What Caught My Eye

A couple weeks ago we talked about the hook, the sound bite, or the ability to “say it in a sentence.” Someone asked for examples so I thought I’d give you a few.

Below are a few short pitches found in proposals that caught my eye over the years from first-time authors. Please realize that the sound bite is only one of many factors that goes into a great proposal. Ultimately it is the execution of the concept that makes for a great book.

Your challenge will be to see if you can identify which books these are. Do you recognize them? Each one has been published by a major publisher. Three are nonfiction, the other two are novels. I might reveal the answers if no one is able to figure them out.

Also note that each has a clear idea, one of the keys to a successful pitch.

A hint for the two novels? They both won the Christy Award for best debut novel!


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One woman’s battle against a corrupt government to save her son and their race for freedom.

A three-year-old boy struggles to survive in a Ukrainian orphanage. An American family senses God’s call to adopt a child from a foreign land. What unfolds is a spellbinding true-life story of commitment, sacrifice, and intrigue as a mother single-handedly takes on a corrupt foreign legal system and lives in hiding for nearly a year as she pieces together the plan that will hopefully free her from impending arrest and bring her son home to freedom.


Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words? They can always heal me.
A child whose silence holds the truth captive…
An artist whose work speaks the agony of her past…
Will they let the truth set them free?


In a world void of role models, where rebellion and arrogance are rewarded, it’s easy to wonder if raising respectful children is possible at all.

A real look at real problems with real answers from real parents. We can’t shield our children from every possible menace, but we can fortify their souls to minimize the damage. Our children can become champions rather than casualties.


A simple baggage mix-up at the airport is more than an inconvenience: it forces three people to face the baggage they are unknowingly carrying around.


Five ideas in short form. Can you name the titles and authors?


16 Responses to What Caught My Eye

  1. Timothy Fish October 24, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    That was actually the only one I had a guess for.

  2. Damon J. Gray November 18, 2019 at 6:05 am #

    Good morning Steve. While I am not able to identify the books that were launched with these hooks, I am hopeful for a follow-up blog posting wherein you outline what, specifically, grabs you in these hooks. Why do they stand out from other hooks you have read?

    • Steve Laube November 18, 2019 at 9:40 am #


      As mentioned, it is always more than just the tag line or short pitch. It is the rest of the proposal that follows through on the promise of the pitch. With the execution of the idea in its writing, for example.

      But a bad pitch gives an editor or an agent to have their eyes glaze over and move on to the next one in the proverbial pile. I try to teach the principle of “Don’t give an editor or agent a reason to say ‘no thanks.'”

      I read a LOT of pitches each week (at least 50). Often the initial pitch/tag line will get my attention but then I look at the craft of writing, or the platform, or the overall direction of the book, and it is quickly evident that this one isn’t ready. And I move on to the next one.

  3. Kathy L Bruins November 18, 2019 at 6:45 am #

    I know the Ukrainian adoption story is Kim de Blecourt’s Until We All Come Home.

    • Steve Laube November 18, 2019 at 9:31 am #

      That is correct! A non-fiction book that reads like an adventure novel!

  4. tuviapollack November 18, 2019 at 7:07 am #

    I recognize that last one. It’s that Australian author that Thomas Umstattd Jr. interviewed, what was his name…
    David Rawlings! The Baggage Handler.

    • Steve Laube November 18, 2019 at 9:33 am #

      That is correct. David’s book won this year’s Christy Award for the best Debut novel. The first time an Australian was nominated for a Christy…and…therefore the first Australian to win the award.

  5. Barbara Harper November 18, 2019 at 7:09 am #

    The third one sounds like Ginny Yttrup’s Words, a fantastic novel. I’m not familiar with the rest, but I am curious about a few of them.

    • Steve Laube November 18, 2019 at 9:35 am #

      That is correct! Ginny Yttrup’s novel WORDS won the Christy Award in 2012 for best debut novel. She also was a Chrsity Award finalist the same year in the Contemporary Fiction category.

  6. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 18, 2019 at 7:44 am #

    Except for “Until We All Come Home”, I’m stumped.

    I wish I knew the alchemy,
    the secrets that refine
    to make an agent devotee,
    to make him plead, “Be mine!”
    I wish I knew the Pub House rules,
    such magic from without,
    knew their dark selection tools
    that say which trend to flout.
    I wish I knew the readers’ mood
    and knew which ring to kiss
    to make them on their friends intrude
    with, “Hey, bro, please read THIS!”
    But most of all, I wish I knew
    that my day will come before I’m through.

  7. Mary Kay Moody November 18, 2019 at 2:00 pm #

    Thanks, Steve, for sharing these timely morsels. (I’m working on a proposal today.) I recognized the 2 novels, not the NF though. WORDS by Ginny Yttrup and THE BAGGAGE HANDLER by David Rawlings.

  8. Molytron November 21, 2019 at 4:22 am #

    Well said Steave
    Key writing.

  9. Vicki Deem November 22, 2019 at 8:24 pm #

    What’s the first one? I’d buy that book if I read that on the back cover.

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