A Logline is Not a Hook

Every time I write on hook there is an assumption that is the same as a logline, similar to what movies use. Which I totally get. If I wasn’t so entrenched in publishing I would think of a hook as the logline too.

A hook is bigger than that. Much bigger. A hook is more than one sentence you drop into the query (or on the book’s cover) to grab the reader’s attention. Instead, it’s inherently built into the book to make the book stand out from other books.

Solving the Mystery of Hooks

Let’s use mystery as an example. Every mystery more or less is the same. There’s a crime, there’s an investigation, there’s a suspect, and it’s solved. Luckily for readers, the actual books aren’t nearly as formulaic or boring as my description of them. Apologies to mystery writers.

As a mystery reader, I have thousands of books to choose from. All have a similar twist on that formula. So how am I to decide which one I want to spend my hard-earned cash on? That’s the hook.

When I look at the cozy bookshelf I see mysteries set in Ireland, a pet resort, a Scottish bookstore, and a bookmobile (with cat). All with the same formula (yep I keep stressing this). I know I’d love all of them as long as I love the voice so how do I pick one? The hook. Am I in the mood for Scotland? or Ireland? or maybe I want to spend the day with a cat on a bookmobile. That’s what will grab me when I’m looking at an entire shelf of what I know I’ll love.

It’s the author’s voice, characters, and writing that keeps me coming back book after book.

Fictional Hooks

Imagine the hooks I mention above in another genre. Okay, it might not work in suspense, but a romance heroine working in any of those places or a novel with a family who runs a bookmobile in a remote area? A bookmobile spaceship? or a teen living in Ireland?

Hooks can cross all genres depending on where your imagination takes it. The point of a hook isn’t just to grab the reader’s attention, it’s that you’ve created something different about the book as a whole that they just can’t resist.

If you can’t get enough of hooks, which it seems is my problem lately, you can also watch our YouTube video.

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9 comments

  1. Thanks for the clarification, Jessica.
    Manuscripts always needed a hook when submitted to agents/editors. I was surprised to find some agencies also ask for a logline on their forms. My bad for not making the distinction.
    I’m happily agented, and my agent is in charge of both now. But I continue to think these for my stories as a sort of clarification exercise for writerly self. 🙂

  2. Thank you for your blog and YouTube posts about hook.
    So where, oh where, does the hook fit into the query letter?
    Your use of Query Manager means you already know the book’s title, genre, and length from the boxes preceding the query letter. Should those basics still kick off the letter, or should the blurb?
    If the query starts with the blurb, can the hook can be included as part of that blurb, or would you rather it were plopped it into the middle of the query?
    Clueless in Canada –

    1. It should really come through naturally in the blurb. Look at descriptions of some of the examples I give or some of your favorite books. The hook is naturally part of the book’s description.

  3. Nice short and informative video. However, it seems like I can grab the agent’s attention by going with a hook in my opening paragraph.: Dear Agent: I am seeking representation for my novel, a 90,000-word narrative that’s inspired by true events. In summary: a xxxxxxx childhood and his father’s xxxxx xxxxx xxxx lead to a xxxxxxx secret in NAME OF BOOK. With a strong, enticing description, the hook acts as an abbreviated elevator hook. Then I get into a paragraph summarizing the contents. No?

  4. I could always write a logline for my books, probably even a hook as well. It’s the query synopsis that defeats me. Once I have to get anywhere close to the plot I get lost. The standard format is inapplicable to the types of story structures I create. Is there a list of story structures that I can relate my book to, so you guys can say ‘oh it’s one of those’?

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