Writing the “book hook.” The Authors Collection.

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WE HEAR A LOT about the hook and how important it is for a novel. But the Book Hook is often overlooked.

What do I mean by the Book Hook?

Many times when “the hook” is discussed, writers talk about something on the first page that will entice the reader to continue. This is important. If the reader isn’t convinced to keep reading, then the rest of the excellent work you’ve written will never be seen. So this hook is quite essential.

This is usually the inciting incident. It is the event early on – ideally on the first page or two – that impels the reader into the story, preventing him or her from putting the book down.

But in the larger picture, you want the reader not only to continue, but to finish and then to spread the word that this is a book worth reading. And this is where the Book Hook comes in.

James R. Callan
James R. Callan

So, what is this Book Hook?

The Book Hook is what makes your book different. It is why someone would want to read the book. It is a statement or question that demands an answer to “What happens next?” It is the ultimate elevator pitch – a fifteen second statement or question that will force the agent or editor to get off the elevator and ask you to continue.

In my suspense book A Ton of Gold, the inciting incident is a seventy-four year old woman telling her granddaughter, “Somebody tried to kill me.” Certainly, the reader needs to read further to find out what is going to happen next. That should get the reader to continue.

But that isn’t the Book Hook. That does not tell us why this book is different. This inciting incident is why the reader should read the first chapter or two – find out what is going on. Why does the grandmother think someone is trying to kill her? But that is only the beginning, the setup. What about the rest of the book?

The Book Hook is: How does a century-old Texas folk tale cause murder, kidnapping and arson today?

Now we have the essence of the book. This makes the book different. This will carry the reader through the entire book, not just the first two chapters. This is what I would hope the reader will tell her friends.

Take a look at your WIP. What is the inciting incident? Now, what is the Book Hook? It should force us to ask, “What’s going to happen next?” And make sure you can give us the essence of your book in fifteen seconds.

Have I ignored the subplots, the sidekick, the setting? I have – for now. Those are important. Those need careful attention. I have some great characters, and a truly fun sidekick. But first things first. What is the Book Hook? What is the essence of the book? What do you want the reader to tell her friends that will “hook” them into reading your book? Just one powerful sentence.

Remember, there’s the hook. And then there’s the Book Hook, and it’s job ONE.

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