Exercise: Cast Your Hook
Your book’s hook is the free prize
inside, the fortune in the cookie, the
little extra sparkle people remember and
remark upon. It signals the emotional roller
coaster you’ve built into the project.
That’s what they’re buying, and that’s
what they’re talking about when they finish
A literal hook has three parts: the
straight metal, the smooth curve, and the
sharp point. A project hook includes:
- a solid base that
honors reader assumptions and genre
tropes, which places the project in
context for the right audience.
- What is familiar? How will you
honor tradition and meet
- a smooth bend
that “curves” generic assumptions with a
surprise, a twist, a piercing irony.
- What is unique? How will you
twist tropes and exceed
- a sharp point that
punctures boredom and sticks in the
- How do the unique and familiar
elements intersect and refine each
You can draw in the punters with slamming
cover art, celebrity endorsements, and a
promise of wit, wealth, and weight loss, but
without a hook that’ll hold them that bait
is worthless. Your hook is how your editor,
marketing rep, publisher, vendor, and fans
will help expand your audience. Give them
the right tool for the job.
With all that in mind, forge a clear
picture of your book's hook:
- What is the base?
How does your book earn its spot on the
genre shelf? List three details that
situate it squarely with the best of
- What is the bend?
What fresh or fascinating reversal of
expectation does it offer? List three
cool, unexpected twists that make your
- What is the point?
How does your book push the margins of
the genre? List three ways your book
represents a step in the genre’s
Looking at these details write one short
sentence with no more than one comma and one
conjunction that summarizes what makes your
book essential for your read.
© 2016 Damon Suede & Heidi Cullinan, All Rights Reserved