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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Polishing Your Sample Pages

Please welcome guest blogger Fleur Bradley

If you’re ready to query agents, you’ve probably seen this guideline:

Send query by email, with the first five pages pasted in the body.

Seems easy enough, right? You’ve polished your query letter, you’ve edited your manuscript—you’re good to go.

But have you thought about what those sample pages really say about your novel? Take a moment to step back, close your eyes, and forget all about your manuscript (this is tough, especially after you’ve been working on it forever—but roll with me on this one). Now read your query and your sample pages as if you were an agent receiving that email. Does it make you want to read on? Because it should—otherwise you’ll just get a quick form rejection.

It gets really good on page 22, writers often argue. Not good enough. Imagine a potential reader, browsing the bookstore. She picks up your book (it has a great, enticing cover), and she opens to read the first few pages. Those need to hook her, right? Same goes for that agent or editor you’re querying: they’re your first readers.

But I’m sending my first fifty pages—by request after meeting at a conference. Congratulations! Your pitch was successful—that’s something to be really proud of. Now imagine your favorite agent or editor going home after meeting tons of people, and then getting your query letter and sample pages. She remembers you and your pitch (you’re a memorable person, and you had a nice chat about your favorite books), and begins to read. Here’s the thing: she still starts with those first five pages, and if those aren’t perfect, she may not even read the rest. It’s a sad truth, but agents and editors only have so much time, and after conferences, they get a wave of queries and samples.

Bottom line: your first five pages need to sing.

Before you panic, there’s help. I’m running a two-week workshop for FF&P, Polishing Your Sample Pages. We’ll cover how to get those first five pages to shine, from character introduction, conflict, cliffhanger endings, and even formatting for those email queries.

So join us! It’ll be fun, I promise, and you’ll get those opening pages in the best shape they can be.

Polishing Your Sample Pages, presented by Fleur Bradley, runs from July 5, 2011 through July 18, 2011

Fleur Bradley (writing as F.T. Bradley) recently found a home for her middle-grade series featuring Lincoln Baker with Harper Children's--look for DOUBLE VISION, the first book, in 2013. Find her on the web at www.fleurbradley.com.

Many of Fleur's short stories have appeared online and in print, in places like Discount Noir, The Thrilling Detective, Shred of Evidence, Versal and Stories for Children. Fleur is originally from the Netherlands, and now lives in Colorado with her husband, two daughters, and too many cats.

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