Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bait, Cast, and Hook

by Nanette Littlestone

Pretend your readers are fish. Hungry fish. They need something to attract them. Something juicy. Like a great opening line. That alone wont sell your book. But it will grab their attention.
So how do you hook your readers?
Hook means to take strong hold of; captivate. When you open your favorite book, does that first sentence take strong hold of you? Does it captivate you? In other words, does it entice you, make you wonder, or make you want to know what happens next? If so, then its hooked you. And thats what you want from your opening line.
Now that you know the definition of a hook, how do you create one? Lets examine a few opening lines from some well-known authors.
Ray Bradburys famous story Farenheit 451 begins with It was a pleasure to burn. Those words contain surprise (burning is not usually viewed as pleasurable), danger (fires can get out of control), unusual emotion (can you see the wicked grin on the speakers face as he watches the fire?). The reader gets something totally unexpected. Not bad for six words.
Alice Walker opens The Color Purple with: You better not never tell nobody but God. Again, we have surprise (you want to know what this character is hiding), emotion (do you sense the fear?), foreshadowing (something horrible is bound to happen if the person tells), and startling dialogue (the dialect gives the words additional flavor). Eight words this time. And what a result.

Sometimes the simplest lines are the most powerful.
Some writers go for a different mood. Anita Diamants The Red Tent gives readers a softer, more lyrical tone:

We have been lost to each other for so long.
My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust.
This is not your fault, or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing. That is why I became a footnote, . . .
A beautiful beginning that shows longing and heartbreak and the sad plight of women. She worked on her opening until she established an emotional relationship with the reader.

If youre thinking but Im not Ray Bradbury or Alice Walker or Anita Diamant; Ill never be able to write like that, dont despair. Even the top authors work hard to craft remarkable language. Revise, Diamant said in an interview. Anything you write can be improved by another draft. Jeffrey Archer writes numerous drafts. Up to 17 of them for one book. All by hand.
Time and patience and inspiration allow great authors to achieve eloquent and emotional introductions. With a little effort, you, too, can craft a strong opening line.
The best advice for writing good hooks came from Mary Buckham and her class on Pacing. She explores the different elements that comprise a hook and how to use them to create powerful openers. See
Determine your strengths.
Analyze your writing. Do you use short sentences and powerful words? Then keep your hook simple. Go for the surprise, the danger, the totally unexpected. If youre a literary writer and love flowing description, then an evocative or emotional setting like Anita Diamants opening is better suited to you.

Remember the fish. Schools of them swimming out there, just waiting for that perfect morsel of exciting writing. Wow your readers. Then keep going. Hook them at the end of the paragraph and again at the end of the page. The farther they get in your book, the more likely they are to buy.
Nanette Littlestone is a freelance editor, writing coach, and author who has worked with both fiction and nonfiction for 20 years. She specializes in helping authors to use their passion to achieve their own unique voice and message. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cooperate to Collaborate to Create to Succeed

Did you know that the United Nations has dubbed 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives? Yep. Click here to find out what a cooperative is (you probably do business with them regularly and don’t even know it).  

What does this “cooperative” thing mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, it means that cooperation and collaboration are going to be hot, hot, hot in 2012 (and hopefully beyond). In the world of business – and even in our personal lives – cooperation is essential to getting things done. Cooperation leads to collaboration. Collaboration leads to creation. And creation is an important seed for success. You see, when people cooperate – be they co-workers, teammates, business partners, or family members – they tend to think of amazing ways to collaborate, to bring their greatest skills, talents, and knowledge to the table. And what do they do with all of that skill, talent, and knowledge? They create. 

It’s amazing to consider the inventions, products, solutions, businesses, and yes, books that have been created through cooperative collaborations. And most often, they lead to success. In fact, a colleague and guest blogger at “Write Your Life,” Vanessa Lowry, introduced me to the concept of collaborative books just last year, when she spearheaded a project with six authors. It was a huge success! (Note: You can buy the book Publishing as a Marketing Strategy by clicking the image to the right). From that one experience, I gained an appreciation for the quality product authors can create when they collaborate. 

What all of this means for Write Your Life is that there are some very cool collaborative book projects in the pipeline, and I’m really excited about them. I’ll have to keep them hush-hush for now, but I’d like you to consider the groups with which you collaborate and cooperate. How can you create a great book with these colleagues, friends, church members, neighbors, or family members? What common bond joins you that could be combined to tell a phenomenal story? What cause do you all believe in? What audiences could benefit from what your group knows? How can you turn your collective skill, talent, and knowledge into profit, awareness, help for others, funds raised, a brand ... oh, the possibilities are limitless! 

Let’s hear from you. If you have a group that might be a great fit for a collaborative book project, email and put “Collaborative Book” in the subject line. Or, “Like” Write Your Life Program on Facebook, and mention your group and/or idea there. I’m really interested to see what you come up with. 

Here’s to a wonderfully cooperative/collaborative/creative/successful year!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Connect and Promote Before You Publish

by Vanessa Lowry

Authors who revel in the solitary craft of arranging words to powerfully tell a story are sometimes uncomfortable with the activities needed to promote themselves and their book. The time to begin making connections and building relationships for marketing is BEFORE your book is complete. Small consistent steps make it easy.

Over the holidays, I saw a reference to making “new word friends” as a way to help your brain stay healthy and expand its connections. My word friend discovery was about adding words to your vocabulary, but I’m altering the meaning for this article. Here are ideas for using words to make new friends, expand your connections and create interest for your book prior to publishing. 

Create a Facebook fan page for your book. Setting up your book page will take about 30 minutes initially. Then 1-2 minutes each day to post. Post one quote or article a day that will be of interest to the target reader of your book.

Make it easy! Create a Word document with a list of quotes and article links. When you come across a quote or article that would be a good Facebook post, add it to your Word document. Each day when you are ready to post, just pull one item from the list you have created. Here are some ideas for how you find the items to add to your list of potential posts.
  • Set up a Google Alert for several topics, locations, or industries included in your book. Some of the alerts that come into your email can be added to your list for future Facebook posts. Setting up a Google Alert will take less than 2 minutes. Reviewing the alerts you receive each day can take a few minutes to many minutes. Allocate 5 minutes to scan and save the alert links that seem most appropriate. Trash the rest. Set up your Google Alert here: 
  • Post a question on LinkedIn related to your book topic once a month. After you have crafted your question, posting it will take about 5 minutes. You can also choose up to 200 of your contacts within LinkedIn to send your question by email. This can take 10-15 minutes to select your contacts and send the pre-formatted email. Be sure to thank all who post an answer and email each respondent again after your book is published. Add the best answers to your list for future Facebook posts. Get permission from the respondents if you plan to use a direct quote and/or want to include their name.

Let it be fun. If finding articles and posting on your Facebook page feels like too much work, cut back to a few times a week instead of every day. Keep your writing and promotion journey joyful, make new word friends along the way and arrive at your destination filled with enthusiasm for the next phase of your publishing adventure.

Vanessa Lowry is a marketing consultant, graphic designer, author, radio host, and speaker. She leverages nearly 30 years of design and marketing expertise to support book authors who are self publishing.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Phenomenal Power Partnerships

Book Your Success 4-Part TelecourseI'm excited about the possibilities that 2012 has in store. One thing in particular is that the planning I did at the end of 2011 will swing into full gear beginning this month with my 4-part telecourse called "Book Your Success: Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less." Click the picture to the right to watch the video, and be sure to register in a hurry. Space is filling up and I want to be able to give one-on-one attention to each participant. Go to to register today. 

Secondly, the partnerships I formed in 2011 will be springing forth new fruit in 2012. For starters, you’ll hear from several guest bloggers on the “Write Your Life” blog in 2012. These are dynamic professionals, writers, and authors who have valuable knowledge to share with you about how to craft a compelling book that defines you, and how to leverage your book in your business and in your life. Let me introduce you to our guest bloggers.

Bonnie Daneker
A colleague I met last year at a networking event shared Bonnie's contact information with me and suggested I reach out to her. I did, we met for lunch, and subsequently found ourselves as co-authors on a collaborative book project. Bonnie is a talented literary consultant and CEO of Write Advisors. Her company helps authors make the most appropriate and lucrative decisions for publishing their books. 

Angela DeCaires
Before meeting Angela, I gained a deep respect for the company she works for, the quality of the books they produce, and the attention they give to each author. When I finally met Angela, it was clear that her input has so much to do with what happens at BookLogix. Angela is the Marketing & Communications Manager for BookLogix Publishing Services. She oversees a number of steps in the publishing process for authors who are self-publishing their books through BookLogix. Angela’s background includes experience in public relations, broadcasting, and journalism. She has held positions in public relations for two different health systems, and has worked for a number of years as a newswriter/TV news producer.

Tippi Hyde
I was introduced to Tippi last year by a dear friend and colleague as I was finishing the manuscrit of my book, Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You've Been Wanting to Write. We hadn’t met in person, but for months, Tippi and I emailed and spent many late night and weekend hours editing the manuscript. Her expertise helped make my book top notch. When I finally met Tippi at an event, it was like connecting with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in years! Tippi is owner of The Editing Expert ... and trust me, the name says it all! She is a freelance editor who also coaches doctoral students through the dissertation editing stage. She is currently developing online classes in grammar, usage, mechanics, and style. 

Nanette Littlestone
I met Nanette at a seminar I taught about the ABCs of book publicity. We later connected and I discovered that she is a phenomenal author and copy editor. Nanette is owner of Words of Passion. She is a freelance editor, writing coach, and author who has worked with both fiction and nonfiction for 20 years. She specializes in helping authors use their passion to achieve their own unique voice and message.

Vanessa Lowry
I first met Vanessa when she taught a seminar about the importance of design in the book production process. In the months following, we crossed paths several times and I heard her name mentioned in many conversations. Soon enough, Vanessa invited me to participate in a collaborative book project she was heading up. The result was Publishing as a Marketing Strategy, which we published last year along with four other co-authors.Vanessa is owner of Connect 4 Leverage where she is a marketing consultant, graphic designer, author, radio host, and speaker. She leverages nearly 30 years of design and marketing expertise to support book authors who are self publishing.

Each of these professionals will bring her own insight and expertise to the blog posts shared here. I hope you enjoy what “Write Your Life” will offer in 2012, and I invite you to post your comments and questions each week as we share information about the process, value, and benefits of self-publishing.

By the way ... what power partnerships have you formed to help make 2012 a phenomenal year for you?