Hooking a Good Query

When I first started to send out queries, I was ignorant of what constituted a good one. I wrote what I felt was an interesting summary of my manuscript, but there was no hook, and in the bio section I rambled on about having styled it after classic boy books of the 1950s and 1960s. I burned through about 25 agents before getting smart and posting my query on AQConnect for some feedback. After taking the advice of people who obviously knew more than I did, my new query has been averaging slightly better than one request per 10 queries.

The hardest thing about writing the new query was to think of a good hook. After several lackluster attempts, I was finally inspired. “When fourteen-year-old Brian Edwards finds a box in the attic filled with old newspaper clippings and a ring just like his grandfather’s, he realizes he’s stumbled across the family secret: Jack.” (This had been preceded by: “Brian Edwards moves with his dad to the family farm and discovers an 80-year-old secret,” and before that, “Jim and Jack is a contemporary boy book with a historical twist, realistic literary fiction.” Catchy!)

Since then, I have found myself thinking of hooks for fun. Whether it’s a new idea for a short story or just a pithy twist on a real-life situation, I am honing my hook skills so that the next time I need to write a query letter, I’ll be ready. For example, on my birthday, it occurred to me that it would be funny to write a short story called Happy Birthday to Me, with the hook, “Crazed mother/wife decides that she is going to get exactly what she wants for her birthday, or else!” For my recent contribution to Anne Riley’s murder scene blog-fest, it was, “An heiress suspects that her life is in danger, but no one listens until she is silenced for good.”

These may not be great, but the point is that it takes a certain mindset to hone a summary into a short but catchy phrase, and practice makes perfect.

What in your life can be summed into a hook?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Hooking a Good Query

  1. An average mother of two suddenly rips out all of her hair when her children finally drive her mad for the last time. Now she must face the world through the steel bars of the looney bin!

    HAHA! It was one of “those” days!

  2. Layinda, I love your hooks. They are fun, informative and catchy.

    LOL, Shawna. I’m in the same boat, but with four kids and no life jackets!

  3. thelisas

    We’ve been talking about exactly the same thing of late. Great minds and all that. Say, just wanted to thank you for the hash mark twitter advice. #amwriting and slooooowly learning 😉

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