Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dear O'Abby - Can I send more pages than requested with my query?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm querying, and most agents seem to want either five or ten pages with the query, if they want pages at all.  My chapters are pretty short - only around 1500 words each, and all end with a hook leading into the next chapter.  1500 words is around six pages....

So my question is, if an agent asks for five pages, is it okay if I send the whole first chapter, even if it is over the five pages?  Or the first two chapters if they ask for ten? I feel like leaving the chapters a few hundred words shy of the end of each chapter doesn't showcase my work in the best light because  the hooks at the end of each chapter are almost always the best parts.

What would you suggest?

Yours,

One Page Too Long

Dear One Page Too Long,

Most agents ask that you past these pages into the body of an email along with your query, so they're not actually going to know exactly how many pages you've sent unless they count the words.  If you send the entire novel, or two or three times as much as they've asked for, they'll notice, but if it's only a couple of hundred extra words, they probably won't. And I don't believe any agent is pedantic enough (or has enough time) to count your words and reject you because you sent a page or two more than what was requested.

The purpose of sending pages is to show the agent what your writing voice is, your style, and that you can actually string sentences together in a coherent fashion.  Rather than focusing on the length of your sample, make sure it's the best possible example of your work.  Check for typos, grammar errors or spelling mistakes.  Make sure you've tightened the language so every word has a purpose and reason to be there.  Ensure the opening of your book is compelling enough to make readers want to read on.

You want the agent to be frustrated when they reach the end of your sample, wanting to read on enough that they will reach out and ask for the rest of your book to be delivered to their in-box immediately so they can keep reading.

If your pages don't do that, it doesn't matter if you send five, ten or twenty.

XX O'Abby

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