ASP 29: How to Be a Successful Book Hooker

Quote of the day:

“To think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”

– George Kneller

In Steve’s interview with Derek Doepker, Derek touched upon creating book hooks, and how it has been critical to his success. Today, Steve talks about the subject in more detail.

Steve, you are a master book hooker. What exactly is a book hook?

A book hook is similar to an elevator pitch—a creative sentence or two that explains what your book is all about and what problems it solves. As an example, an appropriate hook for the movie Speed might be: “Die Hard on a bus.”

Does the hook refer to the title alone, or how the book is written?

At first, it would be a premise. But, depending on how the book turns out, it could eventually become the book title.

Habit Stacking” struck a chord with me even before I started writing the book, and ended up being the title. On the other hand, I consider my book The Accountability Manifesto to be a book with a separate hook. No matter what I change the title to, it doesn’t improve sales.

It is important to test a book idea and title before publishing. But ultimately, the title and the book hook could be the same or different.

What comes first—writing the book or deciding the hook?

I look through my research on Evernote and then go through ideas in my head while I’m away from the computer. Then an idea just pops into my head and that’ll generally be the hook.

So even before you put pen on paper, I suggest that you should come up with a core idea of what you’re trying to teach.

How can a hook set you apart from other books in your niche?

There’s pretty much nothing new under the sun, so it is important to differentiate yourself from others. A hook can do this for you, and help you find your own unique angle.

Can you give us a few examples of really good hooks?

Five Attributes of a Good Title:

  1. Attention grabbing – Makes people pause and want to check the book out.
  2. Memorable – Two to three words.
  3. Informative – Make sure the subtitle delivers on the promise of the book.
  4. Easy to say
  5. Not embarrassing or problematic for someone to say aloud to their friends – This makes it easily shareable.

What’s the difference between a catchy title and a good hook?

There’s no major difference. A hook is simply the shorthand description that may guide you in writing the title.

For example, before I came up with Habit Stacking, my first idea for the book was “to stack a bunch of habits in five minutes or less.”

Try this copywriting exercise to help you find your hook: Take one idea and write down 10 different versions of it. Then sit down and write 10 to 30 different versions of your hook. Keep in mind that you need to write for your customer.

Do you test titles? How?

I like to test my titles in Authority Self-Publishing Facebook group.

I present three ideas through a poll and ask other authors and writers to vote on them. Sometimes, voters actually come up with better ideas.

After gathering the best titles or hooks, I then go to and survey a bunch of anonymous people. Based on their feedback, I come up with my final title.

Barrie regrets not doing some testing before publishing Sticky Habits. Testing is important, especially for authors who often operate based on their own assumptions. Getting feedback from others is a valuable exercise.

If you feel there are too many ideas floating around, look for the common thread between them and then focus on that.

Running tests for the titles and subtitles of 10-Minute Declutter helped us end up with the ones we have now.

How do you finally settle on a title?

It’s a combination of the feedback that you get and what your gut is telling you will work. At some point, you have to make the decision. It’s important to come up with a hook early on. Then, as you work through the book, you may come up with a better one.

Have you considered re-hooking or re-titling an existing book?

I retitled my book The Accountability Manifesto to Crowdsource Your Success, but it didn’t really help much. In that case, it was the hook/idea that was weak. So it’s really important to test your hook and idea even before you write your book.

Can you summarize the most important things authors need to remember about creating a great hook?

Do this 60-minute exercise (when you’re just getting started with your book):

  1. Get a pen and paper.
  2. Go to Amazon and look for similar books. Read the reviews and use the “Look Inside” feature to check out the different chapters and what topics are covered.
  3. Check out similar blogs and their most popular content.
  4. Get an idea about what has been previously (and successfully) published about your topic.
  5. Then build on your idea and hook from there.

Another tip: I ask my VA to list down the current titles in the Amazon Top 100 (for Kindle books). I then print this out and use it to help come up with good hooks.

That’s all for this week. As always, check out the 46-point self-publishing checklist at!

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