Whether you're trying to write an incredible query letter or deliver an engaging pitch at a writing conference, one of the most important elements is an impeccable hook for your book. Sometimes called an elevator pitch, because it can be delivered during a short ride in the elevator, a great book hook helps agents, editors, and ultimately readers understand the basic concept of your book while also enticing them to learn more.
In this post, I've collected actual examples of hooks for recently published books to actually show how to write effective elevator pitches in a variety of writing genres, including many fiction genres, nonfiction (both general and memoir), children's writing, and even short story collections. Even if your specific genre isn't mentioned, these examples should give you a good feel for how to write your own.
(These examples are pulled from our author spotlight series of posts. The book titles and authors are linked to the original author spotlight post if you want to learn more about the authors and their books.)
Contemporary Fiction Hooks
After the Hurricane, by Leah Franqui: "A young woman’s search for her father who has disappeared after Hurricane Maria leads her through Puerto Rico and forces her to confront everything she doesn’t know about her father’s past and her own identity."
Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting, by Clare Pooley: "Nobody talks to strangers on the train. But what would happen if they did?"
When We Fell Apart, by Soon Wiley: "A profoundly moving and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties that bind families together—or break them apart—as a young Korean American man’s search for answers about his girlfriend’s mysterious death becomes a soul-searching journey into his own bi-cultural identity."
Let's Not Do That Again, by Grant Ginder: "The underachieving daughter of a New York congresswoman sets her sights on torpedoing her mother’s Senatorial campaign, only to find that family—like democracy—is a messy, fragile thing."
Crime Fiction Hooks
The Guilty Girl, by Patricia Gibney: "Two beautiful girls: One is murdered after a teen party, and the other is accused. The accused girl wakes up with blood on her hands and has no memory of the night before. What really happened?"
Goering's Gold, by Richard O'Rawe: "Magical Ireland becomes Treasure Island as neo-Nazis, the IRA, Interpol, the Irish government, and underdog, James “Ructions” O’Hare, seek out the tons of Nazi gold that Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering had secreted in Ireland before the end of WWII for a rainy day."
Blood Sugar, by Sascha Rothchild: "A twisty stay up all night to finish thriller about a murderess accused of killing her husband—ironically, perhaps the only murder she didn’t commit."
Juniper & Thorn, by Ava Reid: "A gothic horror retelling of Grimm’s “The Juniper Tree,” set in Victorian-era Odessa, Ukraine."
Tear Down the Throne, by Jennifer Estep: "Most people consider Gemma Ripley nothing more than a spoiled princess, but Gemma’s pampered persona is a clever disguise. She secretly moonlights as a spy and is determined to stop a powerful enemy from conquering her kingdom."
The League of Gentlewomen Witches, by India Holton: "A witch who is as proper as a Jane Austen heroine and a pirate who is no Mr. Darcy race across Victorian England in a flying house, pursuing an enchanted amulet, while being chased by people determined to stop them."
Historical Fiction Hooks
Bronze Drum, by Phong Nguyen: "During the Bronze Age in ancient Vietnam, when a wicked new Han governor imposes strict laws on the Viet people, a Lord by the name of Trưng speaks out against the oppressive new rules and is subsequently beheaded. But his two daughters, Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị, in an act of revenge and patriotism, train an army of women who rise up to fight off the Han occupation, creating a free and independent nation in what is currently northern Vietnam."
The Last of the Seven, by Steven Hartov: "The Last of the Seven is a classic World War II raid story, based on historical fact, about a group of German-speaking European Jews recruited to take on the Nazis behind enemy lines. It’s The Guns of Navarone with a Jewish crew, combined with The English Patient and Catch-22."
Switchboard Soldiers, by Jennifer Chiaverini: "Switchboard Soldiers is the enthralling story of the valiant young women of the United States Army Signal Corps who served as telephone operators in France during World War I, when telephones were the most important means of communication between U.S. Army headquarters, Allied outposts, and troops in the field. Their perseverance, courage, skill, and dedication helped the Allies achieve victory and broke down barriers for generations of women who would follow after, not only in the military, but in all aspects of public and professional life."
The Swift and The Harrier, by Minette Walters: "England, 1642. When bloody civil war breaks out between the King and Parliament, families and communities are riven by different allegiances. The Swift and The Harrier is a sweeping tale of adventure and loss, sacrifice and love, with a unique and unforgettable heroine at its heart."
Anybody Home?, by Michael J. Seidlinger: "A seasoned home invader teaches new invaders how to not only pull off a home invasion but also deliver a performance that invades the collective consciousness."
Old Country, by Matt & Harrison Query: "When a young married couple purchase their first home, a remote ranch in the Idaho Tetons, they get more than they bargained for when they discover the property is haunted by a malevolent spirit that presents itself in new and terrifying ways each season."
The Pallbearers Club, by Paul Tremblay: "The novel is a found memoir that begins in the late 1980s with a high school loner starting an extracurricular club for volunteer pallbearers at poorly attended funerals. A mysterious woman, who may or may not be a supernatural figure from New England folklore, joins the club, shoots Polaroid pictures of the corpses, and comments on the memoir."
Literary Fiction Hooks
The Poet's House, by Jean Thompson: "A young woman is introduced to poetry and a group of free-wheeling poets, a crash course in both literature and human relations."
Florida Woman, by Deb Rogers: "When Jamie gets the chance to escape viral infamy and jail time by taking a community service placement at Atlas, a shelter for rescued monkeys in the palmetto woods of Central Florida, it seems like just the fresh start she needs to finally get her life on track—until it’s not. As Jamie ventures deeper into the offbeat world and rituals of Atlas, her summer is soon set to inspire an even stranger Florida headline than she ever could’ve imagined."
Balloon Dog, by Daniel Paisner: "A darkly comic tale of longing and legacy and letting go, Balloon Dog tells the story of a brazen art heist gone sideways and asks readers to consider what it means to leave a mark and what it takes to be swept up in the same currents that move the rest of the world."
Constellations of Eve, by Abbigail Nguyen Rosewood: "Three reincarnations of one love story, Constellations of Eve chronicles the transmigration of souls. Each reality allows Eve, an artist and mother crippled by fears of being abandoned by those she loves, another chance at fulfillment—but can she get it right?"
Middle Grade Fiction Hooks
Grounded for All Eternity, by Darcy Marks: "When Mal and his friends slip through the veil from their neighborhood in Hell into the mortal world, they accidentally release the soul of one of the architects of the Salem Witch Trials into modern day Salem, Massachusetts. Now they must recapture the soul, save the people of Earth, and get home before Salem gets wiped off the map, or worse yet, their parents find out."
The Clackity, by Lora Senf: "Nearly-13-year-old Evie Von Rathe has one family member left, and her aunt has just been stolen by the ghost of a serial killer, aided by The Clackity, a creature that lives in an abandoned slaughterhouse. Evie and The Clackity strike a deal: She has one day to get through an impossible neighborhood to save her aunt and overcome her anxiety in the process."
Twelfth, by Janet Key: "A diamond ring from Blacklist era Hollywood lost in a film reel fire; its 60-year search coming to a climax at a Berkshire’s theater camp; and the key to finding it hidden in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a story about love in all its guises."
A Killing in Costumes, by Zac Bissonnette: "Jay and Cindy, married former soap opera stars turned gay divorcees, reunite to open a Hollywood memorabilia store in Palm Springs. When a battle for a 90-year-old former film vixen’s collection turns deadly, they must solve a murder before they’re forced to trade their vintage costume collection for orange jumpsuits."
The Sweet Goodbye, by Ron Corbett: "A gritty, noir story that plays out in a forgotten America. Memorable villains, a twisting plot, and a hero with as much brain as brawn."
Nobody But Us, by Laure Van Rensburg: "In this high‑concept thriller that's part The Guest List, part The Girl Before, a couple's romantic weekend‑getaway is not what it seems."
Homicide and Halo-Halo, by Mia P. Manansala: "When the head judge of the town beauty pageant is murdered and her cousin-slash-frenemy becomes the main suspect, a Fil-Am café owner turned amateur sleuth must put aside their differences and her complicated history with the pageant to solve the case—because it looks like one of them might be next."
Nonfiction (General) Hooks
Quarterlife, by Satya Doyle Byock: "An innovative psychotherapist tackles the overlooked stage of Quarterlife—the years between adolescence and midlife—and provides a guide to navigate it and thrive."
There Are Moms Way Worse Than You: Irrefutable Proof That You Are Indeed a Fantastic Parent, by Glenn Boozan: "There Are Moms Way Worse Than You is a humorous compilation of terrible moms in the animal kingdom that will prove to you, a human mother, how you're actually doing a great job."
The Power of Conflict: Speak Your Mind and Get the Results You Want, by Jon Taffer: "In an era of increasing division and discord, this book offers a guide on how to use conflict as a constructive tool—how to listen empathetically and engage respectfully while upholding your principles."
The Marauders: Standing Up to Vigilantes in the American Borderlands, by Patrick Strickland: "The Marauders tells the story of how anti-migrant vigilantes flooded southern Arizona communities, and how normal people banded together to push back against them."
On the Trail of the Jackalope: How a Legend Captured the World's Imagination and Helped Us Cure Cancer, by Michael P. Branch: "On the Trail of the Jackalope is the never-before-told story of the horned rabbit—the myths, the hoaxes, the very real scientific breakthroughs it inspired—and how it became a cultural touchstone in the American West and around the globe."
Nonfiction (Memoir) Hooks
Soft-Boiled: An Investigation of Masculinity & the Writer's Life, by Stephen J. West: "Blending memoir, reportage, criticism, and detective thriller, Soft-Boiled is a self-reflexive portrait that grapples with questions of artmaking, responsibility, and masculinity."
A Hard Place to Leave: Stories from a Restless Life, by Marcia DeSanctis: "A collection of stories about the lure of travel and the pull of home, and how these urges constantly collide."
Coconut, by Florence Olajide: "Born in 1960s England, and privately fostered by a white family, a little Black girl finds herself transported to Nigeria with her birth family. Among virtual strangers and driven by an intense desire to return to England, she battles poverty, abuse, and different cultural expectations."
Picture Book Hooks
Something's Happening in the City, by Paula Merlán: "The story follows a young girl and her dog as they navigate their way through the city with a plan to solve a mystery."
And the People Stayed Home, by Kitty O'Meara: "Quarantine during pandemic can be a time of spiritual and mental re-creation; we can heal ourselves, others, and the Earth, by reorienting our vision and using our gifts."
Knot Again, by Kwana Jackson: "Harlem firefighter, Lucas Strong feels like he can only find any peace and quiet at the local laundromat, where every day is rinse and repeat—until a fateful run-in with his high school crush."
Some of It Was Real, by Nan Fischer: "A psychic on the verge of stardom who isn’t sure she believes in herself and a cynical journalist with one last chance at redemption are brought together by secrets from the past that also threaten to tear them apart."
The Dead Romantics, by Ashley Poston: "When a disillusioned ghostwriter who no longer believes in love returns to her family’s funeral home to bury her late father, she finds herself haunted by the ghost of her very hot and very recently deceased editor."
Romantic Suspense Hooks
Quarter to Midnight, by Karen Rose: "Gabe Hebert’s homicide-detective father’s “suicide” was really murder—he’d gotten too close to a case someone powerful wanted covered up. Gabe hires Molly Sutton of Broussard Investigations to find his father’s killer, but they must first find his father’s secret witness."
A Stranger's Game, by Colleen Coble: "When hotel heiress Torie Bergstrom learns that her childhood friend has drowned, she knows it is more than a tragic accident: Lisbeth was terrified of water and wouldn’t have gone swimming by choice. Desperate to find answers, Torie goes to the hotel under an alias, but as she digs, she realizes someone will risk anything—even more murder—to keep their secrets buried."
Science Fiction Hooks
Kingdoms of Death, by Christopher Ruocchio: "The Sun Eater is the tale of Hadrian Marlowe, a nobleman of the galactic empire some 20,000 years into our future, a scholar forced to be a soldier in a bitter, thousand-year war between mankind and the Cielcin, the first alien species in history to ever threaten us. Written as a memoir, Hadrian tells us on page one that he ended the war and dealt with the Cielcin for good and all … his story is why, and how, and about all the things not in the official record."
The Unfamiliar Garden, by Benjamin Percy: "From award-winning author Benjamin Percy comes the second standalone novel in his grippingly original sci-fi series, The Comet Cycle, in which a passing comet has caused irreversible change to the world. This novel focuses on a broken marriage set against the backdrop of a dangerous, invasive species of alien fungi in the Pacific Northwest that threatens to control the lives of humans and animals alike."
Short Story Collection Hooks
The Last Suspicious Holdout, by Ladee Hubbard: "The Last Suspicious Holdout is a story collection set in a single black community in gulf coast Florida. Spanning a period from 1992- 2007 and featuring characters that appear in multiple stories, the book as a whole chronicles a community's transformation over time."
You Never Get It Back, by Cara Blue Adams: "Winner of the 2021 John Simmons Short Fiction Prize, judged by Brandon Taylor, who calls it “a modern classic,” You Never Get It Back is an interlinked story collection that follows a young woman name Kate Bishop who escapes an economically impoverished upbringing in Vermont for a life of greater privilege."
The Finalists, by David Bell: "Six students at a private college agree to be locked in a house in order to compete for a lucrative scholarship given by a wealthy donor. When one of the students dies shortly after the competition begins, the other students realize they’re trapped with a killer."
The Girl From Jonestown, by Sharon Maas: "A journalist infiltrates a locked community in the backlands of her Guyana homeland: a fictional take on the horrific 1978 Jonestown mass suicide, in which 917 cult members found a most gruesome death—but told from an original perspective and with a new twist."
Local Gone Missing, by Fiona Barton: "An ambitious murder detective, off sick and filled with doubt that she can ever work again, is persuaded to investigate the disappearance of a much loved resident in a seaside town beset with tensions. The hunt leads DI Elise King on a darkening trail of secrets her neighbors would like to keep hidden."
The Other Me, by Sarah Zachrich Jeng: "A striving artist is transported into an alternate life in which she never followed her dreams, and she must determine what happened before her reality shifts beyond recognition."
Dark Objects, by Simon Toyne: "A woman is found brutally murdered in her multi-million-pound mansion surrounded by strange objects that don’t belong in the house. One is a book on forensics written by a reclusive academic who never works live cases but decides to make an exception in this case. Only the more she begins to figure things out, the more she realizes the killer is talking directly to her through these dark objects."
One of the Girls, by Lucy Clarke: "A group of friends hire a remote cliff-top villa on a picturesque Greek island to celebrate Lexi’s upcoming wedding. The long weekend begins with sun-scorched days and midnight swims—but ends in murder."
The Handler, by M.P. Woodward: "With his ex-wife as his handler, a disgraced CIA operative is forced back to Iran to recover an agent in this hyper-authentic debut from a former intelligence officer."
Women's Fiction Hooks
Room and Board, by Miriam Parker: "An escapist read about a celebrity publicist who returns to her high school alma mater—a boarding school in California as a dorm mom."
Sophie Go's Lonely Hearts Club, by Roselle Lim: "Disgraced matchmaker Sophie Go must romantically match seven septuagenarians to save her reputation."
Mika in Real Life, by Emiko Jean: "A woman’s long-lost daughter comes back into her life after 16 years and she fabricates her life to impress her; to unexpected consequences. Mika in Real Life is about motherhood, daughterhood, and love—how we find it, keep it, and how it always returns."
YA Fiction Hooks
How You Grow Wings, by Rimma Onoseta: "Two sisters in a small village in Nigeria want nothing more than to break free of their oppressive home. When one sister is given the opportunity to live with her wealthy aunt, she takes the chance and escapes, starting off a chain of events that leads the sisters on different paths."
Love Times Infinity, by Lane Clarke: "Michie Cooper has big dreams and even bigger insecurities about college and her future. But when her estranged mother reappears in her life, she must confront generational trauma and the sexual assault that produced her in order to shed the belief she is unloved and unlovable."
We Made It All Up, by Margot Harrison: "Two lonely girls bond by writing fan fiction about their school’s golden boy, but fantasy becomes disturbingly real when he turns up dead and they’re the suspects."
Want more examples?
We're constantly adding new interviews to our author spotlight series on the site. Click here to see the latest author spotlights.
2nd Draft provides a high-level review of your writing, pointing out reasons your work may be getting rejected, or may not meet the standards of traditional publication. After an evaluation of your submission, one of the professional 2nd Draft critiquers will provide feedback and advice. You’ll not only learn what’s working in your writing, but what’s not, and—most important—how to fix it.