A Good Hook or a Pile of Cheese?

Tilsit Cheese by John Sullivan - Public Domain Image

Hopping along the interwebs, I’ve seen a lot of agent query hooksthe one or two sentences that’re supposed to grab a literary agent’s attention. A few are good, some are horrible, but most are just okay (and being “just okay” generally won’t get you anywhere).

Keeping in mind that it’s in the nature of fiction to be subjective, I’ve noticed a lot of hooks deemed good by others aren’t particularly pleasing to me. If I were drinking my skinny caramel latte while reading these things, my computer would be in danger of being splattered with coffee, low-fat milk, and artificial flavoring. A lot of these so-called good hooks reek of cheesiness.

And, well, cheese seems to work.

Judging from the fiction I see traditionally published as a novel or produced as a film or television series, I can only conclude that a premise I’d call intriguing doesn’t often coincide with what agents, publishers, and producers think will sell. When I read or hear a premise for an upcoming book or movie, my most common reaction is a shoulder shrug (sadly, I’d bet this is the most common reaction agents have when reading my hooks).

If you find yourself so misaligned with the aesthetic tastes of these would-be kingmakers, indie publishing is probably a much more realistic route than traditional publishing. However, if you think you can be proficient at making high quality cheese, then give it a go. Just make sure your cheese is good, ’cause there’s a difference between good and bad cheese, and bad cheese will give agents gas and nausea.

I’m still editing my first novel (and only about a fifth done with the first draft of my second). After I finish this read-through, I’ll work on another batch of agent queriessee if I can make some good, stinky cheese. This may be my last attempt at cheese-making for this particular manuscript, as indie publishing is looking to be more pragmatic (and profitable) by the minute.

FYI, my first batches of cheese (queries) were rejected upon smell by most, though I did trick some agents into eating the whole thing before they threw it up.

In the words of Joss Whedon’s Twitter profile, “[O]ver and over and over till I get it right.

14 thoughts on “A Good Hook or a Pile of Cheese?

  1. Good luck with that. I’ve heard (second hand) that agents won’t take you unless you’ve been published. A little like applying for jobs (even at entry level) where you’re meant to have experience before a prospective employer will consider your application.
    lots of networking might be the key. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very enjoyable and informative post. Even getting an agent is so hard nowadays. I gave up after only a few, tentative tries and got my books onto Amazon. Perhaps I shopuld have persevered, but it’s so hard when you get no feedback from most agents, so don’t know how to do things their way – or, as you cleverly put it – grab them with an intriguing hook.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is a saying: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I would think whether the cheese is Limburger or cheddar would be in the eyes of the agent in charge 🙂
    What to you may be just a stinky catch phrase may, to someone else, may be exactly what draws them in.
    You’ll find the right combination at some point :), when you do???? Watch out world!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for dropping by implied Spaces. Much appreciated. 🙂

    Concerning cheese, it sells. Keep in mind these Mass Media principles – all Mass Media have a business interest and all Mass Media have an intended target audience. A hook for a novel, movie or television show are often evaluated by identifying the target audience. Then the economic return from this target audience is considered.

    This business approach leads to bland cheese that imitates the success of other bland cheese. It doesn’t change until something unexpected makes it way on the market. At that point all the other cheese must have that ingredient. The common repetitiveness will then dull the impact and we are back to square one.

    All this really means is you have to keep going till you hook them in the eye. 😀

    You may find my Media Literacy blog ( educational resources and old teacher mutterings) of interest – Dark Pines Media. Cheers. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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