Writers can suffer under the pressure to create attention grabbing writing. That first sentence that draws a reader in and arouses their curiosity. It can seem like everything hinges on that one attention grabbing line, and that pressure can cause frustration, writer’s block, and often a resulting line that doesn’t work with the rest of the story. But it’s not always all about the first sentence. Although it is important, think about the last time you went to a bookstore just to browse. Did you open every book to the first page? No! You read the title, the description on the back, checked the reviews to see if you recognized the other authors who enjoyed it, and then you opened it to the first page. Therefore, it is important to give each step of the attention grabbing process its due.
First and foremost, make sure that what you’ve thought of is original. Run it through a search engine just to make sure that it’s not already a well-known book title. Of course, there will be books with similar names, but exact matches will not help attract readers who will see your book as Not-Great-Expectations and reject it.
Don’t give away your plot entirely with your title, but make sure that it connects with your story in some way. It’s likely that while you were writing the book, several lines or sentences stood out, or meant more to you as the author. Play around with them and see if you can get a second layer of meaning using those phrases.
Any reader knows that the back of the book or the inside jacket description is crucial. If the attention grabbing title and cover art got you to pick it up, the meat of the description is where you decide whether or not to keep it in hand.
Use short, intriguing taglines as attention grabbing content. Hint at what the conflict is, and engage the reader directly to explain why they will enjoy the book (for example, “If you enjoy [specific genre] and [type of conflict], this belongs on your bookcase.” Try to use a cliffhanger to get them wondering how the conflict will be resolved.
Most of us do not know writers who have achieved the kind of fame that gets their name bandied about on book covers, but we do know people who like to read! When it comes to choosing which attention grabbing reviews to put on your cover, stay in your genre by choosing authors who write for the same kind of audience. That way, even if the reader has not heard of them before, they will have a better reaction to a new thriller review by “Jane Janeson, author of “A Spiderweb of Spies” than the author of “Hummingbirds in the Southeast.”
Attention Grabbing First Sentences
And finally, the first sentence! The first line of your book should be impactful. Think of your favorite books and how they pulled you in on that first page. Just as in general marketing, an author needs the audience to see what they see, relate to it personally, and have an emotional response. Some of the best ways to evoke that reaction are to make sure that the first paragraph starts with a moment that changes the status quo for the character or sets up a critical choice or action. The reader will wonder what got the characters to this point and where they will go from there.
As with all things in writing, remember that you are creating something for others, not just yourself. This means that getting feedback along the way is vital to success. Be willing to accept criticism and try to see the entire project, from title to content, as objectively as possible. You have a story to tell, but first you have to capture the reader’s attention!