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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pitch Perfect: How to Hook an Editor

Please welcome guest blogger Angie Fox

Want to stand out from the crowd? You’ll need a hook. If you handle it right, this will be your dream editor or an agent’s first impression of your book. It’s what sets you and your work apart from everyone else.

Sound good? It is. When your hook is both strong and memorable, you’ll have that editor thinking about your book and anticipating it long after your initial meeting is over.

So what makes up a good hook? Simplicity. You don’t need to recite a paragraph-long pitch to an editor. You don’t need to wow them with every nuance of the conflict between your hero and heroine. That comes later. What you want to do first is get them interested in you and your book’s premise.

For example, the hook for my first book (my entire series, really) is the gang of geriatric biker witches. When anyone asks me about the Accidental Demon Slayer series (and now it is booksellers), I tell them it’s about a gang of geriatric biker witches, oh and a reluctant demon slayer. End of story. Either they get the hook or they don’t. You’ll know right away whether you’re a good match for an editor, or in my case, potential readers.

So many times, authors will confuse their romantic conflict with their hook. It’s tempting to tell an editor that you’ve written the most touching love story of the year, or a suspenseful thrill ride that will keep readers up all night. That’s all fine. In fact, that’s what you want your books to do. But it’s not your hook.

To find your book’s hook:

Dig deep. Ask yourself:

  1. What is it that makes my story completely unique?
  2. If I could tell an editor or an agent one thing about my book, what would it be?
  3. What impression do I want to leave with my readers after they’ve read my work?

Another worthwhile exercise is to look at the books that you’ve bought. What about each of them hooked you? Chances are, it’s also what made that editor buy.

Sometimes, a hook is worked right into the title of a book. Think of Sally MacKenzie’s series: The Naked Duke, The Naked Earl, The Naked Viscount. Or it can be communicated in a simple sentence, like Colleen Gleason used for her Gardella Vampire series. “It’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Regency England.”

Editors love strong hooks because it lets them know immediately whether your book will be a good fit for their line. And after they offer you that cushy contract, your publishing house will use those hooks to sell your work. Everything from Colleen Gleason’s covers to her official tagline, “belles, balls, beaux…and stakes?” fit with her initial hook.

It can be hard to find the hook in our own work, simply because we are so engrossed in our own stories. This is never an easy exercise, especially the first few times. But pulling back, discovering what makes your book unique and then being able to communicate that can make the difference between an engaging pitch and an unforgettable one.

Angie Fox is the New York Times bestselling author of the Accidental Demon Slayer series. While researching her books, Angie has ridden with Harley biker gangs, explored the tunnels underneath Hoover Dam and repelled down a wall. She thinks pitching is way harder than all of that.

A Tale of Two Demon Slayers

In the ultimate showdown for survival, may the best demon slayer win.

Last month, I was a single preschool teacher whose greatest thrill consisted of color-coding my lesson plans. That was before I learned I was a slayer. Now, it’s up to me to face curse-hurling imps, vengeful demons, and any other supernatural uglies that crop up. And, to top it off, a hunk of a shape-shifting griffin has invited me to Greece to meet his family.

But it’s not all sun, sand, and ouzo. Someone has created a dark-magic version of me with my powers and my knowledge—and it wants to kill me and everyone I know. Of course, this evil twin doesn’t have Grandma’s gang of biker witches, a talking Jack Russell terrier, or an eccentric necromancer on its side. In the ultimate showdown for survival, may the best demon slayer win.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Angie. Great stuff here.

I love the idea of Simplicity, yet it's so hard to achieve sometimes, isn't it? LOL.

Love this point, "So many times, authors will confuse their romantic conflict with their hook." Never thought of it that way!

Have a great day!

Angie Fox said...

Glad to help, Lynn. Getting that hook just right is hard, but it's so worth it when it gets your dream agent/editor excited about that book.

Lisa Kessler said...

Great blog Angie!!! :)

You're right, finding the "hook" is tough when we're so close to the book! Ugh!

Sometimes I have to go back to my core concept I started with, the initial idea to write.

Like Moonlight's idea was West Side Story with werewolves and jaguars... :)

Love your books!

Lisa :)

Marie Andreas said...

Thanks for a great post Angie! I'm working on multi projects at the same time, but I know once I get that hook, I'll be set! I think having a good hook can also influence editing for an author...or maybe that's just me :).

Thanks for posting!

Keena Kincaid said...

Great blog, Angie. Simplicity isn't simple, yet you manage to make finding the hook achievable. I think finding the right hook can not only define the novel for agents, editors and readers, but it can find it for the author, as well.

Angie Fox said...

That's so true, Keena. A lot of times, I'll develop my hook before I ever put words to paper. That way, I have it in my mind without all the background that can clutter it later. Also, I have a solid goal in mind as I develop the book.