This year the 2015 CYA Conference helped writers understand what it takes for a manuscript to make it through that First Page test. To do this they asked volunteers to send in copies of the first page of their manuscript, and then asked a panel of publishing experts to indicate when they would stop reading a first page, and then talk about their reasons.
For this session the publishing experts were: Alex Adsett a literary agent from Alex Adsett Publishing Services; Jacinta di Mase, a literary agent from Jacinta di Mase Management; Rochelle Manners, an independent publisher from Wombat Books and Rhiza Press; Paul Collins, the publisher at Fort Street Publishing; and Karen Tayleur, editorial manager at The Five Mile Press.
If you can answer 'no' to all these questions, your manuscript is odds on to make it through the First Page test:
Is your dialogue clunky?
Is your word count bigger than the average size of your genre?
Does your prose meander?
Is the amount of telling greater than the amount of showing?
Have you used the phrase 'This is how it all started…'?
Does your First Page describe a minor character?
Does your First Page lack action?
If a picture book, are your illustration notes missing?
Could your First Page be described as 'too wordy'?
Have you failed to make a reader curious enough to turn the first page to find out what happens next ?
Would a publisher get hate mail from history experts-upset at historical inaccuracies-if they published your work?
Do you get tongue-tied when you read your First Page out loud?
Does your first page include terms inappropriate for a child audience, eg 'hot date'?
Have you written your work for parents more than for children?
Have you failed to bring your reader into the story with effective word pictures?
Is your First Page ambiguous about being fiction or non-fiction?
Does your First Page include a list?
Does your First Page include a long epitaph or slice of poetry?
Does your First Page read like a prologue?
Do you have more description than action?
If a picture book, does it rhyme?
Have you used more than 12 adjectives in your First Page?
Have you taken more than 3 sentences to describe a scene?
Have you used the phrase: 'Once upon a time?'
Have you used trendy language that will date your book? For example: eco-farmer
Does the reader have to guess the age range of the main character?
Is the age group the book is written for unclear?
Is your book too funny or too serious?
Have you failed to include a hint on the First Page about the major complication/problem of your story?
Now that you have answered these questions for yourself, go find someone else to read your First Page and answer them. Then deal with any questions that received a 'Yes' answer. When your edits and re-writes are done, go through the process again. If you get all Nos from yourself and your someone else, then you can go back to querying your manuscript.
If you would like a copy of the more detailed Conference Notes that are being sent out to CBHunCC members via email, send through your name and email address through the Contact page.