What Agents Look for In Sample Pages
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Aug 25 2022
By this time, you’ve read a million blog posts and watched 500 videos on what agents look for in queries. What’s rarely discussed is what agents look for in sample pages, or how they use sample pages.
When querying agents, in addition to all the great advice we give on query letters, many agents ask for sample pages. The question authors have, is whether the pages were read and do agents always read them.
The answers, as they always are: it depends and it depends.
When Do I Read Sample Pages
I rarely read sample pages. A majority of my decision on whether to request or reject a book is based on the query letter. Did the author grab me and did the book sound enticing? This is similar to the way I buy books in the bookstore. I know some readers like to read a few pages before making a final decision, but I’m a fast decider. I base my decision on the blurb. Does this sound like a book that intrigues me enough to want to read? Like every reader I have certain things I gravitate to like food, magic, and a new hook. But not all are guaranteed buys. Not every book with food or magic entices me enough to buy.
The only time I read sample pages is when I’m on the fence. And this is rare. Does the hook sound interesting, but maybe not amazing? Does the writing in the query grab me enough to want to check out pages, even if the hook doesn’t feel great? I would say I read the sample pages of about 5% of the queries I receive. That’s it.
What I’m Looking for in Sample Pages
What I’m looking for in the pages isn’t one thing or another. It’s everything. I’m looking for pages that grab me enough that I want to read more. That comes through the author’s voice, the pacing, the style of writing, and how well the idea comes to life on the page. That’s it. Like any reader, I’m just looking for something I want to give up an afternoon to read.
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That’s exactly what I was thinking! I look at the first few pages of a book while deciding whether to buy it or not. But that’s only AFTER the cover catches my eye, and then after I read the blurb. If I get that far and am still interested, I’ll look at the first paragraph or two. Even at that point, I put most of them down and move on because they turn out to be not what I was looking for.
And yet! Those books I pass over get bought by plenty of others. So it’s true what they say: it’s all very subjective, and just because your work isn’t one agent’s (or twenty agents’) cup of tea doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to love it and snap it up with great enthusiasm.