Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The First Five Pages

Dear Rejector,

Agent Query says, "Do NOT include sample chapters of your novel with your query UNLESS an agent's submission guidelines specifically SAY to include sample pages with your snail mail query. If you really feel compelled to show an agent your writing style along with your query letter, include only the first 5 pages of your novel." I'm not trying to just provoke a battle of experts here, but what do you (or most agents) think of that? If you were to recieve five pages with a query, would you read them? Ignore them? Shred the whole package and send it back in the SASE?

This will vary from agency to agency, but in general, the 5 pages will either be ignored (if the query is so bad that we don't get that far) or actually read, depending on who's reading it. I'm paid by the hour, and I'm an insanely fast reader, so I'll read the pages. A very, very busy agent with no assistant might not, but 5 pages in manuscript format is really not a lot of text.

On the other hand, if I say, "Yeah, go ahead and send five pages," everyone who reads this will start doing it, and then it'll become a nuisance, which is why AgentQuery says that. So I answered your question, but I'm not going to take a hard line and tell everyone to send 5 pages or not. In general, listen to what the agency says they want. If they don't specify, just send a query.


LadyBronco said...

I'm sorry...
I would be waaaay too paranoid that I would ruin whatever chance I may have had with an agent by sending him or her something they did not ask for. (the query notwithstanding.)

writtenwyrdd said...

I supposed it wouldn't hurt...until everyone did it, then it would cause you to have your letter ignored.

I think I will stick to writing a good query.

Zany Mom said...

I was once told by an author with a multi-book deal to always include a punched-up synopsis along with the query, whether they asked for it or not. This author said if your query was good, the agent would read the synopsis.

I'm still a revision away from querying, though.

Anonymous said...

I always sent 5 pages, as per Miss Snark, and every request I got was for the full manuscript, not a partial.
(5 requests in all)which may be good, or bad, just a fact.....bottom line was the 5 pages were good but the book needed revisions.

ORION said...

I agree with anonymous. I always sent 5 pages even when I emailed, even though they said email:query only. I just pasted the 5 pages under my letter. The result. The agents bypassed the partial and went straight to the full and I received 2 firm offers of representation.
Ladybronco -don't be paranoid. If they love your premise /query you can break all the rules you want and if they hate it then your perfection in following their directions will not matter.
I have NEVER heard of an agent going "Gee the query is brilliant, I love the premise, but she included her first 5 pages. She didn't follow directions...I'll have to pass..."

kaytie said...

A suggestion for including the five pages:

You don't have to send exactly five. Pick a place where the prose ends at a cliff-hanging spot. That might be in the middle of page three. (Try not to go over five, try to include enough to get a sense of the character.) You're better off leaving the agent curious as to what happens next than including a full five pages that...

You know what I mean?

Go for effect. The writing sample is another form of a hook.

Maybe this is obvious but enough people use the "five page rule" that I thought I'd offer the suggestion. It worked well for me.

(And if you're going to paste the pages at the bottom of the email, make sure to format it for electronic reading, which means block text instead of paragraphs that might get messed up on the other end.)

The Unpretentious Writer said...

I took a chance and sent 5 pages on an e-query (I said, 'following this letter is a sample of 5 pages, I hope you enjoy it') and it resulted in a partial request.