Monday, September 16, 2013

Sometimes It’s Better to Be ON the Hook

by Kasey Tross

You know how when somebody tells you you’re “off the hook” for something you get a great sense of relief? Well today I’m going to be talking about being ON the hook- specifically about hooking agents and editors with our incredible cleverness and wit.

If you’re unfamiliar with “hook” as a noun in writing terms, a hook is basically your book summed up in a single sentence in a way that makes a person want to read it. It’s the kind of thing you see at the top of the back cover of a book in bold letters.

In “From the Query to the Call” Elana Johnson gives several examples of great hooks:

 “Sixteen-year-old Penelope Baker has died 67 times and it’s about to happen again.”

“Kate Lowry didn’t think dead best friends could send e-mails.”

Cool, right? Who knew you could get such intrigue into a single sentence?

This week I’m taking a little break from my WIP to work on my hook and my “elevator pitch” (the art of pitching your story in the amount of time it takes to get from the first floor to the second- or maybe from the first to like the fifth or the tenth...yeah, most big time editors are probably heading to a pretty high floor) in preparation for a workshop this weekend (with REAL authors!) and a writing conference next month (real authors AND agents AND editors!).

Soooo...I thought maybe you guys could help me. I’ll show you my hook if you show me yours?

Let’s all share our hooks! If you don’t have one yet, this is a great time to create one- you might be surprised at how satisfying it is to condense your entire 50,000+-word manuscript into a single amazing sentence. Check out Writing the Query Letter Part I- The Hook by Elana Johnson to get started. And even if you haven’t finished your book yet (like me) it can help you to answer the question: What is this story really about and why should anybody care?

So here’s what we’ll do: I will share my hook and I invite you to share yours in the comments section. If you are an established author who has published books with successful hooks, please share those too! I’d love some feedback on my hook for anyone who would care to give it, and if you would like others to respond to yours with their reactions, please invite them to do so in your comment. 

Okay! Here goes:

Sixteen-year-old Kate never expected to fall for a ghost, but she also never expected to move to a small town where people she’s never met hold a century-long grudge against her.

Your turn! Share your feedback & advice for me, or share your own hook. Ready, GO!


  1. This is the hook I used for my non-fiction book which has been picked up by a publisher and is scheduled to be published next year. It's a little too long but it got the job done.

    Motherhood is inherently difficult. Motherhood in this age when women are so disconnected from one another that natural resources of help and support do not ubiquitously exist is a breeding ground for insanity. So many mothers are feeling like something is just not right, something is out of joint, something is missing, and maybe the truth is that we’re all just missing each other.

    1. Nice, Charla! I love that- “we’re all just missing each other.” How true. Thank you for sharing! :-)

  2. Good Post. I love Elana's workshops. I go whenever she gives them.

  3. Kasey, good hook. I like Charla's too. I happen to be taking a course right now, where we're talking about hooks and pitches and summaries and book proposals. I write a bit about in in tomorrow's post here. I'm writing a nonfiction book. Here's my first draft hook:

    "Dreading the holiday season? The 12 DAYS of CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE will renew your spirit and bring new purpose to the holiday faster than the partridge in the pear tree can call the four calling birds."

    1. Good, Mare! Here’s the question I have when I read your hook: How? I would love to read a book that would do all those things, but I might not be convinced unless I knew how. I’ve also read that rhetorical questions are a huge no-no. I don’t know why. I wish they weren’t because I think rhetorical questions are awesome. I use them too much. ;-)



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