I often speak of my book buying habits here on the site, specifically when they pertain to whether or not I accept or decline a book for review. I am not a first page “hook” kind of person. The first page, to me, is the most overly orchestrated page in a book these days and is not generally representative of the overall quality of a book, so when I am sampling, I skip the first page; hell, I skip the first chapter. What I want is a random sampling of the writing. I don’t want plot; I don’t want to connect with a character; so I am not looking for emotional intrigue and/or manipulation because offering that up in the first couple of pages doesn’t mean anything when I am staring down a 300+ pager. I want to sample something towards the middle of the book. Now in the middle, I might hit on a page that isn’t very interesting, one that might be devoid of action or dialog, and basically that is the whole point of the exercise. Why? Because I am interested in the writing style and the voice, and the question I often ask while I am reading that random sampling in the middle is: “Does this voice and style command my attention even during the most boring of passages?” Obviously, if I have picked up the book I know enough about the basic plotline to know that the story might be of interest to me. Now I have to decide if the actual writing fits the mood I am in and the type of reader of I am. I like complicated prose. I love well written exposition, and I love lean and beautifully vague description. I want a confident style, one where I can see that the author was not afraid to take chances. One that doesn’t second guess itself. At the end of this post I will be sharing a Page 99 of my own, stay tuned.
Ford Madox Ford once said: “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” and I can agree with that. Apparently many others do as well.
And that brings me to the Page99test.com a new reader feedback website launching in October. Note: this is a separate site unaffiliated with the Page69test and Page99test over on blogspot. Same premise, and yes, there is a fee based service offered along with the free stuff, so I will share the FAQ from their website:
We’re doing the same thing here, but with a twist. Here, writers (published or not) share their page 99s with a world of readers… and get real-time feedback. Does your writing hook readers? Let them be the first to tell you.
So, how does it work for writers?
Writers – published or not – come to the site, sign in (easy 4-field sign-up), and copy-and-paste their ‘page 99′ from their manuscript (MS) into the text field on our site. They enter a few details – like book genre, title, and publication status – and submit it.
Writers can upload up to 3 page 99s (all from different MSs, obviously). Each page stays up for 30 days or 50 reads/ratings, whichever comes first. As ratings come in, writers go to their My Uploads page to see reader feedback, including comments.
And how does it work for readers?
Readers come to the site, sign in (easy 4-field sign-up), select their preferred genre, and get shown a page 99, which is randomly generated within the selected genre. They read the page from top to bottom (hopefully) and then answer these 2 questions:
(OPTIONAL: Add comment for writer.) Once you hit Submit Feedback, you’re taken to a page that reveals to you info you didn’t otherwise know, like:
• Whether the page is from a published book or not
• Who the author is
• What the average rating is for each of the 2 questions
• Verbatim feedback/comments
What’s the revenue model?
There are 2 phases to our site; the first phase has been described thus far – and the second won’t be described until we’re closer to launching it. The first phase is a free service; it will remain when the second phase rolls out, so there’ll always be this free, fun, addictive little reading part of the site.
In Phase 2, the plan is to focus on connecting unpublished writers and agents or editors/publishers. Essentially, we will eliminate for writers the entire [painful, soul-sucking, time-consuming] querying process and for agents/editors the towering slush pile. We’ll be charging for this service. Here’s how it works:
• A for-writer service called “Read My Chapter”, where writers pay ~$15 (TBD) to upload a chapter of their unpublished manuscript… and the readers who rated that writer’s page 99 favorably get pinged that the whole chapter’s ready to read, and nature takes its course
• Something with lit agencies and/or editors
We want to keep it free for as many writers as possible (because they’re usually starving!), readers, and writing clubs/classes/workshops. We’re also thinking of pulling in some cash to cover operating costs as Amazon affiliates (for published books).
So even though its fee based portion of the site is just another manuscript display service like Authonomy or Bowker’s new manuscript service or any listing site that claims to connect writers with agents and publishers, the free portion for actual readers is what interests me the most because it complements my own selection style, and hopefully, its ease of use and the fun factor will get more people reading Indie published books. If you are looking for simple reader feedback, then this might be a fun place to start.
In the spirit of Page 99, here is an excerpt from my latest release Logos:
I wanted to make passionate love to him, if only to keep alive what little humanity remained in me, but as I began to cast off my clothes for the portrait, his expression changed. It became tainted of fear mingled with an unexpected hint of dazed bewilderment. His eyes grew into great blue tearful oceans, and his lower lip paled and trembled when he asked, “What are you doing, Selena…that’s not necessary?”
The nervousness in his voice prompted me to tread lightly. I was trying to seduce him and apparently not having a great deal of success with the endeavor, but all I could manage to say was, “Don’t worry, Ian, I gave up any shred of modesty centuries ago…and this is what you want, isn’t it?”
Apparently it wasn’t. He whispered a shameful yes, then shouted a very dramatic NO, then he attempted to negate his anger with a softer no until finally admitting, “Shit, Selena, I don’t know what I mean. I simply want to paint your portrait.”
Simply paint my portrait? Again, it was the way he said it: Simply. He said it as if he were unaffected by my presence, as if our relationship were free of deceit. Nothing was further from the truth. “Nothing is ever simple, Ian, and why would you want to do that, so you can imprison my soul as well? Take care now, good sir, the waters might be muddy, but I can still make out the depraved desires hidden in the recesses of your mind.”
He had barely a reply, nothing more than an “I can’t,” which came stuttering out of his mouth as he continued his slow and steady backward stride.
“Can’t? Can’t what, Ian? Can’t get close to anyone unless they are covered in paint? Why on earth not?
Cheryl Anne Gardner
If you would like The Podpeople to feature your Page 99, send us an email to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line Page 99. Please include a link to your preferred e-commerce site, a cover jpeg, and paste your page 99 into the body of the email or attach it as a .TXT file. If your page 99 happens to be a chapter start or chapter end and does not contain a full page, you may use the full page before or after your page 99. One page only please.
About the Reviewer: Cheryl Anne Gardner
Cheryl Anne Gardner is a writer of dark, often disturbing art-house literary novellas and abstract flash fiction. She is an advocate for independent film, music, and books, and when at all possible prefers to read and review out-of-the-mainstream indie published works, foreign translations, and a bit of philosophy. Her love of literature began at an early age with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Captivated by the Gothic and Dark Romantic stylings of Poe, Lovecraft, Kafka, and de Sade, her passion for the macabre manifests itself throughout her own work to this day. She lives with her husband and ferrets on the east coast USA, is an enthusiastic gardener, and her micro-flash can be found at Apocrypha and Abstractions Literary Journal where she is a contributing editor. Her flash fiction has been published at Dustbin, Dark Chaos, Carnage Conservatory, Pure Slush, Negative Suck, Danse Macabre, and at The Molotov Cocktail among others. When she isn’t writing, she likes to chase marbles on a glass floor, eat lint, play with sharp objects, and make taxidermy dioramas with dead flies.