Agent Noah Lukeman’s 2000 book The First Five Pages: A Writers Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile has some fantastic advice and tips we can all use. We’ll talk about that in a future post. But for now, we’ll focus on the great epigraphs that Lukeman provides at the start of every chapter. Some are quotes from other works, some are his own words. But almost all of them are entertaining and illuminating. The quotes don’t always directly relate to the paragraph at hand since most of them are intended to give you a general sense of writing and publishing. Here are a couple of my favorites:
For Chapter 6, Lukeman provides the epigraph and reminds all of us aspiring authors of why we should be patient.
Despite popular misconceptions, most agents and editors don’t read in the office. They read during night and weekends, after work, after ten- or twelve-hour days. Most agents and editors receive 500 or more manuscripts a month, or about 20 a day. Now you might understand why they’ll become savage if you pressure them to read your manuscript in any amount of time. Why should they? The average entry-level salary for an editorial assistant is roughly $18,000 a year.
For Chapter 14, Lukeman uses an interchange between Martin Amis and an interviewer from the June 1998 issue of Icon magazine.
INTERVIEWER: The literary world seems so much more vicious than the music or art worlds. There’s a lot more nastiness.
MARTIN AMIS: I’ll tell you why. When you review a piece of music, you don’t sing a song about it; when you review an art exhibition, you don’t paint a painting about it. But when you review prose fiction, you write prose fiction about it. And don’t tell me that a particular journalist is satisfied, or never had ambitions to be more than a journalist.
For Chapter 15, Lukeman uses his own words as the epigraph.
Many novelists think that, if only they can get published, break into print, then they will have made it, then all their worries will be over. This is far from the truth. Many successfully published writers must still keep day jobs to support themselves. It is unfortunate, because the press tends to publicize only those writers selling millions of copies, and thus the public is inevitably presented with a skewed picture of the publishing industry. Most books do not sell more than 20,000 copies. In 1996, only eleven hardcover titles–out of some 50,000 new books–sold over a million copies.