experience, attitude, enthusiasm, and boundless optimism

Why 3 Pages?

On my submissions page, I recommend that writers querying me include the first1 three pages of their manuscript along with their letter. Why these three pages? Mostly because I recognize that the art of writing a good, strong query letter isn’t the same as the art of writing a novel. (What to say or not say in a query letter is a WHOLE other topic to be tackled on another day.) Sometimes a writer’s voice sings out from the letter alone, and just on the basis of that material, I know I want to read more. More often though, I need to actually see something from the text to make my best, informed decision.
And if I’m on the fence about something? Well, if all I have is the letter alone, and I’m not sure about the project, 9 out of 10 times I’ll decline. But if I think “maybe” after reading the letter, and can then go on and read three pages — well, you might just convince me to ask for more.
Nothing’s a slam dunk, of course. The flip side of the above is that I might recognize in reading the first three pages that you have a killer idea, but I might see in the pages that you lack the expertise to write it well. That’s a chance you have to take.
When I get together with writers over lunch, or chatting at conferences, and someone pitches me, I always tell them to check out my guidelines online and email me. Why? Because that’s what I need to see to make my decision: a query letter and three pages.

1 Yes, the FIRST three pages. If your best sample pages aren’t the opening ones, how do you expect to catch a reader’s attention?

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