Pitch Perfect: How to Craft Your Book’s Hook

Want your book to stand out from the crowd? You’ll need a hook. If you handle it right, this will be your dream editor or an agent’s first impression of your book. It’s what sets you and your work apart from everyone else. Sound good? It is. When your hook is both strong and memorable, you’ll have that editor thinking about your book and anticipating it long after your initial meeting is over.

Angie is excited to give away a free copy of her novel, The Accidental Demon Slayer, to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Mandi won.)

       


Guest column by Angie Fox,New York Times bestselling
author of the Accidental Demon Slayer series. While
researching her books, Angie has ridden with Harley
biker gangs, explored the tunnels underneath Hoover
Dam and repelled down a wall. She thinks pitching is
way harder than all of that. See her website here.

 

So what makes up a good hook? Simplicity. You don’t need to recite a paragraph-long pitch to an editor. You don’t need to wow them with every nuance of the conflict between your hero and heroine. That comes later. What you want to do first is get them interested in you and your book’s premise.

For example, the hook for my first book (my entire series, really) is the gang of geriatric biker witches. When anyone asks me about the Accidental Demon Slayer series (and now its booksellers), I tell them it’s about a gang of geriatric biker witches, oh and a reluctant demon slayer. End of story. Either they get the hook or they don’t. You’ll know right away whether you’re a good match for an editor, or in my case, potential readers.

So many times, authors will confuse their main story conflict with their hook. It’s tempting to tell an editor that you’ve written the most touching love story of the year, or a suspenseful thrill ride that will keep readers up all night. That’s all fine. In fact, that’s what you want your books to do. But it’s not your hook.

To find your book’s hook, dig deep. Ask yourself:

  1. What is it that makes my story completely unique?
  2. If I could tell an editor or an agent one thing about my book, what would it be? 
  3. What impression do I want to leave with my readers after they’ve read my work?

Another worthwhile exercise is to look at the books that you’ve bought. What about each of them hooked you? Chances are, it’s also what made that editor buy.

Sometimes, a hook is worked right into the title of a book. Think of Sally MacKenzie’s series: The Naked Duke, The Naked Earl, The Naked Viscount. Or it can be communicated in a simple sentence, like Colleen Gleason used for her Gardella Vampire series. “It’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Regency England.”

Editors love strong hooks because it lets them know immediately whether your book will be a good fit for their line. And after they offer you that cushy contract, your publishing house will use those hooks to sell your work. Everything from Colleen Gleason’s covers to her official tagline, “belles, balls, beaux … and stakes?” fit with her initial hook.

It can be hard to find the hook in our own work, simply because we are so engrossed in our own stories. This is never an easy exercise, especially the first few times. But pulling back, discovering what makes your book unique and then being able to communicate that can make the difference between an engaging pitch and an unforgettable one.

Angie is excited to give away a free copy of her novel, The Accidental Demon Slayer, to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Mandi won.)

Writing fiction? Check out our bundled
Write Great Fiction Series Package, which
is sold at a discount. The five books include
James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure, which
was sold more than 70,000 copies.

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Pitch Perfect: How to Craft Your Book’s Hook

  1. Rikki

    It never occurred to me what a hook really was until I read this article. I always thought it was the main plot, not the unique underlinings. I’m thrilled to begin contemplating what my hooks should be, but sometimes the most simple of things are complex. The article was wonderful, and I will look for the Accidental Demon Slayers series in stores.

  2. Lisa Ahn

    Thanks for the tips, especially the first point in your list — what makes your story unique. It helped me redefine my hook. And thanks for the contest too!

  3. Zoe

    The hardest thing about coming up with a hook, I’ve found, is condensing it–it’s hard to narrow down just one thing to represent a story to the world.

  4. RB Lindberg

    A hook you say. I think you are right. Personally I find it difficult to narrow a hook down in my own writing. I think that I am too close to it still, at this point. Perhaps a fresh pair of eyes (a critique partner for instace) is the best person to narrow it down 🙂
    I live in Europe, so I’m not bothered with the competition.

  5. Laura McGaffey

    To be honest, I am commenting in hopes of getting a copy of your book. It is not the genre I read, but your hook has definitely intrigued me. I write a column in our local newspaper and if your series is as great as I expect you can bet I will write a great review.

  6. Michele Cacano

    You said my magic word: "Witch"!
    But my last novel (unfinished…)? I kept telling people I was writing a story about a crime-fighting game show host with a drag queen sidekick told from the POV of his stalker…. too much?

  7. Kristin Barrett

    Wonderful way to break it down. I am in the first revision of my first novel and I have been trying to grasp the different aspects of summarizing/explaining what it is about. Thanks so much!

  8. C.L.

    I really like the idea of summing up what makes the story unique. So often it is easy to become muddled by everything else. We forget the one thing that really makes our story itself.

  9. Raonaid Luckwell

    No need to enter me since I have all of Angie’s books, and yes, her stories are so dang unique with those biker witches (who are a hoot), were-gryphon who is rawr.

    But I will have to take that advice to heart. <3 Angie, just showing my support

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