This week’s Publishers Weekly had a very interesting piece entitled “How They Do Debbie,” an article about the success of romance author Debbie Macomber. One of the things that really struck me about this article was the mention of Debbie’s book The Shop on Blossom Street. After Blossom hit the bestseller list, Harlequin commissioned a reader survey to discover why this particular book struck such a chord. Do you know what they discovered? They learned the same thing our own Maggie Sefton has learned, that people love knitting, and this particular theme (this hook) was not only attractive to Debbie’s romance readers but also had appeal to the ever-growing community of knitters. It wasn’t her writing or her growing romance audience alone that made her book a New York Times bestseller; it was the fact that she had written a book that appealed to a niche audience of readers who may never before have picked up her book. This audience was (and is) so dedicated to their craft that they were looking for anything that had to do with their love of knitting.
Maggie Sefton has learned this firsthand with her Knitting Mystery series. Maggie, like the rest of the mystery world, knows the importance of a hook. Dan Brown had the Da Vinci Code and our own mystery authors have everything from gardening, scuba diving, and wine to collecting, baking, and dolls (just to name a few). When selling books to publishers, readers, and even friends and family, we aren’t describing the mystery or the romance (since they are all basically the same story); we are describing the hook. It’s that one special thing that brings us to the book.
To build on the success of The Shop on Blossom Street, Harlequin and Debbie Macomber did what any smart publishing team would do: they established a major publicity campaign around knitting—not around book readers. Not only did they market the book to knitters, but they created an entire series of romances surrounding this hook.
When selling your book to an agent, publisher, or reader, you need to capitalize on your hook. You need to focus on that one big thing that makes your book not only different from everything else but marketable as well. Maggie Sefton has had great success with her Knitting Mystery series by meeting with knitting shop owners, knitting circles, and knitters all over the country. Debbie Macomber did the same. So what is your hook? And how are you, the author, going to market your book outside of the natural audience, beyond just romance or mystery readers?