Your Manuscript

The biggest trick to rising up on an agent’s wish list is to wow us from the beginning, but not for the reasons you may be thinking. The truth is that most agents rarely read manuscripts from front to back, and even more rarely in a single sitting. As a writer, you have no control over which pages an agent will read more thoroughly than others, with one exception—without fail, we will always look closely at the beginning pages of your work. Manuscripts and proposals are then set aside into one of two categories: rejection or possible representation. Get past this initial screening and you’ve placed yourself on a shorter list of work that an agent will take more time to consider.
There are tremendous resources available for writers looking to improve their opening pages. If you want an agent, you’ll need to exhaust every one of them. The essentials to have in those make-or-break pages—in any genre—are a clear POV with a strong voice, fantastic language and prose, and a solid emotional connection between your main character and the reader.
Almost every agent agrees that poorly executed prologues are the quickest route back to slushville. Prologues reflexively cause agents to skip to Chapter 1 without a look back. Most have backstory that is too often “told” instead of “shown.” We’ve seen so many terrible prologues, we reason reading yours will only do you a disservice. If you insist on including a prologue, assume that it might not be read, and carefully craft Chapter 1 as if it’s the first thing an agent will read. Take any shortcuts by renaming your prologue as Chapter 1, and we will know!
After you’ve taken care to craft an exceptional beginning, don’t let rookie mistakes break the spell of an agent reading your work. Typos happen; no writer is immune. If you can’t afford to have a copy editor proofread your work, be extra vigilant about self-editing. Or consider hiring someone to proofread your first 25 pages and then using their corrections as a model of what to look for in polishing the rest of the manuscript.
Lastly, avoid getting too inspired with formatting. Save the creativity for your writing. We need clean, easy-to-read pages to avoid premature graying and permanent frown lines. Misguided “finishing touches” may actually detract from your writing. Please don’t break our immersive reading experience with bizarre formatting, distracting fonts, and more italicized words than we know what to do with. If an agent has not stated a personal preference, pick a simple default-style font to showcase your work.

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