icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

About Writing Right: The Blog


A beginning writer who had received a request from a publisher to send from 50 - 100 pages of his book for review wanted to know which was preferable--sending more or sending less. Here's how I responded.

*     *     *

Congratulations on an interesting question. It's so interesting, in fact, that it's nearly unique. Perhaps that's why every other respondent who sent you an answer is wrong—either in content or by omission.


The truth is that any publisher asking for 50 - 100 pages of a manuscript isn't looking for 10 pages pulled from here and 15 pages culled from there, as several respondents suggested you do. He wants the first 50 - 100 consecutive pages. That's because cherry-picking your "best" pages from the manuscript doesn't tell the editor how the book begins, how successful you are at grabbing the reader's interest and attention in a short period of time, and how logically and cohesively you string together your thoughts. I'm amazed that no other respondent took the time to research his or her answer before spitting it out into cyberspace—which is exactly where such nonsensical gibberish belongs.


On another note, you need to understand this about the editor's request: It's no crime if you send out 45 or 46 pages instead of the minimum requested, and it's no sin if you exceed the maximum number requested by 5 or even 10 percent. Editors understand that writers don't want to cut a sentence or a thought or even a scene short before it's fully developed. They realize that their request for a minimum and maximum number of pages is a guideline only. No editor will ever bounce a really fantastic work of literature because the author sent him a little too many or too few pages! If he does, I guarantee you he won't be an editor at that house for long!


Now, with that said, it's equally important to understand that, in selecting where to end your sample material, you don't stop far short of the minimum words or run way beyond the maximum. An editor will cringe if he wants a max of 100 pages and receives 150! So would you, were you in his shoes.


So, send a contiguous section of your book from the first page on, come as close to the editor's word-count request as practical, and rest assured that you'll be just fine. Meanwhile, do me a favor, and ignore the ridiculously wrong and potentially harmful advice that could end up seeing your sample writing—and your book—summarily rejected from editorial consideration. Nearly half a century of pitching books to editors of all ilk at conventional publishing houses has told me what they want, and that's exactly what I wanted when I was a book editor. They want to see how the book begins and how well it flows and keeps the reader engaged.


Hope this helps, and good luck!

*     *     *

D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack

Be the first to comment