To get a literary agent, you need a good query letter.
And to write a query letter, you need to know how to write a query letter hook that grabs attention.
Here’s how to write a query letter hook:
Write a query letter hook by focusing on the most unique and compelling aspect of your story. Make it concise and attention-grabbing, personalize it to the literary agent, and highlight your credentials or a popular author’s recommendation. Start with the hook to grab attention.
This guide covers everything you need to know about how to write a query letter hook.
What Is a Query Letter Hook? (Explained for Beginners)
A query letter hook is a short, attention-grabbing sentence or phrase that is designed to capture the interest of a literary agent or publisher in your book manuscript or proposal.
The purpose of a hook is to entice the agent or publisher to want to read more of your work and consider representing or publishing it.
A good query letter hook should be concise, engaging, and specific to your book’s unique selling point or premise. It should highlight what makes your book stand out and why it would be of interest to readers in your target audience.
A hook can be a question, a bold statement, a surprising fact, or an intriguing premise, among other things.
Keep in mind that the hook is just one part of a well-crafted query letter.
In addition to the hook, your query letter should also include a brief summary of your book, your bio, publishing credits (if any), and a polite request for the agent or publisher to consider your work.
A query hook and story summary are sometimes used interchangeably.
As I hinted a moment ago, there are actually several different types of hooks. Check out the query letter hook examples and types in the next section.
7 Types of Query Letter Hooks
There are 7 types of query letter hooks you need to know:
- The High Concept Premise Hook
- The Startling Fact Hook
- The Celebrity Endorsement Hook
- The Personalization Hook
- The Impressive Credentials Hook
- The Compelling Character Hook
- The Timely Topic Hook
The High Concept Premise Hook
This hook uses a sentence or two to introduce the premise of your book in a way that captures the reader’s imagination.
It derives power from the story and makes literary agents want to know more.
Example: “What if you woke up one day with the power to time travel, but every time you did, you risked losing everything you’ve ever known and loved?”
The Startling Fact Hook
This hook uses a surprising or shocking fact to grab the agent’s attention and create a sense of urgency.
Example: “Over 90% of plastic waste has never been recycled. In my book, I explore the devastating impact of plastic pollution on our planet and offer practical solutions for reducing our reliance on single-use plastics. Through personal stories and in-depth research, I reveal the urgent need for action and the hope for a more sustainable future.”
The Celebrity Endorsement Hook
Another hook is using a celebrity’s endorsement of your work to build credibility and intrigue.
Anytime you get endorsed by someone famous (author or not), it can swing things in your favor.
Example: “As an author whose work has been praised by Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, I believe my new novel will be a perfect fit for your list.”
The Personalization Hook
The personalization query letter hook is when you have a strong connection to a specific literary agent, such as a mutual friend or colleague.
It could also be that you met them at a writing conference.
This query letter hook is a great way to establish a personal connection with a literary agent and make your query letter stand out.
Example: “I had the pleasure of meeting you at the [WRITING CONFERENCE NAME] last year, and I was impressed by your insights and enthusiasm for the publishing industry. As a fellow [GENRE] writer, I believe my debut novel, [BOOK TITLE], would be a great fit for your list.”
The Impressive Credentials Hook
This query letter hook highlights your impressive credentials, such as your educational background, professional experience, or notable achievements.
By leading with your credentials and experience, you position yourself as an authority in your field and lend credibility to your book.
You can show literary agents or publishers that you are not only a talented writer but also a respected expert in your field. This can help build trust and credibility, and make them more likely to take your book seriously.
However, it’s important to make sure that your credentials are relevant to your book or novel and the audience you’re targeting.
And that they are presented in a way that is concise and not overly boastful.
Example: “As a licensed therapist with over 20 years of experience working with trauma survivors, I bring a unique and informed perspective to my book, which explores the impact of childhood trauma on adult relationships. Drawing on my extensive clinical experience and research, I provide practical tools and insights for readers to heal from their own past traumas and create healthier, more fulfilling relationships.”
The Compelling Character Hook
A compelling character query letter hook concisely introduces a character in your book who is so intriguing or unique that the agent just has to read your query letter, contact you, and request a full manuscript review.
Example: “Meet Jake, the world’s first genetically-engineered human who struggles to find his place in a society that fears and rejects him.”
The Timely Topic Hook
This hook uses a current event or trend to position your book as relevant and important.
Example: “With the rise of AI image generators and deepfakes, my book delves into the ethical implications of creating and distributing fake images, and the impact it has on our perception of truth and reality. Through compelling characters and a thought-provoking storyline, I explore the consequences of this technology and the urgent need for greater awareness and regulation.”
Remember, your hook should be tailored to your book and your strengths as a writer.
Consider which type of hook will best showcase your work and grab the attention of literary agents or publishers.
It’s not enough to know the types, though.
You need to know exactly what to put in your query letter hook and what to leave out. You need pro tips, insider tricks, and plenty of good examples.
10 Tips For How To Write a Perfect Query Letter Hook
Here are the 10 tips for writing the perfect query letter hook, with explanations for each:
1. Be Specific and Avoid Cliches or Generic Language
The purpose of a hook is to grab the reader’s attention and make them want to read more, but using generic or cliched language will do the opposite.
Instead, focus on specific details or unique aspects of your book that will make it stand out.
Avoid overused phrases or descriptions that could apply to any book in your genre. Instead, choose a language that is unique to your book and captures its essence.
2. Use Vivid, Sensory Language To Create a Strong Mental Image
A good hook should be memorable and leave a lasting impression on the agent.
Using vivid, sensory language can help accomplish this by creating a strong mental image that will stick in their minds. Consider using language that appeals to the five senses to bring your book to life in the reader’s mind.
- Figurative language
- Theme words (cluster of words related to the topic or theme)
3. Highlight the 3 C’s of a Great Query Letter Hook
When crafting a query letter hook, it’s important to keep the three C’s in mind: Character, Conflict, and Consequences.
By highlighting these key elements in your hook, you can create a compelling and memorable introduction to your story.
First, your hook should introduce the main character of your story, whether it’s a protagonist, antagonist, or supporting character.
The reader should get a sense of who this character is and what makes them unique or interesting.
Second, your hook should introduce the central Conflict of your story, whether it’s an external conflict like a villain or obstacle, or an internal conflict like a personal struggle or dilemma.
This conflict should create tension and intrigue, and make the reader want to know more about how it will be resolved.
Finally, your hook should introduce the Consequences of your story, whether it’s the stakes for the character or the larger world. The reader should understand what’s at risk and what’s at stake, and be invested in seeing how the story plays out.
4. Showcase Your Writing Style and Voice in Your Hook
Your hook should give the literary agent a taste of your writing style and voice.
Consider using language and sentence structure that showcases your unique writing style. This can be a great way to stand out from other writers in your genre and leave a lasting impression on the reader.
5. Make Sure Your Hook Reflects the Tone and Genre of Your Book
Your hook should give the agent a sense of what to expect from your book, both in terms of tone and genre.
Make sure your hook reflects the tone of your book – whether it’s serious, lighthearted, or somewhere in between.
Additionally, consider the conventions of your genre and make sure your hook fits within those expectations.
6. Include a unique or unexpected twist that sets your book apart
A hook that includes a unique or unexpected twist can be a great way to set your book apart from others in your genre.
Consider introducing a surprising premise or twist that will make the reader want to know more.
However, be careful not to give away too much of the plot in your hook – it should be just enough to entice the reader, not give away the whole story.
7. Consider the Emotional Impact of Your Hook
A good hook should resonate with the agent or publisher on an emotional level.
Consider the emotional impact of your hook and how it will make the reader feel. Will it evoke a sense of wonder, fear, excitement, or empathy?
Choose words, language, and details that will create an emotional connection with the reader. One of the patterns I noticed in successful query letters over the last 20 years is that the most effective ones made me feel something.
8. Use Statistics or Research To Highlight the Relevance of Your Book
Using statistics or research in your hook can be a great way to highlight the relevance and importance of your book.
Consider incorporating statistics or facts that support the premise or theme of your book. This can be especially effective for nonfiction books or books that deal with social issues.
But you can sometimes apply the same method to fiction.
9. Don’t Spoil the Ending
One important tip to keep in mind when writing a query letter hook is to avoid spoiling the ending or resolution of your story.
While you want to create intrigue and make the agent want to learn more, giving away the ending can actually have the opposite effect, turning off the reader and ruining the suspense or surprise of the story.
Instead, focus on the inciting incident, the main conflict, or the unique aspects of your protagonist or setting.
By creating a hook that emphasizes the tension and drama of your story without giving away the ending, you can entice the agent to request your full manuscript.
Never forget that the goal of the hook is to get the agent to want to read your story or book, not to provide a summary of the entire story.
10. Keep Your Hook Concise and to the Point
While your hook should be attention-grabbing and memorable, it should also be concise and to the point.
Aim for a sentence or two maximum (rule of thumb), and choose words carefully to make every word count. Remember that the hook is just one part of your query letter, and the agent or publisher will be reading through many queries, so keeping it brief and impactful is key.
If your hook is your story summary, then you can flesh it out a bit to 1-2 paragraphs.
Nonfiction query letters typically run a little longer than fiction queries, so you have more leeway to explain the topic with those.
Query Letter Hooks Dos and Don’ts (Chart)
|Query Letter Hook Dos||Query Letter Hook Don’ts|
|Be specific and unique||Use generic language or cliches|
|Use vivid, sensory language||Overuse adjectives or adverbs|
|Pose a thought-provoking question||Ask a question that’s too obvious or simplistic|
|Use humor to inject personality||Be inappropriate or offensive|
|Reflect the tone and genre of your book||Misrepresent your book’s tone or genre|
|Include a unique or unexpected twist||Give away too much of the plot|
|Consider the emotional impact on the reader||Be emotionally manipulative or overly sentimental|
|Use statistics or research to highlight topical relevance||Use irrelevant or misleading facts|
|Showcase your writing style and voice||Write in a style that’s inconsistent with your book|
|Keep your hook concise and to the point||Ramble on or use run-on sentences|
Query Letter Hook Examples (Massive List)
Since I can’t be there helping you write your query letter hook, I did the next best thing: I created and collected the very best query letter hook examples.
Before you browse through this massive list of examples, here are a few things to know:
- You’ll see examples organized by type of query letter hook
- You’ll read examples for every major genre of fiction
- You’ll find examples of nonfiction query letter hooks
Ok, let’s get started.
High Concept Query Letter Hook Examples
Here are 30 high-concept story query letter hooks, categorized by genre:
- “A hitman must choose between loyalty to his employer and the safety of his family when he’s tasked with assassinating a powerful politician.”
- “A woman wakes up in a hotel room with no memory of how she got there and a body in the bathroom.”
- “A journalist uncovers a conspiracy to cover up a deadly virus outbreak, but must evade those who will stop at nothing to silence her.”
- “An ex-cop turned private investigator must navigate the seedy underworld of a city overrun with corruption and violence.”
- “A man must race against time to rescue his kidnapped daughter before the ransom demand turns deadly.”
- “A group of strangers is brought together on a remote island where they must solve a series of puzzles to uncover a murderer in their midst.”
- “A detective must solve a string of seemingly unrelated murders, but as the body count rises, she realizes that the killer is closer than she thinks.”
- “A woman inherits a house from a distant relative and discovers a hidden room filled with clues to a decades-old mystery.”
- “A journalist investigates the disappearance of a young woman, but soon realizes that the case is connected to her own troubled past.”
- “A small town sheriff must solve the murder of a beloved community member, but the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous the investigation becomes.”
- “A young woman falls in love with a man who she later discovers is her company’s biggest competitor, and must choose between her career and her heart.”
- “Two childhood sweethearts reunite after years apart, but must confront the painful secrets that tore them apart in the first place.”
- “A woman goes on a series of disastrous blind dates before meeting the one man who seems to understand her completely.”
- “A young widow must navigate the complexities of dating again, but finds unexpected solace in the form of her late husband’s best friend.”
- “A woman travels to a remote town in search of a fresh start, but finds herself falling for the mysterious local handyman who harbors a painful past.”
- “A young woman discovers she’s the last in a line of powerful witches and must learn to control her newfound abilities before a dark force destroys her and her kind.”
- “A man is transported to a parallel universe where he discovers that he’s the only one who can stop an evil overlord from enslaving humanity.”
- “A group of misfit heroes must band together to defeat an ancient evil that threatens to destroy the world.”
- “A young girl enters a magical land where she must help a band of rebels overthrow a tyrannical ruler and restore balance to the realm.”
- “A man is granted three wishes by a genie, but soon learns that every wish comes with a deadly price.”
- “In a dystopian future, a young woman rebels against a totalitarian government that controls every aspect of citizens’ lives.”
- “A group of astronauts on a mission to colonize a new planet must confront the dark secrets of their pasts as they struggle to survive in a harsh and unforgiving environment.”
- “In a world where humans can upload their consciousness to a virtual reality, a man discovers a sinister conspiracy that threatens to erase humanity’s physical existence.”
- “A scientist creates a machine that can travel through time, but as he experiments with it, he realizes that every change he makes has unintended and disastrous consequences.”
- “In the aftermath of an alien invasion, a small group of survivors must band together to rebuild society.”
Personalization Query Letter Hook Examples & Templates
Here are 10 examples of personalization query letter hooks that relate to the literary agent:
- “As a fan of your work with authors like [author name], I believe my debut novel would be a great fit for your list.”
- “I noticed on your agency’s website that you’re actively seeking diverse voices in [genre], and I believe my novel fits that bill perfectly.”
- “I read in a recent interview that you’re passionate about [theme or subject matter], and my manuscript delves deeply into that topic.”
- “Your recent representation of [author name]’s bestselling novel [book title] inspired me to submit my own manuscript to you.”
- “As a fellow [alumna/alumnus of university or organization], I was excited to see that you represent authors in my genre and believe my novel would interest you.”
- “I read on your agency’s blog that you’re currently seeking [specific type of book], and I believe my novel would be a great match for your list.”
- “After attending your panel at [literary conference or event], I knew I wanted to submit my manuscript to you because of your passion for [genre or subject matter].”
- “I recently read your interview in [publication] where you discussed your love for [specific element of writing], and I believe my novel showcases that element beautifully.”
- “As a reader of [author name]’s work, I was excited to see that you represent similar authors and believe my novel would appeal to that audience.”
- “I noticed on your agency’s website that you represent [sub-genre] novels, and I believe my manuscript, which blends [genre] with [sub-genre], would be a great addition to your list.”
Remember to do your research and personalize your query letter to each individual agent you’re querying.
Using these types of personalization hooks can help demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and that you’re a good match for the agent’s list.
Celebrity Endorsement Query Letter Hook Examples
Here are 10 examples of recommendation query letter hooks:
- “Upon the recommendation of [bestselling author name], I’m reaching out to you about my debut novel.”
- “I had the pleasure of meeting [famous author name] at a recent writing conference, and she recommended that I contact you about my manuscript.”
- “As a colleague of [industry professional name], she suggested I submit my novel to you for consideration.”
- “After discussing my novel with [famous author name] at a recent book signing, he encouraged me to reach out to you about representation.”
- “As someone who was inspired by [famous author name]’s work, I was thrilled when she recommended that I submit my manuscript to you.”
- “Upon the advice of my writing mentor, [industry professional name], I am submitting my novel to you for consideration.”
- “After consulting with my literary circle, I was encouraged to submit my manuscript to your agency based on your reputation for representing authors with a strong voice, such as [famous author name].”
- “I was honored to receive a positive blurb from [famous author name] for my debut novel, and thought you would be interested in representing me.”
- “Upon the recommendation of my editor, who worked with [bestselling author name], I am submitting my manuscript to your agency for representation.”
- “As a fan of [bestselling author name]’s work, I was thrilled when he agreed to read my manuscript and suggested that I submit it to you.”
A recommendation from a popular author or industry professional can carry a lot of weight in the publishing industry, so don’t hesitate to use it to your advantage in your query letter.
Be sure to mention the name of the person who recommended you and explain how they know your work.
Nonfiction Query Letter Hook Examples & Templates
Check out these 10 nonfiction query letter hooks:
- “In my book [BOOK TITLE], I share the inspiring story of how I overcame [OBSTACLE] to achieve [SUCCESS].”
- “Through my years of experience in [INDUSTRY], I have developed a proven system for [SOLVING PROBLEM], which I share in my book [BOOK TITLE].”
- “As a [PROFESSIONAL EXPERTISE], I provide a comprehensive guide to [TOPIC] in my book [BOOK TITLE].”
- “In [BOOK TITLE], I explore the fascinating history of [HISTORICAL EVENT OR PERIOD] and its impact on modern society.”
- “As a survivor of [TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE], I offer a firsthand account of my journey to healing and hope in my book [BOOK TITLE].”
- “My book [BOOK TITLE] offers a practical roadmap for anyone struggling with [ISSUE] and looking to find a way forward.”
- “In [BOOK TITLE], I examine the latest research and expert insights on [TOPIC] and provide actionable advice for readers.”
- “Drawing on my experience as a [PROFESSIONAL EXPERTISE], I reveal the secrets to success in [INDUSTRY] in my book [BOOK TITLE].”
- “As a leading authority on [TOPIC], I provide a comprehensive guide to [ISSUE] in my book [BOOK TITLE].”
- “My book [BOOK TITLE] offers a fresh perspective on [TOPIC] and challenges readers to rethink their assumptions and beliefs about [ISSUE].”
Check out this good video I made about how to write a query letter hook:
Best Query Letter Hook Templates for Novels
When learning how to write a query letter hook, sometimes you need more than examples – sometimes you need a mad-libs style, fill-in-the-blanks template.
So, I made three just for you!
1. Problem-Focused Hook
When [INCITING INCIDENT], [CHARACTER NAME] is forced to confront [ANTAGONIST/CONFLICT] in order to [GOAL]. But when [COMPLICATION], [CHARACTER NAME] must [ACTION] or else risk [STAKES].
2. Character-Focused Hook
Meet [CHARACTER NAME], a [ADJECTIVE] [PROTAGONIST JOB/TITLE] who [CHARACTERIZATION]. But when [INCITING INCIDENT], [CHARACTER NAME] must [GOAL] in order to [MOTIVATION]. Can [CHARACTER NAME] overcome [OBSTACLES] and achieve [GOAL]?
3. Setting-Focused Hook
In the [SETTING] of [PLACE NAME], [CHARACTER NAME] is [CHARACTERIZATION]. But when [INCITING INCIDENT], [CHARACTER NAME] must [GOAL] in order to [MOTIVATION]. Can [CHARACTER NAME] overcome [OBSTACLES] and [ACHIEVE GOAL] before [TIME LIMIT/STAKES]?
These templates are just starting points and can be customized to fit the specifics of your story.
The key is to distill the most important and unique aspects of your book into a concise, attention-grabbing hook that pulls agents into your story.
How To Choose the Best Query Letter Hook (Good Questions To Ask Yourself)
By asking yourself these types of questions, you can identify the most effective and memorable hook for your query letter. It’s not always obvious.
Ask these questions:
- What is the most unique or compelling aspect of my story?
- What is the emotional core of my story, and how can I convey that in a hook?
- Who is my target audience, and what hooks would appeal to them?
- What sets my story apart from others in my genre, and how can I emphasize that in my hook?
- What themes or issues does my story address, and how can I reflect that in my hook?
- What is the “hook” that grabbed my attention when I first came up with the idea for my story?
- What is the most surprising or unexpected element of my story, and how can I use that to create a memorable hook?
- What is the high-concept premise of my story, and how can I distill that into a concise and attention-grabbing hook?
- What feedback have I received from beta readers or other writers, and how can I incorporate their suggestions into my hook?
- What have successful books in my genre done in terms of their hooks, and how can I use that as inspiration for my own?
Query Letter Hook FAQ
This FAQ section addresses frequently asked questions about query letter hooks.
Q: How Long Should a Hook Be in a Query Letter?
Your hook should be concise and to-the-point, typically no more than two or three sentences. The goal is to grab the reader’s attention and entice them to want to read more, so focus on the most unique and compelling aspect of your story.
Q: Should I Start My Query Letter with the Hook?
It depends on your preference and the strength of your hook. Starting with the hook can be a bold move that immediately grabs attention, but if your hook needs a little more context to be fully appreciated, it may be better to place it in the second paragraph.
Q: Should My Hook Reveal the Ending or Resolution of My Story?
No, your hook should create intrigue and make the reader want to learn more, but it shouldn’t give away the ending or resolution of your story. Instead, focus on the inciting incident, the main conflict, or the unique aspects of your protagonist or setting.
Q: Can a Query Letter Hook Be Funny or Quirky?
Yes, as long as it fits the tone and genre of your story. A humorous or quirky hook can help your query letter stand out, but be careful not to sacrifice clarity or coherence for the sake of a joke.
Q: Can I Have Multiple Hooks in My Query Letter?
While it’s best to focus on one strong hook, you can mention other unique or compelling aspects of your story in your query letter. Just be sure to prioritize the most attention-grabbing hook and use the others to provide additional context or flavor.
Q: Should My Hook Be Genre-Specific?
Yes, your hook should reflect the genre and tone of your story. A horror story hook should be different from a romance story hook, for example, so make sure you’re tailoring your hook to the appropriate audience.
Final Thoughts: How To Write a Query Letter Hook
You’re query letter hook is just a single element in a successful query letter.
You also need to know how to write all the other sections. One of the best ways to do that is to learn how to write query letters with AI. These tools can assist you in coming up with ideas, structure, and language.
You might also enjoy my Query Letter Swipe File book which includes hundreds of examples and templates from successful query letters.