Whether you’re entering contests or submitting partial manuscripts to agents, your job is to hook the agent or judge regardless of page count restrictions. Wanna know how? Check it out.
Note: For this post, we’ll use 30 pages as the maximum page count.
-Follow the guidelines: If the guidelines say to include 30 pages, NEVER exceed 30 pages, unless an exception is listed. For example, I recently read a literary agency’s guidelines that asked for 25 pages but said the author could finish a scene and go beyond 25 pages (within reason). What does that mean? It would probably be okay to add a page or two, but going beyond that could be pushing the limits.
-Finish a sentence: Don’t cut a sentence in half and end without punctuation. It’s better to end with the previous sentence instead. Some agents have tweeted it’s okay to finish the sentence, but others don’t like that. Be sure to know what each agent expects. If you don’t know, assume you need to end with the previous sentence.
-End with a hook: Look to see where your 30 pages end. Most likely, they don’t end with a hook. But you want to end with a hook—something that will make the agent or judge want to read more. This could result in a higher contest score or a request for the full manuscript from an agent. Remember, you shouldn’t go over 30 pages, but you can go under 30 pages. I believe it’s more important to end with a hook than to end with 30 pages, even if that means stopping at page 25. Of course, your goal is to come as close to 30 pages without going over, but that’s not always easy.
-Stop in the middle of a scene: It’s okay to stop in the middle of the scene. You don’t need to go all the way to the end of the scene. It’s more important to find the hookiest place to end the sample without going over the maximum word count.
As with anything, there are always exceptions. In this case, an agent might want you to send exactly 30 pages, no matter where they end. If the agent has specifically stated this, do as he asks. He might be testing you to see how well you follow instructions. However, for the most part, agents will prefer you end with a hook because that could make them want to read more. And that’s your goal. To hook the agent or contest judge.
Good luck with the contests and submissions.