Who wouldn’t want to know how to write a book that sells a million-plus copies… a book that people can’t put down until they reach the last page... leaning back with a satisfied sigh...

By now, most wannabe best selling authors have already devoured the glut of “6 steps,” “7 steps,” “10 steps, etc.” writing formula/bullet-point books and manuals leading to fame and fortune.

So… what’s the problem? Why haven’t they already made their first million on their latest work?

In my ebook on writing, Write to Publish for Profit (soon to be published in hard copy), I devote a chapter to analysis of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1) , by J. K. Rowling, specifically to answer this question.

The title of the first chapter, “The Boy Who Lives,” is already a hook.

What boy (or girl), or person for that matter, doesn’t live? Why would that phrase be an important chapter title? Surely it has to be more than a WYSWYG (what you see is what you get). Has the reader already entered Curiosity City?

The first paragraph then delivers a huge part of the who, what, where, when, why and how that are critically important to set the stage for the rest of the book:

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, [a privet is a hedge that delivers a metaphor of blocking off consciousness and “Drive” implies “suburbia” (yawn)…] were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

We are told at the outset that these are boring adults because they are normal and want to be normal--self-righteously so. They also don’t want to be disturbed by anything different from their own brand of unconsciousness.

Note how much information the author delivers in this single paragraph, and how any pre-teen would already be singing along with the choir ("Ye-ah!”)

The second paragraph proceeds to describe the Dursleys, delivering a specific “who” and “what,” while folding in humor and information:

“Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills.”

(Yuk! Does this remind you of the dentist, or what?)

“He was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck, although he did have a very large mustache.”

(Can you picture this caricature of a man?)

“Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbors.”

(A “rubberneck” know-it-all gossip is what the reader gets from this description… someone who doesn’t have enough going on in her own life, so she busies herself meddling in everyone else’s.)

“The Dursleys had a small son named Dudley and in their opinion there was no finer boy anywhere.”

(Of course. The Dursleys are provincial people who are convinced that their beliefs and opinions and whatever else belongs to them are better than anyone else’s.)

The stage is set. Clearly, Rowling wants the reader to be turned off by these ugly, boring, self-centered people. Dudley, their spoiled brat son is also introduced here.

Amazing how easy it is for most people to identify with the Dursleys! For many, it could be their Aunt Minnie or their next-door neighbor.

Paragraph 3 delivers the plot: “The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret.” Note that the word “secret” is deliberately used here. More mystery, more curiosity-building. The reader will want to know right away what the Dursleys’ *secret* is! And then, the sentence goes on to say, “and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it.”

How magical is that last sentence! It sets the stage for suspense, and the reader already knows that someone is going to discover the Dursleys’ secret.

Then what will happen? The reader is also hooked on fear of the consequences of the Dursleys “being found out.”

All of this text is on the first page of the novel that also includes an illustration of a baby wrapped in a blanket. Who is that baby? What is this story really about?

Seduce your reader

The reader needs to be seduced at the outset. The game is over if even for one second the reader’s eyes leave the page and start to wander in the direction of the TV or kitchen.

I have a friend who loves to ask, “Do you believe in love at first sight?” The quick answer to this is, “It depends on what you show me.”

Show and Tell in the first sentence of the book. But… like all clever salespersons, don’t show and tell all. Just enough, Lucy, to whet his appetite. And just enough, Roger, to rouse her curiosity.

We’ve all read one or more versions of that joke circulating on the internet: What makes a woman happy vs. what makes a man happy?

Bring food, come naked

Ask yourself: what turns you on? Then repeat that question: what really turns you on? Use this question to develop each component of your story or article.

If it’s a fiction work, each of your characters will represent someone you find (intriguing, obnoxious, humorous, mentally deranged, etc.). Each scene will be loaded with details that you find fascinating. You are making a statement as you are telling the story. Within that statement, you are delivering energy that turns the wheel (or the page) and generates even more desire to keep reading.

Propulsion = Compulsion

Dan Brown is a master at this technique. Angels & Demons is one of the best demonstrations of compressed energy that keeps exploding, page after page, throughout the book. You cannot not keep driving on, straight through this fast-reading, adventure packed novel.

Make a habit of looking for the hook in everything you read. This becomes not only a good evaluation tool but also an excellent way to train your mind when you sit down at the computer to start writing your next book or article.

Author's Bio: 

Carol Adler, MFA is SelfGrowth.com's Official Guide to Publishing Expert.

Adler's first ghost-written book listing her name as co-editor, Why Am I Still Addicted? A Holistic Approach to Recovery, was endorsed by Deepak Chopra, M.D., and published by McGraw-Hill. Other publications include three novels, four books of poetry, and well over 200 poems in literary journals. She has ghostwritten over 40 non-fiction and fiction works for a number of professionals in the education, health care and human potential industries.

Carol is President of Dandelion Books, LLC of Tempe, Arizona; a full service publishing company. She is also President and CEO of Dandelion Enterprises, Inc., Write to Publish for Profit and President of the International Arts & Media Foundation, a non-profit subsidiary of Dandelion Enterprises, Inc.

Her business experience includes co-ownership of a Palm Beach, FL public relations company and executive management positions in two U.S. rejuvenation and mind/body wellness corporations, for which she founded publishing divisions.

Carol has served as editor of several poetry and literary magazines. Her career experience includes extensive teaching of college-level creative and business writing, and conducting of writing workshops in prisons, libraries, elementary, junior and high schools, and senior citizen centers.