In with old, out with the new

Posted on 03/23/2009

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I have been following a lot of literary agents on Twitter. It’s a great tool to learn about what agents likes and dislikes are. It is also a window into a world that is much bigger than you think.  Each of the agents I follow get hundreds, if not thousands of queries per week. Far too many for them to spend real time each one. Of course most of queries are crap and the agent can tell right away. This noise sucks because it means less time-per-query for each agent.  And that really hurts those of us trying hard to get an agent.  Those of us who put in the blood sweat and tears to polish the hell out of our query letter, and make sure our first 25 pages jump off the page.

Which brings me to another pain I have with the whole process. Agents and editors say your story must LEAP OUT at the reader from the word go. Seriously? I call bullshit. I think that’s for agents and editors, not for Joe the plumber who is picking the book up off the bookshelf. Most people will give a book 50 pages or so before throwing it into te trash.  A slow start is no issue.  I suppose an agent will say, “We don’t say that there has to be action in beginning, but do something to grab my attention.”

I think the book cover grabs the reader’s attention first. Then the blurb on the back, and then the story itself.  So the first thing a reader reads is NOT the first 10 pages. Many books take time to build. Yeah, I know we, the public, want our story and we want it now, but must I write a first scene that is not a world builder, but an action scene to draw readers in? Or is that just for the agents and the editors? Have you ever picked up a book, read the first 5 pages, and then put it down? I’d like to hear from you if you have.

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