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Why The First Pages Can Make Or Break Relationships With Literary Agents

The first five pages of a novel, which are considered to be the opening pages, are very important if an author wants to get the attention of a literary agent or editor. Surprisingly, a number of authors still do not give this part of their novels the kick they deserve. If the first five pages are underwhelming, the author’s chances of getting an agent are in jeopardy.

Authors know that the opening pages have to be spectacular. However, some authors, especially new ones, have a hard time getting their heads around this important fact. On the other hand, some writers will literally move heaven and earth to make sure that the opening of their novel will hook anybody that reads it. Some authors find solace in the hope that if only an agent could reach the second chapter he would see that the book gets better.

Theoretically, it is not bad if an author asks an agent to read up to the second chapter of a book to get to the meat. However, few literary agents will proceed to the second chapter if the first one is not impressive. Although this might seem unfair, the truth is that if an agent does not feel like reading up to the second chapter, how then can a reader go that far?

Let’s take a good example of a person who has enough money to buy one book. If the person goes through the first few pages of two books and one book fails to get his attention, which book is the reader most likely to buy? Authors should never make excuses for having bad openings for their novels since few people will commit their time and resources if a novel does not seem to be interesting. Whether or not authors want to accept it, potential buyers are quick to judge a book by its cover.

Authors should also be careful to avoid mistakes that will dissuade readers from reading the rest of the novel. One of the mistakes is putting in unnecessary prologues. Most prologues fail to grab readers’ attention and they are usually confusing. Prologues are usually splashy but lack enough substance to be representative of the overall tone of the book.

Authors should also avoid backstories which could take readers too far in the wrong direction. For instance, an author might compose a story about a detective who has an unusual method of solving crimes. The author might proceed to go into lengthy detail about where the detective got his ability to solve crimes from a perspective that nobody else shares. He might proceed to develop this backstory until page 100, by which time the reader will no longer remember where the narrative begins.

Other authors make the mistake of spending too much time describing past events which are not material to the main story. Such openings cause confusion to readers and diminish the impact of the interesting parts of the plot.