Getting Published: How many pages does it take?

19 Dec

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know.

How many pages does it take to get into a book? A handful of websites have a few theories. Some of these sites even use these theories to help new writers become published!

As a reader, I’ve always needed to be drawn in at the get-go. I don’t need action and intensity up front, but I do need realistic characters, engaging prose, and a solid (yet twisty) plot. That’s why when friends recommended Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo from the Millennium series but said it took 500 pages before the story gets going, I knew I’d never read the book.

PUBSLUSH, WeBooks, and The Page 99 test understand the need to engage readers at different points in a book. Each, though, uses their own formula for determining a manuscript/book’s success at that.

PUBSLUSH, which according to the founders was inspired by J.K. Rowling’s “plight” to become published originally, gives the reader 10 pages, a fairly standard measurement many readers use to determine whether or not to continue reading. After the reader has read the pages, he or she can choose to back the book, which is more or less pre-ordering the book. Like Kickstarter, the book has to reach a certain level of backers (in PUBSLUSH’s case, there has to be at least 2,000 backers). If a book reaches that point, bam! Book is sent to be edited, designed, and published. Yay!

WEBooks gives the writer an even smaller frame to entice the reader. Here, you get 1 page, your first page. Readers then provide feedback of sorts by ranking on a scale from “Toss” to “Elevate”. If a page gets a certain number of “Elevates” or other high rankings, the writer goes to the next level, where he or she submits a larger piece of writing to entice readers. If the writer is successful through this and the full manuscript level, his or her manuscript is sent to an agent and it gets a book deal.

The Page 99 Test is a bit different in that it doesn’t actually get anyone published. This is more a forum for writers to solicit feedback on page 99 of their manuscript and see how the readers react. Why page 99? That’s so random! Exactly!

The creators of The Page 99 Test chose page 99 because it’s completely arbitrary. Writers work, rework, and work some more on the first few pages of the book. They know they only have 10 pages to hook a reader. Page 99 is usually less edited and rewritten. The website even recommends writing clubs and classes to use this site as a means to receive feedback on homework and see if students/participants are on the right track.

I recommend either using these websites as a writer to receive that extra feedback you won’t necessarily get from your best friends and parents. Better yet, be the reader who helps the writer get better. All three of these sites require a give and take relationship on the part of the reader and writer. Get involved!


One Response to “Getting Published: How many pages does it take?”

  1. Stephen Tiano December 19, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Interesting. If I actually knock out my book on designing and laying out books, and my ontological detective novel, I may take a look at these sites.

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