Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Familiars - The Big Book Hook




Published authors love to give advice to aspiring writers. Whether they have one book to their name or a store shelf filled with best-sellers, they share their wisdom on everything that led them to their success. Write from the soul. Be determined. Read, read, read! Write, write, write! More generalizations flow like write from the heart, have great execution, and never giving up. These bon mots are more like self-help mantras than secrets to getting your book published.

So, what are we going to tell you that you haven’t heard before? Well, authors rarely talk about the importance of the idea. The big idea. A hook that will grab a reader, agent, or editor right from the query letter. Here’s an exclusive, firsthand piece of advice we’ll pass on from an anonymous publishing industry insider: hundreds of manuscripts come across his/her desk each year, and only a handful have a sellable big book hook. Meaning, the major publishing houses are looking for books with big ideas that can be featured at giant retailers, get adapted into movies, and become best-sellers. Not just stand-alone books, but series.

In Hollywood, the major movie studios are looking for 4-quadrant, tentpole, franchisable ideas. Ideas that appeal to the broadest possible audience, that can justify the biggest possible budget and marketing plan, and can have sequel after sequel. The book industry is searching for the same thing. If this sounds crass, or makes you wince because of its commerce over art leaning, it shouldn’t.

A few of the biggest (and best) books from the last few years:



"Harry Potter" – an average boy is rescued from his ordinary, unlucky existence to fulfill his destiny at a school for wizards.



"The Hunger Games" – in a futuristic society, a young girl must survive a deadly game in which teens fight to the death in front of live TV audiences.

"Twilight" – a teenage girl risks everything when she falls in love with a vampire.

Now, I don’t want to dissuade anyone from writing about their coming of age, or their dysfunctional family, or their marriage or divorce. But, as our insider shared with us, it is stories like these that make him/her happy that self-publishing is so much easier today. Because the big publishing houses have a much harder time getting their marketing machine behind the smaller, hookless ideas. (*Big disclaimer here: of course there are exceptions! At the end of the day, a wonderfully written manuscript is still the MOST important factor in getting published.*)

New York Times YA and children’s author Laurie Halse Anderson says write the flap copy before you write the book. This exercise is a fantastic way to iron out your big book hook and make it impossible for that agent or editor you’re querying to pass. After that, see if you can pitch your idea to your husband or wife or co-worker in a sentence or two. Did they get it? Could they turn around and pitch it to someone else? Take it a step farther and imagine the book cover, too.

We’re not encouraging you to write something derivative and soulless. We’re just saying find the character or theme or story that you’re passionate about and find a big hook to sell it on. The Transformers, a billion dollar grossing popcorn extravanganza, was originally pitched by Steven Spielberg as a story about a boy and his first car.

So, before you begin the long journey of writing your manuscript (and rewriting it over and over again until it is ready to be submitted), take a long, hard look at the idea. Does it have a big book hook? Could you see the cover on a display at your local bookstore? How about a movie poster at the neighborhood megaplex? If you can answer yes confidently to those questions, then congratulations. Now you’re just 60,000+ words closer to getting published.

If you want to learn more about "The Familiars," please visit www.thefamiliars.com. You can watch the book trailer here.

To enter for a chance to win a copy of THE FAMILIARS, please follow us and comment below.

17 comments:

SusanKMann said...

I would love to win this book, please enter me. Thanks for the information, this is really useful to an aspiring writer like myself. susankmann[at]blueyonder[dot]co[dot]uk

JKB said...

Brilliant post, fellas! And I love the idea of writing the jacket copy first!

aspiring_x said...

so true! the idea has to be there, the book has to be about something. :)

Hilary Wagner ~ Debut Author said...

Great post, guys!!! Go Familiars! Wow, your debut is next week! OMG! How exciting!

xoxo -- Hilary

Rose Cooper said...

What a great post!!! Such great tips, thanks! I can't wait to read your book, sounds terrific.

Bish Denham said...

I think it's kind of sad that it's so much about the BIG hook. One wonders if something as quiet as Winnie-the-Pooh would get published today.

storyqueen said...

Gotta tell you, when I first heard about your book, I was bummed that I hadn't thought of the idea....it is AWESOME!!!

Can't wait to read it!

Shelley

Adam and Andrew said...

In response to Bish Dehham, I know that authors writing about things like "big book hooks" drive some people nuts. I contemplated avoiding this topic. But I've had several conversations with publishing people and agents about the push for these kinds of projects recently and I think that while it's not always popular advice, it's important for aspiring writers to keep in mind. Thanks for your comment!

Melina said...

I am a new follower here, but I already know Adam & Andrew. SMILE The Familiars sounds fantastic. So unique!

Elie said...

I would love to win a copy of the Familiars. I am an new follower, looks like an exciting blog!

soulfulll said...

My nephew would do love 'The Familiars'....can't wait to get a copy in his hands.

Alison Stevens said...

Great advice, thanks! And I would love to win a copy of the Familiars. :D

Brenda said...

Congratulations on the upcoming release! The book looks really nice, I would love to enter for the giveway. Thanks for starting the blog! So many of the authors I enjoy reading are all in the same place.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I agree with the idea (in theory) of writing the Big Hook before you write the book. I think it makes a lot of sense. But sometimes I think you can also discover the Big Hook that was lurking all the while in your story - although you may have to dig and expand your book, once you find it.

p.s. I have Familiars on my TBR! :)

Dee Garretson said...

Great post! And I'm excited your book is coming out so soon. It will be perfect for my daughter.

Dawn Lairamore said...

Wonderful post! I look forward to reading The Familiars.

Messy mommy said...

I want to be entered! I love following this blog. So many interesting books and people.