This week in Book Proposal Academy, I’ve been talking about the importance of having a hook.

A hook is a very succinct expression of your book’s ultimate idea.

You need a hook for several reasons:

  1. So that you know what your book is about, in its essence.
  2. So that you know what to say when people ask you about your book (including agents and editors).
  3. And so that you can figure out your book marketing.

Right after I explained what a hook is, I had an interaction with an author that showed just why having a hook is so important.

I want to share this story with you.

I was at the 50th anniversary party of Shambhala Publications, a reputable publisher that a lot of my clients want to pitch to. The event was at the gorgeous Rubin Museum in Manhattan. (Full of Green Taras, precious bronze figures, rare paintings and artifacts related to Buddhism!)

As I was mingling, I got into a conversation with someone who has three books with Shambhala already. After exchanging the normal pleasantries – who are you, what do you do – he said:

“Hey, let me pitch you the idea for my next book. It’ll take 60 seconds – no, 75 seconds.”

I said, sure, pitch away. And, since I always have my book coach/editor/writer hat on, I thought a bunch of other things, too:

This is exactly why authors need to figure out their hooks! Because you never know what situation you will be in, who you will meet, or when someone might be able to help you out.


This guy knows how his stuff: he knows he’s not guaranteed another publishing contract, so he’s testing out his hook on me, an interested stranger. He wants to see how it lands. Smart!


He knows he has a very small window of opportunity. My attention is going to wander. We’re at a cocktail party. We’re mingling and networking. He knows I have only very general reasons to care about his book idea – unless he quickly hooks my interest.

Too bad we were interrupted about seven seconds into his pitch – a fan of his wanted to say hello. And, because it was a social event, I got sucked into another conversation. We drifted away.

So, I never heard his pitch. But I admired what he was doing – and I suggest you follow his lead.

My suggestion? Try this out! Pitch your book.

When you get your hook worked out, test it out on a willing stranger. Work it into the chit-chat. You can even say,

“Hey, would you mind if I pitched you my book idea? It’ll only take 60 seconds, and I’m trying to see if it works.”

Of course, this means you have to be able to articulate your idea in 60 seconds. So, take some time to write it out first.

You can work up to pitching your hook. Start small:

  1. Practice in front of the mirror first. Out loud. Revise anything that sounds confusing or vague.
  2. Then, pitch it to your partner. Or, your dog/cat or other pet. Revise again.
  3. Then take it out in to the world for a test drive.

Through these steps, you will get some very helpful – and potentially surprising – feedback!

The “So What?” Factor

Remember: no one has a reason to care about your book idea.

Even if they agree to listen, you’ve got to break through to them: you want to “hook” their genuine interest and curiosity.

Try it out, and revise, revise, revise.

GO FOR IT – and let me know what happens!