Thursday, February 4, 2010

20 Days to Write a Hook

I completed my manuscript at the end of 2009 and on January 1st set out to get published. I began by searching the inside covers of my favorite books, ones most similar mine, for clues about how the author managed to snag a publisher. I quickly came to the realization that my invitation to the publisher’s ear lies in the discriminating hands of my agent-to-be.

Where's my agent?
I was on my way to find my special agent, the one that will love me and my manuscript and spend every waking moment selling it to the most distinguished publishing agencies around. While there are a mind-numbing number of sites to find agents and publishers, AgentQuery.com was the best suited for the novice agent hunter (me). Search by genre, interest, location, favorite animal - okay I made that one up, but you get the gist. Found some agents that will love me, but wait, they don’t want a completed manuscript, they want a query letter. So I ask:

What the hell is a query and how do I get one?
Now all the writers are saying, “Duh.” But really, I had no idea. Remember, I have been stuck transcribing from my journal, taking harsh criticism from my reviewers, cutting whole chapters and digging deep into my soul to birth my manuscript. My ego has recovered, but my fingers still hurt. When you search for information on writing a book, I assure you that the word query never comes up.

Agents want a Query, I was delighted to find a ton of information on how to write a query. Here’s a list of my favorite articles on the subject – I promise they have not paid me to write this, but if they do, I’m taking the cash:

AgentQuery.com – “How to write a query”
GuideToLiteraryAgents.com – “How to trim Your query”

A query is the written commercial for you and your manuscript, your 70 seconds on stage, better make sure it’s one page, less than 250 words, includes the word count – not to be mistaken for the page count, clever – but follows the rules, creative – but not outside the lines, no problem. I could say that a query should read the mind of the agent and know how to keep him/her reading to the end. Or, I could open a huge can of “shut-the-hell-up” and realize if I can’t sell my own book, then how do expect an agent to? So I began the tedious task of writing my query, only to find out that, first I need a hook. So I ask?

What the hell is a hook and how do I get one?
Now all the writers are saying, “Are you kidding?” Okay, hook was an easier concept and made perfect sense. I found some inspiring examples on many websites, AlanRinzler.com being one of my favorites. Feel free to take a look at some of the articles that really helped me:

Alan Rinzler – “Hooks that snag great book deals”
Kimberly Wells – “Your Query Letter Hook”
FloggingTheQuill.com – “A revised query hook & a Flogometer prize”

It took me 20 days to write my hook and I’m still not sure if it’s good enough to capture the eye of an agent. I rewrote it about a hundred times. I started by writing little phrases and favorite words in my journal and eventually pasted them together. My sister loves it and my friend hates it, the danger of using friends and family as reviewers. But they're free and honest, two great qualities.

Not only did it take me 20 days to write the hook, it also took me that long to realize that I can submit my hook to agents, decide that it really sucked, re-write it and submit to the next agent. Yes, I may have blown my chance of snagging my favorite agent, but that’s better than spending six months revising my hook.

I re-write my hook in my head all day long and one of these days I'm sure I'll stumble upon the perfect mix of clever, informative and professional, but for now I'm using the best hook I have and here it is:

What do you think about my hook?
Wonderfully Dysfunctional – It Must be Genetic is the first in a series of memoirs about Buffi Neal, a career woman and single mother of two who joins her four siblings at the bedside of their dying grandmother and begins her journey of self discovery recalling stories of inappropriate practical jokes, abuse, betrayal and juicy family secrets, leading to the realization that her family is far from normal and she is not that different from the woman she wishes would die.



Please support me with your honesty.
-Buffi
http://www.imbuffi.com/