Pub Rants

10 Sample Page NOs and Why

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STATUS: First day back in the office is always crazy, crazy. I did three phone conferences, accounting, and solved a few key issues that cropped up today.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE MAIN THING by Roxy Music

On the plane back from DC, I read 10 different sample pages on my Kindle.

(Sidenote: I hate the new plane seating in economy. If you are not in the premium seats, editing on a laptop is impossible if the person in front of you sets the seat back. Literally, the laptop is in your lap and I can’t prop the screen upright. I had wanted to edit a client full but just couldn’t battle the positioning so read sample pages on my Kindle instead. So much easier given the space issue.)

I passed on all 10 sample pages. Here are the reasons why.

For about six of them, the writing wasn’t there yet (2 fantasy, 1 women’s fiction, and 3 young adult). And this is only in my opinion and other agents might feel differently. For me, the writers still needed to work with a critique group to bump the writing level and complexity of the story a least a couple of notches.

For one entry, a middle grade work, I thought the writing was really quite solid but I didn’t like the main narrator much at all. The writer can’t do much about that. It either speaks to the agent or not. I mentioned that in my response because the writing was strong.

Another sample page young adult submission had a vampire element. I thought the writing was solid and this entry nicely done but not different enough to make it stand out in what I think is a pretty crowded YA vampire market. I can see another agent responding differently and I included that in my response.

Another YA submit had a paranormal element but I found I was much more interested in what was unfolding in the regular contemporary part of the story than I was in the paranormal element the writer was introducing. Once again, another agent might think differently.

The last read was a project I had looked at before and then requested revisions on the first 50 pages. The writer was resubmitting. I could tell that the writer had done significant work on the revised manuscript but I thought the revision introduced a new problem that made the manuscript still not work for me. Despite a great concept, it was time for me to pass pass.

33 Responses

  1. DebraLSchubert said:

    Kristin, Thanks for the info on why you passed on the sample pages. Very helpful to see your perspective. On the last project you read, you said you could tell significant work was done, but that a new problem was introduced. Could you talk about that at all?

  2. The Decreed said:

    I second Debra on the new problem explanation, this is quite interesting to me. I must say that I of the agent blogs who give similar descriptions on “the run-down” I love the way you do it best. Concise, easy to understand, (and polite!) and am itching for more.

  3. Anonymous said:

    How much does having a particular editor in mind affect your decision? I mean, if you see a project and think, ‘Oh, I know exactly the right person for this,’ will you agree to represent it, even if you’re not otherwise excited about the work?

    I guess that might present problems with the -next- project, but seems that at first, at least, everyone wins. (And of course, the agent/writer relationship needn’t be forever.)

  4. Maureen McGowan said:

    Thanks for the peak inside your process.

    I can’t work on my laptop on planes even with the seat in front of me in the “upright position”. The space is too tight.

  5. Amber said:

    Writing vampire YA is like walking on a tightrope in a windstorm over shark-infested waters, since Stephanie Meyer found her niche there. Everybody I know seems to be writing vampire YA.

    Thanks for the insight on the rejections. You are really polite about it, and it’s a good “checklist” to have to look over before submitting.

  6. ~Aimee States said:

    You can tell I’m a newb. I read the rejections and felt the mushroom cloud from an atomic grape seed somewhere in the pit of my stomach…lol.

  7. Fawn Neun said:

    Another YA submit had a paranormal element but I found I was much more interested in what was unfolding in the regular contemporary part of the story than I was in the paranormal element the writer was introducing.

    Curious why you considered this a problem rather than something added?

  8. therese said:

    I really love this blog, I think, when I get my contemp romance revised and ready, I just might submit to you. Even your pass would be great information.

    Not that you’d pass on mine… it’s got a “temporary roommates-to save the dog” plot with vintage airplanes, a clueless astrologer as the main nemesis, (who turns out to be – clear and on target) and a dramatic historical event…

    Unfortunately, as I was reviewing the first 50 pages to submit to a contest, I’ve still got a month or three of grammar and tense, readability and… before I query. It’s also summer, and the weather is great, so my motivation is low. I need to play in the water again, it’s been 12 years.

  9. Andrew said:

    Consider yourself lucky. I can’t afford a holiday, let alone business class…..hahaha

    I hope this new trend for detailed rejection info continues.

    a) It humanises agents for the angsty persecuted types
    b) It gives numbers for us stat freaks to chew into
    c) It identifies what snags agents attention across a broad range of topics in one go.
    d) It shows what is being submitted and what is being rejected.

    I’m all over it like a powerful moss

    Word verification: Rearksi: Latin for imitating Noah

  10. Michelle said:

    Oh, I’m seeing red about the plane thing…I never, ever recline my seat. I feel like I’m laying in the lap of the person behind me. I hate, hate, hate that they even recline at all. The leg room is bad enough when the seats are upright!

    Anway…great info on the rejections! It really does help to know that sometimes it really is just not right for that agent. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Lisa Iriarte said:

    Just a thought on your economy class laptop issues. You might seriously consider a tablet pc. My husband has one. He gets much work done on planes despite limited space, and he loves it.

  12. Joseph L. Selby said:

    Jet Blue will run you $20 more or so, but the seating space is off the charts. It sounds like you flew United. I’ve also had good luck with US Airways (mostly because the seats don’t go back that far) and my wife enjoys Midwest, though they have limited destinations.

  13. Laurel said:

    Thanks so much for this info! Nice to get some insight into a world shrouded in mystery.

    Regarding the reclining seats: Absurd that they are even designed to recline. If the airlines insist on giving us less room than required by law to ship an animal why oh why for the love of all that is holy do they allow this Lilliputian scrap of a space to be further encroached by the jerk in the seat in front of us? In order to fold my entire frame into the confines of my allotted place I have to turn my legs sideways as it is.

  14. sylvia said:


    I’m not sure how best to get a message to you but your mail server appears to be rejecting mail.

    Failed to deliver to ‘’
    SMTP module(domain reports:
    message text rejected by
    554 sorry, invalid message content (#5.3.2)

    Note: it is a plain text mail with QUERY in the subject line. There are no attachments on the email.

    So if things are quiet today, that might be why 🙂

  15. Anonymous said:

    It’s no surprise the pages didn’t meet your fancy.

    After visiting the “authors” page on the your website, you only have nine YA authors to begin with.

    Like hell you are going to sign up three new ones out of one query batch, increasing your YA stable by 30 percent.

    I’ve had much better luck getting responses from agents that DON’T have blogs. The blog visibility factor means EVERYBODY sends you their query, blindly, not stopping to look at how many authors in any given category you actually represent.

  16. carla said:

    What is strong writing? Is it readability on my WordPerfect grammar analysis? Does it involve sentence structure?
    I’m asking this because I once read the opening chapter of a literary novel. The first paragraph had about 500 words and countless commas. I began eagerly searching for a period. By the time I found it, I had read the entire first page and half of the second. The author might have congratulated himself for his cleaverness, but I had no idea what the story was about.

  17. lake said:

    here we go….

    ….two ten year olds find a coffee can filled with bills in the old greenhouse on their farm then they start a fund and learn about helping people…working title ‘coats for the homeless and poor’ or ‘meet the peppersons’
    …. 907 words so far last nite, shameless pitch
    ….and in other news,
    fresh off my press theres a love song! you’re so lucky, lol
    close your eyes and feel the feeling
    in the whispers of the evening
    and the love is burning softly just because

    now kiss me baby like you mean it
    one more time don’t just dream it
    then come to bed with me darling
    just because

    my love is yours if you take it
    there’s always more if we make it
    close your eyes and you’re mine
    just because

    baby close your eyes and feel the feeling
    in the whispers of the evening
    and the love is burning softly
    just because
    bam! lol
    wheres my coffee?
    *somewhere, something howls in the distance**

  18. ~Aimee States said:

    *waves at everyone*

    I was one of those six.

    Am I disappointed? Nope. It’s all filed away under “learning process”.

    I started writing and ended up with a series of three books. And you know what? I love them.

    But I’ve come a long way since I started. Upward and onward! I have a new title in the works I’m just as excited about.

    If the first three never see a book shelf, it’s okay, they got me where I am now.

    Thanks for having a look, Kristin.

  19. lake said:

    …Teh Awe-Some Sauce…I thought that WAS leaving on a high note, lol….and I promise to knock it off, except for the songs. I’m a fan of the blog and I was just trying to balance the post…the attempt at yes amidst a sea of no’s. And occasionally I write songs, it’s just a thing. My attempt at contributing to the post…nothing too serious.

  20. Mechelle Fogelsong said:

    Hey ~Aimee States:

    Janet Evanovich collected rejection letters for ten years. According to her, you should put your early books “in a drawer, get on to the next one, and save the first one(s) for when you have a big hit, because then, THEN they’ll come crawling for it.”

    I have all my old manuscripts in milk crates. They didn’t fit in a drawer.

    And Andrew:

    e) It gives us hope, because we’re smart enough to be reading this blog and learning lots, while others are flying by the seat of their pants.

  21. Aunt of 14 said:

    totally off the subject… I was looking through somebody’s list of blogs that they follow. Skimming all the way through to see what might catch my fancy and lead me to read their blog. I paused. I went back to the top and skimmed through it again. I KNOW I saw a strange name.. Rub Pants?! Who would name their blog RUB PANTS?! So I took another pause and read more slowly. AH I see, Pub Pants. I had to come over here and check you out. Cool blog!! 🙂

  22. Agent Kristin said:

    We have checked with our ISP provider and he has looked into your error message.

    He suspects that you might have a virus and don’t know it. Also, he said the IP address looks suspicious.

    From our tech person:
    “Without knowing for sure, the information you sent me about the error message looks like it may be from a virus, and our virus filter is rejecting it. It COULD be that someone has a virus, so they send you a valid email, then the virus sends a similar message, or attaches itself to that message, and because it’s coming in with a virus, our system rejects it.”

    Maybe run a scan on your system and try and resend.

    That might be all I can do to help you.

  23. sylvia said:

    My IP address probably looks funny because I’m in Spain. 🙂

    However, I did check before contacting you; there was nothing attached to the outbound mail. Very odd.

    The resend has worked so all is well. Thanks 🙂

  24. Diana said:

    I noticed a similar thing on my first batch of short story submissions for my magazine. I’ve been critiquing stories
    for over three years now for other writers. I could tell pretty easily which stories had not been critiqued. Or, if they had, who needs to listen to their crit group.

    If you aren’t a member of a crit group, find one. There are plenty of options online.

  25. Confessor said:

    Does anyone have any recommendations for chick-lit critique groups online or in the Denver area. I haven’t been able to find any with the right type of audience for my novel.

  26. pj schnyder said:

    On the topic of riding economy class – right there with you. I’m unable to do any work in-flight if the person in front of me reclines their seat, unless I happen to have my little netbook (Asus EeePC) rather than my normal work laptop. I’m not going to be carrying around both on a given trip – so if I’m traveling for work, I’m limited to the work laptop. It can get really tough on long flights especially if I wanted to get actual writing done.

    Thank you so much for the information and insight you’ve provided because it really does give food for thought.

    Finally, in regards to crit groups – I’ve been searching for outside opinions and been lucky enough to have friends and fellow aspiring authors offer to beta read my work. I’m still nervous though and constantly searching for additional critique. When do we know enough is enough?

  27. Mechelle Fogelsong said:


    Here’s the URL for the Colorado Authors’ League’s link page. It might give you some ideas about various writers groups in your region.

    I belong to the Idaho Writers League, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and Romance Writers of America. My local chapter of the IWL (Idaho Writers League) meets to critique once or twice a month. Local writers can be very helpful, but sometimes those so-called professionals can be a little surreal too. So I also ask total strangers to critique me all the time.

    For example, recently I wrote a book that takes place in Hawaii, so I found someone on Facebook–yeah, FACEBOOK of all places–a total stranger, to critique my work. She may not know where all the quotation marks go, but she’ll be able to tell me if I got my Hawaiian facts straight.

    It sounds wacky, but I ask for editing help from my bank tellers, the checkers at my grocery store, even people I work with who HATE me. Sometimes the people who hate you the most, make the very best editors. It’s true!

    Best of luck.

  28. Confessor said:

    @Mechelle Fogelsong

    Thanks for the advice! I was actually thinking about the possibility of just finding some strangers on facebook to help critique my work. Especially since my story is set in a large city which is starting to resemble NYC, and I have never been there. It would be helpful to find someone that can fact check that for me. Thanks again!

  29. Rick Daley said:

    Thank you for sharing your insight, this was a great topic.

    There are two work-arounds for the cramped plane space:

    – Instead of opening your laptop in the tradition “L” shape and typing like a human, you need to open it like a “V” and pretend you have the arms of a T. Rex

    – Just ditch the work and use your drink voucher, because there’s no room for a laptop and a scotch anyway.

  30. Linda Randall said:

    Hi Kristin,
    I’m working on my synopsis and query letter for my first fiction novel The Munroe Mansion.

    My question is about the first page with my personal info, word count and rights.

    What rights should I say that I want?

    I want the rights to the book, a movie deal and a video game deal?