The First Five Pages


The First Five Pages:
A Writer’s Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile

“Carries the craft of writing beyond
Strunk and White’s classic Elements of Style.”
–Library Journal (Highly Recommended)

*  #9 Bestseller on Amazon

* Over 70,000 copies in print

* Translated into five languages

* Part of the curriculum in dozens of writing programs

If you are suffering from hardship, please contact me and I will send you the book for free!

If you are looking for writing or publishing advice, please contact me.

I have also made the audiobook edition free, to give back to the writing community. If you would like to listen to it, here are the links:

cover audio

Listen to the audiobook for FREE!

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Whether you are a novice writer or a veteran who has already had your work published, rejection is often a frustrating reality. Literary agents and editors receive and reject hundreds of manuscripts each month. While it’s the job of these publishing professionals to be discriminating, it’s the job of the writer to produce a manuscript that immediately stands out among the vast competition. And those outstanding qualities, says New York literary agent Noah Lukeman, have to be apparent from the first five pages.

The First Five Pages reveals the necessary elements of good writing, whether it be fiction, nonfiction, journalism, or poetry, and points out errors to be avoided, such as

* A weak opening hook
* Overuse of adjectives and adverbs
* Flat or forced metaphors or similes
* Melodramatic, commonplace or confusing dialogue
* Undeveloped characterizations and lifeless settings
* Uneven pacing and lack of progression

  With exercises at the end of each chapter, this invaluable reference will allow novelists, journalists, poets and screenwriters alike to improve their technique as they learn to eliminate even the most subtle mistakes that are cause for rejection. The First Five Pages will help writers at every stage take their art to a higher — and more successful — level.


“Novice and amateur writers alike will benefit from literary agent Lukeman’s lucid advice in this handy, inexpensive little book. Carrying the craft of writing beyond Strunk and White’s classic Elements of Style, this book should find a wide audience: public libraries sponsoring writers’ groups and workshops will want multiple copies.”
Library Journal (Highly Recommended)

“Intelligent, important, valuable and entertaining instructions….It should be read by all novice writers–and by those whose books are already published but intend to write more.”
–Richard Marek, Former Editorial Director of Kirkus Reviews

“I have to tell you, [The First Five Pages] is one of the best [books] I’ve read. I’ve written (and seen published) pretty close to a dozen novels in as many years… but I wish I had read Lukeman’s book when I began writing fiction. I’m glad I did now. It has helped, immediately….Lukeman’s editorial eye is sharp. If every novelist and short story writer in this country had Lukeman as an editor, we’d have a lot more readable prose out there.… The First Five Pages should be on every writer’s shelf. This is the real thing.”
–Barnes & Noble Writers Workshop

“The difference between The First Five Pages and most books on writing is that the others are written by teachers and writers. This one comes from a literary agent–one whose clients include Pulitzer Prize nominees, New York Times bestselling authors, Pushcart Prize recipients, and American Book Award winners…. Lukeman has plenty of solid advice worth listening to. Particularly fine are his exercises for removing and spicing up modifiers and his remedies for all kinds of faulty dialogue.”
– Editorial Department (featured book)

The First Five Pages is most useful in its guidance on preparing and submitting your work. Lukeman grinds his teeth over amateurish writing, too, and offers practical corrections.”
–Detroit Free Press

“Here are two books about the craft of writing which, in our opinion, far surpass most books on that subject….The one that appealed more strongly to this reader (and closet writer) is literary agent Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages.”
–Taconic Syndicated Newspapers (“Must Reads”)

“Tricks of the trade…add to The First Five Pages’ value, as do tips on grammar, style, voice and dialog, and writing exercises…A bargain when you consider all the information packed into [it].”
–San Antonio Express-News 

“Noah Lukeman has compiled the ultimate writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile.….This is no ordinary writing book. Lukeman has stared at thousands of manuscripts, and he can pick out poor ones with a glance….Lukeman has done a great service to the writing community by providing this glimpse into the abyss…. The First Five Pages is worth its weight in gold, and should be read by all experienced and unpublished authors.”
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

“Lukeman’s book is a gutsy reminder.…New writers will pore over his exercises in detail, while more skilled writers will use them to throw new light on specific problem areas….Lukeman is in fact offering a much larger opportunity to any writer who wants to seize it….It’s an excellent book and at such a reasonable price it’s also a great investment.”

“Wonderful advice….I was amazed reading it…I was terribly impressed….The book neatly describes the majority of what I personally find wrong with beginners’ (even much professional) writing….The title is from the widely practiced, but perhaps not as widely known, concept that you only have the first few pages to make an impression….This is the book to read….I agree with him so much, and like it so well, my only regret is that I didn’t write it myself.”
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

“In the world of writers’ how-to books, you are often confronted with hyperbole and rash promises when what you need is practicality and frank advice. With Lukeman, a veteran literary agent, you get just what you need…Sensible (occasionally unorthodox) solutions and apt quotes are offered…Lukeman is unflinchingly realistic, but compassionate as well. He recognizes the determination and devotion that writing requires. Pragmatic, intelligent and readable, The First Five Pages …will certainly help writers of any kind defeat rejection and possibly score.”
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

“Lukeman knows the publishing industry from the inside out and the outside in.… The First Five Pages is an entertaining example of good literary style delivered by a qualified expert on selling or not selling books to publishers.”
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

“When you read The First Five Pages, you’ll hope Noah Lukeman will one day teach us more. …I don’t usually praise books on writer’s craft on my site…but The First Five Pages is exceptional… I read The First Five Pages in two sittings (and plan to read it again). I own about 100 books on craft…In my opinion, yours ranks among the best.”
[one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Sites for Writers]

“A small book in size only, this one is well worth the price. I read every page the day I bought it, then immediately started rewriting the first three pages of my novel.…I highly recommend this book for writers who hope to publish and will deal with editors and agents.”
–The Writer’s Roost

“Noah Lukeman has great insight into what it takes to keep an editor reading your manuscript. Writers will definitely benefit from a thorough study of Lukeman’s many suggestions which can help them get past the first hurdle to getting published.”

“Mr. Lukeman has written a definitive handbook on the pitfalls to avoid in your work..…The information contained within its covers will help you improve your technique and perhaps provide you with the tools to make your story leap off the pages. As writer, I found this book to be extremely useful….I highly recommend The First Five Pages to anyone who is serious about their writing.”
Planet Showbiz (Featured selection)

“In this well-organized, clear and pointed guide, Lukeman – himself a literary agent who has evaluated thousands of scripts – details how to quickly create a positive first impression and keep out of the reject pile. With exercises at the end of each chapter, this invaluable reference will help all types of writers-novelists, journalists, even poets-improve their technique, overcome bad writing and attract attention.”
–The Writers Store

“There are hundreds of good books that explain how to write. Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages is different. Lukeman’s approach is methodical and practical, beginning with presentation and working through common blunders with modifiers, style, dialogue, point of view, characters, tone, focus and pacing….. Let’s hope for a sequel….. The First Five Pages is an excellent resource that writers should keep on their shelves. The chapters on repairing dialogue (including “informative,” “commonplace,” “melodramatic” and “hard to follow”) are especially fine, full of insights that I haven’t seen elsewhere….And even though his task is to explain all the things that writers do wrong, it’s clear that Lukeman genuinely likes us and understands what makes us keep writing, even in the face of repeated rejection.”

“If you write fiction, this one is a must! Lukeman works his way from the most obvious to the most subtle, telling just what agents look for to give them an excuse to reject your manuscript.”

“[The First Five Pages] is a dandy little writing manual that serves as an excellent checklist of a manuscript’s health….It will give you new eyes with which to view your book. ..This book is a gold mine for the fledgling writer….Lukeman not only details what should and shouldn’t be done, but often explains why. Having identified the problems, he offers solutions and provides numerous examples and end-of-chapter exercises to assist in working on weak points. There is an vast scope of information in these pages, and in addition to being extremely helpful, it’s a fun read.”

“The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman is a thin little book that packs a wallop. In my dream of dreams, every aspiring writer would read it not once, but multiple times. Like Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, the information contained in Lukeman’s 197 page “how to write” book is too much to remember through one reading, but invaluable to every working writer. His literary agent perspective provides a unique view from the other side of the writing fence; one we may not like hearing, but information we can use to our advantages.”
–Kimberly K. Comeau, PC Quill

Review and Media Highlights

· #9 on Amazon
· #19 on
· Poets & Writers (serialized and cover mention)
· The Writer (serialized in 3 installments with cover mentions)
· (audio excerpt)
· (featured selection)
· Authorlink (serialized)
· Bookzone (serialized)
· Rosedog (serialized)
· Novel and Short Story Writers Market 2004 (serialized)

A Featured Selection of:
Barnes&Noble Writers Workshop Books for Writers Writing Center Audio Bookstore “A-List”
Writers Bookshelf
The Writers Store
ABurt’s Favorite Book List


Library Journal (review, January 2000)
Poets & Writers (excerpt with cover mention, January 2000)
The Writer (excerpt with cover mention, March 2000)
The Writer (excerpt with cover mention, October 1999)
The Writer (excerpt with cover mention, July 1999) (audio excerpt, featured on home page, March 2000)
Cablevision Ch. 44, The Sandra Lee Show, January 2000 (half hour show) (live chat, January 8, 2000) (live chat, January 12, 2000) (excerpt, January 2000) (excerpt, June 1999) (excerpt, January 2000) (interview and review, January 2000) (excerpt, March 2000) (interview and review, January 2000) (interview and review, January 2000)
RJ Julia Writer’s Conference (workshop, November 1999)
RJ Julia Bookstore (signing, January 2000)
Learning Annex New York City (workshop, March 29, 2000) (Interview, February, 2000)
Merrit Books, Millbrook, Long Island (signing, March 4, 2000)
Atticus Bookstore, Connecticut (workshop and signing, March 19, 2000)
Borders, Westbury, Long Island (signing, April 18, 2000)
Philadelphia Writers Conference (workshop and signing, May 6, 2000)
Wall Street Journal (July 27, 2001)
Northern Michigan MFA Program (February, 2002)
Polk County Democrat (February, 2009)
The Daily Star (Oneonta, NY, April, 2009

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Noah Lukeman’s other titles

The Plot thickens          How to Write a Great Query Letter          A Dash of Style        M2 BIG

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