East West Literary Agent Rubin Pfeffer and Beach Lane Books Senior Editor Andrea Welch listened to a slew of picture book first pages and gave quick and thoughtful feedback:
- Whether the voice rang true;
- Whether the story was short enough to fit the format;
- Whether the details worked. For example, don't try to hook a reader with gross details. Hook them with story and character.
"I like the idea of eating unicorns," Andrea Welch said about one entry.
Some useful tips:
- Go light on description to leave room for illustrators.
- Get to the story quickly. You have to know where it's going on the first page.
- Don't overwrite. Keep it short, snappy, and narrative (because long bits of dialogue are hard to read aloud).
- If you're writing in rhyme, don't repeat words.
- Choose an original topic (lots of books about wanting a pet, for example).
- Introduce controversy on the first page.
- Target it appropriately for the age of the reader.