Hook, Line and Sinker
I took my children to the beach to camp this past weekend. It rained, stayed overcast, and the oil slick kept us out of the water, but we had fun. It was the perfect opportunity to fish, and make some observations about writing.
Not being an expert fisherman, I used a two-hook rig I’d found in our tackle box in the garage. It came with a pre-attached four pound sinker. The kids loaded up our old fishing poles and we had what we needed to fish, or so we thought.
On my first cast I felt something on my line. With great hope I reeled it in for all I was worth only to find a large crab clinging to my bait. Since we were on a peer, the crab let go long before I could haul him up. My son was very disappointed.
After a couple hours of nothing, I finally resorted to letting my line sit unattended in the water, while I observed the ocean. When we were ready to pack it up, I pulled in my line only to discover something big had finally taken my bait…and one of the hooks…along with part of my line. We were convinced it was a shark.
During the twelve-hour drive back, I reviewed what had gone wrong. We had chosen smaller hooks than we should have for ocean fishing. Our bait was getting eaten, but the hooks weren’t big enough to catch what was biting. Also, our line was too thin. If I had been using a metal leader, I might have really landed a shark. Lastly, our sinker took our bait down to the crabs.
The applications of all this to marketing a manuscript seemed pretty direct on my long ride home. When you market a book to an agent or editor, ask yourself if your hook is big enough. Is there enough there to keep them, or will they just nibble at your story without getting hooked? Focus your high concept and hook your reader.
Once you have them hooked, is there a strong enough plot line to keep them wanting more? Make sure they don’t break free from your story and swim away. Can your plot sustain the editors and agents and keep them turning the pages?
Lastly, are your voice, characterization, and setting sinking your story? Make sure you are writing for the right audience and that your key elements don’t bring your bait to the bottom where the crabs are.
Good luck with your submissions this year. Be sure to watch your hook, line and sinker.