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How to Write a Query Letter

5 Query Letter Hooks to Grab Your 

Editor’s Attention

by Brian Scott
How to write a query letter and get published:

Every line of a query letter is crucial, but the hook is the first part of the query that an editor will read, making it the most important. Most readers tend to move on to something more interesting if the first few lines of an article don't grab their attention. It only makes sense—and is plainly obvious--that an editor won't finish your query letter if you fail to grab his or her attention from the start. Much like the “mission statement” of a job resume, the hook of a query letter is your chance to yank the editor in and then use your writing skill to discuss succinctly how exactly your article is relevant, engaging, and interesting to the publication’s readership.

You can employ a proven hook when writing your next query letter. Each hook comes with its own context and set of benefits. I have listed the five recognizable hooks below, along with tips on when and how to use them.

1. The Problem/Solution Hook

This hook shows the editor that your article provides a valuable solution to a problem relevant to the publication’s readers. By explaining the problem and its impact on potential readers, you lay the groundwork to prove your article's relevance. The second half of this hook, the solution, strongly highlights that relevance. By the end of your hook, you should have convinced the editor that your chosen topic truly affects readers, and that your article provides a definite solution for which readers will be grateful.

Here is an example of the problem/solution hook:
It could happen suddenly, at any time, all it takes is a slip on the bathroom floor. You might think it wasn't too bad but painful enough to have it checked. At the hospital you find out you've broken your wrist, then you find out why….

Osteoporosis is common; all too common. It is estimated that 25%-30% of all women will break or fracture a bone because of osteoporosis, and by the age of 75, 50% of women have osteoporosis. Osteoporosis does not need to be a consequence of aging, however. It is largely a preventable disease. So how you keep the bone thief at bay?

Research has shown that keeping healthy bones depends more on preventing calcium loss than on increasing calcium intake, in fact, eating too much calcium in the absence of other nutrients may actually lead to osteoporosis.

2. The Informative Hook

The informative hook starts with a few slices of interesting and unusual information, then leads into the rest of the query letter by explaining why that information is relevant to readers. Editors respond well to this type of hook because it enables them to present fresh and unique information to their readers. When you begin your hook with a fact or statistic that goes against conventional wisdom, you're more likely to pique the editor's curiosity and get him or her to read the rest of your query for further explanation.

Here is an example of the informative hook:
Toe walking is very common among children with special needs, particularly those with autism, sensory integration issues, and cerebral palsy. (1-7 per 1,000 for CP)  It is also one of the more misdiagnosed conditions for children without cerebral palsy, with doctors telling parents the child will "just grow out of it" or even worse, that surgery is required.  If it is ignored, the child's ability to run will be affected as well as the back muscles, not to mention social acceptance by one's peers. 

3. The Question Hook

This hook can transform the problem/solution hook or the informative hook into an even more persuasive hook to grab an editor's attention. By presenting a problem or a specific piece of information in the form of a question, you are actively engaging the editor's thought-process. This is a powerful persuasion tactic because you force the editor to think about your question to which he or she probably doesn't know the answer. The more interesting and trivial your question, the better chance you have at making the editor read further to find out more.

Here is an example of the question hook:
Do you crave pancakes for breakfast?  When you eat out do you find you can’t get through dinner without succumbing to a decadent dessert? If you eat one cookie are the rest of them calling from the cupboard? If this sounds familiar you are not alone.

For many of us there are times when it seems an impossibility to forego our favorite foods. Some people even find certain foods "addictive." But why do we have these cravings for specific foods?

4. The Personal Experience/Anecdote

Stories told from a first-person perspective are often real and engaging. Readers generally relate well to these personal, experiential stories. The personal experience hook demonstrates your credibility by presenting the topic of your article in the context of a problem you've handled personally.

Here is an example of the personal experience/anecdote hook:
For nearly 10 weeks toward the end of my first pregnancy, I was put on bed rest (or as I like to call it, “bed arrest”) due to preterm labor. Several of my female friends admitted they were actually jealous of my newfound downtime, but let me tell you from first-hand experience, bed rest is no fun after the first few days. It fact, for a type-A personality like me, it's downright stressful.

5. The Attention-Grabber

This hook has the potential to turn your query letter into a success if used correctly. The “attention grabber” is a unique piece of information, an unexpected question, or even the opening paragraph of your article that surprises the editor and leaves him or her wanting to know more. Remember, the hook should relate to the rest of your article. If the subject matter of your article only tangentially relates to this hook, the editor will feel misled.

Here’s an example of the attention grabber hook:
Almost all parents have been through it – the sharp cry in the middle of the night, the fever, the tugging on the ear.  In fact, ear infections account for over 35% of all pediatric emergency visits in the U.S.  And ear infections that become chronic are even more frustrating for parents trying to get to work every day.  While there is nothing worse than having a child up crying all night, parents are now being told doctors are prescribing too many antibiotics.  Studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine have shown that when antibiotics are given for ear infections, the disease isn’t shortened and they fail to prevent reoccurrences.  In fact, reoccurrences were found to be higher with antibiotics, plus they can kill the good bacteria along with the bad.  What are parents supposed to do, just let their child suffer? 


Each hook has the power to be incredibly effective at quickly engaging the editor, but a hook's job is only to encourage the editor to read on so you can sway him or her by a powerful pitch. No matter how finely crafted the hook, if the rest of the query letter is boring and poorly organized, your hard work will end up as just another stack in the slushpile. Think of the hook as your chance to playfully and skillfully tease the editor with a preview of the engaging thought and style of the article to come.

—Brian Scott,


How much does a ghostwriter cost?

How much does a high-end ghostwriter cost?

4 Answers

how much does a ghostwriter cost

Tiffany SandersLSAT Geek
Because a client can hire pretty much anyone as a ghostwriter and rates can be whatever the two agree, there's a huge range. Though I'd like to agree with Shawn that the $12-50 rate is "completely and utterly incorrect," the truth is that there are a lot of people ghostwriting in that range. At the other end of the spectrum (since the question addressed "high end" ghostwriters, Shawn's figure is far too low for the most sought-after ghostwriters working with celebrities and politicians--in that sector, a book costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One of the reasons that the "salary" information provided by Anonymous isn't really useful is that many writers ghostwrite and publish under their own names, meaning that they're not making a full time living as ghostwriters. Another is that the term ghostwriter has become somewhat unclear as blogging and other quick publishing options have proliferated. People two years out of college with a marketing degree are working under the title "ghostwriter" and it means that they're blogging and running social media accounts for one or more company execs.

Owen Linderholm30 years writing and editing professionally
Most ghostwriters I know (and I know several) are paid per project. You are ghostwriting something (usually a book, sometimes an article). You quote for the full project. Almost now writers of any kind are paid per hour. For shorter forms (articles) you are typically paid either per word or per piece. For longer forms you are paid either a single flat fee for the project or you get a percentage of royalties. Ghostwriters usually get a flat fee although I have heard of a flat fee plus a share of royalties. And there isn't a typical rate. If you want James Patterson or Stephen King or JK Rowling to ghostwrite something you'd better be prepared to offer an insane amount of money (and they still wouldnt do it). If you want some random person with no experience then you are probably better off just burning your money. To give you some idea, you can get someone who can write grammatically correct sentences for about 10 cents a word. You can get someone who can actually write a coherent piece of prose on a topic and do some real research as part of the project for about $1 a word.

Tim VandeheyGhostwriter
Most of the top ghosts don't charge an hourly rate. I've ghosted more than 50 nonfiction books in my career, and my rate ranges from $30,000 on the low end to more than $60,000 on the high end, depending on the length and complexity of the book. That's for independent publishing. Ghosts can get more if they're getting a percentage of a large publisher's advance. Beware any ghostwriter on Elance who offers to write your 100,000 book for $5,000. You get what you pay for.

Shawn BellAuthor, Screenwriter, Media God
320 Views • Shawn is a Most Viewed Writer in Publishing.
$150 per page.

Ghostwriters aren't paid a salary.  They can make anywhere from zero to millions of dollars.  The answerer who claims that ghostwriters get paid a between $12 and $50 an hour is completely and utterly incorrect.

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