Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How Do You Hook Them In?

One of the strangest things about having an agent is that I’m never going to have to write a query letter again or go to agentquery.com in search of someone who might be perfect to represent my book. I won’t have to pour over the acknowledgements at the back of books I love so I can send a query letter to the agent who represents that author. I won’t open my e-mail with my heart racing hoping that I have mail from an agent who is requesting a full or loves my partial. I don’t have to do any of this any more, because I have an agent. It’s a great feeling, but it was a process that took a few months.

Writing my book was the easy part, finding the right agent for me was harder. Agents get hundreds of submissions a week and most agents don’t look at your writing first. Instead, what gets you past the “magic gates” is often a four paragraph e-mail called your query letter. It’s hard to stand out with only four paragraphs, so you better make sure your query letter is good.

Nathan Bransford blogged a few weeks ago about how he got over a hundred queries in one weekend and Kate Schafer Testerman stated that she had received over 3500 query letters last year and only requested 82 partials.

Getting your partial/full into the hands of an agent is hard work. You need to catch their eyes. You need to include something in your letter that makes them want to read more. This is where the hook comes in. It should be great. It should be amazing. It should make the agent request to want to read more and more and more!

I think of a hook as a one or two sentence summary that you include in your first paragraph, because the truth is, sometimes an agent won’t read past that first paragraph. A good place to look at examples of these are in publisher’s marketplace when deals are posted (although you have to pay for this site). It’s your chance to sell your book, so it better be good.

I slaved over my hook. I wrote, rewrote and wrote my hook again. I showed it to people, got opinions and finally came up with a sentence that I felt would grab someone’s attention and get an agent to want to read more.

Your hook should be the essence of your story, the focus of what you’re trying to accomplish with your words. For me, it was about the corrupt privilege some schools give to athletes and what happens when someone questions it.

My hook was:
Kate is propelled into the world of privilege when her dad becomes coach of one of the state’s top high school basketball teams, but when a player violates her trust, she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.

What about you? What’s your hook? How can you summarize your book in a sentence or two?

Share your hook, and maybe some of us will be excited to read more!


Caroline Starr Rose said...

Congrats on going on submission next week! I'm nine weeks in...

AchingHope said...

Ooh... Good hook. Really packs a punch.

I'm still working on my hook, but hear's what I've got so far:

"Kraag, an outcast and wanderer, cares only for himself and his own survival. When his life unexpectedly gets twisted up with a young girl named Nadra, Kraag must decide which is more important: his life, or the life of another."

Something like that. :)

Kristan said...

Okay, now that is a good hook!