Blogger: Rachel Kent
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
I’ve only been able to give four “lessons” on proposals this week, and I know many of you have had questions. I tried to answer all of them, but I’d like for you to feel free to post questions about proposals here. I’ll answer as many as I can (hopefully all of them).
Also, if you’d like to get feedback on your proposal hook, please post it here. I’d like for everyone to give constructive feedback on any hooks that are posted.
This has been a most instructive series!
My proposal hook:
The bullet that killed Eliza Gentry’s fiancé shattered her dreams as well. Clinging to her battered faith, she sets out to escape her grief . . . and runs headlong into the man who caused it.
How does a proposal to an editor differ from the material one would submit to an agent (apart from differences listed in submission guidelines)?
Okay, I’m game. This is the hook for a 92k word romantic suspense novel.
A young missionary must confront the murderer of her first love’s father in order to save a Costa Rican mission camp.
Thanks again, Rachel, for this week’s posts. Very helpful!
By proposal hook, do you mean the one or two sentence synopsis of the book? The high concept (we hope) that is going to make editors/readers want to pick up the book?
Hi Rachel… here’s my question.
In the marketing section, how detailed should we be? Should we list every single thing we’re gonna TRY to do? What does a good marketing section look like?
Thanks for this.
Oops. Those posts were there when I asked my question.
Here’s my feedback–how constructive it is, may be debatable. I’m not great at hooks. But I can critique these as if I were a reader looking at the back of books.
I’m interested in Eliza Gentry. I want to know why the new love interest (I’m guessing) killed the old love interest and how she will reconcile the conflict that comes with her falling in love with the guy who killed her fiancé. Even if I’m totally wrong about this…the hook has hooked me into wanting more information.
You’ve given the character a goal–escape/deal with grief, and a conflict–she’s thrown together with the man who ruined her life. I think the emotional stakes are high, and possibly I’m wrong about the love angle and the physical danger is high, too.
If I read this on the back of a book, I’d go on and flip open the book and read the first page.
When I read about the young missionary I have questions, too. But I don’t have educated guesses that whet my appetite.
I wonder what has her first love has to do with things? Why make that distinction? Why is he no longer her love? She’s young. How many loves has she had? And what does the murderer have to do with the camp? And why does it matter that he murdered the father of her first love? How close was she to the murdered man?
These questions make me feel more confused than curious.I don’t have any possible answers spring to mind, so I’m not finding any common ground with the character. I haven’t lived through any of these experiences (in real life or in previous books) so I don’t know how to relate to the character.
You have given me a conflict–the girl wants to save the mission camp, and a conflict–a murderer must be confronted. But I think what might be missing for me is the emotional hook.
Can you give me a hint of how the murder affected her or what kind of threat the murderer is to her now? Or how will the murderer destroy the camp and what will it cost her to conftont the killer and save the camp? What will it cost her if the camp is destroyed? What are the personal stakes for this character?
So while I think you have a good start with an interesting character and a difficult conflict, I think I’d need a little more info in the hook to pull me in.
Lynn, I really like your hook.
Heather, I like the potential for drama in your story. I think rearranging the words just a touch would heighten the suspense of the hook itself. “In order to save the Costa Rican mission camp, young missionary [her name] must confront the murderer of her first love’s father.” Or maybe find a way to pose it as a question – will she be able to save the camp? I’d like to find out! 🙂
OK, here’s mine, open to suggestions:
“Is the Savior’s grace powerful enough even to cover a girl who considers herself ‘irredeemable’?”
(First of five in a series of YA fantasy fiction, complete at approx. 117K words.)
One of my query hooks:
When was the last time you had a nightmare? Not a dream wherein an impossible monster pursues you in impossible ways, but one where it’s so real that you wonder–absurdly–whether it was premonitory?
Michael K. Reynolds
Fine job this week. A great series of posts, as we’ve come to expect from Team Books & Such. I think the salient point for everyone is the importance of building that brand and platform as early in the writing process as possible. That’s a critical part of every proposal these days and it takes time to build.
We’re no longer able to scribble notes on Parisian streets and call ourselves inspired. The reality is there is a great deal of talent out there competing for only a few pony rides. We’ve got to think of ourselves as both writers and entrepreneurs.
The good news is…all gifted writers have the raw talent to succeed in this area and it’s more pleasurable than you think.
Bill, you want to include as much as you can, but it needs to be things that you WILL do not things that you will TRY to do.
Include things you’ve already done to build your name, but also include ideas for what you will do when the new book releases.
I am working on a series of books. This is book #1 that is completed. I am on page 217 on book #2. Book #3 is only in the planning stage.
Here is the hook for book #1.
Elizabeth Collins is a young woman who is on the run after making a decision that would not only alter her own life but all those around here, making them face dangers that none of them could have ever dreamed of.
Rule #1..don’t type with a 6 year old climbing around the computer, ha!
Elizabeth Collins is a young woman who is on the run after making a decision that would not only alter her own life but all those around her, making them face dangers that none of them could have ever dreamed of.
Wow, I want to read all of your books now! Great, enticing hooks!
Lynn, I don’t have anything to add to what the other commenters said. I think your hook is great! Well written, intriguing, gives just enough information to capture my attention.
Heather, I also find your hook interesting. I think that how Lindsay shifted the wording also gives it a boost.
Lindsay, I’m really intrigued by your hook, as well. I’m really not that experienced with creating hooks yet, so you are welcome to toss out my advice, but I wonder if giving just a little more information about the main character, like perhaps just her name, or where she’s from. Example: “Is the Savior’s grace powerful enough even to cover a girl *from the _____ * who considers herself ‘irredeemable’?” This information could be a locale or a bit about her past (like “a broken home”). Maybe just a little addition that helps me connect even more with the main character or add to her instant likability. I do think that your phrase “who considers herself ‘irredeemable'” does accomplish that, so just adding her name might add more to her being a ‘real’ character. Again, my suggestions may go over the line and add too much information. From your regular comments, I think you have a great writer’s instinct, so go with that. 🙂
I would love all of your suggestions on my hook for a non-fiction book. This is a VERY rough draft of this hook:
“Do you find yourself aching to respond to God’s call on your life with instant servitude – and without hesitation? Do you desire to act as Jacob does when he obediently answers ‘Here I am!’ to God’s summon?”
Thank you in advance!
And thanks again to Rachel for this incredible posts this week!
Melissa K Norris
Salena, I would suggest being more specific. What was Elizabeth’s decision, who is affected by her decision, and what are the dangers.
Lindsay, We know Jesus’ grace is powerful enough. What is your character’s name and why does she think she’s irreedemable?
Melissa K Norris
Lindsay, How about some rewording? Something like, (Character name) doesn’t believe even the Savior can forgive her for (whatever she did). It will take (catalyst of story) to put His grace to the test. I’m sure you can tweek it to make it even better.
Emmaline sneaks onto a California gold field bound cattle drive to escape an arranged marriage. The dangers of the trail threaten both her heart and faith, forcing her to chose between honoring a deathbed vow and the man she loves.
I read somewhere that hooks were supposed to be more mysterious so I didn’t do specifics… Here is one that is more specific.
Elizabeth Collins leaves behind the man that her father wishes her to marry and a world that is crumbling in around her in order to help two slaves escape to freedom knowing that she will never see her home again.
Melissa K Norris
Much better, in my humble opinion. It shows she has great courage and is someone we can sympathize with. It sounds intriguing and I would definitely read the back cover copy and check out the first chapter from your hook.
Thanks Caroline and Melissa for your suggestions! 🙂
Caroline, I’m definitely no expert with nonfiction, but your hook sounds interesting to me. I think another good Biblical reference for this topic would be Is. 6:8, where the Lord asks who will go, and Isaiah responds, Here am I! Send me! Love that verse.
Melissa, the only thing I found difficult about your hook was the phrase “California gold field bound.” I had to go back and reread it a second time through to make sure I understood it correctly. Normally, I’d say to hyphenate (two-word modifier rule), but here you have more than two words and the hyphens would probably be a bit much (California-gold-field-bound… ack!). Maybe that first sentence could be reworked? “Emmaline sneaks onto a cattle drive bound for the California gold mines, desperate to escape an arranged marriage.” Ironically, my character’s first name is Emlyn. 🙂
Melissa K Norris
Thanks. I agree with you and will adjust it. Must be great minds think alike with our character’s names. 🙂
This was a great way to get some feedback. Thanks, Rachel.
Lynn D.– The two proposals don’t differ much at all as long as you put together a full and complete proposal for the agency. Your agent will often edit the proposal with you before it goes out to the publishing houses.
I LOVE this game! My turn-
Here’s the hook for my 97,000 word contemporary romance, Face the Music:
When the sexy front-runner of America’s favorite reality TV show falls for an unknown local girl, people notice.
I think you set us up well for the idea of the story, a girl who is lost, looking for redemption. For me, the “enough even to” is a bit awkward. Maybe something like “Is the Savior’s grace powerful enough to save a girl who considers herself not worthy of being saved?”
I really like the idea behind your story, but for me, the hook is too wordy. I wanted to quit reading after the third line. Maybe break it up a bit. Something like:
In a world that is crumbling around her, Elizabeth Collins is faced with an impossible decision: assist two slaves in finding their freedom, knowing that she will never see her home again, or stay and be with the man her father wishes her to marry.
Lindsay, thank you for your comment! I have that Isaiah verse written down too! I need to study it even more, but I love that as well. Thank you for mentioning that verse.
Andrea, I think your hook sets up the premise of your story well. I want to know more about the unknown local girl… which means I want to read it! I’m not very experienced with fiction hooks, but would it help to include a bit more about who the people are who notice? Like “people in the television/film community” or “show viewers?” I imagine you mean that nearly all people notice, so I’m not really sure how to say that any better than you already have. Or perhaps just more about the unknown local girl to help us connect with her even more, like “unknown local girl with a desire to ___” or “unknown local girl with a habit of ___.”