We tend to give a great deal of guidance on how to submit your manuscript to a literary agent. It is a question we are asked frequently and one that can involve quite a complicated answer. Submission guidelines vary between agencies, but there are a few things that remain the same throughout the industry. In order to submit your book to a literary agent you need to research and target the right literary agent, approach them with the right information and format your submission package correctly. Our guide below will help you to do just that.
Send Your Manuscript to the Right Literary Agent For You
To increase your chances of success when submitting your work to a literary agent you need to find the right literary agent for you and your manuscript. Whilst our manuscript appraisal services can help you to tick the boxes with your work and our guide to formatting your manuscript can help you to present your submission package properly, you still need to make sure you have done your research and you choose someone who is right for your book.
Research the Literary Agent Before Approaching Them
Not sure who to approach? Find books that are similar to your own in genre, style or subject matter. Check the acknowledgements page where you may see the author thanking their agent. These are the literary agents to contact. Make sure you have a copy of the latest Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook handy for contact details of the relevant agents.
Personalise ALL Submissions
Personalise your email to each individual literary agent and make sure the agent knows why you have chosen them above others. This is your chance to show that you have done your research and that you are serious about your writing career and becoming a published author. Check out the literary agency’s website to ensure that agent is handling the type of submission you are making.
Get the Literary Agent’s Name Right!
You may think this is submission 101, but it does happen – make sure you get the right agent at the correct agency, and that you spell their name correctly.
Don’t Make Unnecessary Calls to the Literary Agency
Don’t call and ask questions that are likely to have been answered on the website. Making personal contact with lots of questions or a pitch on the phone won’t help at this stage. Keep your pitch to the email or postal submission.
Prepare Your Cover Letter and Submission Package to a Literary Agent Carefully
Don’t include too much information in your submission letter
Your submission letter to a literary agent should include approximately three paragraphs – just enough for a few lines about you, a few lines about the book you are writing and a few lines about any relevant credentials, writing prizes, awards or accolades. Include experience or other information that qualifies you as the ideal person to be writing on this topic. What makes you stand out in this genre? Let the literary agent know. But remember, this is not the time to include fully-blown marketing plans or film ideas.
Include the right kind of information in your submission letter
This is where you need to be precise with your writing, get to the point but keep it interesting. Tell the literary agent what the book is about – there is a fine line between telling an agent what the book is about and how great it is. You need to believe in yourself and in your writing, but you need to let the agent be the judge of how good your book is.
Always proofread your submission letter
Don’t include exclamation marks or abbreviations in your submission letter or litter it with text-speak or poor English. Show that you have taken the time to craft a letter and that you are a literate and capable writer. If you are sending your submission via email, you should always send the email to yourself first as a test to check the spacing is correct and it formats the way it should.
Avoid diluting the focus of your submission letter
If you are working on more than one project, which most writers are at the time of submission, mention these but keep it brief. The agent likes to know that you have other ideas or other writing projects on the go. However, keep the focus on the manuscript you are currently submitting. Show you are fully committed to making this book a success.
Don’t submit too many manuscripts in one submission
Whilst it is tempting to submit more than one writing project at time to a literary agent, it is not a good idea. In fact, it could work against you unless it has specifically been requested by the agent.
Include your contact information
This does happen. Whether you are submitting your manuscript via post or email, it is always a good idea to include an email address, a postal address and a telephone number. You would be surprised by how many people forget to do this.
Change the CC field of email submissions
If you are submitting via email, make sure you have changed the names of the literary agency and the agent in the content and also in the cc field. Cutting and pasting is often where the problems begin with key information left embarrassingly unchanged in the text and in the salutation. Each new submission should be personalised for that agent.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Having outlined all of the above, it is also important not to sweat the small stuff. Don’t over play the importance of the cover letter, remember that it is your writing that needs to grab the agent’s attention. Get the essentials right as we have covered here and don’t agonise over everything else. Just be yourself.
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