncovered facts (“truth”) that are not commonly known (“surprising”) and the implication is that once we know these facts, we will be motivation masters.
His book When follows the same title/subtitle pattern: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. And, as we all know, timing, in life, is everything. The title itself is not a great keyword – I don’t think anyone is using the term “when” to find out how to have perfect timing. But they may well be searching using phrases like, “When is the best time to propose?” or “When is the best time to ask for a raise?” So now we have people using when and time in the same search and guess what book has both of those in the title? Some people may even search using the word perfect instead of best. Daniel Pink and his publishers are very smart.
So, your first hook is your title. Think about what questions your readers will ask when they are searching for the solution your book and your services offer. Make a list of the keywords they will type into various search engines and play around with them to create the best combination of keywords and intrigue that you can.
Coming next: Marketing hooks to build your list and to find your ideal clients.