Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Mount Hermon Writers Conference
Weather: Bloomin’ beautiful
I’m co-teaching the Career Track at the Mount Hermon Writers Conference for the next few days, and as I’m hearing tons of book ideas from the conferees, I’m reminded of some of the aspects of a manuscript that make it salable–or not.
One of those items is the importance of hitting readers’ hot buttons. If a book doesn’t shout out to the potential reader, “You need me!” that reader is going to bypass the book and snatch up the one sitting on the shelf next to it.
What do I mean by hot buttons?
For fiction, a hot button usually is an idea that tickles the reader’s fancy. I’m reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Why did I pick that novel out of the plethora available? First because Wendy Lawton couldn’t stop raving about it, and Wendy and I tend to like the same sort of novels. So the book had “buzz” goin’ for me. But second, the concept of the book piqued my imagination. What would it be like to see the South in the ’60s through the eyes of the maids who travel in their starched white uniforms from their poor homes to work for the rich? Oooh, now the book really had my attention.
For nonfiction, hot buttons are more felt needs rather than intellectual curiosity. We want certain things in our lives–health, peace, money, more friends, less fat. We want to be smarter, fitter, “in the know.” Whatever people want fits into the hot button category.
But hot buttons are more complex than that. I might want to grow closer to God, but that doesn’t mean I’d buy a book entitled Grow Closer to God. Been there, read the book, it’s on my shelf. I want a book that has a unique twist to a perennial topic. So if you wrote a book entitled, All I Need Is Jesus and a Good Pair Jeans, I’m more prone to pick up that book. The title tells me it’s clever, the author understands that Jesus and jeans are important parts of my life (for very different reasons), and I just plain like its spunk. You’ve hit my hot button. (By the way, that title has already been taken by Suzanna Aughtmon. The subtitle is The Tired Supergirl’s Search for Grace–oh, yeah, you’re singin’ my song.)
What hot buttons do you think exist today that might not have been “hot” last year? So much has changed for our culture in one short year.
But even more important than asking what is hot now is the question, What will be hot two years from now? Because, if you contracted to write a book today, it would likely release in 2011.
What are you writing, and what hot buttons does it hit?