If you are tired of being forced to make decisions on whether or not to read a book based solely on the summary and author blurbs contained on the inside flap or printed on back, then you may be interested to hear of another method by which the quality of a piece of writing may be ascertained quickly, the page 99 test. How it works is simple: just open a book, flip to page 99, and read the content there. If you find it intriguing enough that you want to read more, then you’ll probably end up enjoying the book. However, if page 99 doesn’t catch your interest, it’s unlikely the rest of the book will either.
The theory, as expressed in this article, is that by page 99 (which in most books is about 1/4 to 1/3 of the total length) “the characters should be established, the author should have hit his or her stride…and it is far enough in to allow glimpses of an unfolding plot but too early to give away any vital clues or twists”.
The site, which launches sometime this month, will offer authors the opportunity to publish the 99th page of their works and receive feedback from readers on whether they would be interested in reading more or possibly even purchasing a copy. There’s no need to wait until the site goes live however, as you can conduct the page 99 test yourself with already published books, either by browsing in your local library branch or utilizing Google Books, which allows you to page through a digital copy of the text (not all books are available for preview in this fashion, but many are).
The question is, how well does it work? To answer that I decided to test it out on two books I recently checked out from the library but haven’t yet begun reading, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Corey Doctorow and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (if you want to sneak a peak at page 99 of either book you can view them on google books here and here, respectively). The results were mixed. I can’t say that page 99 of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom did much other than confuse me, but page 99 of Catch-22 did spark my interest (though admittedly it was also a bit confusing). I plan to read both books and once I’ve completed them I’ll report back here on the efficacy of the page 99 test. Try it out yourself and tell us how it works out!