|Image: The Jerusalem Puzzle cover art on sale 1/3/ 13|
Here are some techniques for grabbing the reader up front.
1. Establish credibility. If you’re being published by a major publishing house this will help, but even if you’re not you can put your key credential up front. If you spent 20 years as a gardener and you’re writing a book on gardening I will want to know that. ‘Gardening from 20 years experience” is a good title in my opinion. So don’t be shy. Tell us why we should read your book. And tell us quickly.
2. For non fiction, make it practical. I am writing a guide to social media and making it practical is a key consideration. Two of the top five Sunday Times non fiction books this week are practical in some way.
3. Other favorite themes for non fiction, which grab readers are war, for the armchair fighters among us, violent crimes, to make us glad we’re safe, and cooking/homecraft. These areas make up most the remainder of the top non fiction slots.
4. Start in the middle of the action. This standard piece of advice for fiction writers, to cut out the long preamble, to go straight into the action, is also what non fiction readers want these days. In non fiction we want a quick way to move to the key areas of our interest. So let us get to the heart of it, fast.
5. Make a bold statement. In commercial fiction there is often a big scene right at the beginning. This could be a murder, a kidnapping, an interview or a disagreement. The purpose of the scene is to hook the reader in. Similarly, in non fiction you can make a bold statement. If you have something new to say offer it up early, then let us read the rest of your book to find out what’s next.
Digital, whether through blogs, Twitter, Facebook or video/audio are all vitally important to success these days. Whatever you are writing, consider how you can build an online presence which will use the skills you have. The demand for online interaction is high and likely to get even higher. Publishing and being successful with just a printed book is becoming less and less likely.
Other aspects of grabbing your reader’s attention include titles and keywords. Here is a post I wrote, on my social media blog, explaining key words in simple terms.
Beyond key words is the whole area of titles. This is an art, which includes many elements difficult to distill. Taste, fashion and culture are all part of the choosing of titles.
My suggestion is for you to consider the most popular current titles in your genre, then to create something totally unique for yourself, which acknowledges what works, yet does not copy it. Not an easy task for fiction.
For non fiction there are staple titles for guides which include fragments such as “How to” – “The Secret of” – “A Way to” – “Get rid of” and words such as quick, solve, easy and free. Again, I recommend looking at the best-selling titles in your area and also to consider what grabs you when you read those titles.
Having participant voices, explaining that you will be reflecting the views of people involved directly in what you are writing about, is my final piece of advice for writing to grab your reader’s attention. It may not be necessary to live in a slum for years to write about poverty, but it is a real way to get attention. Many people want to know what it’s like for people whose voices we don’t normally hear. That in itself is a good thing. Exposing what really goes on in the world is one of the reasons people write.
Telling stories, whether true or imagined, allows us an entrance to worlds we would never otherwise experience.
I wish you all the best in creating yours, and attracting your reader’s attention. And I hope, in the end, we can all do some good with what we create.
Born in the Mountains of Mourne in County Down, Northern Ireland, Laurence O’Bryan was educated in Dublin, studying English and history, then business, then IT at Oxford University.
He spent ten years working in the city of London where he met his wife. In 2000 after his daughter was born, he and his family returned to Dublin. In 2007 he won the Outstanding Novel award from the Southern California Writer’s Conference (one of 300 submissions) for The Istanbul Puzzle, his debut novel. His second novel The Jerusalem Puzzle will be published by Harper Collins in 2013. Contact Laurence at:lpobryan at gmail.com, twitter.com/@lpobryan, http://www.facebook.com/laurence.obryan His books may be purchased from Amazon and anywhere books are sold.
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