First, thanks for your very helpful and entertaining blog; give Yapp a treat if he's the one actually writing. (he's the one proof reading)
My question is about the lack of any standardization for the original "submission requirements." Some agents want only a query letter, some a query and synopsis, but many request a query letter, a synopsis and the first 50 pages. The latter, while affording the agent a more comprehensive look, seems to me a bit over the top to request right off the bat. What makes 50 sample pages the magic number? When I pick up a book, I usually know before page 50 whether or not I am going to keep reading. Or is 50 pages just the maximum that can be crammed into a 9x12 envelope for the mail?
I can guarantee you that the first fifty pages of the book you pick up there in the bookstore is not the same first 50 pages I saw on my desk two years ago. You'd be utterly amazed at how many people don't really get their novel started till chapter two or even three. It's like they have to warm up or something.
I'm doing close editing work with a multiple published client who has a project on deadline. She sent me the first three chapters. I called her and said "take out chapter one, it's just warm up". She looked, and agreed.
The agents looking at the first 50 are doing you a favor (ha! see previous post!) by asking for this much. Rather than what I do (first ten, better be good) they'll cut you some slack by looking at chapter two to see if it picks up.
And yes, there is no uniformity in submission guidelines. There aren't any for publishers either so we'll both just have to live with it.