Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Opening Pages (While We Wait For Amazon To Quit Shooting Themselves In Foot)

STATUS: It’s 7 pm so I’m ready to head out the door and to home.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SAILING by Christoper Cross

Since I’ve been obsessively checking about every hour, the answer is no, the links to my Macmillan client books have not been turned back on. In talking with an editor at Macmillan this afternoon, she said she had no new news to report. Nor had John Sargent made another company-wide announcement. I hope for news tomorrow.

However, I did derive lots of enjoyment out of reading John Scalzi’s posting on the issue.

Meanwhile while we wait for Amazon to get head out of sphincter since they are throwing a tantrum over earning more money rather than less with the Agency commission model, I figured I’d jump back into our opening pages discussion.

Today’s entry is, thankfully, from a non-Macmillan author whose trade paperback edition just released this week.

Now please remember that when I share opening pages, I’m not sharing the polished final pages one will find in the published novel. I’m sharing the opening pages as I received them upon first submission when I requested the full manuscript. Sometimes that changes for final publication, sometimes not.

I’m going to have a blast with today’s entry. As most agents will tell you, it’s usually a waste of time for a writer to include a prologue when submitting sample pages. The prologue usually has a different voice or approach then the rest of the novel and is often a bad barometer of how the manuscript will unfold.

Not so in the case of Brooke Taylor’s UNDONE. This is an excellent example of how a prologue can completely set the tone. In fact, it can give you chills as a dark prelude of what’s to come. It can completely nail character. In this instance, for our narrator and for her best friend who is the driving force in the novel despite not being there for more than the first third of the work.

In fact, Jay Asher, NYT bestselling author for 13 REASONS WHY calls UNDONE, “A beautifully intense story. Brooke Taylor hooked me with the very first line and never let go.”

As to that very first line, I have to agree with Jay. And I’m sharing it with you right here.

Prologue:
My best friend Kori came with a warning label—a black t-shirt that read: “Don’t believe everything you hear about me.” I was staring openly. Gaping. Gawking my geeky little eighth grade eyes out. I’d expected the bathroom to be empty when I charged in with blue dye from an ill-fated lab experiment soaking through my Ruby Gloom t-shirt. I never expected Kori Kitzler to be standing there, tapping a cigarette out of a red and white box and asking me if I had a light.
My mouth dropped wide open. I don’t know which startled me more— that she really thought I smoked (At school!) or that she was actually speaking to me. From the moment Kori had transformed herself from squeaky-clean cheerleader-wannabe seventh grader to I-puke-cheerleaders-for-breakfast eighth grader, I was fascinated in her beyond any sane boundary.

I looked away, down, my eyes stalling on the warning stretched across her larger-than-most chest. I’d heard a lot of things about her. I’d heard that before school even started, she’d already had oral with half the junior high football team. I’d heard she dropped E with high school boys and had a three-way with two college guys. I’d heard she cracked a Tiffany lamp over Chelsea Westad’s brother’s skull just because he told her she couldn’t smoke pot in their house. I’d heard she threw up on the arresting officer and had lesbian sex while in the holding tank. I’d heard that while the rest of our class was singing Kumbaya and making really crappy jewelry at summer camp, she was pretending to dry out in rehab. And I’d believed it all.

In response to her smirk, I braved direct eye contact. In the almost black of her eyes—like two shots of espresso, just as dark and just as deceptively calm—I expected to see my fascination for her spat back at me. But I didn’t. Under lazy, half-moon lids, her eyes were soothing, almost hypnotic. And in them I saw a serrated edge that offered its own version of protection and danger.

“You don’t know it now.” She paused to take a drag (she had a light after all). “But you and I are connected.” She held the cigarette out for me. As I took it, a seductive curl of smoke rose up like a ghost between us. “We’re more alike than you think.”

Hooked? Then let’s make a statement. Buy this book today but let’s not buy it from Amazon. I’d like to suggest Powell’s—a wonderful independent bookstore with a fabulous online presence. They even do free shipping!


32 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Kristin,

    Would you explain why you feel the prologue is a bad barometer for a manuscript.
    I’m curious since I’ve used a prologue in one of my manuscripts.

    Thanks,

    Connie Gillam

  2. Katherine said:

    That’s an AWESOME first page. I’m off to buy the book. Sounds like a female John Green, in the best of ways.

    (And I haven’t bought from Amazon since the LGBTQ lit faux pas of last spring–let’s take all our business to Powell’s and keep it there!)

  3. Lisa Desrochers said:

    This book is already on my must read list. Can’t wait to get it, and I won’t be buying it from Amazon. I’ve boycotted them since it became clear what they were trying to do over a year ago.

    As a soon-to-be Macmillan author, I’m glad that someone finally had the cahones to stand up to Amazon and, even though it might hurt my own book sales, I’m proud it was my publisher.

  4. Yvonne said:

    I don’t know what’s going on with Amazon but will say I’ve always liked Powell’s and support independents as a matter of principal.

    I am “hooked” by this prologue, which does a great job of setting up the narrative, but that’s what a prologue is supposed to do…no?

    Now I’m not saying…

  5. ann foxlee said:

    The book sounds great, and yes, buy from Powell’s– an incredible bookstore right here in Portland! I am so lucky to have such a great independent place to shop 🙂
    And I think I’ll be going by there tomorrow, so now I know what to look for!

  6. Kristi Faith said:

    Breathtaking. I applaud your linkage to a different site, other than Amazon!! I did the same with my Tuesday Review and linked to Barnes and Noble (I don’t know many of the smaller ones). So, thanks for giving me another place to shop!

  7. ChristaCarol said:

    How frustrating (understatement) on the Amazon-Macmillan issues. Loved the first page of Undone, great voice. And is it bad I never knew about this Powell’s place? Definitely spreading the word. Thanks!

  8. Anonymous said:

    Isn’t this Amazon tantrum interesting? When a business pitches a fit about getting more money, my psych nurse brain says,”Hmm…this sounds like a control issue.”

    Amazon needs to learn that control is an illusion (delusion?) and that on a good day, we’re doing well to be in control of ourselves. We can never control others (without being abusive, and even that is not a certainty).

    I got a real passive-aggressive vibe from Amazon’s statement on Sunday, a call to arms almost to their already boycott-happy squeaky wheels, along with what seemed to be a “other publishers, you’d better not agree with this and ask for the same thing, or look what will happen” vibe.

    Or maybe I need a nice long vacation away from psychiatry. 😉 It is unfathomable to me that people would really balk at the structured pricing for new releases of e-books. It’s five bucks, at most. My priorities are skewed where books are concerned. They are priceless treasures IMO.

  9. Jen said:

    Very intrigued! I loved it, and I would love to have more! So I vote no Amazon as well, and will be purchasing it from Powell’s! Thanks for the sneak peak!

  10. DebraLSchubert said:

    Brilliant, simply brilliant. She hooked me and you hooked me. I’m heading to Powell’s now and will tweet this to Twitterville. As always, best to you and your talented authors.

  11. Susana Mai said:

    I haven’t read a first page this good in a long time. LONG TIME. I’m not even a big YA reader, but this got me. I also liked how the writer wasn’t shy; she wasn’t trying to be politically correct, i.e. even though the character is in 8th grade, she unabashedly mentions “made oral,” “lesbian sex” etc. The lesbian sex thing especially–not PC, but exactly what an adolescent would say. My god, I’m mesmerized by Kori!

  12. Amy said:

    Don’t many readers skip prologues?? I’m glad I don’t – I wouldn’t want to miss that one!

    Thanks for the tip on Powell’s. Like Lisa, I switched my book buying from Amazon long ago, but now I’m taking the rest of my business with me, too.

    I especially like the Amazonians participating in the Macmillan boycott who say, “There’s nothing from Macmillan I want to buy now, anyhow.” As in Macmillan “lost” a sale they never had in the first place.

  13. Bane of Anubis said:

    Very nice, though it felt a bit heavy-handed.

    As far as Powell’s goes, pretty awesome bookstores. If you’re ever in Portland, should definitely check it out.

  14. Rebecca Knight said:

    Holy crap! I’d never heard of this book before, but now I have to know what happens :). I can absolutely see why you jumped on this one!

    Also, thanks for linking Powells :). As a pacific northwest girl, I am a die hard Powells Fan. Great customer service, wonderful recommendations–an all around great store!

  15. Laurel said:

    I have a Kindle. I love it. I’m very sad that I won’t be using it to read anything new until Amazon puts those Macmillan links back up.

    I’m also not at all sure our next eReader will be a Kindle, and we are in the market for another one.

  16. Dodie said:

    And in addition to buying a copy from your local bookseller or non-Amazon online source, how about logging into your local library and placing a hold on this fine title? And if they don’t have it, request that they buy a copy – ’cause they will!

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