Literary Agent First Five Pages – One of the things that frustrates authors most, is literary agents who only let writers submit a few pages of a manuscript, and then reject it. How can agents decide if a book is worthy of representation based on so little material? To many authors, it seems ignorant and unfair. But, when you’re done reading this article, you’ll understand—and you’ll know what to do about it.
Preparing Your Literary Agent First Five Pages
To help you understand how literary agents think, let’s talk about how you make decisions. Think for a moment, about how you browse and buy books in the bookstore or on Amazon–books written by authors you’re not yet familiar with. How do you do it? If you’re like most readers, it’s a process that’s part conscious and part subconscious.
You begin by looking to see if the book is in a genre or category you like. If you prefer short or long books, you take that into consideration as well. And, you get some type of impression (positive or negative) from the title and cover. Next, you read the publisher description or mini-synopsis on the back cover or inside flap; if you’re browsing on Amazon, that description appears at the top of the webpage under the title of the book (usually 1-3 paragraphs).
After you do the above, you read a few sentences or pages, probably at the beginning of the book. That’s where it gets interesting. Depending on the type of book you’re looking at—and what’s important to you—your heart and mind are going to ask many of the following questions.
Is the writing filled with typos and other copyediting mistakes? Is the style awkward or smooth and enjoyable to read? Is the book confusing or clear? Is it too simple, too complicated, or just right? Does the writing ramble or is it concise? Is the content jumbled or well-organized? Is the writing immediately suspenseful and engaging? Amateurish or masterful? Is the voice and content ordinary or unique? Is the book written in a style appropriate for the genre and target audience? Is the author or narrator likable and/or relatable? Is the content and/or writing style a fit for your preferences, proclivities, and values? Do you want to keep reading? Is it possible for you to stop reading?
If you’re satisfied with your answers to the questions above, you buy the book. If you’re not satisfied, you don’t buy the book. Instead, you move on to another book. That’s because you know what you like. You trust your instincts. And, it’s your money. So, you don’t feel bad or apologize for not buying a book. You shouldn’t apologize for passing on a book.
Now, you’re probably bright enough to know that I’m about to say that’s exactly how book agents look at the “literary agent first five pages” you send them. For the same reasons you make quick judgements about what you think you’ll like—or not like—agents make quick judgements about what they (and other readers) will like.
They’re not always right; neither are you.
It is what it is.
Of course, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover—or the first few pages. No one should. But you do; we all do. So, don’t get mad at book agents when they reject your work based on your first five pages. It’s not productive; in fact, it’s counterproductive. Instead, do your best to address the things I mentioned above to make your literary agent first five pages as good as they can be. And, remember, many times (and I mean a lot) book agents pass on publishable projects because they simply don’t have time read every book that’s presented to them—and they don’t fall in love with every book.
Like you, in the bookstore.
You know that most books in bookstores are published by traditional publishers; in many cases, major publishers. In other words, they’re publishable. But you don’t have time to read them all, and you don’t like all the books you do read. So, keep that in mind. Then make your literary agent first five pages as good as they can be, improve your pitch (query letter, etc.), and be persistent.
And, of course, get support along the way…
Question or Comment About your Literary Agent First Five Pages – or Anything Else?
Click here to see The 50 Questions Authors Ask Most (along with answers to the questions) and/or post your question or comment. Click here to see our Guide to Literary Agents. And, click here to see some of our best tips to help you Find a Literary Agent and/or Get a Literary Agent.
Want help to make your literary agent first five pages as good as they can be? Click here to learn how you can get 1-on-1 feedback to improve your pitch material and/or first fifty pages during an Introductory Coaching Call.
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