Dear Miss Snark:
I love the blog, the book and all the rest. (the book? the rest? huh?) But I'm e-mailing you this to get a reaction. The following paragraph was pasted, verbatim, from the web site of THE DRILL PRESS. It seems to question all the things we (writers) are trying to perfect these days.
Only a fool would expect a novel to command attention from the first word, sentence, paragraph, or several pages. It is akin to expecting a symphony to open with a wild flourish and maintain such tedium. Nonetheless, when an agent or editor judges a work by the first sentence or page or even chapter, it is the equivalent of judging a symphony by the first measure. Of course, the soulless masses prefer short, soulless ditties. And the mindless prefer empty-headed writing. We don't expect to find readers or authors within this faceless clot of bozos.
A symphony doesn't need to open with a wild flourish to command attention. Think of the last symphony you attended. The audience came into the hall, sat down, coughed 8 gazillion times, then turned their attention to the musicians. They gave their attention to the performance.
Now, if the musicians stink (and they aren't your precious loinfruit) your attention wanders pretty quickly.
Even if they don't stink, if they're just not very good, your attention wavers. And if you think you can't tell the difference between the Florence Jenkins Junior High Orchestra and the NY Philharmonic after six notes, you need to turn up your hearing trumpet.
I don't take anyone seriously when s/he starts throwing around phrases like "soulless masses" in a marketing statement. I prefer my frothing at the mouth hyperbole to be confined to gin tasting contests.