How do you get a book published? One imperative: make sure those first ten pages hook readers.

Seems Dr. Obvious, I know. But it’s not so easy. First, if we are writing alone on our writer island, we can lose perspective. I’m sure you love your main character or characters, but after edits and drafts galore, I think it’s hard to know if the beginning of your book is a winner. Same goes when writing within a writers group. I’m a huge fan of them. Most of my fiction and plays I’ve developed through outside eye feedback sessions. But, writers groups have limits too. All of those people giving feedback know and (hopefully!) care about you to some degree, so there’s a possibility of bias. Also, they too have read and re-read your chapters through the months, years. What authors need are fresh eyes on the page.

How to publish a book

Do you grab readers or not?

Of the manuscripts we’ve tested through BookHive with our beta reader teams, more often than not, the first ten pages fall short. And this happens with manuscripts of all types. The ones that need a lot of work, or just a tinkering. A lot of readers will be engaged by page 50, but that’s too late. If we’re talking about getting published or wanting people to buy your book, it has to be immediate.

If you choose to try traditional publishing, you’ll be sending anywhere from the first ten pages to three chapters of your manuscript to land an agent (and don’t be sneaky and send 10-50 pages of something in the middle because you ‘think’ it’s better – every agent panel I’ve ever seen someone mentions this as not a smooth move.) If your book becomes the most brilliant thing ever by page 60, well, that agent will never know. I’ve heard agents say that sometimes they know in the first one to two pages if it’s something they want to see more of. ONE to TWO pages – yikes! Better make those pages count!

It boils down to getting fresh eyes on your manuscript and doing your homework. I’ve worked with a few authors who really want to get their book published, whether traditional or self-published, and re-test their revised ten pages with our beta readers. I’ve constructed whole mini-surveys dissecting the reader experience of why something is hooking them or not.

Hook Beta Readers

Another tip I mention to authors who are looking to spruce up their first ten pages, is to collect four to five top selling books in your genre by writers you admire. I’ve used this technique myself with my YA manuscript. Read only the first ten pages to first chapter of each book, and jot down what happens: POV, plot points, character revelations, language use, how the chapter starts and ends, and WHY it hooked you. I’m not suggesting you mimic your favorite authors tone. But I think reading other great artist’s work and understanding the mechanics behind it can only make you a better writer.

When people go on Amazon, they can click on ‘Look Inside’ – read the first few pages, and from there might decide whether or not to buy your book. That alone should convince one how important this is.

So work those first few pages over and over until they are tight and sing your story like mad. You won’t regret it.

BookHive Corp. does beta reader editorial research for authors. Enjoy the $100 off coupon code BUZZ.

Jennifer BookHive

Jennifer Bowen, QueenBee/CEO, of BookHive Corp.


Written by Jennifer Bowen

Jennifer Bowen hails from a family business of research and has always considered it valuable. After working on her first YA book, she yearned for feedback from teenage readers, and the idea for BookHive and an organized beta reader process was born. As QueenBee of BookHive (more fun than CEO) she has attended the San Francisco Writers Conference, the Boston Book Fair, and The New York Self-Publishing Conference. BookHive was also selected to attend Startup Alley at the Book Expo of America in 2015, as "One of Twenty Startups to Watch."

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