Best Query Letter Hook

Every novelist faces the dreaded query letter eventually–that unsolicited piece of mail meant to convince an agent that you, a complete stranger, have something worth their time to read. This summer it’s my turn to craft one, and I need all of your help (it’ll only take a second, I promise).

Below, I’ve listed four possible opening lines, or hooks, to start my query letter with. A good hook is essential to a successful query letter, so I want to know which of these hooks is the most interesting to you as an objective reader. All this weekend, you can post a comment voting for your favorite of the hooks (or if you like different elements of two or three of them, mention that too! I’m not opposed to making hybrid hooks from these originals).

Before we begin, let’s review the goals of a good hook; it catches your interest so you want to read on, and it presents the unique angle of your book. In other words, does it make FLYNN sound interesting, and does it make you think that this is going to be a neat story as opposed to a cookie-cutter fantasy?

Here, in no particular order, are the four candidates:

1. As an orphan, Flynn’s greatest wish is to learn about her heritage—she never thought that would mean leading an army against telepathic sorcerers at age sixteen.

2. Sixteen-year-old Flynn thought that learning about her real parents would be a dream come true, but now she has to live up to their legacy by leading the army against telepathic sorcerers.

3. Sixteen-year-old Flynn is excited to learn that her late parents were war heroes, until she’s asked to live up to their legacy and lead the army against a race of telepathic sorcerers.

4. Sixteen-year-old Flynn is excited to learn that the parents she can’t remember were great military heroes—until she’s asked to lead the kingdom to war in their place.

The polls close Sunday night, and Monday I will announce the winner. Also, stay tuned for possible postings of FLYNN excerpts in the near future!




Filed under General Writing

16 responses to “Best Query Letter Hook

  1. Ian K.

    I like a combo of the first and last one. “As an orphan, Flynn’s greatest wish is to learn about her heritage, until she’s asked to lead the kingdom to war in her unknown parent’s place.” Something about the phrase “telepathic sorcerers” makes me roll my eyes and think great a cheesy coming of age. Is this for sending to a publisher to get them to publish a book, or to convince a reader to keep reading?

  2. hil

    Mix #3 and #4. Replace “telepathic sorcerers” (are they telepaths who happen to be sorcerers or sorcerers who have learned telepathy as a skill along with shooting fire and whatever else sorcerers typically do?) in #3 with the bit about “until she’s asked to lead the kingdom” from four.

    “Sixteen-year-old Flynn is excited to learn that her late parents were war heroes until she is asked to lead the kingdom into battle in their stead/place.”

  3. Holly Pants

    I like number four. I feel like it’s to the point without giving too much information. It leaves me wanting more. I liked number three too though, but I’d go with number four.

  4. elderbonnie

    Ooh. I was most intrigued by the phrase “she never thought that would mean leading an army against telepathic sorcerers at age sixteen.”
    Informing us of her age in that way helps to emphasize how extra-ordinary it is that she’s leading an army so young, I think.

    I also think that starting the hook with Flynn’s name is a good eye-catcher – Flynn is an unusual name (and a good one!)

  5. stephaniegallentine

    I’m going to say four. telepathic sorcerers is a mouthful for a hook, LOL. I also like seeing her age up front with her name. Great job!

  6. Valerie

    I liked number three best because it was the most succinct. It tells me who she is, that her parents are dead, and that she now has a huge responsibility. I like the phrase “live up to their legacy.”

    The first one starts awkwardly, “As an orphan…” and might actually be two sentences.

    The second one could be read more than one way. Does she have to lead an army because she wants to learn about her parents or in order to learn about her parents or as a result of learning about her parents?

    The fourth one is open to interpretation, too. She can’t remember her parents. Are they dead or does she have amnesia? And for me, the phrase, “…lead the kingdom to war” implies that she started the conflict as opposed to “…lead the kingdom in battle.”

    Definitely number three.

  7. John the Paladin

    I vote for the first. It gives all the elements of the story. The other three start off with the phrase about being sixteen which I thought weakened the other three. However I would wrod it something like this:

    As an orphan, Flynn’s greatest wish is to learn about her heritage—she just never figured it included commanding an army when she’s sixteen.

  8. John the Paladin

    I meant “I would word it” not “I would wrod it.” I have no idea what a wrod is.

  9. I like #4. Might be nice to find an action verb to replace “is,” something like: “Flynn flips out when she learns…” (depending on how colloquial you want your prose). And you could always breach the topic of telepathic warriors farther down in the summary.

  10. The start of #2 is excellent. It really grabs the attention, by leaving a hanging clause, begging to know what the real outcome was. I really love the “real parents” and “would be a dream come true” phrases — those are your actual hooks. When I get to the “telepathic sorcerers” bit, it reminds me very much of hearing Jaron say one day: “And then the space rhinos took the hospital to the moon!”

    Are the telepathic sorcerers known about? Or are they obscured from the public eye? Is it something Flynn finds out about along with discovering her family’s past? Maybe it would sound better leaving some of the mystery in this race of sorcerers, since it almost feels like “insider” info, and something you wouldn’t understand until you read further.

    #4 definitely doesn’t live up to the other 3 in the factor of excitement, because it’s a bit too vague. It leaves too many questions. But it doesn’t jump in too quickly, so it makes a good reference. I think that breaking up the word telepathic into a short descriptive phrase might do a lot. “but now she’s been asked to lead the kingdom to war against a mysterious race of sorcerers who have an impossible advantage—…”

    I have the advantage of being clueless. I haven’t read anything. But I’m also not a fantasy reader. So I don’t know how far you can stretch a book description. I’m used to reality-based things—don’t know if the person reading it would be too.

  11. Fishy

    I very much like the phrase “race of telepathic sorcerers” in #3. Whatever you do, I think that should be included. If it were just “telepathic sorcerers,” I wouldn’t be nearly as interested. It makes me feel like they are inherently more dangerous and intriguing when you call them a “race of telepathic sorcerers.”

    Also regarding #3 & #4, I think being “asked” to live up to their legacy/lead the kingdom to war in their place is important. That’s revealing more about her character–granted a tiny bit–by just using a few words. “Lead the kingdom to war” is a great phrase to keep, also.

    If I had to pick, I’d combine the above phrases from #3 & #4, with the smoother sound of #2’s beginning. Those were my gut instincts.

  12. I like the opening of #2 and closing of #1. *thinking face* I’m not too keen on the vague “leading the kingdom to war”. I kinda like telepathic sorcerers….kinda.

    Sixteen-year-old Flynn thought that learning about her real parents would be a dream come true, but never thought that would mean leading an army against telepathic sorcerers at age sixteen.

    *sigh* I hate the pitch…you play with it and play with it and mangle it and ask others to help tweak it…GACK! But so far, Flynn is sounding very interesting!

  13. scabbardpete

    I liked number 1. It sounded pretty mundane until you hit me with the “telepathic sorcerers” sting at the end. Talk about wanting to know more! 🙂

  14. I like number 1 best.
    3 isn’t far behind.

  15. rachelhestondavis

    The Taylor Street Irregulars

    D likes 4 and 2. I think I would like 2 the best but I’m not sure about the phrase “telepathic sorcerers”. Having read part of your novel I’m not sure that phrase adequately conveys the depth of the antagonists.

    M likes a combination of 2 and 4. I think “asked to lead” conveys the idea of a reluctant hero, which she is. I believe you should re-think the phrase “telepathic sorcerers” because the book is much more about character and the fight against evil than it is about magic.

  16. I vote for no. 2. I love the contrast between what she thought and what the reality is. You give away that she discovers her heritage, but not what that heritage is specifically. Plus the army of telepaths is a real attention-grabber.

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