The first chapter? The first sentence? The cover?
Personally, it depends. I read almost everything I pick-up because time is limited at the library or book store. I can't spend fifteen minutes searching for a book usually. Instead, I tend to rely on referrals or authors I've already read. It has to be pretty bad for me to put it down. I'll finish it, but I won't devour it.
When reading sample pages, I have literally stopped reading after the first opening paragraph. (Sometimes the writing is just that bad.)
That’s pretty rare. However, I’d say, on average, that I can tell a NO within the first two to five pages of a submission.
I know this is probably appalling for writers. How can ANYONE make a determination in such a short span of pages?
Trust me. Spend one week at an agency reading the submissions and after you’ve read thousands and thousands of partials, you know.
And while I do trust her, I wouldn't need the explanation of experience. The last time I did have the luxury of alone time at a bookstore, I walked past hundreds of titles without pulling a one off the shelf to read the back cover, the first paragraph or the first chapter. Why do authors assume that their query or requested pages will be any different? Simply because it is her job?
The comments get pretty hot and heated when Kirstin has a post like this. I applaud her strength to continue sharing such thoughts, even when she anticipates the reaction she will receive.