Sunday, April 10, 2011

Book Trailer Tutorial Part II

Last week I laid down a short spiel about the purpose of a book teaser and how to set one up effectively to perform like a perpetual marketing machine.

Today we’re going to talk about your all-important hook. Let me say this up front. If your book lacks a strong hook, you’re dead in the water already. Without a hook, a catch, a story question which propels the reader to seek answers out of curiosity, your story has little chance for commercial success. That’s the cold, hard truth, but a necessary component in all marketing and sales materials, regardless of the marketing media.

So, what’s a hook? It sounds like a self-explanatory word, and it is, but there’s more to it. A hook is more than just something you include or slug into your first chapter for a cool effect. It’s more than just a lure to attract readers. Your hook must be an inherent part of your premise and not just a clever occurrence that fades away into obscurity after the first chapter ends.

Having said that, many writers can open and get away with banal happenings but guess what? If by the end of your story your opening set-up doesn’t pay off in a big way, it will be a big disappointment to your readers. It certainly creates ill-will that won’t lead to positive word-of-mouth and repeat sales, which is what a superb hook will do for you. If you think your hook is weak, I suggest bolstering it and anchoring your premise to something more substantial so you can reap the rewards by the end of your story, plus a strong hook will instantly strengthen all your marketing.

Your hook should propel the story question and intrigue readers, leaving them wanting more. It’s the “what if” factor. For example: A scientist searching for a cancer cure is an ordinary story since many scientists are doing the same thing. But a story about a scientist who harvests aborted fetuses from unsuspecting cancer patients, that’s a unique hook. With that hook, that unusual and controversial angle, this is more than a story about a cure for cancer. It becomes a story with moral and ethical issues at its center.

I wish I could elaborate, but that’s an entirely different topic. I only bring it up because a strong hook is an essential component for writing your teaser concept. There’s simply no substitute. Okay, let’s assume you do have a killer hook, and I’m sure you do. You must use the hook for all its worth.

Just imagine what “The Hangover” story would be if their drinks hadn’t been spiked with Rufies? That’s the hook, hence, the story’s title. It might be an old Rufie joke, but they’ve elevated it to new heights by showing their moments of Rufie amnesia in flashbacks and surveillance camera playbacks. A brilliant concept that goes a long way.

The point is, your story must have a unique angle that you can play up. A hook that dramatically sets it apart from similar stories. It’s that kind of hook that publishers, editors and agents are looking for. Without it, your story will lack a flashpoint that helps set it off.

Everything hinges around the hook in your story. It’s the heart and soul of your story. It’s not only a major selling point, it’s an essential component―an important cog in the wheels of your marketing machine. You must use your hook to develop the concept in all your marketing materials, especially in your book teaser. Once you figure out how to play up your hook in 90 seconds or less, then you’re onto something. Let’s use our mad scientist as an example on how to develop your book teaser.

The hook is this: Mad scientist harvests sickly fetuses searching for cancer cure. Can you see the irony in this story? The scientist must sacrifice lives in order to save lives. Let’s mine for a story question to use in the opening of our teaser.

If we start by revealing the scientists shocking methods, we’ll give away all the suspense up front. Not what you want since building suspense is what we’re after. The way to build suspense and shock readers is to reveal his use of fetuses at the very end where it’s not expected.

So, lets begin by showing the scientist’s good intentions, his dedication and research to find a cure for cancer. The positive side of the story. “Dr. Blankenstein has a dream.” “To rid the world of deadly cancer.”  “But first, he must rid the world of angels.”

Okay, I know this is a far-fetched premise but the hook is there. Cancer patients in remission unknowingly donate their healthy fetuses to benefit scientific research. First we show all the good and proper research Dr. Blankenstein conducts in the public eye. Then about half way through (15 seconds, the music turns ominous and we expose Dr. Blankenstein’s dark side.

It’s all about misdirection. The teaser model is simple. We open with something positive but end with something evil and sinister. Check out Stephen King’s teaser for Duma Key, plus my play-by-play analysis of this masterful 32 second teaser.

Watch this teaser and see how it makes you feel. Notice how calmly it opens and then slowly escalates into the unthinkable. This is the effect you’re after if you’ve written a suspenseful thriller.

Bottom line is this: Search for something meaningful in your story. A strong hook, a unique angle,  and focus on that particular feeling to kick-start your teaser. Just as your book opens with a tease, so must your teaser. You must open your teaser with a question, but not just any question, your question must be filled with curiosity that speaks to the reader in a meaningful way, an emotional way.

Remember, emotion and story concepts are always at the center of all your marketing. Without these two vital components, your marketing will flatline and die before it even has a chance to breathe.

Don't miss Part III and the exciting conclusion to this mini Book Teaser Tutorial, next week, right here. Hope to see you then. Meanwhile, rethink your hook and build it up until you get it to a point where it's pure marketing gold.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments.