Skip to content

The Page 99 Test

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Have you heard of the Page 99 Test? I read about this on a blog: At the bookstore, if you can’t decide whether or not you want to buy a book, open it to page 99 and read the page. If you want to keep reading–or want to go back and find out what happened up to that point, it’s probably one to read in full.

So here are a few Page 99s for you:

Ransome’s Crossing:

    She tucked the heel of bread and chunk of cheese she’d swiped from the kitchen an hour ago into her pocket, snuffed the candles, clapped the tall, round hat on her head, and hoisted the sea chest.
    . . . . .If Susan and Collin were not awakened by the creaking of the floorboards, surely the sound of Charlotte’s pounding heart would be loud enough to wake the dead. But she made it to the service stairs with no incident. At this hour, only the cook would be stirring, and as she lived in quarters beside the kitchen, she never used this staircase. But Charlotte paused often to listen for footfalls or other telltale signs she was not alone.
    . . . . .None came. As she had so many times before, she sneaked out the back of the house into the garden. In less than twenty feet, she would be in the alley.

    * * *

    . . . . .Ned sauntered around to the area where Howe oversaw the delivery of supplies for Audacious. “Any sign of Lott yet?”
    . . . . .Howe grunted. “Not yet. I will be very put out, Cochrane, if after waiting all this while I have to secure another midshipman, when I could have had one a week ago.”
    . . . . .Ned pressed his lips together. He was usually a good judge of character, and Charles Lott had struck him as someone he could take a risk on. Actually, Charles Lott had struck him as something entirely different than any other midshipman Ned had ever met—but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was. There was something so familiar about the lad, yet Ned knew he’d never met the boy outside of the few times he’d seen him here at the dockyard.
    . . . . .Matthews signaled him from their entrenchment on the quay, so he left Howe, trying to not feel betrayed by the young midshipman.
    . . . . .He turned at the sound of pounding feet. Down the quay ran a slight figure in a midshipman’s uniform. Lott. The boy stopped a few paces from Ned and dropped his sea chest onto the stones beneath their feet.

The Art of Romance:

    Mrs. Holtz looked around her husband. “Do you sing, Dylan?”
    . . . . . “Sing?”
    . . . . .Dr. Holtz chuckled. “This is a liberal and fine arts school in Nashville, Tennessee. Aside from having one of the largest vocal performance and choral programs in the city—after Vanderbilt and Belmont, of course—we have a lot of talented people on this faculty.”
    . . . . . “Happy holidays, everyone!”
    . . . . .Dylan joined the crowd in murmuring “Happy holidays” back to the man in the tuxedo at the microphone, the college’s president, he supposed, not having seen anyone else in a tux. He glanced around, not looking for a tall redhead—and to his surprise, he didn’t see the person he most definitely wasn’t looking for.
    . . . . . “Thanks for joining us again this year for our faculty holiday celebration. I hope you all had a wonderful fall semester and are looking forward to your time off for the next few weeks. I know I am.”
    . . . . .Mild tittering and chuckles from the crowd.
    . . . . . “But you didn’t come here to hear me talk. So I’ll turn the evenings’ festivities over to Dr. Edgerton in just a moment. I do want to take this opportunity to say thank you to each of you for the wonderful work you do in leading, mentoring, guiding, and teaching our students. James Robertson University wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t have the stellar reputation we have, without a stellar faculty. So thank you, and happy holidays!”
    . . . . .Applause and a few whistled emerged from the crowd that must have been over two hundred people.
    . . . . .A distinguished woman who looked to be in her fifties took the stage. Dressed in a red sequined dress, she commanded Dylan’s attention simply by the fact he couldn’t look away from the sparkly garment.
    . . . . . “You’ve been waiting and wondering for a year, while others have been plotting and planning. We had so many good submissions this year, it was hard to narrow it down to a manageable number, but somehow we did. So let’s get started. And remember, if you feel like dancing, please do so!”
    . . . . .The music professor introduced the musicians on the stage—a jazz quartet made up of other music department faculty—and they got

Now, here are a couple of page-99 excerpts you’re getting a sneak peek at.

Ransome’s Quest (August 2011)

    . . . . . “I’ll be back, Pa. I’ll bring help.” He turned the horse back the direction they came and kicked it into a run.
    . . . . .Julia tore a long, wide strip from one of her petticoats and, taking advantage of Winchester’s momentary lapse of focus on her, rushed to Levi and began to bandage his leg.
    . . . . . “Saint Julia to the rescue.” Winchester sneered, grabbing her arm to yank her away from the groaning man. But he did not order the bandage taken from Levi, who managed to sit up and begin wrapping the strip of linen tightly around his wound.
    . . . . . “Come. The commodore does not like to be kept waiting.” He dragged her toward the treeline a few yards from the edge of the road.
    . . . . . “Who is the commodore?”
    . . . . .Winchester’s smile was anything but pleasant. “You’ll see. I believe he would be angry with me if I spoiled the surprise.”
    . . . . . “Why are you doing this?” She struggled to free her arm from his injurious grip.
    . . . . .He tightened his hold. “Because, it’s time your family and the Ransomes pay for what they did to us.”
    . . . . .Confused, Julia stopped struggling. “Did to you? What do you mean?”
    . . . . .He whipped around and leaned his face into hers. “You ruined our lives. All of you, the whole lot of you Witheringtons and Ransomes.” He straightened, as if remembering himself. “But I will let the commodore explain it—after all, he was directly involved. Now, get on the horse.”
    . . . . . “I think I may have broken a few ribs when the carriage overturned.”
    . . . . . “And why is that a concern of mine?” Winchester grabbed her around the waist and lifted her off the ground. Perhaps he meant to throw her up onto the horse’s back, but he did not have the strength. She grabbed onto the saddle, and though it sent fresh spasms of agony through her torso, pulled herself up into a sidesaddle position on the regular saddle.
    . . . . . “Give me your hands.”
    . . . . . She held her hands out in front of her. Winchester tied them together

Turnabout’s Fair Play (November 2011, estimated by word count based on where Page 99 falls in the previous two books)

    . . . . .“It was just like seventh grade and Lisa Jackson all over again.”
    . . . . .Danny leaned forward, his elbows on the table, his coffee cup held in both hands. “She didn’t slap you, too?”
    . . . . .“No—but I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had.” Jamie scrubbed his hands over his face. He probably should have shaved for church this morning, but frankly, the only reasons he attended that church were because it was just down Old Hickory Boulevard from his townhouse community and it’s where all the big money in town attended—and he really didn’t care about impressing them anymore. “Man, I was such a dork.”
    . . . . .The word tasted foul in his mouth, so he took a swig of the strong house coffee, black today, just like his mood.
    . . . . .“And you couldn’t just laugh it off with a wink and a smile and get her to see the humor in it?”
    . . . . .“No. I totally lost it. Started stammering like an imbecile. A dorky imbecile. I don’t know what it is about her that’s so different from every other beautiful woman I’ve been around. I can usually handle myself. Flirt. Laugh. Make them fall in love with me, even if just for five minutes.”
    . . . . .“I remember. You got really good at it in college. As I recall, that’s the only way you made it through Advanced Macroeconomic Theory—because the professor thought you were cute.”
    . . . . .“See—that’s what I’m talking about. Even sixty-year-old women, who should know better, fall for me. So why do I completely lose my cool whenever I’m near Flannery McNeill? I’m such an idiot.” Jamie pushed his cup back, leaned over, and pressed his forehead, nose, and chin against the table. He hoped it had been cleaned recently. He let his arms dangle from his shoulders.
    . . . . .Danny’s bolt of laughter brought Jamie upright again.
    . . . . .“What?”
    . . . . .Wiping his eyes with the back of his hands, Danny shook his head. “I can’t believe you still do that face-plant move. Remember the time—”
    . . . . .“You swore you’d never bring that up.” The memory of a face-plant leading to getting his forehead stuck to a table in the middle-school cafeteria only added to his current sense of self-scorn.

What are your “tests” for whether or not you want to read/buy a book?

  1. Joanna Scarpuzzi permalink
    Tuesday, May 24, 2011 12:47 am

    What is the approximate word count for page 99?


    • Tuesday, May 24, 2011 12:52 am

      Interesting you should ask. Because after reading that suggestion, I pulled a bunch of books off the shelf and typed page 99 from each of them into a Word document. If it’s a trade size (the bigger books, like mine), it’s between 300–400 words, depending on the width of the margins and the size of the text (mine are on the 350–400 end of that). A mass-market size (the smaller kind that you usually see over in the general-market romance section) has around 250–300 words per page, if it’s in the middle of a chapter, not the beginning or end where there’s leading or trailing space.


  2. Tuesday, May 24, 2011 4:37 am

    Not sure I have a test. At one stage I would read the front leaf which had a page of the story on it and that would sell it for me if I liked it.
    now its more the cover then the back cover. Here in Australia at the bigger Christian bookstores alot of the books are displayed like in a library so you see the spine first. They are normally alphabetically so I will look for author or title and sometimes publisher as I love Barbour books and LI books. I then will look at the cover and back cover. I am learning that you cant judge a book by its cover but it certainly helps. Australian books don’t have the covers alot of American books have but they do have great stories so its the back cover that helps much better.
    Or with many books I now buy online its the description of the book that sells it.


  3. Tuesday, May 24, 2011 7:29 am

    Turnabout’s Fair Play was such a tease. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction but I can’t wait for this one!


  4. Audry permalink
    Tuesday, May 24, 2011 8:57 am

    I typically only BUY books I’ve already read and know I’ll re-read, or maybe books my library doesn’t have if they’re by an author I know I like or part of a series I’m collecting. So my general approach is to go to the library and pick up any book that looks interesting and give it a try – either I’ll get into the story or eventually decide it isn’t working for me and put it aside. I don’t have a set number of pages I read or anything. I’m also constantly requesting books that I read reviews of or recommendations for here and on other blogs and discussion forums 😀 I could see this page 99 trick working just as well standing in front of the library stacks as the bookstore stacks though.

    I’ve read Ransome’s Crossing, so it’s hard to say whether the excerpt would pull me in or not 😀
    Not sure if page 99 of The Art of Romance is all that gripping, but it doesn’t turn me off either – I’d give it a shot based on this. (And I AM planning to read it, independent of page 99 – It’ll be one of those rare books I buy without reading it first.)

    I love the face plant in Turnabout’s Fair Play 😀 makes me want to read the book because he seems like a fun character and I like when authors throw in touches like that to make the characters real. I think this is – for me – the strongest page 99 of the bunch.

    If I had no background other than the genre, the Ransome’s Quest excerpt probably wouldn’t make me want to read the book, solely because of this line: “He turned the horse back the direction they came and kicked it into a run.” Avoidance of the past perfect when, in my opinion anyway, it’s necessary seems endemic to Christian romance – not sure why – and it’s probably my biggest pet peeve. So I’d assume, based ONLY on page 99, that this book would be full of it. However, since I’ve read other books of yours and know that your grammar is typically excellent, and I read and loved Ransome’s Crossing, I’ll definitely be reading Ransome’s Quest!


  5. Tuesday, May 24, 2011 11:21 am

    I usually read an author I know or someone recommended by an author I know and love. More often than not I’ll stick to some classic novel or author.


  6. Tuesday, May 24, 2011 12:54 pm

    For me the first selling point is Author. There are a lot of authors I like to follow, and I automatically buy their books, even backlist titles, because I know I’ll love them. (FYI Since I just read – and loved – The Art of Romance, ‘Kaye Dacus’ is a recent addition to that list).

    If a cover or title catches my eye, I’ll read the back then decide if I’ll buy it.

    I almost never read anything on the inside, but I’ll have to remember the Page 99 test. The next book on my TBR list has the two main characters picking a lock on page 99. That definitely catches the attention.

    As a new member of ACFW I find that I love when someone asks for influencers. That translates to “free book,” two of my favorite words even on their own. Put them together and they can’t be beat. 😉


  7. Tuesday, May 24, 2011 1:15 pm

    I’d not heard of the page 99 test before. What a good idea. Great excerpts, especially Ransome’s Quest which I’m chomping at the bit to read!


  8. Tuesday, May 24, 2011 2:13 pm

    You know, reading page 99 makes more sense in judging whether or not you’re interested than reading the first page.

    Having just finished “The Art of Romance,” which, by the way, I loved, and would have totally gotten into it from p. 99 because of the musical aspect! Can not WAIT for TFP and RQ!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  9. Tuesday, May 24, 2011 5:55 pm

    I’ve never heard of the 99 page test either. With TFP, it’s working! I already knew I wanted to read it–badly–but now I REALLY want to read it! Ditto for Ransome’s Quest.

    For Crossing, yes, that would have pulled me in.

    I buy based mostly on the back cover blurb. I’ve only been disappointed a few times, so it works for me. I also go by recommendations from people I trust.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: