Super-sell your book series in one great line

January 7, 2010

I came across a handy listing of great first lines to novels. Here is the link to the top 100, originally published by ABR and found here at infoplease.

The line that hit me between the eyes was number 12 – Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Here it is:

“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.”

There are three very cool take-aways I’d like to share with you.

1. Twain uses the line to sell two books here – the prequel (Tom Sawyer) and the sequel (Huckleberry Finn). There are no groans of having to backtrack though – the book unfolding in this line is a stand alone story as well (“that ain’t no matter”).
2. Listen to the authenticity of the voice. You get the sense that Twain knows this boy better’n he knows his own writin’ hand. The voice is true and real enough to want to hear more-much more.
3. From a writer’s-tip perspective, I get the feeling its not the stumbling grammar that achieves the voice – the voice creates the stumbling grammar. Get the character from inside of you and and it just comes out – eventually.

Over to you

What’s your all time favorite first line and why?

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2 Responses to “Super-sell your book series in one great line”


  1. Well done, Ben. Love that you are building up momentum.

    My all time favorite first line is:
    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

    Why? It’s attention-grabbing, profound, decisive and timeless – all in well under 140 characters.

    Best, Robin 🙂


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