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Great First Pages in Kid-Lit, What Agents, Editors, and Readers Look For


If there’s one thing a lot of new writers stress about when sending their work out into the world for consideration, it’s mastering those opening pages. Okay, and maybe the query letter. There’s a LOT of pressure thrown at writers to really have “perfect” opening pages, and a lot of “rules” that get floated out there. You must have action right away (not true). There cannot be a prologue (sure there can). The inciting incident must happen on page one (who is telling people this?). 


In this chat, agent and Young Adult author Eric Smith will chat about what readers, editors, and agents all look for in opening pages. He’ll discuss some examples from projects he’s worked on, and will hopefully send you home a little less stressed about how to open your book, and with some guidance about what industry (and readers!) look for.

Meet the Faculty

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Eric Smith

Eric Smith is a literary agent and Young Adult author from Elizabeth, New Jersey. As an agent with P.S. Literary, he’s worked on New York Times bestselling and award-winning books. His recent novels include the YALSA Best Books for Young Readers selection Don’t Read the Comments (Inkyard Press, 2020), You Can Go Your Own Way (Inkyard Press, 2021), and the anthologies Battle of the Bands (Candlewick, 2021) and First-Year Orientation (Candlewick, 2023), both co-edited with award-winning author Lauren Gibaldi. In 2022 Abrams published Jagged Little Pill: The Novel, which was written in collaboration with Alanis Morissette, Academy award-winner Diablo Cody, and Glen Ballard, and is an adaptation of the Grammy and Tony award winning musical. His latest novel , With or Without You, a rom-com about two teens working in rival cheesesteak trucks, published in 2023, and was a Junior Library Guild selection. His other books include the IndieBound bestseller The Geek’s Guide to Dating (Quirk), the Inked duology (Bloomsbury), and The Girl and the Grove (Flux). His writing has sold into nine languages. A lifelong lover of writing and books, he holds a Bachelor of Arts from Kean University in English, and a Master’s in English from Arcadia University, where he currently mentors MFA students. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and son, and enjoys video games, pop punk, and crying over every movie.