Cast Your Line to Hook Agents, Editors, and Readers

CatfishWe writers talk about luring and hooking readers. Makes writing sound a little like a field-and-stream exercise, doesn’t it? In some ways, writing is like fishing. In both cases, you have to step out of your comfort zone, bait your hook, and make your cast. Then you wait for results you can’t see.

In writing, as in fishing, it’s important to know the denizens inhabiting the particular “pond” where you’ve cast your line. It does no good to fish for something that isn’t there. This is why studying publishing trends is important to your survival. Good starting points to catch industry news are at Publisher’s Weekly and the ECPA community site.

In fishing, you bait your hook with delicacies enjoyed by the kind of fish you want. Just because a particular fish exists doesn’t mean you should catch it, though. You might not care for the taste of catfish, for example, but you love trout. Writers who follow every trend in the hope of landing a book contract often leave their interests out of the equation. When it comes to deciding what to offer, don’t pursue soulless commercialism. That may appear attractive, but it’s not sustainable.

For a chance to catch a fish, a fisherman has to ready and throw a line into the water. Similarly, a writer needs to prepare a line, bait a hook, and give a great pitch to ever hope to snag an agent, land a contract, and net readers.

Once that line is in the water, any fisherman watches the pole. If you leave it unattended, when you return you’ll most likely find your hook stripped. That’s because fish nibble at bait without swallowing the hook. A good fisherman knows it’s important to set the hook at just the right moment. It’s one thing to lure a reader into the first chapter of your book. It’s another to have that reader go on to chapter two. Ending each chapter with a new hook will string your reader happily along.

A complaint made by editors is that beyond the first 50 pages, manuscripts often fall apart. Readers want the same thing that editors do—a story that sustains interest throughout its pages. Once you have that, it’s time to go fishing.

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4 thoughts on “Cast Your Line to Hook Agents, Editors, and Readers

  1. Nice fishing analogies, Janalyn! Those are useful everywhere we turn: in our faith, in our writing, in our conversations, in our families. Good bait is essential. We want to lure the reader through the pages. Thanks for writing!

  2. I too like your analogy, Janalyn.

    Publisher’s Weekly and ECPA are very good resources to keep us in touch on what’s going on in the business. As much as we may not like it, writing requires practical thought as much as artistic influence.

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