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OMG! Sample Pages in a Query? The Nerve!

April 20, 2011

courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

So you’ve been polishing your manuscript for four score and seven years and are now ready to submit a query, but the guidelines say “Query Only.”  Should you include sample pages? Doesn’t that mean I’d be ignoring the guidelines? Won’t I be blacklisted from querying FOREVER? You speak nonsense, Manivong, and you’re trying to kill my dream of being published!

Hey, dreamer. Yeah, you. Come ‘ere. Closer, still. Good. Now let me smack some sense into you. It won’t hurt, I promise.

Unless the guidelines specifically say DO NOT SEND SAMPLE PAGES, then send the flippin’ sample pages, for the love of  angst! Who am I to advise this? A measly writer? A girl with one published novel in the market? A bruiser set on dispensing bad advice? You decide. But if it makes you feel better, I’ve heard numerous agents say this very thing.

You know what else I’ve heard? That readers, whether they be agents and editors themselves, or assistants and interns, will sometimes (maybe even often but certainly not always and possibly for some…never) read the sample pages first! If they likey, then they may read the query to find out more about you and your background. This is one reason why you’ll hear that THE WRITING MATTERS MOST, not that you got a blue ribbon for the softball throw in sixth grade, which makes you qualified to write The Complete History of Plastic Baseball Bats.

What constitutes a sample? Five pages. Even six if your chapter ends there. What’s the worst that could happen? An assistant reads your brilliant sample, passes it to her brilliant boss who cradles the pages like a swaddled newborn. Brilliant Boss passes it to her supervisor who declares, “Holy batman! Who needs vampires anymore when we have plastic bats?” Brilliant Supervisor passes your pages onto Dream Publisher Dudette, who is so taken by your brilliant prose that she begs for a tissue. But then, DPD inquires how these sample pages came to be. Assistant is beckoned to the big corner office. The door is closed. The sweating begins. And the question is uttered. “Am I to understand,” Dream Publisher Dudette whispers, “that you read these sample pages when our guidelines clearly state to Query Only?” Assistant nods, sheepishly and with great trepidation. DPD swipes the Donald Trumpish lock of hair away from her face and declares, “You’re fired.”

So think of “Query Only” as really meaning do not submit your entire manuscript, and don’t you dare even think of sending us a honking three chapters. Just the sample. The wee sample.

Now how do you include this wee 5-page writing sample, which btw, is always the first five pages, not some random bit from chapter 36 when the action starts heating up? What did you say? As an attachment? Hey, dreamer. Yeah, you. Come ‘ere. Closer, still. Good. Now let me smack some sense into you. It might hurt a little. Maybe even a lot!

Include the sample in the body of the e-mail, for the love of common sense, never as an attachment, because OMG, the nerve!

(Please spread the news by hitting a pretty little share button below.)

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2011 11:30 am

    When I was looking for an agent, I always pasted the first page of my WIP at the end of every email query. I thought it couldn’t do any harm, and I don’t think it did!

    Like

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      April 21, 2011 8:53 am

      Not a bit, Lena. Thanks for dropping in!

      Like

  2. Lisa Cindrich permalink
    April 20, 2011 4:46 pm

    Love the angsty photo!

    Like

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      April 21, 2011 8:53 am

      Picture’s worth a thousand words…

      Like

  3. lishacauthen permalink
    April 20, 2011 11:34 pm

    Holy krap, you love trouble, don’t you.

    Don’t you dare smack me again! I mean it!

    OW!

    Like

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      April 21, 2011 8:52 am

      Spankin’ for you, Cauthen!

      Like

  4. April 22, 2011 2:15 am

    Interesting you should say this because this is what Andrea Brown once said in a conference I attended :D

    Like

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      April 22, 2011 8:57 am

      Yep, you hang around the internet long enough stalking every agent interview you can find, and you start to get a clu. Appreciate you confirming this for newer writers!

      Like

  5. April 22, 2011 6:14 am

    I’ve also heard more than a few agents say they go straight for the sample pages and then go back to the query if they like what they read. However, I have also encountered a few who have specifically said, “Do not send sample pages.” You really have to do your research.

    Like

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      April 22, 2011 8:56 am

      True. But I do think the ones who specify no sample pages are in the minority. And rejecting queries is likely made easier when there are no pages to sample. On the other hand, agents might say the poor writing they see via samples when writers submit too early makes it a cinch to say no thanks! Thanks, Kelly, for taking the tome to share your thoughts!

      Like

  6. October 5, 2011 2:18 pm

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this. Thank you. I’m in the midst of writing queries for the first time (yowza), and all the “email query only” prompts were freaking me out. Thank you, thank you.

    Like

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      October 9, 2011 9:39 am

      Wow, so glad this was helpful to you! Thanks for letting me know, and best of luck with your querying!

      Like

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