What are hook-in words?
They’re a bit like keywords but they have an extra overlay of emotion. They give an urgent desire to find out more.
A keyword is a word used by many for internet searches: “how to something”. A hook-in word is a word that arouses or disturbs our feelings.
If you’re writing a non-fiction book be aware that most people looking for answers search on the phrase “How to blah, blah.” So go with the flow and use what they search on – it will be a problem, hopefully answered in your book. These are keywords.
Fiction hook-ins are not true keywords
Fiction book titles use hook-in words. Hook-ins might not be searched for like a keyword, however, when a reader is searching for a good read the titles that stand out as intriguing use hook-ins in the title. Readers won’t necessarily search on ‘love’ but when they reach a list of books (Kindle or print) their eyes will be attracted to words that fit their genre.
Looking on Kindle I found a few e-book titles that use hook-in words.
Anything with love in the title and you know where the story is going. Readers wanting to read a love story would know instantly that Hello Love by Karen McQuestion is in the romance genre.
A similar title is something with the word ‘heart’ in it: Guarding His Heart. Here is a young man who needs a (woman?) to unlock his heart and give him emotional release.
Brides is another hook-in word. Also in the romance genre. But then War Brides is an exception – a story of revenge.
Hook-in words that indicate the darker side are also useful for attracting the attention of the horror, mystery, thriller and crime genres. Titles I found in this group were: Mean Streak, A Dangerous Witch, Body Guard of Lies, Whiskey : You’re the Devil.
The words ‘mean’, ‘dangerous’, ‘lies’, ‘devil’ hint at a little evil in the writing.
Some book titles use weak words that don’t really indicate what they’re about, or hint at a problem. I didn’t know all this when I wrote and self-published Real Estate Rollercoaster.
The title didn’t give any indication of what was within or what the reader could gain by reading it. One of these days I plan to re-write and re-publish with a better hook-in title like: Avoid Tears on the Real Estate Rollercoaster. You see how the title becomes more compelling by using an emotion-laden word?
In my search I found a few weak titles: Good and Valuable. Both of those words are positive words but they don’t convey anything compelling. Similar is Priceless. This is no indication of the quality of the writing, or the skill of the author; it just means the books will be less likely to be bought by the impulse buyer.
Random hook-in words
Here a few random words that will hook-in a reader for a second-look:
Lost – Few of us have not experienced the panic of feeling suddenly lost, or having lost something important – even the car in the car park! The word will intrigue because we empathise with anything lost – a lost puppy, a child crying because they’ve lost their parent.
Edge – as on a precipice or momentous change. The word holds a feeling of nervous tension – great for a mystery or thriller.
Suspicion – anything that is under suspicion is something to possibly fear. It purveys a sense that we cannot trust what is happening or what we think is real. Definitely a useful word for a crime novel, but could also turn up in dramas or even romances where the suspected person turns out to be all right in the end.
Betrayed/Betrayal – This is a word that really has our world turned upside down. We don’t have to experience betrayal to know how it must feel.
Die/death/murder – I put them in because they will appeal to readers of a definite genre. Luckily most of us don’t have to experience it to feel the finality of the words.
Attack – (and many other fighting words) plays to our fear of being vulnerable. Fighting words can put off readers who dither between wanting to find out if it turns out all right in the end and their fear of being horrified by what they read. Use fighting words when you’re confident of your genre and audience.
Titles for display on the ‘Net
A new requirement has come about now that books are sold on the Web. The titles that look the best are those with easy to read fonts, have short 2-3 word titles that take up about a third of the cover. This is because fancy fonts don’t look too good when they’re reduced to the size of a thumbnail.
Take a look at the book covers I’ve put in so far. The first two titles (mine included) are reasonably easy to read. The last two are much harder to see in the small size. They might look fine on a print book cover, but not in the size of an e-book thumbnail.
- Use emotion-laden hook-in words in your title suitable for your genre
- Keep titles short
- Design your cover so the words take up about a third of the space and look fine at thumbnail size
- Use easily-read fonts