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Writing Books/virtual or literal?


Hello Ms. McCutcheon (Sandy?),

It would seem there is no doubt. Every book on "how to write a query letter" advises writers to give an agent or publisher "exactly what they ask for". There are, however "literal" truths and "virtual" (or "practical") truths--the difference tending to splay the meaning of "exactly".

Accordingly, when an agent asks for "the first fifty pages", this--literally--would invite the title page and all the prelims, to include such things as the Dedication and Acknowledgements--which seems such a waste. The virtual truth, on the other hand, infers that those same pages begin, perhaps, with the first page of Chapter 1 (or Preface or Intro.) Mine, by the way, is non-fiction, with a Preface and Intro.

Please can you advise, what does an agent normally regard, in this respect, as the "first page"--or would an agent think this a non-issue?

Dan O'Hanlon

Dear Dan,
Sorry about the delay in replying but I have just arrived home after being overseas.

When an agent or publisher asks for the first fifty pages they are referring to the actual manuscript and not the prelims and so on. However I always include the title page but never anything else.

I hope that clarifies the issue - and good luck!



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Sandy McCutcheon


Author of 22 plays, 12 bestselling thrillers, a memoir and children's fiction.I can work with people on the process of writing, what to expect and ask for from an editor. How to work with the publisher`s marketing and publicity people. And how to survive book launches and publicity tours!


Published author of 22 plays, 12 bestselling thrillers, a young adult and three non-fiction titles. Visit his Moroccan blog at for a look at his blogging work.

St Andrews, Helsinki University and other institutions. Adult Educator of the Year Award, Australia

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