While all the pages of your manuscript are equally important, many would argue that the opening pages are the most pivotal in determining if agents, editors, and readers will be interested in what you have to say. Of course, the book cover is important in terms of capturing a reader’s attention, but that’s later after the book has been published.
There’s a plethora of competition out there in the book world. Contrary to predictions and rumors of a diminishing pool of society who are interested in reading anything longer than a text message or tweet, book buying continues to flourish. Rather a consumer is a voracious reader that buys several books every month or someone who goes to the library each weekend, books are being read. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, nonfiction, self-help, memoir, children’s’ books or cookbooks, it’s all there for someone’s reading pleasure.
Plus, let’s not forget, it’s easier to read than ever. You don’t even have to pick up a book. With a tap on a keyboard, you can have your reading material instantly downloaded to your cell phone, tablet or laptop. Of course, listening is an easier option, especially with our busy lives. It’s convenient to have the opportunity to listen while cooking, gardening, cleaning the garage or walking the dog in the park.
In 2019, Amy Watson reported that 675 million print books were sold in the United States. That figure does not include audible and e-books. Five years ago Amazon published a new book every five minutes, so just imagine how many they are now making available to the reading public. Obviously, there’s a lot of money being made in publishing, but how will you get your book in the hands of your target population?
Rather someone picks up your book from a shelf in a bookstore or browsing through an on-line app to find something to read, your book will have to ‘hook’ him or her in right away. After they open the cover, and leaf through any acknowledgment or dedication pages, they have to decide how they will spend their book-buying dollars. When they flip through those first pages, they must be captivated enough to want to keep reading and discover what is going to happen next.
This is why it’s important to have beta readers (nonwriters) and critique partners (writers), read through your first drafts of your manuscript. You want their honest assessment of what they thought of your story. I had a friend that was taking forever to provide feedback on an earlier manuscript. I discovered that her reluctance was because she kept putting down the book and didn’t feel curious enough to want to pick it back up. Ouch, right? But, better to learn early, than after I’ve spent a year writing a novel that no one wants to read, much less purchase.
Let the reader know, right away, that there’s trouble in your story world and that your heroine has hurdles to overcome before she can achieve her goals. No one is pulled in by routine, mundane details of everyday life. The stakes must be high, complete with significant risks that have your readers cheering for her all the way, through all the twists and turns that occur in your story.
When someone opens your book, you have one opportunity to make her want to read more. Make sure that you’ve written enough details to encourage her to want to not only read the book in hand but all of those that you write in the future. Readers tend to be loyal to the authors they love, so be sure to give them what they want, from page one to the end.