I’m interrupting our normal blog schedule to insert an important announcement: Our agency is sponsoring a writing contest, and we want YOU to enter!
The Writing Contest Why
We’re celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, which signifies 25 years of serving the Kingdom and helping writers. It made sense to us agents that the best way for you to share in that celebration is by entering a writing contest.
Who May Enter
Anyone who is unagented is qualified to enter. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, for children or adults, we want to hear from you!
The Writing Contest Win
Two types of prizes will be awarded.
- Twenty-five semi-finalists will each receive a $10 Starbucks gift certificate to share with your BFF–or go for a drink + a goodie all by yourself. Either way, you’ll have your reason to celebrate.
- The semi-finalists qualify for the big win: a $250 Visa card + the chance to receive just-for-you, customized feedback on your proposal from one of the Books & Such agents.
Hook Us with Your Hook
In 25 words or less, write a hook for your book project. Use this email to enter: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out this link to see the contest details on our website.
The deadline is May 15, 2021.
Winners will be announced on June 1, 2021, on our website contest landing page.
Propose Your Proposal
The 25 semi-finalists will each send in his/her book proposal, based on your hook, by June 15, 2021. If you don’t have your proposal ready by then, you’ll still have that Starbucks card and the joy of knowing you have somethin’ good goin’ on with that hook. No rain checks will be issued. (So work on your proposal while we’re picking the semi-finalists.)
We’ll announce the winner of the Grant Prize on August 15, 2021, not only on our landing page but also via a press release to writing groups and to the publishing community–and here, of course.
About that Hook…
If you’re wondering what a hook is or how to write one for your project, I’ve offered some winning hints below.
Several years ago I met with an acquisitions editor, and as we talked about what she was looking to acquire, she summed it up simply. “I’ve learned that if a project doesn’t have a strong hook, the sales staff on our publishing committee will say, ‘Not another book without a hook!'” Her comment has stuck with me because, despite its simplicity, it’s also apt.
Why does a lack of a hook deep-six a project with most publishers? Because, without a hook, every phase of creating and selling your book becomes more problematic.
Ways to employ a hook
- As in fishing, a book’s hook snags the reader and won’t let go. It’s the premise of your novel or nonfiction book that causes the reader to say, upon hearing the hook, “I want to read that book.”
- A hook might well serve as a starting point for cover design and promotional copy.
- The editor uses it to help shape your book and to keep it sharply focused.
- A hook also makes a sales person’s job a breeze…well, at least a lot more successful. A sales rep has 5 to 10 seconds to sell your book. There’s only enough time to tell the hook.
- Ultimately, it becomes the tool that everyone in a publishing house thinks about when doing their part to ready the book for publication and for marketing.
- For you, once you decide on your hook, it becomes the device you use to shape your book and to create your proposal.
If you don’t have a hook, you’re making everyone’s job, including yours, more difficult.
What is a hook?
Hook: a curved or bent device for catching, holding, or pulling, much like a fishing hook.
For a book,
- a hook catches, holds, or pulls someone into the pages.
- consists of a sentence or maybe a few sentences.
- is brief and to the point, with the concept stripped down to its foundations.
For a novel:
Obviously you can’t tell all the plot details; a hook is broad-brush painting. But it has to be a descriptor that’s unique to your book. The sales rep is unlikely to make a sale if he describes a novel as “a female FBI agent hunts down a serial killer.” Yawn. But what about this: “A female FBI agent hunts down a serial killer who turns out to be her sister.” That’s a description that separates your novel from others.
Here’s another example from a book you might have read: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This brief description of the plot is taken from the book’s back cover: “In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.”
What’s the hook?
A man is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel during Russia’s tumultuous years after the Bolsheviks start to govern.
Now, this novel offers all sorts of fascinating plot details, but the hook skirts around those to grab you with the story’s essence.
For a Nonfiction Book
What differentiates your book from its competition? A book on how challenging parenting is in today’s plugged in world won’t jazz a book buyer. Been there, done that. But a book about a family that went one year unplugged electronically every Sabbath and spent that time together, now that’s unique.
Here’s another nonfiction example:
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. This is a portion of the back cover copy: “Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep–spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way.”
What’s the hook–or what some call the “selling proposition”–of this book?
Deep Work provides a road map on how to focus without distraction on a task in a world where most of us spend each day in a blur of email and social media.
Think about Your WIP
If you have trouble coming up with a unique hook for your manuscript, it might mean your idea isn’t as focused–or as standout–as it needs to be.
After all, you don’t want publishing house staff, book buyers, or readers saying, “Not another book without a hook.”
Want more hints on how to write a winning hook? Here are links to other blog posts we’ve written on the topic.
8 Tips for Writing a Powerful Hook for Your Book
Why Would Someone Want to Read Your Book?
I’m eager to see YOUR hook entry to our writing contest! Once again, you may send your hook to us at 25thAnniversaryWritingContest@gmail.com
A writing contest, judged by literary agents, is announced. Click to tweet.
Think your book project is a winner? Here’s an opportunity for it to be discovered. Enter this writing contest. Click to tweet.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Congratulations on 25 years!!! What an accomplishment and what a fun way to celebrate. I’m going to go and polish up my most recent hook right away, yay! Oh, and your contest totally makes me feel ancient. I realized that I’ve been coming to the Books & Such website for advice for twenty solid years, ha! Janet, you were the agent I picked as part of a lesson on how to pitch to an agent in my very first writing class back in 2001! Your article about how to choose your agent was the first such article that I ever read. Well, after guiding us weary writers for 25 years, an exciting contest is perfect. Let’s do this!
Kristen, and what a joy it’s been to have you as part of our blog community. I had no idea the blog has existed for that long!
Kristen Joy Wilks
Ha ha! Not the blog, I just visited your website and stared at the submission requirements … for years. I also bought the recommended reading materials. But then you guys started blogging, yay!
Kristen Joy Wilks
So … I have a question already, ha! My pitch is 25 words, but Microsoft Word is counting the ellipses as an additional word and saying that it is 26 words. Should I replace the ellipses with a comma to meet word count or do I still qualify for the contest since the ellipses isn’t actually a word? Thank you!
Kristen Joy Wilks
Oops, that would be an ellipsis! I don’t actually have “a regular oval shape, traced by a point moving in a plane so that the sum of its distances from two other points (the foci) is constant, or resulting when a cone is cut by an oblique plane which does not intersect the base.” Just three dots, ha!
Kristen Joy Wilks
I promise to stop commenting right now!
I think we can squeeze your entry in, Kristen, with the ellipses.
Kristen Joy Wilks
I figured out a word to cut!!! So now it is 25 words including the ellipsis. It is no surprise that this exercise has strengthened my pitch, so cool!
How exciting! I have been following this blog for years and have gleaned so much valuable information and inspiration. Yay for 25 years!
Are multiple submissions allowed? To clarify, different submissions for different book projects, not multiple submissions on one book.
Thanks so much!
Never mind, I just caught the link with contest details. Question answered!
Oh, goody goody gumdrops,
a contest, just for me
to show I have a writer’s chops
at more than poetry!
I have a novel, first draft done,
set in the wide Southwest,
I really wrote it just for fun,
but still gave it my best
to look at what it costs a man
to pray and raise the dead;
a prisoner, you understand,
of what now must lie ahead
when the mutterings begin
and the whole world closes in.
Happy 25th Anniversary, and thank you for this opportunity!
I’m currently working on an anthology of three Christmas novellas. May I send you the hook for my most recently completed novella? Or would you prefer the hook for the entire anthology?
We’d like to see the hook for the anthology, Joey. Looking forward to reading it!
Wonderful! Thank you, Janet!
Hi, Books and Such Literary Management!
Congrats and God bless on celebrating your upcoming 25 years of being in business and ministry! 25 years is such a wonderful milestone and I’m absolutely tickled purple for you guys! 🙂
I wanted to request clarification regarding your upcoming writing contest.
Is it required for contest participation to submit a hook by May 15th in order to submit a book proposal in its entirety by June 15th? Is it possible for a potential author to submit the book proposal only on June 15th? I’m more than willing to comply with contest guidelines, I just want to make sure I’m fully understanding instructions.
With much gratitude in Christ, Emily Shanahan ~ John 9:1-3 ~
Kristen Joy Wilks
Hi, Emily! Since I have a natural gift for bossing people who have not asked for my help (just ask my 3 teenage sons) I thought I’d just leap in here and answer your question. If I am reading the rules page correctly, which can be reached by clicking “Link” in the “The What” section of the blog post, then you submit your 25 words in order to win the chance to submit your proposal. It is a hook contest, followed by a proposal contest for the 25 semi-finalists. God Bless and have fun with the contest!
Hahaha, thanks for your wonderful sense of humor! 😉
On another note, thanks for answering my question! I appreciate you explaining that it’s a hook contest, and that if your hook is selected you will be given an opportunity to submit your book proposal!
I’m grateful for your help, have fun, good luck and God bless on the contest as well, Kirsten!
I have a novel series & the 1st book was published by Westbow (contest winner). I pulled it out of publication when I thought I had a deal to publish the series. No deal. Anyway, can I enter it or should I go with the 2nd book? And I just saw a question about a hook for an anthology so would you want the hook for the 3-book series even if one was published?
Lisa, please write a hook for the series, even though the first book has been published with Westbow. If your hook is one of the 25 semi-finalists, then send us the proposal for the series second book.
Thanks. That gives me some direction. I’m getting reaquanted with my series since my focus the last few years has been school.
Turns out my 2nd book placed 3rd in a Westbow contest but wasn’t published. So is it still okay to write the proposal for it if my hook gets me to that point?
I just purchased a new laptop yesterday, and can’t believe this came up today! Thank you for this amazing opportunity. Am working on a women’s fiction novel, so I’ll polish my hook and proposal until they sparkle. Prayers for continuing in the Lord’s work Janet, and the entire Books & Such team–Blessings for many more years to come.
Is there any specific way you want the email formatted? Or should we just say something like, ‘Here’s my hook for the 25th Anniversary Writing Contest’ and follow it with said hook?
Katherine, since we’re using that email address only for the contest, we’ll know that whatever you send us is your hook. So, no particular format is necessary.
Christine L. Henderson
Do you want the book title as well? Or just the 25-word pitch alone?
You could include the title as part of your hook, but it’s not a requirement. Whatever works best for your hook.
I may have made a mistake then…I put the title into the email (in italics) then added the hook. (not italicized) It was not meant to be pt. of the hook. Is that o.k.? TY!
I think we can live with this “error.” 🙂
I was struggling to come up with an appropriate metaphor to frame my Christian living book on forgiveness. Writing the hook for this contest gave me the inspiration to finally get that figured out. Now I just need to enter the hook and get to work revising the proposal with the new hook in mind. So excited. So thankful for Mary DeMuth for sharing this contest info on Facebook. I’m grateful for deadlines to help me focus on the most important thing.
And congrats on 25 years helping authors find a home for their work.
Linda I too am glad Mary shared the information. I haven’t been to a writer’s conference since 2015 & have been focused on school since then. I just couldn’t get back into writing after graduating in 2020. Deadlines are my friends.
Linda, I’m so happy to hear that our wee writing contest brought a breakthrough for you! Thanks for sharing.
Will the winning pitches be published or just the names of the winners?
Probably just the names since writers are protective of their great ideas and genius hooks.
Good morning Books & Such Literary Management! I thought of two questions regarding the hook contest, if I may:
1) When I submit the 25 word only hook via email to 25thAnniversaryWritingContest@gmail.com, what should I put in the subject line of the email?
2) As I write this 25 word hook specific to this contest for my non-fiction work in progress, the following thought occurred to me. If I may ask, what exactly are you looking for in a winning hook? Should the 25 word hook focus more on what the book will be about, myself as an author, or what the book has to offer my readers? Perhaps this decision is up to me, but I’m seeking to be audience specific as I write this hook, so I want to make sure I’m giving you what you’re looking for as a literary agency.
Emily, that email address is being used exclusively for the hooks; so the subject line isn’t a big deal. Your hook should tell us what the book is about, unless you have significant credentials to work into the hook (“A mother of 20 recounts…”), or the reader benefit isn’t obvious from the rest of the hook (“including tips on…”).
I hope these tidbits help.
Thanks so much for your speedy, kind, and helpful comment in reply! 🙂
I appreciate you letting me know that the email address is being used exclusively for the contest;so therefore the subject line isn’t that big of a deal.
I also appreciate the directive that the hook should focus on the book itself unless I have credentials that the hook itself doesn’t directly address.
Yes, Janet these tidbits were most definitely helpful!
Thank you so much, ma’am! Have a blessed evening! 🙂
~John 9:1-3,Psalm 100~
Kenneth Avon White
For your contest with the deadline of 5.15.21, are you looking for hooks/proposals for books that are finished? I have only character sketches. Much of the plot I have lived but the book still is not written.
If your hook is among the 25 selected, then you would have some time to create a proposal and first three chapters. But it sounds as if you’re not ready for that step. You would know that your hook is really working, and you’d get a Starbucks. card for your effort, which is a win in my book!
Kenneth Avon White
Thanks for the quick reply. Just got an email from Susan King and she says she knows all of you! I’ve been blessed to be published in her Short & Sweet series of anthologies over the years and in Upper Room Magazine when she was the Associate Editor.
As far as my timeline, I could ramp up quickly. So be on the lookout for my 25 words!
Happy Memorial Day, Books and Such Literary Management!
May I ask what time the semi-finalists will be announced on the landing page for the 25th Anniversary Writing Contest tomorrow, June 1st please?
Thanks so much!
~1 Corinthians 16:13-14~