How to query: the Hook, the Look and the Book

The results of the first round in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest have me thinking about the submission and judging process. This process for the ABNA is not terribly different from the normal process for submitting a book to a publisher. These steps can be summarized (in order) as the Hook, the Look and the Book.

The Hook Also known as the pitch, the hook is a brief statement of what the book is about and who it might appeal to. Usually around 300 words, the first part is not that different from jacket copy. It's a couple of sentences that will hook the reader and make them want to read more. For a query, this will also include details about the intended audience, perhaps by way of noting its similarities (or dissimilarities) to familiar published works.

The Look If your hook is good enough to make the agent or publisher want more, the "look" is just that: enough text to allow him or her to get a good look at your prose. The reader might ask for a synopsis of the whole book (often three pages) at this point, or they might wait until later. The main purpose of the look is to get a feel for the writing. A good hook doesn't guarantee good prose. (This stage is known as a "partial", among other terms.) This would usually be the first chapter, or some set number of words, e.g. 5K.

The Book If the reader liked what they saw when they got a look, they'll ask to see the whole book. A strong opening might yet fall apart for any number of reasons. The synopsis gives a plot summary, but it doesn't convey the feeling of the prose. Characters, dialogue, action, the pacing, the ending, etc. - any of these could be wrong for this agent or publisher. This is the time when the reader will decide if this book is worth investing in. It might be right or it might be wrong, again, for any number of reasons. If the book is good, an offer might be made.

You can have a great book, but if your hook isn't up to scratch, no one will ever get that far. Having made it through Round One of ABNA tells me that my Hook was good. I'm still waiting to see how the judges react to the Look. I'll know on March 13. After that, should fortune so smile upon me, it will finally be time for my Book to enter the arena.

Did I miss any steps? Is there a crucial bit of Secret Sauce that anyone would like to share?

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1 comment:

  1. Best of 'luck' (ie, skill), though I'm sure luck plays a part.

    Was confused for a moment - thought 'the look' meant the cover - you explained, but the first thought in MY head was visual.

    Keep us posted - and loved your pic of what that many words looks like - except you have to make them tinier because the scroll bar is non-functional. Cute idea.


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