The Hook and Lobster

There are a lot of things that suck about writing.
One the suckiest things that sucks is having to pitch your book to agents and editors.

There are a lot things wrong with publishers these days.
One of the wrongiest things that’s wrong is their business model.
They think writers should be big-haired, glad-handing, Type-A used car salesmen.
News Flash to New York City: If we writers were big-haired, Type-A types (!) then we’d be selling used cars and making money.

But, assuming you want to actually sell your book, you’ll need a one page letter personalized to each agent and editor. And it can’t just be any letter. It has to grab them by their Armani lapel and yank them out of that High Point executive chair.

The way you do this is with a one-line “hook”.

Hooks are a one-line gotcha that pulls the reader in and makes them want to read more.
It’s a powerful sentence. It’s meant to stimulate every pleasure node of their Starbucks-charged nucleus accumbens.
How do you do this?
Take a look at your favorite movies on IMDB and you’ll see the hooks and tag lines.


  • “A Lawyer Suddenly Loses his Ability to Lie.” — Liar, Liar
  • “In Space No One Can Hear You Scream.” — Alien
  • “Money Can Buy Popularity But It Can’t Buy Me Love.” — Can’t Buy Me Love
  • “Life is in Their Hands; Death is on Their Minds.” — 12 Angry Men

I actually enjoy coming up with stuff like this, but then again, I have an awfully low threshold of fun.

Start thinking about what your book is about, and then just start writing hook lines.
Don’t over-think this.
Write long ones and short ones.
Write in the morning and write at midnight.
Write while having a cocktail.
Write while having steak and lobster.

After a while you’ll have a list of hooks and tag lines.

Next, gather your best and brightest friends and read the hooks out loud.

When your friends say, “ooh”, “ah”, or “wow” you will know you’ve found the right hook.  And when you’ve found it you’ll have finished one of the hardest parts of marketing your book, which is something you shouldn’t have to do in the first place, but it is what it is and it ain’t what it ain’t.  Take it from me: I’ve been doing it wrong for years!

Until next time,
Peace, from Keith

Copyright © 2012 Alan Keith Parker.  

Don’t steal intellectual property.  Steal kisses :)

5 thoughts on “The Hook and Lobster

    1. Thanks much! I have a backlog (hey, that could be a pun) of writing advice in a Word file that I’m going to keep my blog rolling.

      If you know anybody who’s an aspiring writer, give them the link.
      I’m glad to help share lessons-learned

    1. Intriguing. So much so that if I saw this on a book jacket, I would continue reading.
      One question came to mind, though. When you say “falling apart”, do you mean the physical ship itself, or do you mean the inhabitants, or both?
      But this does a lot of the things that a good hook should: It makes you wonder about who’s in charge to begin with. Is it a line of succession from the original captain 10 generations ago? Likewise with the crew? And why do they mutiny?
      It’s good. I like it!

      1. There are some good questions you ask – and of course I answer them all. The captain is an AI and it is a succession of crews. The reason for mutiny is a moralistic one – of course both sides of the mutiny have the moral high ground hence the conflict.
        You have an interesting point about the term ‘falling apart’. It is vague and I don’t want to be that way. I was trying to imply in a state of collapse – everything is repairs on repairs on repairs. I will try to find a word the encompasses that idea.
        Thank you for your feedback.

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