I was reading a piece on the Guide to Literary Agent’s blog today that made me panic. It talked about how books that sell have hooks and books that don’t have gimmicks, and helps you figure out in which camp your work falls (that’s the correct way to use “in which,” right?). What freaked me out is this: What if my writing projects don’t have hooks and, instead, have gimmicks? Yikes!
The article, written by creative writing teacher and agented-writer Traci Borum, defines both as such:
A hook: is creative/original, it “rings true” (feels genuine), and it’s well-executed (flawlessly sustained through the rest of the plot).
A gimmick: is clichéd, it doesn’t ring true, and it’s poorly-executed.
She offers up several examples of each here on this post and, after reading them, it really helped me break down my stories to find out which ones had hooks (four of them) and which ones were just gimmicks (two of them). Finding out which ones had gimmicks now gives me time to restructure and revise (two words I hate more than green beans, but swallow down because I know they are good for me).
Of course, occasionally you’ll run across a book that may actually fit both, like this one. (Was this a brilliant idea or ridiculous that people actually bought it? Would love your thoughts in the comments section.)
Here are several more great references on making sure the hook of your book (and query letter) is strong enough to entice an agent: