Should You Send Your Prologue to an Agent?

If you’re a writer, who’s querying agents, and you have a prologue in your story, you may be wondering whether or not to include the prologue when an agent requests sample pages. I’d say… Wait for it… It depends. You were expecting that response, weren’t you? I mean, pretty much any post or article you read about prologues are ambiguous. Why is that? Well, a part of the reason is that some stories really shouldn’t have prologues to begin with, while others could us a prologue if it were well-written and short.

But this post isn’t about whether or not to include a prologue or how to write one. You’re here to find out when, if ever, you should provide the agent with a copy of your prologue. So, let’s go through some scenarios.

1) You read the submission guidelines on the agent’s website and it said to include the first ten pages. Should you start with your prologue? No. According to a few agents who’ve blogged about this, many agents don’t read the prologue at this point. I’m guessing this is because they want to get to know your main character and see how you start the story, the real story. A prologue is still considered backstory, even if it’s sometimes an acceptable way of including it.

2) The submission guidelines on the agent’s website says to include the first three chapters. Do you include your prologue and chapters one and two? That depends. If you can include chapters 1-3 without the prologue, and the story still makes sense, do it. If not, you’ll have to include the prologue, but count it as a chapter, which means you should only send chapters one and two with it.

3) The agent requests the full manuscript after reading your partial, which didn’t include the prologue. Now what? The agent has already read the first three chapters and doesn’t know you even have a prologue. What should you do? Panic? No. Simply include the prologue, along with a short note explaining that the agent has not yet read it. That way, she won’t be surprised or confused when it shows up with the rest of the manuscript. You don’t want her thinking she has the wrong pages in front of her.

4) The agent requests a full manuscript based off the query or a few sample pages. Go ahead and include the prologue with the rest of the story. In this case, there’s no need to explain that it’s there, because the agent hasn’t been exposed to much, if any, pages of your manuscript.

Once the agent has read your manuscript, be prepared that she may ask you to remove your prologue or justify why you feel you need one.

Note: As always, I’ve referred to agents as females, not because male agents don’t exist but because this allowed for a better flow.

Do you have a prologue? When do you feel a prologue is needed?

Rumored Romantics Contest Update:
Anyone who entered my critique group contest has by now been notified as to whether or not they’re moving on to the next round. All semi-finalists should’ve received a congratulatory e-mail as well as an update about a previous member who has rejoined the group. Below is a list of the semi-finalists by first name only, in no particular order.

Congratulations to these fifteen semi-finalists: (I couldn’t narrow it down more than this. There’s a lot of talent here.)

-Toni Lynn

If you find your name on this list and haven’t received the above-mentioned e-mails, please contact me.

Lynnette Labelle

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2 Responses to Should You Send Your Prologue to an Agent?

  1. If the story makes sense without the prologue, then the prologue shouldn’t be there in the first place.

  2. Lynnette Labelle says:

    Marilynn: I agree, but it’s not always easy for an author to determine whether or not she really needs the prologue.

    Lynnette Labelle

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