would you turn the page?

This is an interesting feature at Writer Unboxed: Would You Pay to Turn the First Page of this Bestseller?

This novel was number one on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list for August 22, 2021. How strong is the opening page—would it, all on its own, hook an agent if it was submitted by an unpublished writer?

Isn’t that interesting? Don’t you want to read the page?

Here’s the first paragraph:

Billy Summers sits in the hotel lobby, waiting for his ride. It’s Friday noon. Although he’s reading a digest-sized comic book called Archie’s Pals ’n’ Gals, he’s thinking about Émile Zola, and Zola’s third novel, his breakthrough, Thérèse Raquin. He’s thinking it’s very much a young man’s book. He’s thinking that Zola was just beginning to mine what would turn out to be a deep and fabulous vein of ore. He’s thinking that Zola was— is— the nightmare version of Charles Dickens. He’s thinking that would make a good thesis for an essay. Not that he’s ever written one.

The entire first page is at the link — plus a poll: Would you turn the page or wouldn’t you?

Having read the whole first page: I would not. I dislike present tense. An author can make me like a novel written in present tense, but the author is pushing uphill to make that work for me. This does not get me over that hill. There is a nice line here — a nightmare version of Charles Dickens — but that is the only thing I like about the opening page.

Does anyone recognize this? I did not. I assumed this would be a literary work. It isn’t. You will absolutely for sure recognize the author’s name. Click through, answer the poll question, and see if you’re surprised by the author. I was.

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10 thoughts on “would you turn the page?”

  1. The blog author points out that the book has 4.7 stars out of 5 on Goodreads, but I think that certainly almost all readers of the book are reading it because they like the author’s prior books? People who read everything that author writes? I think they’re far far more likely to give a novel a chance well beyond the first page.

    BTW, this first page did nothing for me.

  2. For me, the difficulty is that I rarely ever pick up a book without knowing the premise or setup, so “cold reading” a first page like this is disorienting. I had always thought the author to have a good handle on voice, yet this page left me rolling my eyes.

  3. Nope. There’s not much to catch my interest in those first two paragraphs; you’d have to work a lot harder than that to get me to read a whole novel in present tense.

  4. Not for me, unless I have some idea of what the story is about. I recognize the name, of course, but I’ve never read any of their books.

  5. I’d probably turn the page because I need more than one page to know whether I want to read the whole book. (But with some misgivings; it’s probably not a book for me, the apparent setting doesn’t appeal to me and I don’t think I like the protagonist.)

  6. No. Just a personal reaction; I dislike the protagonist just from the first few words. A slight whiff of posturing asshole turns me off.

  7. Hmmm. The page read as a setup for a thriller or something like that, quite clearly a sort of book I don’t read and wouldn’t enjoy. The protagonist and the setup weren’t attractive; I would not continue this.

    The funny thing is, the writer’s name is the one that flashed through my mind when trying to guess, though not with any certainty as I don’t read him. A friend once gave me her favorite of his to read, and I didn’t finish it.

    Still the “vibe” I got off that one page was apparently a clear enough signal in what sort of genre the story would be that that name was the association I got from it – the only such book I ever read to three-quarters or so. Or the author’s voice is so (subconsciously) recognisable that it triggered the association with that genre?

  8. I clicked through and found I had guessed correctly as to the author. I admit, I’ve never liked his style of writing, but I was surprised I could identify it so readily.

  9. I’m impressed by all of you who got the author right. I definitely did not. Without going to check the author’s backlist, I don’t believe many of his books are present tense. After the fact, I can see it. But just reading the page, no.

    I’ve read a good many of his books, but not the most recent ones.

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