Developing the Hook in a Query Letter

Sometimes you only have seconds for your query to catch interest, and a great opening line can do that. We, as authors, try so hard to summarize our entire book, instead of just picking out the one or two elements that make our book unique, that I think we get lost when trying to do something like this. But practice will make it easier for you, and I hope the following ideas will help. CRAFT A TAGLINE: Taglines are the one or two lines that are often on the front of a book cover. They are another way for publishers to draw the interest of a reader to your book. For example, the tagline on the cover of my December 2010 release, Beneath the Thirteen Moons. is “She never believed in fairy tales … until she found a prince…”
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Sometimes you only have seconds for your query to catch interest, and a great opening line can do that. We, as authors, try so hard to summarize our entire book, instead of just picking out the one or two elements that make our book unique, that I think we get lost when trying to do something like this. But practice will make it easier for you, and I hope the following ideas will help.

Kathryne is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before.

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Guest column by Kathryne Kennedy, award-winning
author of magical romances. She’s lived in
Guam, Okinawa, and several states in the U.S., and currently
lives in Arizona with her wonderful family—which
includes two very tiny Chihuahuas. She welcomes
readers to visit her website where she has
ongoing contests at: KathryneKennedy.com.

CRAFT A TAGLINE

Taglines are the one or two lines that are often on the front of a book cover. They are another way for publishers to draw the interest of a reader to your book. For example, the tagline on the cover of my December release, Beneath the Thirteen Moons. is “She never believed in fairy tales … until she found a prince…” And from my to-be-read pile:

  • “A novel of vampires, werewolves and dirigibles” from the cover of CHANGELESS by Gail Carriger.
  • “Her next jump may be her last” from the cover of GRIMSPACE by Ann Aguirre.
  • “Four lives. Two great loves. Every expectation SHATTERED” from SHATTERED by Joan Johnston.

Taglines may be a great way to hook an agent or editor to your book in your query letter. It’s always helpful to present your novel from a marketing perspective. You can study the taglines from your favorite books to help you craft your own, and expand on them (if necessary) to use for the opening line of your query letter. One day soon, you may very well be using it in an advertisement for your own novel … or seeing it on the cover of your book.

STUDY BOOK ADS

And speaking about advertising and marketing, another great way to come up with ideas for your hook is by studying the ads in publications for your genre. Again, this is another way to develop a hook from a marketing perspective. I write romance, so I would study the ads in Romance Writers Report or Romantic Times Book Reviews. If you don’t have a publication that you subscribe to for your genre, Publishers Weekly covers them all.

Take a look at the advertisements, paying special attention to what I refer to as power words, like “never expected” or “discovered” or “emotional.” After reading many ads, you will begin to see a pattern, or a sequence of words that are slightly altered. Publishers know their target audience, and will craft their advertisements specifically geared towards that market—a market which you may soon be a part of. Then pay attention to the slight differences in the ads, where a unique quality of the book is highlighted, whether that may be a character, setting, or plot.

Then ask yourself, “What audience am I targeting?” and “How is my book unique to all the others out there?”

Approaching your hook from an advertising perspective allows agents or editors to know that you did your homework. You know where your book will fall in the marketplace; you know what makes it unique so that readers will want to pick it up. And most importantly, the agent or editor will know how to sell it. And despite the artistry involved in literature, and the often subjective process in publishing, the hard truth is that this is a sales-driven industry.

Kathryne is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before.

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Writing romance? Check out the
excellent resource, On Writing Romance
by Leigh Michaels.

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