Being an indie author is one of the most rewarding jobs there is. But it’s far from an easy one. You have to wear dozens of hats: writer, publisher, and marketer to name a few. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and struggle to prioritise. After all, you can’t market books without… well, books. But you can’t write more books unless you’re earning enough to eat.
I could spend an entire post discussing the philosophy of strategy, but that’s not going to help anyone and, ultimately, the answer is usually ‘balance’.
But there is one thing you can implement that will help you earn more income and therefore create more time to write: hooks.
First Impressions Count
Your hook, combined with your cover, are the first two things a reader will look at when making a decision on whether to purchase your book.
Popular psychology argues that when you meet someone face to face, they make their first impression of you within seven to twelve seconds. You have less than that when it comes to selling your book.
When a reader comes to look at your book, whether it be online or in a store, there are five things that have the most impact on their decision. In decreasing order of importance to the reader, they are:
While covers are the most important to a reader, they’re the most expensive and time-consuming thing to change. That’s not helpful when you’re just starting out as an indie.
So, what can you do?
Test, Test, Test
I’m sure some of you are cringing now at the thought of having to play with numbers and spreadsheets, but what if I told you that even if your tweaked hook only sold one more book a day, you’d earn an extra £1,300 ($1,600) per year?
Read that again.
Let’s say your 300-page paperback sells for £10.99 and through IngramSpark, you give an extra 30% discount to wholesalers. You’ll earn £3.75 per sale.
You tweak your blurb and net an extra sale per day over the next year, which will earn you a whopping £1,368.75. What if you earned two sales a day? Or ten? Watch the pounds multiply.
What NOT to Do When Writing a Hook
Unfortunately, most authors get blurbs and hooks wrong. I’d say it’s probably 95-99% of them. How can you be one of the tiny number of authors whose hook stands out?
My biggest tip is don’t just tell us what happens. Too many authors treat the blurb as a mini synopsis, thinking if they end the blurb on a mysterious ellipsis… then that gives us a sense of mystery and all will be fine. It won’t.
Your hook is designed to sell the book and make people want to buy it, not tell them what happens in the story. The book is there to tell people what happens in the book. The hook is there to make people want—or need—to buy it.
Think about the sort of language you can use to compel people to want to read your book. You’d be surprised at the sort of psychological hooks that can work—and they’re usually far, far more subtle than most people realise.
A Good Hook Can Change Your Life
I know from personal experience that the right hook and blurb can make or break a career. Get it wrong and your books will languish in the depths of sales rankings. Get it right and you might find your life changing for the better.
I really can’t overstate the importance of getting them right.
I spent a long time not getting my hooks right. But when eventually landed on the right hook for Her Last Tomorrow, my life changed overnight:
"Could you murder your wife to save your daughter?"
Within just a few short weeks, I’d earned enough to pay off my mortgage.
And it wasn’t a one off. I continued to use the same formula for every book I’ve written since. Tell Me I’m Wrong, another psychological thriller, was even more successful than Her Last Tomorrow.
"What if you discovered your husband was a serial killer?"
Tweaking your hooks is something every indie author should be doing. Even if you only increase your sales by one a day, you’re still looking at an extra £1,300 in your pocket. That’s a free family holiday every year or a pair of very expensive shoes. Tweaking your blurb costs you nothing financially and it only takes a few minutes.