Alright then! You have seen the queries, now it’s time to take a look at the pages to see which partial you think represents the strongest work and would be most likely to sell to a publisher. Thinking like an agent and setting aside which one you would be most likely to read in your spare time, which one do you think has the best chance of selling? Like the busy Agent for a Day that you are, you only need to read as far as you need to in order to make a decision.
I created individual posts for each of the entries so as not to make this post 150 pages long. Here they are (please ignore all formatting issues, which are due to copying over, though this is actually true to life):
I’M A NOBODY
I WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU ANYWAY
Annnnnd as I mentioned yesterday, please be exceedingly, ridiculously, incredibly nice to the participants who have so bravely offered their queries and sample pages to science.
The poll!! (click through if you’re reading in an RSS feed or via e-mail):
UPDATE 2:59 Whoops! While housecleaning on the blog I accidentally published a rough draft of tomorrow’s post, which may have been caught by some feed readers. Sorry for the inconvenience, full post tomorrow.
I think it is interesting. A well written query doesn't seem to always mean well written pages. UNREALITY CHICK had a great query, one that I really loved…and while SHORELINE'S query sucked the idea was something that really interested me. But yesterday I still picked UNREALITY CHICK at the query stage even though I wanted both. But now I see that my gut was right and SHORELINE…well, its closer to being ready for publication I think.
If I was an agent I would ask for fulls on both of these, but ultimately I would want to represent SHORELINE. This felt like a book to me and the pacing really seemed to work. UNREALITY CHICK rushed things too much and I really had problems with the fact that the teenagers were not really talking like teenagers.
All of these authors did a great job by the way!
These were posted overnight my time, so I ate them while scarfing down a bowl of cereal and keeping one eye on the clock so I wasn't late for work. It actually ended up being a good way to do it because I felt a bit how a busy agent must feel. Normally in something like this I'd read all of the pages, but I didn't have time to read through any that weren't grabbing me.
The query I voted for was also the excerpt I voted for: Unreality Chick. The voice came through really well and as someone else said, it was a good mixture of chick lit and fantasy.
I nearly voted for Black Emeralds for the query, but the excerpt didn't hook me. It felt like an infodump at the start, just with dialogue instead of straight-out telling. The dialogue felt a bit 'As you know Fred', with characters saying things for the benefit of the reader rather than each other. This author showed us in the query they can write, so I think this is just a case of starting the story in the wrong place and trying to get across a bit too much information first up.
Shoreline was the real surprise for me, because the query didn't really grab me but I read the excerpt all the way through. In the query the MC sounded too perfect, but the fact Nate doesn't like her in the book reduces her to something I think most teenage girls can relate to: crushing on a hot guy who's not interested (or appears not interested). There's other interesting elements to the story as well. It didn't quite hook me like Unreality Chick did, but it was certainly up there.
I Would Have Loved You Anyway jumped around too much at the beginning for my taste. We're at home with Presley, then we whirl through the party in a sentence, then the party is over and she's leaving… it's a lot to take in and I stopped reading there. I prefer beginnings that let you get into a scene.
I felt the same way about I'm a Nobody's excerpt as I did the query: sounds really promising, just needs some polish. I was confused during the beginning as to what was happening, just as I had been confused about exactly what was going on during the query. As I said, I think this story has a lot of promise, it just needs some clarification.
So now that I've finished dispensing my opinions… thank you brave writers for entering your work! I wasn't going to give feedback, but hopefully by reading through everyone's comments you'll come away with a stronger manuscript. You each deserve that.
Wow. I completely changed my mind after reading pages. In the queries SHORELINE was probably on the bottom of the list, but to me it had the strongest pages.
So what I think is agents should at least ask for the first five to ten pages. They could read them all or be done by the first paragraph. I just don't think you can always make a sound judgment from just the query.
Thanks everyone for sharing. This was so educational!
JD Revene says
I'm a Noboby, gets my vote (though it wasn't the query I picked, which was Black Emerald). This is the only one I'd ask to see more of–mind you YA's not my genre and perhaps I'm a harsh judge.
Claire Dawn says
At query stage, my top 3 was Unreality Chick, I'm a Nobody and Shoreline. After reading the first 30, it's Unreality Chick, Shoreline and I'm a Nobody.
Unreality Chick really resonates with me, but I also think it's the closest to polished of the lot. Even though I'm a nobody is more my type of story, Shoreline edged it out because I felt it was closer to "finished" and saleable.
Claire Dawn says
P.S. Nathan, thanks for this chance.
I've always appreciated how hard an agent's job must be, but after reading those 5, and thinking that they were, at worse, decent, it made me realise that decent work is often not good enough.
Another thing I found really difficult was reading 30 pages when I didn't really connect. On the story I really liked, 30 pages flew by. On another, 30 pages couldn't come fast enough. Also, I don't do well with a lot of suspense. I need to know what I'm working with, so readin 30 pages and still not being sure what's going on, would kill me.
Bravo Super Agent Man!
Jill Elizabeth says
UNREALITY CHICK! This one was only my second pick at the query stage, but I think the pages stand in a league of their own. Definitely would want to keep reading this one.
Jill Elizabeth says
Oops, and let me just add that I don't know how you do it, Nathan. I can see how there are so many manuscripts out there that have a great hook, but maybe the execution isn't quite there.
Since these were MG/YA novels, I asked my 13-year-old daughter to read along with me. My daughter didn't like any of them, but she thought I Am A Nobody and Unreality Chick had the most potential.
As for me, I agree with what someone else posted above, that Unreality Chick has the best voice, but that it doesn't start in the right place. We should get to know the MC a little more before this event, instead of getting an info dump through dialogue. Also, the dialogue contained way too much directed action.
The rest of the entries were just not quite there. I think I Am A Nobody needs to get more familiar with their characters and setting. It doesn't feel believable yet. Of the other three, Shoreline stood out to me the most, but mostly because I felt the voice was a bit forced. It sounded like what adults "think" teenager sound like.
I think there's something to be said for subtlety, which all of these seemed to be lacking. My daughter and I agreed that the authors' distrust of the reader's ability to read between the lines was off-putting.
I thought all of these were interesting.
I liked the pacing/suspense in I'm a Nobody. The premise for I Would Have Loved You Anyway is intersting. The Shoreline was well-written and could be captivating. Black Emeralds introduced some mystery that I was interested in reading more about. And Unreality Check was funny and different.
Ultimately I narrowed it down to I'm a Nobody and Unreality Check. I went with I'm a Nobody because I thought the fantasy element of it was different enough from what's out there to stick and it would have more broad-based appeal than the more quirky and likely niche Unreality Check.
Elizabeth S says
Shoreline again. So for me, the queries predicted the pages perfectly.
I can still see the appeal of Unreality Chick – but it's not for me, and I don't think its pages are as strong as Shoreline's.
I would suggest to the author of Shoreline that you try to get more of Maya's voice into the query. And good luck; I'd like to read more.
Ishta Mercurio says
Nathan, I have a newfound level of respect for your job, and my level of respect for agents was already pretty high. And after realizing that what I thought were the best queries didn't necessarily lead to what I thought were the strongest submissions, I have to say that I don't think the query process works at all. We should switch to a partial submission process.
Big thanks and congratulations to all submitting writers; this took guts, and I think everybody learned a lot from it. And the submissions were great. I sure have a long way to go with my own novels!
Ishta Mercurio says
Oh – I voted for SHORELINE, by the way. I felt that it had the most marketable premise, style, and voice, and I also enjoyed it. I wanted to read more by the end of the submission.
That said, I thought all the submissions were pretty good, and some were very strong.
Hard to decide here. Issues with all five, but I think Shoreline and Unreality had the best writing. Kind of a toss up but I went with Shoreline.
Did the queries work? Hard to say, especially since YA isn't a genre I'd be working in anyway. Fairly obvious though that you can't always or perhaps even usually judge how the story will be based on the query. You need those initial pages. I was able to decide within a page or two if I thought I'd read on with the partial. Can't do that with every query of course, so getting a knack for looking beyond the query is essential to being an effective agent. Not a task I'd want, that's for sure.
Watery Tart says
Very interesting experiment. Three of them (including the one I voted for yesterday) I couldn't keep reading.
Unreality Chick has the dubious distinction of being my 2nd choice on both scales–I might request a full, because I think the things that bugged me are because I am not the target audience.
Shoreline though, surprised me today–the query needs some work (even though I could tell yesterday it was my favorite CONCEPT) but I really liked the pages (maybe should have TRUSTED that I liked the concept more).
I can't imagine how you find time to do all of this, Nathan, AND read a million blog comments a day!
Congrats to all the brave posters of queries and pages. I, for one, learned a lot.
katarinas mama says
Shoreline….I just loved it.
The Wicked Lady says
Even though I voted for Unreality Chick for the query, I liked the writing in Shoreline better. (Despite a number agreement error on the first page — but even great writers make typos 😉
all seems well, i like IM A NOBODY, very well written.