The Bent Agency’s submission guidelines ask that you submit the first 10 pages of your manuscript along with your query letter – for good reason! We talk a lot about how important the query is, and offer tips on making that first sentence, first paragraph, and first page really count (see below for some links). Yet we ask for 10 pages. Today, I wanted to share my thoughts on those first 10 and why I think that chunk of your book is just as important as the opening page.
I don’t work off a checklist or run tests. Mostly, I read those first pages and try to imagine that I’ve just picked up your novel in a bookstore. I want to know if I connect with the voice and if it’s the kind of voice that I wouldn’t mind hanging out with for a few more hours. I want to get a sense of the sentence structure and word choices and basically how you tell your story. I want to know whose story it is and what’s important to them.
Receiving 10 pages is perfect for me because it gives me way more insight to the tone and stakes in your manuscript. It also tells me more about what the rest of the novel is like, beyond that first page. After the few first pages, the story starts to flow and I get to see how dialogue and action will be described and who the supporting characters are. I also get a much better sense of the pacing and the world itself takes on a bit more color. I have a better idea of what the rest of the novel will be like, beyond the super-polished opener.
Because the thing is: beginnings are SO HARD. With so much information out there on how to open strong and what to include and what to leave for later, that first page or five get a lot of attention. And it’s important to polish because that first paragraph will lead me to the next page and then even further. But what about when I’m done reading your sample?
Page 10 can be just as important as page 1 because it should make me wonder what happens next. It’s not as easy as deciding to keep reading or deciding to skip ahead – or deciding to stop. I love when I fall for a submission so hard that I read until the sample pages are done; that I didn’t stop even when I knew by page 4 that I really liked it and wanted the whole thing. I reach the end of the sample, and I’m forced to ask for more – maybe even beg for it (as I’ll shamelessly admit to doing on more than one occasion)!
For me, 10 pages is just enough to fully grab my attention, push me to request more and then spend the rest of the day refreshing my inbox.
Want to learn more about querying and writing first pages? Check out these other posts on our blog: