How to draw a reader before they even read the first chapter

With my debut novel coming out soon, I have been doing a mini-series on this blog about the publishing process. I was about to do the next stage, which in my experience is to do with the cover, but first I thought I would write a quick post about how to draw a reader in before they read the first chapter. 

Some books I find take me longer to get into, whilst others I am instantly intrigued with. These are the books I normally find myself talking about and recommending to people. So I thought about what it is about these books that have me raving about them and I came up with a quick list. 

  1. Eye catching cover

Now, this part might be tricky because everyone is attracted to different things. Some like a bold cover, some like minimal detail. To me, it needs to scream the story. I want detail on the cover that is going to prove to me that this book is going to be fast-paced, full of action and adventure and intrigue me every step of the way. Some of my favourite covers are From Blood and Ash, Throne of Glass, One of us is Lying, Strange the dreamer and The Poppy War. To me, all of these are simple designs and yet they are also highlighting that the story is eye-catching because the designs are bold in their own unique way. 

  • Good blurb 

If I am honest, I’m not one to read the blurb. Normally I go on what others say about a book and how they summarise it. But if you think about it, what they are doing is simply reading the blurb, so in a way, I am still being intrigued by it. To me, a blurb needs to be how you sell the story. You need to give the reader an indication on what is going to happen to the protagonist — what is the stakes they are up against? It’s drawing in the reader, showing them that this story is worth picking up. Name your character — this is a big pet peeve of mine. If I am reading the story and it takes a while for me to learn the main characters name then I instantly find myself distancing from it. Put it in the blurb so they know before even opening the book. Tell me the problem and an indication of what they are going to try to do to solve it. But whatever you do — DON’T GIVE SPOILERS. Sometimes I find myself reading the blurb and I realise that they have explained something that doesn’t happen until half way through the book. I don’t want to know that, I want to know what happens in at most the first quarter because when you get to that point of the book you normally know whether you want to keep reading or not. 

  • Good opening one liner

The first sentence is quite possibly the most important sentence of the entire book. You need something that instantly grips the reader. Some of my favourite are:

A series of Unfortunate Events = “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.”

1984 = “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

I am Legend = “On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.”

From Blood and Ash = “They found Finley this eve, just outside the Blood forest, dead.”

The first sentence needs to draw in the reader. Have them question what is going on instantly and want to continue to read to find out. Put something authentic in there. Something that proves this isn’t every day life, as after all, people read books to escape reality.

  • Good reviews

As I stated above, normally I am intrigued about a book because how someone talks about it. If someone is raving about it, then normally that intrigues me to know what it is that has them so hyped. Of course, when it’s a top author or one of your favourite recommending a book, that will instantly prick up your attention. But not everyone can have top people review their work. That’s where publishers turn to social media and ask influencers to read and review work. The more people who can read it before it comes out, the more traffic you will accumulate. Even if it’s just friends or family, if they have read it and liked it, then get them to talk about it. I am a sucker to talk to a random stranger about it. I went for a massage and found myself selling my book and at the end she said she will look out for when it comes out and will buy it. It’s word of mouth that grants intrigue, so more reviews you have, the more books you’re likely to sell.

If there is anything else you think I’ve missed out on how to attract readers, then comment below. As writers, we are in this together and each have a story to tell. So I put it to you to get your work out there and watch people fall in love with it. 

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