Pub Rants

Sure Enough—Killed Off In First 5 Pages

 17 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: My To Do list was ridiculous and I didn’t even finish one item on it. In good news, some other fun stuff happened.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ONE AND ONLY by Teitur

I actually typed up yesterday’s blog entry while at the office. I headed home and then met with a friend for dinner. When back at home, I picked up my kindle so I could take 30 minutes to review some sample page submissions. (On a sidenote, this process is pretty typical for me. I only allocate about 30 minutes to review submissions. Now if something grabs me, then I’ll go beyond the allocated time frame. That’s how I know something is good if I’m “staying up” to finish reading the sample. I’ll ask for the full the next day).

But back to my story. I pick up my kindle and pop open the first submission—a young adult work. Sure enough, the main protagonist dies within the first five pages.

Considering I just literally blogged about that hours before, the irony was not lost on me. Y’all will be happy to know that I didn’t stop reading the submission. It was actually a rather cool premise so I did read the sample pages in its entirety (so about 30 pages). Ultimately I decided to pass on asking for a full. I didn’t connect to that main character and considering she is already dead, I felt like that was a rather crucial ingredient to make this novel work for me despite it’s rather unique setting and concept.

I figured blog readers wouldn’t mind hearing about this. As for queries that have yesterday’s outlined trends, we don’t dismiss them out of hand by any means. But it certainly has to go the extra distance in its uniqueness so that we’ll ask for sample pages.

So keep that in mind.

17 Responses

  1. Olivia Herrell said:

    Gotta love it. I just tuned in to your blog for the first time yesterday and when I read today’s title I just HAD to click over. I’m impressed and encouraged that you kept reading. I like that.

    ~Olivia Herrell

  2. Tessa Quin said:

    I made a blog post today about yesterday’s topic and realized that in order to jump on the trendy-train, you probably have to have a manuscript ready before it becomes a trend. It just seems to me that the agents are quick to exclude popular genres to start a new hype.

    But then maybe I’m just getting it all wrong.

  3. Remilda Graystone said:

    I didn’t notice this trend among books, but maybe it’s an upcoming trend? I’ve only read one book where the main character dies in the first chapter, but I didn’t find it interesting enough to actually finish.

    Anyway, at least the person knows you didn’t turn it down without actually finishing the sample pages. I think that should be somewhat comforting.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. pensees said:

    I found your blog post interesting, as this happens in my book (though it is not YA). I’m not surprised it’s a popular theme, since the afterlife affords limitless opportunities for creativity.

    I am glad you kept reading, even if you did ultimately pass. Since there aren’t a lot of popular books out now with this theme, it sounds like it might be ‘the new vampire’. Tee-hee!


  5. Kathryn said:

    Love the irony, first of all. Too bad that you had to pass.

    I would love to hear more about what “grabs” agents when it comes to characters. It seems very vague sometimes.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Remilda, I’ve seen a few books in the teen section over the last couple years in which the main character is already dead, or dies right off the bat. No titles stick with me. Possibly because I wasn’t that interested– it’s hard to get past the protag’s being dead.

    I can see where the idea comes from. It’s an adolescent fantasy. “They’ll all be sorry when I’m dead!” But that’s followed by the thought that one wouldn’t be around to appreciate how sorry everyone was. Unless…

  7. Tahlia said:

    It’s a trend I didn’t know about, but I’m sick of vampires so maybe that has something to do with it.

    You could read the first chapter of my YA fantasy novel and think that my protagonist dies at the end of it, but hey, you have to give the reader a few surprises, right?

    At the begining of ch 2, she’s still there. It was a false alarm. Just thought I’d let you know in case you were interested in reading ch1 at

    I’d love to know what you think.

  8. Rehman Pakistani said:

    After reading your blog, I’ve told myself that if I ever tried to write a book… I’ll keep this thing in mind befoe contacting an agent…

    Thanks for the post.

  9. Anonymous said:

    The only book I can think of off the top of my head that tells the story from dead MC pov is Lovely Bones. I’ve never read it (I’m not one for sappy, sad stories) but I’ve heard it’s a real tear jerker.

  10. Allison Rushby said:

    The Luxe series starts off with a dead heroine… but! (Won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read the books!). I guess if the writing’s good, you push on regardless of the premise…

  11. Gilbert J. Avila said:

    I once read a novel by Nathan Aldyne (Michael McDowell) where 3/4 through the book the protagonist is killed off and his brother picks up the rest of the story!!coloti

  12. nymfaux said:

    I read a Christopher Pike book called “Remember Me,” where the character is murdered and helps solve her death—this was WAY before the lovely bones, and I think a lot more fun and satisfying, too!

  13. Dave F. said:

    2003 and Stewart O’Nan’s book “The Night Country” was the first book I remember with “dead” teenagers that important to the plot. O’Nan is an excellent writer and perhaps he was the tipping point that triggered this current wave of protagonist killing.

  14. The Editor Devil said:

    Thank you! I was able to share this with my editing class students. We’ve discussed how *not to start a novel (sleeping, dreams, weather, etc.). Killing your character wasn’t on the list but should be. Obviously in a paranormal you can bring the person back from the dead, but I can see that even that is cliche now.
    Regards, the Editor Devil