Trying to get a new customer to give you a chance is like playing a game of connect-the-dots. You have to lead them along a pathway until they finally commit. It is frustrating, to be sure, but it is the game we must play if want to be successful.
Now to win this game, you have to do everything perfectly. I will be posting a series of blog entries that explain each one of these dots we must connect, and I won't be doing these in order, but here is just one: SLAP THEM IN THE FACE!
You have to hook them HARD right from the get-go. The first few lines of your book need to really kick them in the teeth and make them say, "OK, now I'm curious. I want to know more." And why is this so very important? Because we silly humans tend to have short attention spans. You have to hook them even when they have not purchased your book yet in order to have them hang out on your book description page for a while. The longer they linger, the better chance you have.
When a shopper comes browsing, one of the things they will do is read some of the sample provided by Amazon and others. When you go shopping for a new book in a store or the library, do you just read the jacket and commit? Of course not. You open to the first page and start reading. If the opening paragraphs don't slap you in the face in some way, most people tend to move on.
You really need a hook. I'm not talking about the overarching theme or story arch your overactive imagination has come up with. I'm talking about the first couple of lines found after the words "Chapter One."
Let me give you a few fantastic examples...
You don't often kill someone twice in the same week, but that is the situation I found myself in.
This was the example told to me when I was first starting out, and it stuck in my brain, really driving the point home. So now you have it as well. It is a great example of slapping a reader in the face with the opening line. I don't know what the book is about, but I certainly want to know more. Don't you have a bunch of questions when you read that?
This one is from Stephen King's "Later." It is a classic example from a writer who knows how to get it done...
My name is Jamie Conklin, and once upon a time I drew a Thanksgiving turkey that I thought was the absolute cat's ass. Later - and not much later - I found out it was more like the stuff that comes out of the cat's ass.
I think this is a horror story. Check it out.
Including a "call to action" within the opening paragraphs to buy the book is genius. But then, he's Stephen King...
I don't know what the rule is for how long you have to hook your reader with a slap in the face, but I recommend the sooner the better. The thought process I follow is it should lie within the opening paragraph. Ideally, the opening line. That's my goal.
Now, remember, this is just one of the dots we must connect for the reader. Every single one needs to be done with calculated precision, and the hook is just one of those dots. We'll cover more later.
So go back and check out your manuscript. Does it have that necessary hook right in the beginning? If not, get to work and do a little rewriting. It shouldn't take long. You might only have to modify the opening paragraph. When I first learned the importance of the hook being upfront and in your face, I had to go back and write a seven-paragraph prologue for the beginning. Regardless, it shouldn't take long.
Get it done.
SLAP THEM IN THE FACE!