When agents (or even editors!) ask for sample pages with submissions, they usually want the first pages. It might be tempting to send chapter seven because you think that is your best, but that’s not a good idea.
Well, would you ever choose a book in the bookstore, open to chapter seven, and start reading? No, you wouldn’t, because you’d be horribly confused. In order to understand what’s going on in a book you (usually) need to open to the first page and start there.
That’s why your first x number of pages matter. At our agency, we ask for a ten page sample with queries. Why do we ask for ten pages? Well, because a reader probably isn’t going to give you more than that to capture their attention.
Those first ten (or so) pages are your first impression on an agent, an editor, and a reader. You want them to be the best because your first pages are going to sell the book. When a reader picks up your book in the bookstore, they’re going to decide whether or not to buy by skimming those first few pages.
How do you make those first pages pop?
- Start with an action scene. That doesn’t mean your character needs to be in a high speed chase or running from explosions, but they should be doing something.
- Avoid backstory in the first ten pages because it’s usually boring and slow. Save that for later, and sprinkle it throughout instead of giving it in an info dump.
- Introduce us to your character in the first ten pages so we know who to root for.
- The plot should start or be close to starting in these first ten pages. Remember, you want to capture your reader’s interest and then keep it.
The point is, chapter seven shouldn’t be your best chapter. Chapter one should be. Of course, you want the entire book to be good, don’t get me wrong. However, those first pages are what get a reader to buy your book, or an agent to request more, or an editor to acquire it. Make sure your first pages are engaging and strong, and the rest of the book will follow!
PS, Talcott Notch does a first ten pages bootcamp through Writer’s Digest University. There’s one this weekend (starting 12/6/19, hence why the first ten pages are on my mind), but we have them every few months. Keep an eye out for our next one if you’d like to participate! https://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/courses/agent-one-on-one-first-ten-pages-boot-camp-2019-05-09
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