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The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers, and Set Your Novel Up for Success
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The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers, and Set Your Novel Up for Success

4.43 of 5 stars 4.43  ·  rating details  ·  145 ratings  ·  34 reviews
First impressions are vital and the opening scenes of a novel are crucial if the reader is going to stick around until the story s end. What writers do in these opening pages, and how they do it, is a matter that cannot be left to chance. Whether a writer wants to craft a strong beginning right from the start or they have a complete manuscript and are ready to start sendin...more
ebook, 242 pages
Published October 28th 2011 by Writer's Digest Books (first published October 5th 2011)
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K.M. Weiland
Beginnings are arguably the most difficult part of any story. We have to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time. No wonder some of us are driven to drink! Fortunately, Gerke has done us all a good turn by applying his many years of editorial experience to boiling down the demands of the first fifty pages into a straightforward and manageable checklist. Although I disagree with some of his conclusions, all in all, this book couldn't be more spot-on. It offers help for everything from t...more
Libertad Araceli
Sometimes it was a bit repetitive and often contradicted information as the chapters went on, but the amount of useful information in this book is invaluable! Every aspiring author should read this book even if you have to find it in your local library. After reading this it encouraged me to go through the first 50 pages of my wip's and looks like I have a bit of work to do!

A must have read!
Erin Cole
Although this book is titled "The First 50 Pages," it really is about perfecting the entirety of your book, using the tools to get you noticed by an agent in the first 50 pages. What I admired most about the book were the straightforward examples. Many 'how-to-writing' books have too much fluff in them, and the examples, if any, are not clearly stated, weighted down with off-tangent personal experiences, or say what we already know.

Jeff Gerke uses techniques, such as "Can the camera see it?" in...more
Raymond Esposito
I think any book on writing style or writing for "success" is a difficult, if not impossible goal to achieve. Gerke easy to read and engaging non-fiction book does a good job in many aspects. Overall, it is apparent that he adheres to the latest trend in writing--to write like the story is a movie. While there are many beneficial aspects to the approach, such as character development, showing instead of telling, and creating page-turners, this advice won't work for every writer.

The book, however...more
Jul 14, 2014 Talia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, up-coming authors

With every line, paragraph, and page, the agent or editor is most likely going to kill your book in the morning. It is your task to “stay alive” as long as possible.

This was a great, productive book and extremely helpful. It takes you down the road of editors, agents, success and the dos and don'ts of writing your novel. Although it is called 'The First 50 Pages' the ending of the book helped with finalising your novel and explained how to writing a sequel.

I recommend this for any up-coming aut...more
Cathrine Bonham
The hardest part of reading this book was reading that I can't start a book with a dream sequence or with someone getting out of a car or with a long winded introduction in which I explain everything the reader could possibly need to know in order to understand my story. In short every Idea I had for the opening of my novel is now off the table.

Don't misunderstand me this not a book of do not's it has plenty of do's. In fact Jeff Gerke is very encouraging. He never actually says that the world w...more
Guinevere Thomas
had great advice,but contradicted itself sometimes
A great book for anyone who is revising their first 50 pages. Written by author, editor, and publisher Jeff Gerke, this book is full of practical guidance on what to include in the first 50 pages to hook readers (including agents and editors) and set a story in motion. Although the number of things a writer needs to think about and pack into the first 50 pages can seem overwhelming when collected in one place like this, Gerke walks writers through it all in a way that makes the impossible seem a...more
The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke is an insightful look at what agents and editors are truly looking for in the first 50 pages of a novel. The information is provided by an author/editor in an easy-to-understand manner.

I had the opportunity to hear Mr. Gerke speak at the Writer’s Digest Conference in January and I immediately jumped in line to get a copy of his book signed. He was a terrific speaker who provided lots of examples and explanations. His workshop was one of the best at the conference...more
Lisa Annesley
4.5♥s Jeff Gerke begins the first 50 pages of The First 50 Pages with a review of the submissions process. Then he moves on to the meat of the book, which is "What Your First Fifty Pages Must Accomplish." I found this section engaging, easy to read, and inspiring. My highlighter flashed across the pages. My pencil filled notebook sheet after sheet with ideas sparked by Gerke's lessons. Do I agree with every tiny point in The First 50 Pages? No. Did I make a tremendous amount of progress on my WI...more
An in-depth look at how to set up the first main part of a novel, introducing the reader to the characters and plot in a way that will keep their interest.

With every line, paragraph, and page, the agent or editor is most likely going to kill your book in the morning. It is your task to “stay alive” as long as possible.

This book is a fabulous reference tool for making sure that a writer doesn’t metaphorically shoot him/herself in his/her foot within the first fifty pages. It focuses on the probl...more
Justin Tyme
An easy read with great material for novelists whom have either looking to revise a completed draft, or for those whom are starting. I wish I would have read this before I finished my first draft. It would have saved time rewriting. On the other hand, I wouldn't have had as much appreciation for the Jeff Gerke's insights.

A few of the things that set this book apart from other author self-help books is that it:
1. Focuses on crafting your novel for the market, both the reader and the editor/agent...more
Caleb Lang
This is a great book for anyone that wants to write. Gerke came from the publishing acquisition world and lays out the things that will get your manuscript rejected by editors. The First 50 Pages also is full of tips to improve your writing. Gerke uses scenes from movies and books to explain writing tactics to improve your work. I learned a lot from reading this book. I highly recommend it!
Aaron Borgerding
"The First 50 Pages" gives great advice and direction on how to make sure your work will make it onto an editors desk and survive. Jeff Gerke is writing from the perspective of many years experience writing and editing for traditional publishers. However, this book is not just for those interested in using the traditional publishing market. In the first part of his book Mr. Gerke walks his readers through a the proposal process with advice on how to avoid rejection. The second part introduces a...more
Kristin Meachem
This book is brilliant, an excellent companion to Donald Maass teachings. In fact DM did the blurb on the cover. Would strongly recommend for my writing friends.
Aron Edwards
Seemingly very good advice, enjoyable to read, only time will tell if this can me make any writing I may choose to do palatable.
Jessica Vasko
I seem to consume these books faster than any others. This book has given me a lot to think about in terms of my WIP, and I can't wait to get another one of Jeff's books, Plot Versus Character, to see what insights it has for the development of my protagonist. Now, I think I might just go back and read this again, a little more slowly!
T. Edmund
Between the dorky jokes, Gerke, successfully sells his thesis of how important set-up is in a novel.

Gerke covers: character, setting, first lines and initial suspense building - something that stood out from other 'writers on writing' is that Gerke goes to the effort of explaining how to follow the advise he espouses. For example rather than just saying "your character needs to be sympathetic" we are provided with methods of achieving this.

In short, a must read for those struggling through the w...more
Philisha Stephens
I've just recently started to try a write a novel. In preparing to submit my story for a contest, I had a friend review it and quickly learned that there is a lot more to writing than just putting ink on paper. So, I bought this book thinking that anything could help me and so far this book is a home run! Jeff takes the reader through the whole process of what an editor is not wanting that I have already revised my manuscript and it is a much better story now.

Thanks for all the great insight!
D.D. Larsen
I really loved this book. Jeff Gerke has hit a home run with this one. He packed it with great advice and delivered it in an entertaining manner. I would say this is one of the best "how to" writing books I've come across. I'd definitely recommend it to any novelists interested in making their book's first fifty pages as compelling as possible.
Immensely helpful. I read this at a point in my revision process when I knew my manuscript needed a new beginning and I didn't want to waste any time doing it wrong. Again. Even though it focuses on the first 50 pages, the advice given is certainly not so limited in its scope. Now, however, I feel like I'm ruined when it comes to reading sub par openings. I will never look at first sentences the same way again.
Steven Atwood
This book takes you through a "check list" to make your book more sellable. I loved it.
Darren Sapp
Are you a budding novelist? Make this one of the first books you buy as you venture into writing. Gerke answered several questions I had on how to begin, what to include, etc. In addition, he answered several questions I didn’t know I had. Not one single page wasted my time. That is rare.
Jeri Walker-Bickett
Plenty of solid advice any author would be well-served to read. The only drawback I found was in the use of movies as references rather than books. Not to mention when the author did mention other books for examples of various concepts, they were his own.
I am just beginning to read books on the art of writing. "The First 50 Pages" has inspired me to give it a go. As a student, I always had difficulty understanding the lesson. Jeff Gerke not only spelled it out beautifully, but simply.
Crow Skyler
Some really good pointers and ideas. Gets the creativity flowing as to how to start, and lets you know what the people on the other end will be thinking. Invaluable if, like me, you're not sure how to start.
Norma Nill
I liked the clear writing style as well as content that was new to me. Great tips that for all levels of writers. For more, see
Dee Waite
Excellent book on setting up your first 50 pages. Very informative. Jeff spells things out perfectly, and gives examples of his suggestions. A must read for new and seasoned authors.
This book is really good, and is helpful in fleshing out parts of your novel. Written by a screen player the entire take is different from other books on the craft.
Dani Nicole
This is a very helpful book especially for new writers or pantsers. Clearly defines goals and tasks for the first 50 pages in a non-overwhelming way.
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