9/16/2022 SCWC, Query Letter Workshop w/Writersmama

HOOKING IS Hard: Your Query Letter Must Hook Your Intended HOOKIE!

(a.k.a agent or editor).

Crafting a hook-able query letter requires heavy lifting. Are you up for it?  This video snippet on my youtube channel of me at the recently held  Southern California Writers Conference reflects a small portion of what’s included in any query letter whose intention is to hook the reader they are pitching that letter to.

The 3 parts of hooking…and not necessarily in this order:

Part 1:

About YOU:

  • Only include that portion of your resume that augments this story you are pitching to HOOK that reader. Your BIO information does not include every degree you’ve earned, et al, only information that contributes to the telling of your story, i.e, medical thriller and you are a writer with a significant medical background.
  • Your published credits though not in academia unless that’s  the only ‘writing’ you’ve done. The rest is up to you. Be thoughtful about what info you include.
  • Your social media profile. Consider this hypothetical: If this agent or small press editor has received two manuscripts, yours being one, and both stories cover and/or create a similar world but with a quick perusal of social media platforms, the agent/editor discovers that one writer has a significant footprint in social media while the other writer does not. Who do you think the agent/editor will reach out to? Why? Publishing is a business and the greater footprint means greater potential market. Remember, agents make their money off your sales!

Part 11

Include a ‘hook-able’ review of your story, which isn’t the synopsis. Over the years I’ve heard many agents say versions of this in interviews, “When the author delivers a synopsis in the query letter, why do I have to read the book? “ The goal of this part of your query is to compel your ‘Hookie’ to say  “I want to read more.” In my opinion, hooking with story that causes an agent/editor to recite that sentence “I want to read more” is  the greatest challenge for writers pitching their wares so don’t expect it to come easy. Contrary to  popular beliefs, it’s not. easy to write hookable proses (story) with a minimum of words.

As many successful authors have said: Writing the query helps them find their stories. Why is this true? Very often writers pitch projects prematurely and it isn’t until they write the query that they realize this. OR? They don’t realize this and pitch a confused query letter about a project still muddled in their own minds. This is a major reason why it’s so dang hard to pen potent queries that demand the reader to say “I want to read more.” 

More thoughts on writers and our tendency to prematurely pitch and/or publish and/or hire an editor can be found in this blog I penned several years ago and when self publishing was the new darling in publishing.

Particularization. This one minute video by one of my writing tribe members, Linda Rhoades, addresses particularization. What does that mean? Whether fleshing out characters as commonly rendered as a supermarket cashier or every day monster, something particular about that character must make them memorable. Joe Ide, bestselling suspense/thriller author keynoted at SCWC’s FEB 2022 conference and discussed this during his keynote. Check it out.

Part 111:

About that word ‘particularization’  your query letter must be intimate in tone, enough to let the ‘Hookie’  know that you’ve spent time studying their body of work, which these days includes their presence on social media. This podcast hosted by three literary agents with substantial credibility in the industry delivers valuable information and as they do, listeners get a sense of their personalities. Valuable to know as much as you can about the agents on your pitch list. You say “But I have twenty-five agents on my list!”  to which I reply, “Better get busy. “ If you are sincerely interested in getting rep’ed by a literary agent, studying potential shepherds of your precious story requires this kind of effort. Just ask any entrepreneur who’s successfully launched a business from the ground up. It’s not just about the product. Learning something particular about each and every ‘Hookie’ on your pitch list makes this portion of your query intimate.

That particular information may include:

  • One of their clients, (remember, you’ve done your research) happens to be among your favorite authors.
  • One of their clients’ novel/memoir,et al…….
  • You met this agent/editor at a writers’ conference/workshop, et al, where they invited you to query them? If so, make sure in the subject line of the email that contains your query reads, Materials requested  at the event where you met. Why? Your email now has the stamp of particular on it and likely will be opened sooner vs later.

We have many modes of publishing our stories. Whichever you choose, make sure that query letter does its job. “I want to read more” equals a job well done.


My thanks to a member of my real time and ZOOM writing tribe, Linda Rhoades, who graciously doubles as my videographer/photographer during my SCWC workshops. The next SCWC happens in February 2023 over Presidents Day Weekend. These two fellas, Michael Stephen Gregory, a.k.a. MSG, and Wes Albers, SCWC’s directors. Click here for more info.

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