So, what’s on page 99?

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And apparently not by its first few pages either.

Most people when browsing in Waterstones or WH Smiths, will pick up a book that looks pretty or interesting, different to all the others or similar to the ones they usually buy, and then turn it over to read the blurb. If that excites them, they will usually open to chapter one and make a decision based on the first paragraph or two.

Or if they’re shopping online and a ‘search inside’ option exists, they’ll take the opportunity to read a bit more, and in most cases the pages on offer are the first few pages of the book.

However, according to yesterday’s article in the Guardian, anyone can write a punchy opening chapter. But by page 99, you will be able to judge the true writing staying power of the author – or so said Ford Madox Ford. Creators of the enterprising website page99test.com have now taken this idea online. From next month, authors who believe they make the grade are invited to upload the 99th page of their books and leave it to readers to judge the quality of the book based on that auspicious page alone.

An interesting theory but I’d be intrigued to hear your thoughts. Is p99 a reasonable barometer of a book’s worthiness? Do you tend to pick a page at random when deciding to buy, or just the opening chapter?

Lara Crisp, Managing Editor

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