View Full Version : Query letter sample pages: page count?

03-25-2015, 09:26 PM
For novels, many agents ask for sample pages pasted into the body of a query email. Five pages seems to be a common number. My problem is that the end of my fifth page is right in the middle of a slight lull in the action where I'm setting up the next bit, and it feels like an awkward place to stop. By the end of page six, things are picking up and it feels like a better stopping point.

Since there aren't any "pages" in text pasted into an email, and since page count kinda depends on margins and such, is it ok to fudge a little and include six "pages" for my sample? Or is an agent going to feel like it's more than five pages from looking at it and hit the reject button because I didn't follow directions?

03-25-2015, 09:52 PM
Believe it or not, I would err on the shorter side, rather than the longer side, as long as you're not talking about cutting it significantly short. Agents who read all the way through 5 pages are going to know if it's 20% longer than most of their sample pages, and if your fifth page is slow, it might make it feel even longer. Not everyone will actually read all 5 pages anyway. You can tell if an author can write or has a style you like in 1.

A lull in the action isn't necessarily bad either, depending on what you mean by that.

In other thoughts, if you're not feeling confident about page 5, maybe it needs work.

03-25-2015, 09:54 PM
If you fudge, I don't think anyone is going to throw you in query jail. My first chapter is a hair over ten pages, but I send the whole thing if they ask for ten pages. My sense is that it's mostly to get a sense of your writing ability.

03-25-2015, 10:17 PM
Is there are part on page 4/top of page 5 that leaves you hanging? Makes one want to keep reading on? If so, I'd maybe end there.

03-25-2015, 10:36 PM
When I've read agents talking about this, they've often (invariably?) said that you should cut at a good stopping point that makes sense. As long as you aren't too far under or over, you're fine.

As you might gather from the above, I'd suggest going for the six page submission. But as Sage pointed out, most agents will know from the first page or two whether they want to request more, so going short or long probably doesn't matter much in the long run.

03-26-2015, 04:48 PM
My sense is that you really don't want a "slight lull" in sample pages. It's probably not important whether you send four or six pages. What's important is that your sample really crackles.

03-27-2015, 06:44 PM
Thanks for the help, everyone. I'm not sure if "lull" is overstating it or not. None of my beta or critique readers have flagged the bit as being slow or anything, but I worry anyway - it's a short bit of backstory (two short paragraphs) and then a brief conversation, as opposed to any actual "action". Maybe I'll see if I can cut it down even further or rearrange it a little, and then maybe fudge where I actually end it a tiny bit if I have to.

03-28-2015, 08:04 AM
I will just echo what people have sort of said here. I would end the sample early. Before the lull, so that you do not have to worry about the agent's response to that lull. If the rest of those pages hook the agent, then I doubt they will mind you only sent them four.