Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Literal First Five Pages

Dear Ms. Rejector,

I've seen a lot of agents request the first five pages of a manuscript along with the query letter. This frustrates me a bit, because the prologue to my book is seven pages long, and I think an agent would be more enticed by the whole prologue than just the first five pages. So my options, as I see them, are:

1. Bite the bullet and only send 5 pages
2. Revise my prologue to be 5 pages long
3. Use 11pt font or 1.5 spaced lines to make it 5 pages long and hope the agent doesn't care/notice. Or better yet, if it's an email query, just send the text as part of the email and pretend it's 5 pages.
4. Send all seven pages, but be up front in the query letter ("I've sent you the first seven pages of my novel along with this query..."), and hope I don't get tossed aside for not following the specific instructions

Which of these options seems the most viable? Are any of them
completely idiotic and suicidal?

Actually, you've got a number of options open to you, but please use 12 point font. Our eyes, our eyes!

You can:

(1) Bite the bullet and send the first five pages, because those are also pages the agent will have to eventually like anyway, and if they aren't dramatically different from your general writing style, and your writing is good, that shouldn't be a terrible worry.

(2) Send seven pages. We won't really care if it's actually seven. On the other hand, we might not make it to page 6.

(3) Punch up the first five pages of the prologue.

(4) Send the first five pages of the novel proper, if they're understandable without the prologue. This makes a good deal of sense in many cases, when the prologue is a literary device or an informational device and doesn't actually look a lot like those overworked, perfect pages you mean to be your opening. We won't get mad at you. If you get a request for the actual manuscript afterwards, you might want to say something like, "There is now a prologue" so we don't get all confused. We get a lot of partials, and sometimes we forget who they're from or what they're about during the wait.

Note to all authors: When an agent requests the first five, he/she generally means the first five; this is the only case where he/she doesn't. Don't send the first five of the eighth chapter because you think the writing is the best in the beginning of the eighth chapter. The writing should be great everywhere.