Book Proposals

Proposals: Creating a Strong Hook

Last week we tackled the proposal synopsis. The cool thing about creating that aspect of the proposal first is that you can use it as the springboard for your hook: those few lines at the beginning of your proposal that draw an editor/agent deeper.

(One note here: many writers have asked if they need to put something in the hook about genre. My vote: put the genre right after the title on the proposal. So for my sample book, this is what would be at the top of the first page:

Shattered Justice

A contemporary suspense novel

Now, as you may recall, here’s the short synopsis for my book:

Sheriff’s deputy Dan Justice has spent his life seeking justice for others, but when everything that matters most to him is ripped away, he’s lost in despair and anger.

Where was God’s justice for him?

Then a small town thrust into danger turns to him for help. Dan must do what he can, even if it costs him the one thing he has left…

 His life.

How to turn that into a hook? Easy peasy! Using the same three factors we utilized for the synopsis—

  • Just enough of the character to form a connection
  • Just enough of the story to intrigue
  • Just enough of what’s at stake to make us want to know what happens

Pinpoint the details/emotions that will most intrigue the editor/agent.

Sheriff’s deputy—lets them know there’s a law enforcement aspect to the story and that the hero is, actually, a hero in what he does.

Everything is ripped away from him/Where was God’s justice—there is loss, anger, pain, and struggle

Small town in jeopardy—the drama of the story, both because the town’s in jeopardy and because you know this guy, who is a hero/warrior at heart, is going to have to overcome his struggle to save others. Again.

I try to keep the hook to around 30 words. Sometimes that’s possible, sometimes not. But trying to do so forces me to ensure every word needs to be there. Do your best, though, keep it under 40 words.

Now, let’s do what I call the Hook Two-Step:

  1. Patch the details into a few lines.
  2. Rework and refine.

Here’s how my hook progressed…

First attempt:

Everything sheriff’s deputy Dan Justice loves has been ripped away. Broken, angry, he can’t help but wonder:  Where was God’s justice was for him?  Then the small town where he lives is thrust into danger…

            And they’ve come to him for help.

Blah, blah, blah. Too wordy. Takes too long to get to the point. And I’m not sure the last bit works.

Next try:

Sheriff’s deputy Dan Justice has lost everything. Where was God’s justice was for him? Then the small town where he lives faces danger…

            And they’ve come to him for help.

Shorter, but I’m still not crazy about the last part. And I think I’ve lost some of the drama of the story.

One more time:

Everything sheriff’s deputy Dan Justice loves has been ripped away. Where was God’s justice was for him?  All he knows is he’s done. Let someone else play hero.

Then the small town where he lives is thrust into danger…

            And they’ve come to him for help.

Too long again, but hey, I like showing the anger rather than saying he’s angry. And I like using hero—that’s a strong emotive word. Then it occurred to me to use the policemen’s motto… So here’s what I landed on, and though it’s a bit over 30 words, I think it works.


Sheriff’s deputy Dan Justice has lost everything. Where was God’s justice for him? He’s done. Let someone else “serve and protect.”

  Then danger strikes a small community, and like it or not…

he’s the only hero in town.

Okay, YOUR turn! Use your synopses/summaries from last week to craft a hook.

Can’t wait to see what you do!



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