Definition of Hook

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Sep 25 2019

What is the hook? James and I tackle this complicated question in our recent video on hook and immediately after filming I sat down to write more about it on the blog.

Somehow the blog took me far longer to write than the video, but I digress.

The hook is the one-liner that grabs the reader’s attention. Remember, agents are readers first. It’s not the premise or the genre, and it’s not necessarily the plot. It is what makes your book stand out from all others. The hook is often the key to selling your book.

Examples of Hook

Everyone knows the basic plot structure of a mystery. How you choose to buy one over another often comes down to hook. Especially if you’re looking for something new. For cozies, you’ll have hooks like Paige Shelton’s Scottish Bookstore or Laurie Cass’s Bookmobile Cat. The hook distinguishes a book from others within the same genre. It makes the book special.

Another example, outside of mystery, is the book Seven Days of Us. The minute the agents of BookEnds heard this one-liner we all added the book to our TBR.

Seven Days of Us is the story of a family quarantined together for seven days. From those few words, we were all hooked. At that point we didn’t even know what genre this book was and, frankly, it could be anything. This hook would work for romance, mystery, upmarket fiction or even SFF. No matter how you write the book, the hook grabs readers.

The Universality of Hooks

Obviously not all hooks are universal. Not everyone loves cats as much as Rachel, and not everyone is made curious by a family’s quarantine. That’s the subjectivity of publishing. That doesn’t mean you can get by without a hook.

To stand out in this market and on bookshelves, you need to find that hook that grabs a reader’s attention and distinguishes your book from all others.

Here’s the video, in case you missed it:

16 responses to “Definition of Hook”

  1. Avatar Mirka Breen says:

    In the movie industry these are called LOGLINES. I wrote an article for the SCBWI Bulletin about that, published in the most recent issue. Unlike synopses, I find loglines (hooks) to be fun. I even play with writing friends thinking them up for literary classics.

  2. Here’s my hook. When all you know are lies, what will it take to believe the truth?

    Grade, please?

    • That to me is a logline, but not a hook. I’m going to do a follow-up to hook since I’m not sure I explained it well, but do watch the video. We did a better job there.

      • Thank you for the reply, and I’ll watch the video again.

      • I watched the video again, and something clicked. The hook must bring up questions for the reader! The reader must wonder to want to read more.

        A devoted mother lies to her daughter for 39 years.

        This brings up questions and is the reason for the story!

        Thank you!!!!

        • That sounds like a great hook!

          • Thank you! I’ve done extensive revision on my manuscript and query since you last saw them. And I’m deep into my next manuscript. Think Under the Tuscan sun meets Seinfeld with ghosts. I’ve learned so much in the last year. I think querying is very much like taming feral cats and helping dogs recover from abuse. Patience, persistence and constant education. I’d like to resubmit to you. I’m ready and able to hit a home run for Bookends.

      • Not sure I’d call that a logline, either. I understand loglines to be things like the one sentence description you find in a TV guide, which describes the plot of the story. ‘Werewolves on the moon’ is a hook, but ‘Earth’s greatest werewolf hunter is recalled to space duty to deal with a werewolf attack in the most unlikely place in the system, the Moon itself’ is a logline. Unfortunately with my stories this is usually as far as I can go with describing the plot.

  3. Avatar John Levins says:

    Thanks Jessica to you and James for preparing the video about the hook. It was one of your most informative videos, and I highly recommend it to everyone who follows your blog!

  4. Avatar Laura Wilson-Anderson says:

    Hi! I have a question – are cozies defined strictly by locale (bakery, bookshop, etc), and the “feel” of it (I read a ton of crafty cozies a long time ago – yarn shops, bead shops, etc, and I loved them), or can they move around, say with a found family that all ends up in the same place for a while and helps solve the mystery? Thanks! Trying to figure out what genre this book (potential series) would belong in.

    • Cozies tend not to do as well if they move around. They don’t necessarily need to be in a shop, but readers tend to like books that develop a sense of community with the same people. So yes, a sense of place is important.

  5. Avatar Laura Wilson-Anderson says:

    Thanks! I do have a group of people who all end up together in each book – the meet at National and state parks, all become friends and help solve the mystery. Of course, that idea will only work if there’s a book two, etc., LOL. So the setting moves, but the core group stays the same.

  6. Avatar Laura Wilson-Anderson says:

    (and a book one, lol)

  7. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    When I first started writing seriously I did a writing course and it covered hooks, but they used loglines from movies as all the examples. No wonder it took so long for me to get my head around this.