"Rule of 33"There are so many books to read, and so little time to do it. (Not complaining, mind you, just an observation.) I had to develop a way to decide if I wanted to take a chance on a new author. Years ago, I settled on the Rule of 33.
Favorites and old friends (like Tepper, Stephenson, King, Dennett, Weber, Moon, Brin, Pinker, Moore, and on, and on...) don't have to pass my rule. I know I will enjoy their stuff, and not get lost in some arcane stylistic maze. But how do I decide to buy a book when I've never encountered the writer before?
Others read the cover notes (so do I), or an except at the front of the book (if present—too many publishers now substitute other people's opinions). Some people rely on reviewers in print or online to guide their choices.
But the Rule of 33 is a direct sample that works for me. I start at the top of page 33 and read no further than page 35. The story should be well underway by then, and I can get a real sense of the writer's style and ability to draw me into the story. Together with the cover notes, cover art (ghastly or ultra-mystic cover art sends the book right back to the shelf, without application of the rule), I can build my personal library with few missteps.
I often wish Amazon would include the option to apply the Rule of 33 in their Look Inside for eBooks—it would save me having to download, then reject a book. (Alhough, to tell truth, I've only done that twice.)
The "Jane Chord"The Jane Chord is found by combining the first (non-article) word with the last. When you get a sentence, it is sometimes interesting by itself. For instance, John McPhee's article "Cooling the Lava" (in The Control of Nature) starts "Cooling the lava was Thorbjorn's idea..." and ends "...hubris enough to provoke a new eruption." The Jane Chord is "Cooling eruption."
I don't use the Jane Chord to make a buy decision, but find it of interest once I've finished a book.