Finding the Right Hook

By Guest Author, Saralyn Richard

I used to teach journalism, and one of the first lessons about writing a good journalistic article was finding the right hook to appeal to the audience. The more I learn about book marketing, the more I find the comparison to fishing to be apt.

When I self-published my children’s book, Naughty Nana, almost five years ago, I cast about, looking for venues where dropping a line might draw the most fish. Bookstores were the logical first choice but the stores had lots of children’s books written by local authors, so what would make mine stand out, or be the biggest fish in the pond?

Mascot Nana

I realized the answer was living and breathing right next to me—it was the real dog, Nana, the Princess of Pandemonium, who had inspired the book to begin with. As the fluffy narrator of the book, Nana was a ready-made mascot. A magnet for children and their parents, Nana soon became my sidekick, and we began scheduling visits to schools, libraries, museums, play groups, and birthday parties. It was the perfect way to introduce the Naughty Nana story to its audience, almost like having the Hollywood star appear in the movie theater for each showing of the film. We devised a way to include Nana’s pawtograph in each book, and we offered photo opps with every sale. From then on, acquiring a copy of Naughty Nana became an experience, not just a purchase. Nana was the hook to making the book a hit.

When my second book, an adult murder mystery entitled Murder in the One Percent, was nearing its release date, I realized that marketing this traditionally published book would be an entirely different fishing expedition. Sure, thanks to Nana, I had developed a cadre of readers who were enthusiastic about my next step in the literary world, but Nana wouldn’t be able to travel with me to plug the murder mystery and take the limelight, and my cherished readers aged 3-8 wouldn’t be clamoring for suspense and intrigue for their bedtime stories. I would have to find another hook.

Casting a Wide Net

No easy substitute for Nana came to mind, so I began brainstorming for what might attract the interest of this book’s audience. I realized that Murder in the One Percent had multiple audiences: beach readers, airplane readers, stay-up-late-to-finish-the-novel readers, readers who loved solving puzzles, gourmet food enthusiasts, wine connoisseurs, horse owners, Wall Street types, minorities, fashionistas, local readers, and on and on. Every niche sparked ideas for marketing, and I realized that I would have to cast a large net with this one.

The various hooks have led to diverse and interesting experiences, and I’m just getting started. For example, some audiences are fascinated by the fact that Murder in the One Percent is a locked room mystery. Others love it that the peaceful area of Brandywine Valley is the setting for a murder. Yet others find the use of a rare, but naturally-occurring poison to be of interest. Marketing the book has engineered a reunion with my high school English teacher who inspired me to be an author, and that drew a lot of hometown fanfare. The owners of a restaurant mentioned in the book have shared info about it on social media. Bird-lovers like it that the detective has a pet cockatiel. Military personnel enjoy reading about the character who is a Navy SEAL. And the list goes on. My job when it comes to marketing is to find the right hook for each audience, not so much to reel them in, but to expose them to the story I think they will love. Hopefully, they’ll eat it up and want more.

I don’t know everything about marketing books. I enjoy reading about other authors’ experiences, successes, and challenges. Whatever works is worth sharing, and that’s one of the benefits of Hometown Reads.

Meet Saralyn Richard

Hometown Guest Author Headshot

Mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, has been a teacher who wrote on the side, but now she’s a writer who teaches on the side. Some of her poems and essays have won awards and contests from the time she was in high school. Her children’s picture book, Naughty Nana, has reached thousands of children in five countries.


Murder in the One Percent, ©2018 by Black Opal Books, pulls back the curtain on the privileged and powerful. Set on a gentleman’s farm in Pennsylvania and in the tony areas of New York, the book shows what happens when someone comes to a party with murder in his heart and poison in his pocket.


A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn is revising her second mystery, Murder at Lincoln High. Her website is

About Becky Robinson

Becky is the founder and CEO of Weaving Influence, the founder of Hometown Reads, and a champion of the #ReadLocal Movement.

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What People Are Saying

  • Thanks, Hometown Authors, for hosting me today. It’s always a joy to talk about writing and marketing, and it’s a joy to listen, too. I’d love to hear about hooks used by other authors. After all, we are fishing in the same pond every day.

    • I love your metaphor, Saralyn. Nana is a wonderful avenue to promoting your other books. Who can resist that big, shaggy do?

    • I was smiling as I read about Nana because I too have mascot for my book “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch.” Lord Banjo accompanies me to every book signing dressed in his Royal Purple Robe. As you have probably learned, the dog is a much bigger draw than I have ever been. (My first book was a collection of my newspaper columns–no mascot!) Dog lovers of all ages enjoy giving him belly rubs!

  • This is terrific advice for authors who don’t where to start when it comes to the daunting world of marketing.

  • I enjoyed your article. I struggle with marketing and am always interested in how others deal with it.

  • A new and thoughtful marketing technique. Thanks for sharing.

  • Very informative and helpful.

  • Great article. Every story has a hook, just need to find the right bait and fish! Love your Murder mystery for so many reasons, but mostly because it kept me guessing!

  • Hi Saralyn,

    These days, the writing is the easy part. It’s the marketing and promotion of books that’s very difficult. Clearly, you have created good products and that’s the first step. Getting readers isn’t easy, but word of mouth and good reviews help a lot.

  • This is a great post, Saralyn, and I love your “partner” in “the not crime.” Your comments on finding audiences, and the fact those can be diverse for the same genre, makes me sit up and think about my own approach to marketing. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on your success and long may it continue. Best wishes x

  • You’ve given a new meaning to the label “hook” for me, Saralyn. I’d thought of it in terms of the first sentence, paragraph, and chapter of a book. Now I see that it can also mean any of several ways of connecting with your readers’ interests. With this new meaning, I can think about marketing in a new way!

  • Thanks for sharing and, above all, modeling how to launch a book. Marketing is a creative process – just like writing a book is – and collaboration and fun make it exciting for an author. Nothing succeeds like zest!

  • Sounds like the dog was the first big hook. Alas, for the mysteries. So many of us seeking an audience. May your ideas hook a big fish–or at least a few little ones. If your books are written as well as your blog, you deserve a huge readership.

  • The problem isn’t necessarily finding the hooks. The problem is finding where to dangle them. Example–bird lovers. How on earth do you FIND bird lovers, then, how on earth do you get to groups, websites, social media that will actually USE your info. I’ve found most contacts refuse to run anything not directly related to their groups even if the message is couched in information/education format. I know women read women’s fiction, but how do I get to them? Suggestions welcome.

  • Excellent advice. It started my mental wheels spinning about how your approach would apply to my own published books. Time to do a whole new set of facebook group searches… Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Thank you for sharing your story with us! Having your dog be your mascot was a brilliant idea. Good luck with future promotions!

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