The Hook

So you do your research at one of various sites devoted to agents, you find the agency and the agent that seem just right, then you send a query letter and cross your fingers that you'll hear back. In a day, a week, a month (once I got a response after two years). I see the query letter much like a resume. You have about three seconds to capture their attention and avoid the delete button. So I spend a lot of time on the first sentence, what they call the hook. If that's off or wrong or simply bad, they probably won't read any further, so I try to get it perfect. I write a dozen of them, show them to my family, take votes of which one they like best. Then I do it again, because it doesn't yet seem perfect. It's not easy capturing the tone, central conflict, and what's at stake for the narrator in one sentence. You'll find advice all over the web of how to best do this, but when it's your novel, your story, you have to do it yourself. Templates and examples are great, but it has to be something only you can write. It can't be too formulaic, and it can't be trite.

I claim no expertise. My novels are better than my queries, and the skills required to tell a story in 60,000 words are not the ones required to reduce it to a sentence. But agents are busy people, and authors who can give them the flavor of their book in those few seconds are more likely to get read.

Copyright 2016 by Philip Tate