I looked up from my laptop, where I had begun to suspect I was ruining my own novel, without any help from Amazon. "How?"
"The Kindle offers free samples," DB said. "So the opening will make or break the sale. This will totally warp the way authors open their novels."
"But that's how I shop for novels already. Especially with authors I haven't read before. I read the first page. Sometimes only the first paragraph."
Dear Boy looked shocked. As if I'd confessed a new secret vice. (He already knows about my old secret vice: compulsive revising.)
"Well, how do you shop?" I challenged him.
"I guess I read the first page. But after that I riffle through the book."
"I riffle. I think most people riffle."
"Agents and publishers don't riffle!" I crowed. "At one of the SCBWI conferences, an agent told us that if page 1 doesn't grab her, she doesn't read page 2. She can't afford the time. She always has something like 3,000 submissions in her email in-box."
"They just read the opening?"
"Yep. The agent recommended that kidlit authors put an active scene—in dialogue—on the first page of every novel. So books are already being sold or not sold, based on first pages."
"The Novel of Tomorrow: a smashing opening, followed by a long downhill slide," DB muttered darkly. "Soon people will realize that the only part worth reading is the free sample. We'll only read openings. We won't read anything we have to pay for." And he sat down and opened his Kindle.
"What are you reading now?" I asked.
"HEART OF DARKNESS."
"How does that open?"
"Doesn't matter. The classics are free on Amazon."
What think you? Do Novels open differently nowadays? Must they? Is there a book you love whose opening would fail today? What opening recently sold you on a book? And how many of you really, truly riffle?
Here are three openings (by authors I had not previously read) that recently made me buy the whole novel. (Guess the publication dates. Answers will appear in my next post.) "It wasn't there. Then it was. Later, that was how Angela DuPre would describe the airplane—over and over, to one investigator after another—until she was told never to speak of it again."
"I was not the first girl she saw, nor the second, and as to why she chose me, I know that now: it was because she did not like me."
"When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it's never good news."
And here are three oldies-but-goodies that had me at hello:
"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents."
"The bear had been their undoing, though at the time they had all laughed."
And my all-time favorite: "'Where's Papa going with that ax?'"