The #1 Key to Writing a Best Selling Nonfiction Book      

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I get asked this question often:

How do I stand out in this crowded marketplace where anyone and everyone can write and publish a book? 

The answer lies coded in the question. True, anyone and everyone can write and publish a book. But not everyone can write and publish a book, with a clear hook. In fact, most don’t. So if you take the time to craft your hook, you will start way ahead of the pack.

Are you wondering what a hook is?

I look at the hook (for nonfiction) as having two essential components:

  1. A clear premise – your book is about something specific and understandable
  2. A clear promise – your book will provide clear value to its readers

Books with strong hooks stand out.

Still, you may ponder, why oh why do I need a hook?

The hook is not just used by you. The hook will be used by your publisher (or you if you self-publish), your PR team, the producers on any TV show, and editors for every magazine or blog. Starting to get the picture? The hook will be used by everyone and anyone down the line who will try to understand your idea and more importantly, promote interest in your idea.

Let’s take a look at five examples of self-help or how-to books that have strong hooks.


Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen has the hook baked right into the title. Read these stories, it says, and you will feel a little bit healed and comforted as if your soul just had a nice hot bowl of chicken soup.

The Premise: Short stories about real, everyday people facing life’s struggles, just like you.

The Promise: You will feel better about your life.

Let’s look at how Amazon describes it:

Twenty years later, Chicken Soup for the Soul continues to open the heart and rekindle the spirit. You will find hope and inspiration in these 101 heartwarming stories about counting your blessings, thinking positive, and overcoming challenges.



Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

This book and its cover tell us pretty quickly that our entire nation is heading down the wrong path when it comes to our “get it fast and salty” eating.

The Premise: We are getting fatter as a society by eating fast food, especially if we are poor.

The Promise: You will learn about the dark underbelly of something that may be a daily habit in your life – and maybe, just maybe you may change that daily habit with this new information.

How Amazon describes it:

Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled American cultural imperialism abroad. That’s a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning.


How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Premise: Clear, no-nonsense and applicable advice on how to gain more friendships and influence.

Promise:  Dale Carnegie will take you from a person who may not be getting what you want in life to a person who gets what you want in life.

How Amazon Describes It:

You can go after the job you want…and get it! You can take the job you have…and improve it! You can take any situation you’re in…and make it work for you! Learn the six ways to make people like you, the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking, and the nine ways to change people without arousing resentment


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Premise: A professional Japanese cleaning consultant will teach you the revolutionary KonMari method of cleaning your home.

Promise: You will finally (once and for all) learn how to get and stay organized. Your home and your life will become more peaceful and joyous!

How Amazon describes it:

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. This international bestseller will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home-and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.



The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

Premise: There is a blueprint for working less and earning more.

Promise: Using Ferriss’ unique and detailed map, you will learn how to transform your life. Soon you will be able to trade in your old over-worked lifestyle for a work-smart and live-in-luxury lifestyle.

How Amazon describes it:

Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan–there is no need to wait and every reason not to, especially in unpredictable economic times. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, or just living more and working less, The 4-Hour Workweek is the blueprint.


So going back to the question asked at the top of the page.

How do I stand out in this crowded marketplace where anyone and everyone can write and publish a book? 

  1. Don’t jump into writing the book, no matter how exciting it may seem to get words on the page. Spend time crafting your hook first. Until you love it.
  2. Ask, what is the premise of the book? (Can I describe the core idea in 3-5 sentences?) Another way to look at it is: Can another person, not me, repeat back the idea after hearing it? (Remember you are the initial salesman, but your book will need many sales people to make it a success.)
  3. Ask: what is the promise I am making to my readers? What concrete benefit will they receive by having read my book?


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