Which Sample Chapters Should You Send to Agents?

When agents ask for sample chapters, which chapters should you include? If your strongest chapters fall in the middle, is it OK if I send those? The answer is different for fiction and nonfiction.
Author:
Publish date:

Q: When agents ask for sample chapters, which chapters should I include? I feel that my strongest chapters fall in the middle—is it OK if I send those? —Davey K.

sample-chapters

You wouldn’t start reading a novel in the middle, would you? Seems silly to ask an agent to do so.

Your goal with the agent (just as with your future bookstore customer) is to hook him into your story with Page 1, so always send the first few chapters of your novel. If those aren’t some of the strongest in your manuscript, then the tough truth is that you shouldn’t be querying yet. Instead, you should be editing, rewriting and reworking until they are. You want the agent to read them and say, “Oh man, this is dynamite. I wonder what happens next? I’m going to request the entire manuscript and find out!”

Keep in mind that that rule applies specifically to fiction. With nonfiction you have a little more flexibility. Often chapters from nonfiction books can stand alone (which is why magazines and newspapers regularly publish excerpts from them as articles), so it’s not essential, from a story standpoint, to send sequential chapters.

Some people think you should still send the first chapter, but you can handpick after that. In fact, it may be advantageous to send your first chapter and then one from the middle and one from the end. This would help give the agent a clearer picture of what your nonfiction book is about and how you plan to present it to readers.

Writer's Digest Annual Conference

Write better. Get published. Build your network.

Writer's Digest Annual Conference | August 22-25 | New York City

Thanks for visiting The Writer's Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

brian-klems-2013

Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian's free Writer's Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

Vintage WD_Conder Soule 11:26

Vintage WD: Poetry without Rhyme—Or Even Thees and Thous

In this article from 1977, children’s writer and poet Jean Conder Soule explores the question, “How will I know when I’ve written a poem?”

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 26

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a thankful poem.

Richard_11:24

Building Better Worlds: Five Tips to Guide Your Planning Process

Writer and WD editor Moriah Richard shares her top advice to help you fight world-building overwhelm and organize your story.

March_11:25

Why I Write Mysteries

Mystery writer Nev March shares how she found herself writing historical mysteries and what she hopes readers will get from her storytelling.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 25

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write an exaggerated poem.

Chow_11:24

5 Tips on How to Write a Cunning but Cozy Mystery Novel

Author Jennifer J. Chow shares her expertise on what makes a great cozy mystery novel engaging and thrilling.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 24

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's two-for-Tuesday prompt is to write a love and/or anti-love poem.

steal_vs_steel_vs_still_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Steal vs. Steel vs. Still (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use steal vs. steel vs. still on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.