Submitting to a Literary Agent

How to Prepare Your Submission Package for Sending to a Literary Agent

It sounds pretty ‘101’, but you would be surprised how many people think they can submit in a different way to that stated by the literary because of x, y or z. The number one rule on how to prepare your submission package for sending to a literary agent is ‘don’t ignore the submission guidelines’.

Don’t, for example, submit more than requested, explaining that the first 10,000 words didn’t do your book justice and that you wanted to submit it differently. If that is the case – then you need to re-examine your first three chapters and really decide whether you are beginning your novel in the best place to really hook the reader and the agent. If the literary agency guidelines state 10,000 words, submit ten thousand words. If the guidelines state the first three chapters, submit the first three chapters. Particularly don’t expect the agent to read the entire manuscript, not at this stage.

Take a look at our article here on writing irresistible opening chapters if you think you may need to address your opening chapters.

Format your manuscript correctly as per instructions from the literary agency

Correctly formatting and preparing your submission package is essential. Literary agents will usually specify guidelines on their website as to how to submit your manuscript. The guidelines will usually include manuscript layout and submission guidelines – study these carefully.

Professional presentation matters more than ever these days. To be in with the best chance of having one’s manuscript considered, it is vital that it should be laid out in an acceptable format. Take a look at the tips below to see if your manuscript follows these:

  • New chapters must begin on a new page
  • Large, bold chapter headings centred on the page
  • Text should be double-line-spaced, unjustified (ranged left) and 12 point in a standard font
  • All paragraphs should be indented EXCEPT for the first line of new chapters or after a section break – use Tab key to indent
  • No additional gaps between paragraphs except to denote the start of a new section
  • At a section break, we would recommend inserting, for example *** so that if a section break falls at the foot of a page it is not overlooked
  • Page numbers should be included in the footer of each page
  • Author ID and Book Title in small print – e.g. 8pt caps in the header of each page
  • Leave a last a double gap between the chapter heading and the start of the text
  • The title page should include book title, genre, target age group (for children), word count, date of submission, author ID and contact details including phone number and email address

Don’t send multiple emails or email attachments to the literary agent

If you are submitting via email keep it simple. Arrange your submission letter, synopsis, manuscript sample pages and other material into one document before you start. Multiple attachments leave too much to go wrong at the receiving end. Remember a literary agent will receive many submissions each day.

Make sure you are ready to submit your manuscript

Submit at the right time for you
Make sure you are submitting at the right time in your career. Are you absolutely happy that you have developed your writing skills sufficiently to judge that your manuscript is in the best shape possible. As soon as you submit your work to the literary world, you are setting yourself up for some harsh realities about your work – or not as the case may be!

Don’t submit an unfinished manuscript
Don’t submit the first three chapters if you only have an outline for the remainder of your novel. If the agent likes your work, chances are, they will ask to see more pretty quickly. As a general rule, give yourself time to finish the book, put it away for a month or so and then come back to it for a final read and proofread before you start submitting.

Be ready for rejection from a literary agent but don’t let it get to you
Be prepared for rejection. Accept any constructive criticism on your book gracefully and use it to improve. Don’t let rejection stop you – that may mean toughening up mentally before you start submitting. Try not to burn any bridges if you are rejected. It is a small industry and it is based on building solid personal relationships throughout. Don’t tell an agent they have made a mistake if they reject you, books are rejected for many reasons and it may not be because yours isn’t any good.

Have you taken a look at our article on researching the right literary agent before you start to prepare your submission package?

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