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Are You Giving Agents Your Best Material?

You’ve perfected your query letter. Your synopsis is sparkling. Then you reach the last step of submitting your work: the sample chapters. Easy—just copy and paste the first twenty-odd pages of the manuscript you have right on your computer! But wait—that method might be doing a disservice to your book.

As we’ve revealed to writers in our coaching programs, it’s not as simple as including your first few chapters of your work—you should be sharing your best chapters instead. Sometimes, a book’s first chapters aren’t the most unique or impressive, so when you’re querying, think about the most dramatic, revelatory scenes (for fiction) or insights (for nonfiction) that your book provides.

Here are some pitfalls we’ve seen writers fall into when submitting sample material:

  • Fiction writers can become too focused on showing off their writing chops that they sacrifice plot. A ten-page description of a forest, however gorgeous, alone won’t convince an agent of the saleability of your book—choose a section of your book that shows off your unique and talented voice while also illustrating an interesting plot point or character development that will make us want to keep reading—what will happen next? Make sure that the beginning and end of your sample chapters are especially gripping, as that’s what your reader will most remember.
  • Likewise, nonfiction writers can get bogged down by presenting chapters that don’t give an agent or publisher a clear vision of what their big idea is. Try to find (or create) a chapter that best showcases your singular voice and demonstrates why the key concepts discussed proves or reveals your book’s overall message. Agents should finish the chapter thinking that they haven’t seen anything exactly like this and that you are the right voice for this message. To further convince them of saleability, make your target audience clear and address them in your sample pages. Invoking the reader in your work is NEVER a bad thing for practical or prescriptive nonfiction.

But choosing which sample chapters to feature in your query or in your book proposal is only one part of attracting an agent and getting a book deal. Each piece of your book package is crucial, which is why we offer specialized courses to help strengthen your work to its maximum potential.

Some of our most popular courses include:

  • Putting together a book proposal? Our Book Proposal Boot Camp can help! In this video course, Lucinda will walk you through every section of the proposal, sharing strategies for hitting all of the right chords. Plus, you’ll hear publishing insider advice straight from special guest Patty Gift, VP of Editorial at Hay House. You’ll also receive Lucinda Literary’s successful Book Proposal Template, which our own agents use to help authors shape their proposals.
  • If you’re ready to submit your work to agents or publishers, you won’t want to miss Lucinda’s querying wisdom in our Letter Better course. You’ll discover the seven deadly sins of querying to avoid and unlock nine winning tactics to drastically improve your query. This program will also give you access to sample query letters hand-selected by our team as a reference when drafting your own.
  • Discover everything you need to know about getting your book published in our most comprehensive course Get Signed. This program provides you with the proven techniques you can use to get noticed, get responses, and drastically increase your chances of getting signed by an agent or publisher. From identifying your publishing path, to composing your book package, to advancing your marketing skills, to understanding how to get a 6-7 figure book deal, Get Signed will give you all the tools you need to be successful in today’s competitive market.

Check out all our available on demand courses here!