by Lesley-Anne Longo
Published at 2019-07-09
So you’ve finished your book — congratulations! If you want to pursue the route of traditional publishing, it’s time to start thinking of how to put together your submission information. One part of that process (for both fiction and non-fiction) is crafting what’s known as “the hook.” The hook is an important part of the marketing process, and it’s a step you don’t want to rush.
The “hook” is just that certain special element that makes your book marketable. It’s what grabs the attention of readers, publishers, and agents alike. Hooks can be so many things —memorable, tragic, controversial, amusing, or shocking. The hook can also include components of your book such as a special setting or unusual events. So, you have to ask yourself: What’s my hook? How is my book going to capture the mind and attention of a reader?
The first step is knowing what a hook is not — it is NOT what your book is about, and it’s not the same as a synopsis, or a theme within the book. There is a big difference between the hook and the subject matter of a book. Think of the hook as an elevator pitch: simplicity is key. If someone asks you about your book, don’t launch into a long-winded lecture covering every minor conflict and event in your book. Boil it down to its essence, and keep it to only a sentence or two.
The major point you have to consider when crafting a hook is, “What makes my book unique?” What is that one special thing that your book offers that makes it stand out? You could have the most inspiring, interesting book a reader has ever come across, but even with the very best content, books can’t sell themselves. You have to shape and craft your hook (and even your book’s summary and back cover copy too) to really grab the reader and pull them in. If you only had ten seconds to tell someone about your book, what are the important things you would focus on to grab the reader’s attention?
If you’ve written a nonfiction book, it helps to be specific when thinking of your hook. Don’t generalize, instead use specific points or examples to help emphasize why your book is unique. Can you help the reader identify with some of the experiences within your book, or draw them in with some of the action? What is that “something new” that your book brings to the table?
One great example I came across is the breakdown of the hook for the memoir Eat, Pray, Love (source):
THEMES: Divorce, travel, spirituality, food
THE HOOK: After a painful divorce, the author sets out to devote one year to pleasure, prayer and love. She travels to three distinctly different locales to immerse herself in these pursuits. Can a heartbroken and confused woman purposely set out to find happiness?
WHAT’S UNUSUAL ABOUT IT? She’s taking the reader along on her quest to heal — and she doesn’t have a clue what’s going to happen. She’s going about her healing in an unexpected way, and she’s constructed the trip solely with this goal in mind, which is the opposite of the approach taken in comparably themed memoirs such as An Italian Affair and Under the Tuscan Sun.
This hook sets the book apart from other similar divorce memoirs on the market and poses an intriguing question to the reader to draw them in. The hook takes an everyday event (even an unfortunate one) such as divorce, but brings out the uniqueness in the story. Ask yourself what makes your book different and special, and bring that to the forefront.
In the end, the hook is about finding that one special thing that your book offers, whether it’s a new perspective, new or more thoroughly researched information, exciting and dynamic events, or a great story told in an unexpected way. And it’s true, creating one can be hard. However, it’s a process worth undertaking, because by putting in the work to create a great hook, you’re putting yourself in a better position to sell your book in a very competitive market.
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