I was wondering if anyone has any experience with this.
When an author or agent asks you for sample chapters of your work, without specification, what strategy is best? Say they ask for three. Is it best to show the first three chapters, or the first chapter plus two more from the middle/end of the story that you think showcase the story better, or some other combination?
April 8th, 2007, 02:17 PM
Sometimes they specify. In general though, I think this is because they want a sample of writing that they can look at without having to read through an entire manuscript.
If they don't specify, I think the best strategy is to critically evaluate your own work and sent them the BEST three chapters. Having said that, I would hope that chapter 1 is one of the best three - otherwise your test reader will be haunted by the question of whether or not chapter 1 is good enough to hook anyone.
In my experience, if they ask only for 3 chapters, they also ask for a story synopsis, so you shouldn't have to worry about the sample chapters telling a complete story.
April 8th, 2007, 02:38 PM
If you go to Miss Snark's website and look in her archives, she's answered a question similar to yours. She is an agent and knows what she's talking about.
I dont remember the exact website name but type miss snark on google and you'll find her.
April 8th, 2007, 07:10 PM
Whatever they ask for, follow the guidelines to the letter. Some agents simply throw a submission in the recycling bin if it wasn't sent according to their specifications.
And they want to see the "first" few chapters, not some random chapters. If they're intrigued by the sample material, they will then ask for more.
In terms of any genre fiction, when an agency doesn't have any specifications, it's common to send a complete outline and 3 to 5 chapters, whatever brings the total amount to about 50 pages or so. If you're lucky, some will even accept email query.:)
April 8th, 2007, 10:02 PM
First three chapters, always, unless you have an unusual structure for your book, such as interlocking novellas or something.
April 9th, 2007, 04:02 PM
If they're asking for chapters, they like what they see so far. A story should hook a reader in the first 50 pages. Also, they want to check your writing for grammar and spelling.
April 9th, 2007, 07:55 PM
Noe writting liek this. Theyll laff at ur bukk.
None of that. Check, double-check, triple-check, and then have someone else check it, maybe two or three trusty checkers if you can find 'em.
April 11th, 2007, 06:31 PM
Thanks for the advice everyone!
April 11th, 2007, 07:43 PM
KatG has it right. First three. Always.
That way they can figure out (a) if you can write and (b) whether you draw them into your story. If they can't get past the first chapter then chances are, neither will any of their potential readers and your manuscript will be given the old spanish archer treatment - El-bow.
I know you had said that the publisher hadn't specified that they wanted the first three - but that's common practice.
In the instances where publishers do specify what they want, I'd follow it to the letter. Don't try and be clever or "different." All that probably proves to them is that you can't follow instructions either - and you'll find that manuscript will be filed in the receptacle marked "Trash."
April 12th, 2007, 08:19 AM
Ah well, they never let you have a big recepticle marked Trash, just the pile that needs Return letters. Publishers would prefer that authors follow instructions, but are very used to them not doing so. They will still probably take a look if they asked for the sample. It's just if you send them Chapter 1 and Chapter 7, they'll only read Chapter 1. Whereas if you send them Chapters 1-3, they are at least likely to read through Chapter 2, and if they like it, continue with Chapter 3 and ask for more.