Would You Turn the First Page of this Bestseller?

From Writer Unboxed:

Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.

. . . .

Here’s the question:

Would you pay good money to read the rest of the chapter? With 50 chapters in a book that costs $15, each chapter would be “worth” 30 cents.

So, before you read the excerpt, take 30 cents from your pocket or purse. When you’re done, decide what to do with those three dimes or the quarter and a nickel. It’s not much, but think of paying 30 cents for the rest of the chapter every time you sample a book’s first page. In a sense, time is money for a literary agent working her way through a raft of submissions, and she is spending that resource whenever she turns a page.

Please judge by storytelling quality, not by genre or content—some reject an opening page immediately because of genre, but that’s not a good-enough reason when the point is to analyze for storytelling strength.

How strong is the opening page of this novel—would it, all on its own, hook an agent if it was submitted by an unpublished writer?

Henry’s eyes are burning into me from across the living room. “Your summer is going to suck.”

There’s an echo of snorts from my teammates, the loudest coming from Mattie, Bobby, and Kris, who all told me something similar when I said no to joining them in Miami this summer.

“Inspiring words, Turner,” I shoot back at my unimpressed roommate. “You should become a motivational speaker.”

“You’ll be sorry you didn’t listen to me when you’re stuck doing manual labor and team-building activities at staff training next week.” Henry continues to flick through the Honey Acres brochure, his forehead creasing with a frown the further he gets into it. “What’s night duty?”

“I have to sleep in a room attached to the campers’ cabin twice a week in case they need anything,” I say casually, watching Henry’s eyes widen in horror. “The rest of the time I sleep in my own cabin.”

“It’s a no from me,” he says, throwing the brochure back onto the coffee table. “Good luck, though.”

“Could be worse,” Robbie muses from across the living room. “You could have to move to Canada this summer.”

Were you moved to want more?

This novel was number one on the New York Times paperback trade fiction bestseller list for October 22, 2023. Were the opening pages of the first chapter of Wildfire by Hannah Grace compelling?

My vote: No.

This book received 4.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Considering the “merits” of this opening page, I’m guessing it’s the author’s fans who propelled this to the number one spot. But would it have passed an agent’s muster if by an unknown writer?

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

PG was about to opine, but was brought up short by the fact that he knows nothing about the romance publishing world after Romeo and Juliet, which he read when he was in college. William Shakespeare was a surprise guest lecturer and was terrific once you got past his heavy accent.


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