Authors: Does Your First Line Grab The Reader and Hold On?

TO THE BEST OF my understandably shaky recollection, the first time I died it went something like this. – James Patterson, Private

By Scott Lorenz

Westwind Communications

MOJO If I don't Get the Book Written

 

Did you spend enough time crafting the first line in your book? In our attention deficit world these days it’s more important now than ever to grab the reader’s attention immediately. Why? Because if they don’t like the first line they may never read any further and may not buy the book!

We all know when we’ve read a good first line as it grabs you by the lapels and never lets you go. We’ve all heard memorable first lines our entire lives from bedtime stories our parents read us to the books published this year.

So what about your first line?  Is it memorable? Does it contain words with long lasting meaning and value? Some unforgettable first line examples include:

  • TO THE BEST OF my understandably shaky recollection, the first time I died it went something like this. – James Patterson, Private
  • Twas the Night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. – Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit from St. Nicholas
  • When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. – Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Call me Ishmael, – Herman Melville, Moby Dick
  • It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. – George Orwell, 1984
  • It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
  • Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. – Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
  • If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. – J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Now that you’ve read some notable opening lines, let’s hear what authors had to say about their process of creating a remarkable first line.

From an article in The Atlantic, Stephen King said, “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say, Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.”

Simon Kernick, a novelist, told The Telegraph during an interview, “For me, the most important bit is that you grip your reader from the start. All good writers really need to think about the first line, it’s hugely important. If you spend too much time setting things up, these days it’s not going to work.”

Kathryn Guare, self-publishing author, shared her insight and said, “The first sentence of a novel is exactly that—nothing more, and nothing less. It is the building block and the foundation from which to build everything else. It needs to work, but it does not need to be a work of art onto itself. If you like it yourself, then stop obsessing over it.”

The opening line holds crucial importance for both the author and the reader. It is of the utmost importance to hook the reader with the very first sentence, and engage them to read the whole book. A few ways to do so include:

  • Painting a vivid picture – Gain your reader’s attention by painting an image that stays with them for the rest of the book. For example, an article on The Write Practice shared an excerpt from Cormac McCarthy’s, All the Pretty Horses, which uses this technique.

 The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door.

  • Capturing the reader’s interest with a scenario or question – rather than painting a picture for your readers capture a scenario or recollection of thought from your main character. As a reader, you might picture the character with his father in deep conversation or envision the father sitting his son down to share valuable life lessons. If you’re imagining a similar scene, the author has done their job correctly. For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby.

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

  • Surprising the reader – this technique is used often by many authors to deceive their readers. Many authors use short and choppy sentences to confuse their readers and to keep them intrigued. A surprising opening is a theatrical way to present your book’s story into reality. For example, an article by Diane O’Connell, a book publishing coach and CEO of Write To Sell Your Book, shared an excerpt from Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road, which uses this technique.

 It was the day my grandmother exploded.

 Writing words that are funny, truthful and concise – the best technique that an author can use is honesty. A good example of honesty is the opening line of Lemony Snicket’s, A Bad Beginning, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Snicket (pen name for American author Daniel Handler is open and upfront with his reader’s from the very beginning by telling them that this isn’t a fairytale story. By using the honesty technique, he let his readers’ know what they were in for.

If you enjoy books with happy endings than you are better off reading some other book.

The Bottom Line: Grab your reader from the very beginning with an engaging and memorable opening line!  

About Book Publicist Scott Lorenz

Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.

Learn more about Westwind Communications’ book marketing approach at http://www.book-marketing-expert.com or contact Lorenz at scottlorenz@westwindcos.com or by phone at 734-667-2090. Follow Lorenz on Twitter @aBookPublicist

How Authors Can Land Speaking Gigs

Want to become a sought-after speaker? Then get cracking on this list and tell the world what you talk about and line up some speaking gigs. DO IT TODAY.

How Authors Get Speaking Gigs

By Scott Lorenz

Westwind Communications

Being a book publicist, I am often asked to help authors get speaking gigs. But, it’s a specialty in itself and outside our wheelhouse. Authors can make a lot of money speaking, more so sometimes than selling books, but generally, it’s the book that creates the demand so there is a symbiotic relationship. Some of my clients earn anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 per speech routinely. It’s getting on the circuit that’s difficult.

I’ve compiled a list of people and companies in this business that authors can engage with, who represent potential speakers. For many of these entities their client is the company or organization looking for a speaker and not you.  They want a good fit and someone who’ll deliver a terrific speech.

Here’s the list:

All American Speakers https://www.allamericanspeakers.com/category/Authors

All American Speakers assists meeting professionals, event producers, corporate groups, universities, nonprofits and associations in booking speakers and entertainment. The database “houses booking information on everyone on the speaker circuit, regardless of their agency/bureau affiliation.”

 American Program Bureau http://www.apbspeakers.com/literature-speakers

American Program Bureau books renowned literature speakers, including best-selling authors, historians and poets. The website has easy-to-browse categories and sub-topics to easily find speakers for any conference.

Christian Speakers Services http://www.christianspeakersservices.com/about.html

The organization serves event planners and ministry leaders. Everyone on the speaker roster has been vetted. You must complete an application to be represented by the organization.

ExpertClick  http://www.ExpertClick.com  Many speakers and authors turn to Expert Click to send news releases and to expand their online platform. Their proprietary news release distribution service pushes out ten ways including via Google News. Authors can get found based on 30+ key words that meeting planners are searching. They pull the author’s blog on an RSS feed and syndicate them into the press rooms, thereby getting more exposure, distribution of content and ‘Google Juice. According to CEO Mitch Davis, “We have 150+ speakers and authors who use us including Patricia Fripp, Alan Weiss and Jeffrey Gitomer.  We were featured in Tim Ferris’s book Four Hour Work Week, and PRWEEK called us ‘a dating service of PR,’ The New York Times called us ‘dial-an-expert.’ I use it and recommend it. When you join at this discount link you can save $100: www.ExpertClick.com/Discount/Scott_Lorenz

 Espeakers   https://www.eSpeakers.com/

The eSpeakers Marketplace brings the world’s greatest speakers together in one place and makes it easy for buyers to filter by topic, price range, and availability. Their platform takes the hassle out of booking and scheduling for both meeting planners and speakers.  They offer a cloud based, multiuser calendar suite; (they’re sort of like the Airbnb for speakers). They also connect speakers to over 50+ speaker directories saving hours of tedious administrative duties. It’s no wonder they are the preferred choice for many top speakers.

 GigSalad https://www.gigsalad.com/

A service that books entertainment and speakers for parties, productions and events of all kinds. This platform books10,000+ performers and presenters across the U.S. and Canada. The website’s search tool allows potential clients to view authors, categorized by genre and location.

HarperCollins Speakers Bureau http://www.harpercollinsspeakersbureau.com/

The HarperCollins Speakers Bureau is only accessible to authors published by HarperCollins, Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. It works with corporations, universities, schools, associations, libraries, clubs, hospitals, foundations, and other professional groups and societies in the U.S. and around the world.

 Harry Walker Agency http://www.harrywalker.com/

The Harry Walker Agency works with thousands of meeting planners in need of speakers. The agency belongs to the International Association of Speakers Bureaus (IASB) and has largest breadth and highest caliber of speakers in the world.

International Association of Speakers Bureaus (IASB) http://www.iasbweb.org/

IASB is the only trade association that exclusively represents speakers bureaus and agencies. Meeting professionals that request assistance in locating a speaker are referred to the Bureau Directory on the IASB website. IASB encourages meeting professionals to seek out member bureaus when searching for speakers.

Lyceum Agency http://www.lyceumagency.com/  

The Lyceum Agency represents authors and academics for speeches, lectures and readings on a variety on subjects. Access to an impressive list of speakers is available on the website.

Nancy Vogl Speakers Bureau http://www.nancyvoglspeakers.com/

A “boutique bureau” that books professional speakers in leadership, diversity and sales, futurists, health and wellness professionals and those sending a message of hope and inspiration. It’s located in Traverse City, Michigan.

National Speakers Association (NSA) http://www.nsaspeaker.org/

NSA has a network of 3,400+ speakers and has the tools, techniques and professional connections to help you share your message effectively. Whether you speak at their annual conference, chapter meetings or other events, NSA is eager to help you grow your business.

 National Speakers Bureau http://www.NationalSpeakers.com National Speakers Bureau has achieved over 40 years of success! Clients are primarily corporations and business associations. Speakers are searchable on their website according to topic and fee. **Only a small fraction of received speaker inquiries result in a correct fit.

Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) http://www.pcma.org/

Professional Convention Management Association calls itself “the definitive authority in education, business networking and community engagement for leaders in the global meetings, convention and business events industry.” PCMA has more than 6,500 members and 50,000 customers.

redBrick Agency http://redbrickagency.com/applause/

The redBrick Agency works with corporations, conventions, arts and lecture venues, libraries, performing arts centers, schools, colleges and universities. The agency represents authors and all kinds of speakers.

Speakers’ Spotlight http://www.speakers.ca/

Speakers’ Spotlight has arranged more than 20,000 speaking engagements in over 30 countries. The agency finds speakers for leading corporations, associations, government agencies, colleges and universities, school boards, health care organizations and charities.

Steven Barclay Agency http://www.barclayagency.com/

The Steven Barclay Agency serves colleges, universities, schools, performing arts centers, corporations, associations, and for private events.

TED https://www.ted.com/

Collectively, TED speakers have won every major prize awarded for excellence, including the Nobel, Pritzker, Pulitzer, Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, Tony and MacArthur “genius” grant. TED also seeks out emerging artists, scientists and thinkers, introducing them to the TED community.

To speak at TED: https://www.ted.com/about/conferences/speaking-at-ted

TEDx https://www.ted.com/about/programs-initiatives/tedx-program

A TEDx event is a local gathering where live TED-like talks and videos previously recorded at TED conferences are shared with the community. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.

The GUILD Agency http://www.theguildagency.com/

A full-service international Speakers Bureau, Literary Agency, Social Impact Consultancy, and Smart-Content Media Firm. The organization has assisted with thousands of events and works with many speakers not listed on their website.

The Tuesday Agency http://tuesdayagency.com/about

The Tuesday Agency is a full-service lecture agency representing elite authors, journalists, historians, artists and scholars. Based in Iowa City, “The Tuesday Agency is dedicated to the literary arts and to thoughtful dialogue.”

Thumbtack https://www.thumbtack.com/

This platform’s motto is “From house painting to personal training, we bring you the right pros for every project on your list.” Although presentations are more obscure than other professional services offered, this platform does book motivational speakers. Special attention: Lifestyle coaches and authors sending a positive message.

“If authors want to get speaking gigs they need to figure out where the leads are and have an easy system for following up on them,” says Jess Todtfeld, creator of  EndlessSpeakerLeads.com, a guide to finding and connecting with events and those who book them.

Endless Speaker Leads http://www.EndlessSpeakerLeads.com

Jess Todtfeld author of Media Secrets: A Media Training Crash Course, has curated some of the biggest resources for speakers into one place.  Using online videos, Todtfeld explains how to find conferences and the contacts who are the decision makers. Todtfeld suggests authors and experts add speaking as a profit center to help drive more book sales and drive more business.  Says Todtfeld, “If you can get more leads, you can make more connections and get more offers to have you as a speaker.”

The Bottom Line:  Want to become a sought-after speaker? Then get cracking on this list and tell the world what you talk about and line up some speaking gigs. DO IT TODAY.

About Book Publicist Scott Lorenz

Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.

Learn more about Westwind Communications’ book marketing approach at http://www.book-marketing-expert.com or contact Lorenz at scottlorenz@westwindcos.com or by phone at 734-667-2090. Follow Lorenz on Twitter @aBookPublicist