Do not read The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, by Noah Lukeman if you are the slightest bit sensitive. The entire work is negative, coming across like a lecture from your parents. But it is very worth the read, if you can handle the author's bluntness. So if you have grown that thick, calloused skin that every writer seeking publishing should possess, this book belongs in your editing tool box.
Lukeman speaks from years of experience in the publishing field, and he makes everyone in it sound miserable. The image he portrays is a group of sleepy, irritated, underpaid cubicle dwellers just looking for a reason to kill the dreams of querying writers. I am not really sure how accurate this is, but the mindset that he provides is actually conducive to better editing. If I envision an agent, or publisher, skipping to her desk, eager to discover the slush waiting in her e-mail inbox, well, this person sounds more forgiving about blatant typos in my book. The sinister cubicle dweller, not so much. She sounds like she is going to be animated with sinister glee when she finds that first typo, or plot hole, or unnecessary scene. I imagine her cackling as she deletes the e-mail, and all my aspirations of becoming published deleted with the push of a key.
This short book provides tips, exercises, and examples of errors that land writers instant rejections. The tips are fresh and insightful, the exercises are effective, and the examples are incredulous in a good way. His examples, by being over the top, bring to life the errors so that writers can grasp the concepts quickly. And it works, his advice has definitely cut the guesswork out of my editing and reduced the time I spend head in hands, glaring at my computer, trying to decide what gets cut and what lives to see another day in my first draft.
My favorite parts are in the beginning of each chapter. Lukeman describes insider information about how book deals work, who agents really are, and how many of the bestselling writers were rejected multiple times before meeting with success.
This was the second book by Lukeman that I read this week. The other one is a short free e-book on query letters. How to Write a Great Query Letter is a quick, informative read. Following the same jaded style of First Five, this book provides step by step instructions on how to write a query letter that will past muster by avoiding the pitfalls that send letters straight to the rejection pile.
His advice helped me to construct a solid query letter quickly, but there was one area that I felt he went against the grain with. Lukeman recommends writers provide titles of books and movies that are similar to their work, especially if said agent represented said title. This runs counter to the advice I have received in at least two other books by experts in the writing industry, leading me to believe it is a manner of taste. Some agents might appreciate this, others may resent it. Considered yourself warned.
Visit Lukeman's website to download it for free. Note: Downloads are only available once to each visitor, so don't download this at your aunt's house the day before your visit is over. http://www.lukeman.com/greatquery/
Recommended: (First Five) Yes
Recommended: (Query Letter) Yes