The First 50 Pages–Book Review

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.

The first part of the book is dedicated to explaining the submission process. Some important points he raised are that your opening lines must hook the reader. He clarifies that starting with action isn’t about blowing stuff up or having someone’s life at risk. IT SIMPLY MEANS IT MUST BE INTERESTING TO THE READER.

He also talks of the three bombs: POV, show vs. tell, and character creation. A problem with any of these can blow up a book and not in an Oprah knocking on your door sort of way.

The rest of the book focuses on what your first 50 pages must do. And it’s a lot. A lot a lot. In this section he touches on how to engage your reader, introduce your main character, establish the main character’s normal, establish the story world’s normal, start the inner journey, and follow the Three Act structure.

As I read this book, I analyzed my two finished manuscripts and tried to think of where I’d missed the mark. Where I needed to work further on them. What was not working in their first 50 pages.

This is one of my favorite craft books because Jeff Gerke’s conversational presentation style is captured perfectly in these pages. I felt like he was talking right to me and sharing his personal experiences. He used lots of movies as examples which made concepts much easier to grasp and apply later to my own work.

This is a must read for any writer submitting their work to agents and editors.

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49 Responses to The First 50 Pages–Book Review

  1. Cat Forsley says:

    Hey Brainy Girl ——– ๐Ÿ™‚
    Love your mind and how it works …
    wishing you all the best with your newest work
    Gimme a K – always xoxoxoxo

    • Thanks! I’m kinda happy to put it aside for a month or two. That was a tough drafting period. So much uncertainty. But I’m really thrilled with where it went, even if I didn’t expect it to go there. ๐Ÿ™‚ And thanks so much for always cheering me on!


  2. I agree, Kourtney – I really enjoyed the book. August is the 6 month mark for putting my book aside, and as I reread “Reinvention”, the First 50 Pages will be on my mind!

    • Glad to hear you found it useful too. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m going to work on revisions on Six Train this summer and the first 50 pages will definitely be my go to guide. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. kford2007 says:

    Looks like I’m going to have to get this one, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. CC MacKenzie says:

    Thank you for this, Kourtney, sounds an excellent resource.

  5. Ottabelle says:

    This sounds great, I need it.

  6. Carrie Rubin says:

    I just read the first few pages given Amazon had the “look inside” option. I agree–looks very useful. So much so that I just bought it. Lucky author to have you on his side. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Carrie, I hope it helps you as much as it’s helping me! Something about the way he puts things and the examples he uses made it easy to grasp what he was saying and see where my manuscript was missing the mark. Aw, thanks. I can’t help praising great books!

  7. Elliot says:

    Always useful these types of books. I tend to think of the first fifty pages advice thus: “Get to the point, quickly and simply”. That includes all the points above (although it explains nothing to those who do not know the points!).

  8. 4amWriter says:

    I remember the post you wrote in January about Gerke at the writer’s conference, and how you were eager to read this book. So glad you did and that you came away happy! It’s helpful to have the inside track on what our first 50 pages should do, so thank you so much for sharing your insight!

    • Kathryn, I started reading this book in April on the side. LOL. Took me a while to work my way through it. But sometimes it pays to dwell in a craft book. ๐Ÿ™‚ I really felt like this book brought a lot of information to the table. Information I wished I’d had seven months ago when revising my manuscript. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. jmmcdowell says:

    I’ve had this one on my radar for a while, and you just tipped the scale to buy. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That’s one time I’m happy to tip the scale. ๐Ÿ˜› He’s a terrific speaker. And his book is written in a very conversational way where you feel like he’s confiding all the mysteries of the writing world. Or at least what needs to be in your first 50 pages to tip the scale in your favor. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Sounds fabulous, Kourtney! Thanks for another compelling, useful review. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. berry says:


    I cant get through catcher in the rye. Not a fan of reading. But do like your writing!

    • I think it’s fun to do when you need to occupy your mind. Like waiting for an appointment or trying to wind down before bed. Try 15 minutes at a time. Small spurts. You might like it more. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. sounds like an excellent book. i’ll have to give it a look. thx Kourtney

  13. Sounds like good advice! I like to re-read some of my favourite books and look at how they start. Always good for inspiration!

  14. Emmie Mears says:

    This book has been on my list since the conference, but I haven’t picked it up yet. TO THE AMAZON WISH LIST! *Batman music*

  15. Thanks, Kourtney, I’ll try to keep an eye out for this book.

  16. Pingback: A Gift From Jeff Gerke: « Kourtney Heintz's Journal

  17. Super post–and will definitely try and get me a copy of that book!

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