A successful book is a complex cocktail of good writing, good ideas, good marketing, and good timing—with a little good luck thrown in on top. The mixture is different for every book, and there’s no easy formula—but there is one thing almost all successful books have in common: a great first page. The first page should grab the attention of agents, publishers, and readers, and make them want to read more.
At PageToFame, authors submit just one page to get started. Readers rate that page, and if it gets enough high marks to move on to Round 2, a prominent agent will review the page, and the author will be invited to submit a first chapter. If it passes to Round 3, an agent will take a look, and the author can submit an even longer writing sample—and so on, until an entire manuscript is submitted for rating and review. Books that make it all the way to the final round have a great shot at being picked up by an agent and getting a publishing deal—and it all starts with that great first page.
There are as many ways to start a book as there are—well, books. Different topics, different styles, different genres, different writers—all call for different book openings. While there are no hard and fast rules, these tips may help you write a successful first page:
|Food for thought: Open with an abstract or philosophical statement that is relevant to your book’s plot.||Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”|
|Meet the hero: Introduce a pivotal character on the first page.||Jack Kerouac, On the Road: “I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.”|
|Show them where it hurts: Get right to the book’s central conflict.||Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint: “She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seem to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise.”|
|Microcosmic anecdote: Tell a small story that serves as an example of the larger story to come.||Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: “For Hush Puppies—the classic American brushed-suede shoes with the lightweight crepe sole—the Tipping Point came somewhere between late 1994 and early 1995.”|
|Surprisingly mundane: Set an ordinary scene in which one intriguing, out-of-the-ordinary thing happens.||Alice Munro, “Nettles,” Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: “In the summer of 1979, I walked into the kitchen of my friend Sunny’s house near Uxbridge, Ontario, and saw a man standing at the counter, making himself a ketchup sandwich.”|
|Be self-conscious: Tell readers exactly what they’re about to read—whether it’s true or not.||Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita: “’Lolita, or the Confession of a White Widdowed Male,’ such were the two titles under which the writer of the present note received the strange pages it perambulates.”|
|Begin at the end: Allude to the book’s conclusion—without giving everything away.||Chuck Palahniuk, Rant: “Like most people, I didn’t meet and talk to Rant Casey until after he was dead.”|
|Set the scene: Paint a picture of an important physical location.||Truman Capote, In Cold Blood: “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘Out There.’”|
|Everyday people: Begin with a representative action that defines your character or theme.||Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: “On most days, I enter the Capitol through the basement.”|