How Many Sample Chapters Are Necessary?

When submitting your work to an agent for consideration, how many sample chapters should you include in your proposal? Writer's Digest online editor Brian A. Klems explains.
Author:
Publish date:

Q: When submitting my work to an agent for consideration, how many sample chapters should I include in my proposal? –Charles C.

A: The answer is: It varies. Most agents and publishers have submission guidelines, either on their websites or in a listing resource like Writer's Market, and say exactly what you should include. Some may request one chapter, others may ask for five. Some may ask you to send only chapters that have pictures of Erik Estrada on them (though I'd recommend steering clear of those agents). Point is, to give your manuscript a chance you need to deliver exactly what these publishing gatekeepers want.

If they don't specify what they want or say something like "submit a few sample chapters," plan on sending three chapters, or 8-40 pages, depending on the type of book you're trying to sell. For example, if you're writing the book, The 100 Best Heavy Metal Albums Ever Written, chances are you're only dedicating a page or two to each album, so you'd send 3 or 4 chapters (or roughly 8 pages). But if you are writing a fascinating tome called The Life and History of Stonewall Jackson, each chapter could be 8 or more pages by itself. In that case you'd stick to three sample chapter and however many pages that entails (though try not to exceed 40).

Keep in mind that if you plan to have illustrations or diagrams or pictures in your book, you need to include some in your sample chapters as well (e.g. The 100 Best Heavy Metal Albums Ever Written better have some album artwork in your samples).

Remember, your goal is to submit enough sample content to reflect what is really in your book—your voice, your style, your story—without submitting the entire book.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Read my Dad blog: TheLifeOfDad.com
Sign up for my free weekly eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

GettyImages-119430542

Your Story #112

Write the opening line to a story based on the photo prompt below. (One sentence only.) You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

Self-Published Ebook Awards

Announcing the 8th Annual Self-Published E-book Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 8th Annual Self-Published E-book Awards! Discover the titles that placed in the categories of contemporary fiction, fantasy, memoir, mystery, and more.

Greg Russo: On Writing a Film Based on a Video Game

Greg Russo: On Writing a Screenplay Based on a Video Game

Professional screenwriter Greg Russo discusses the joy and challenge of converting a popular video games series into a screenplay and the balance of enticing a new audience while honoring a franchise's fans.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 16

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a city poem.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Under the Influence

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Under the Influence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character fall under the influence of something or someone.

WD-PersonalEssay-2020-WinnerGraphic

Suspended: Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards Winner

Congratulations to J.E. Stamper, grand prize winner of the Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards. Here's his winning essay, "Suspended."

Planting Clues: Red Herrings That Fool but Don't Frustrate Your Readers

Planting Clues: Red Herrings That Fool but Don't Frustrate Your Readers

Want to know how to keep your readers engaged and entertained with your mystery novel? Let these six tips from thriller author Kris Calvin guide you!

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 15

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a blank story poem.

Kristin Beck: On Writing Quickly and Publishing Slowly

Kristin Beck: On Writing Quickly and Publishing Slowly

Debut novelist Kristin Beck shares what it was like to write her historical fiction novel Courage, My Love and why she was so thankful for a slow publishing process.