Wednesday, September 24, 2014

photo credit: UNE Photos via photopin cc

Aww, the good ole' days when all you needed were four magic words and poof! Your first line was done! Well, those days are as ancient as the quill pen they were written with. Now, according to experts in the field, you get nanoseconds to convince the reader to turn the page. Nanoseconds??? Seriously??? After all the work I went through to write that page, you only give me nanoseconds??? When I first heard this comment, I thought it was ridiculous, until I found myself in the bookstore reading book jackets and making my choice to buy or not buy in nanoseconds. 

It seems we writers keep having this conversation about first lines and or pages. Jill Corcoran of  Jill Corcoran Literary Agency did an entire blog post, including sample pages on , Why I Reject a Novel Based on Your First Page.  Dear dedicated two different post on why openings that break the rules like Gayle Forman's If I Stay and John Green's The Fault In Our Stars work. Proving once again you can break the rules as long as you do it well. Which brings me to the same conclusion as always; follow your heart first, the rules second.

What do you think about first lines/pages? How long do you give a book before you decide to purchase it?



Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

If it's a new author to me, I usually read a few pages in a bookstore to see if I like the voice of the writer. If it's a writer I'm familiar with and already know I like their voice, I'll but it based on blurb or cover flap. I'm not a nanosecond buyer.

S.P. Bowers said...

I have to admit I generally read a book (from the library or a friend) before buying. Sometimes I'll download the sample to my kindle so I get the whole first chapter. Otherwise I generally go off reviews and the advice of friends in combination with the first page read.I rarely decide in Nanoseconds.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

It depends on various things including genre, summary and book cover. The first sentence is rarely a determinant because I usually know about the book by looking it up or word of mouth before I buy. Breaking the rules will either help or hurt you. Best to follow your heart like you said.

Jo said...

I think the cover makes me pick up the book but the blurb makes me buy it. I usually don't read any of it until I get back home.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The cover makes me pick it up and the back cover synopsis makes me buy. I rarely judge just the first page. (Now three chapters into it, I better be hooked!)

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

The title, cover, and flipping through to a random page to see if it looks good. I don't want to know what is going to happen, and I don't read the blurb or reviews. Some authors I just grab it because of who they are. I don't buy a lot of new releases though. If it is brand new and going to cost a lot, then I am more choosy.

Kathy M.

Susanne Drazic said...

Title, front cover, back cover blurb. If the book has a dust jacket, I make sure to also look at the inside flaps.
If the book comes in both paperback and hardcover, I will choose paperback.

cleemckenzie said...

An informal study in a mid-Manhattan bookstore a few years ago determined browsers never went past the third page if they opened the book at all. So, yes. nano seconds in the writers' world.

Scribbles From Jenn said...


Susan, authors love readers like you!

S.P., with the price of everything today, I use some of the same tactics as you.

Sheena, In the end, following your heart is always a winner

What self control, Jo! I start reading in the car.

Alex, you are a rare bird. I wish everyone gave a new book three chapters.

Kathy M., At times those blurbs do contain spoilers.

Susanne, I choose paperback, too. It leaves more cash to buy that next book I love.

C.Lee, That matches up what the agent said. I'm glad to know I fit within the norm.

Heather Musk said...

I don't really judge a book or story from it's opening line, I like to give it a few chapters or paragraphs first to see if it's worth pursuing. This can be tricky though when you're in the bookshop choosing a purchase!
It is frustrating when you have to put so much effort into those first few words, knowing that people will use them to decide whether to read the rest.

I like your 'I write like ... ' tab, by the way. Mine came out as Stephen King! Very pleased with that!

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