Diary of a hopeful author: How to submit to a literary agent

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Apologies for the last post – it went all wrong! No idea what happened , but, good news, here’s the post you are meant to get…

I’ve never been one for rules. Nine years old and an obsessive tomboy, I refused point blank to accept the rule at our school that girls could not play rugby. But, show me a challenge and I’ll show you the steel of my gut, and so one campaign and several sharp letters later, we had ourselves a rugby team – not just for girls, but a mixed team. The victory was ours. I mean, sure, two months later we discovered we didn’t actually enjoy playing rugby, but still, at least we had the choice to refuse it.

And so to literary agents and the getting of one.  There’s something about the mention of an agent that sends our writer hearts palpitating and our brows sweating. It seems unreachable, impossible almost, to get one, such is the high esteem they are held. And quite right, too. Indeed, so competitive is this writing lark, so hard is it to get a bite at the publishing cake these days, that you’d think as writers we need to make any submission we send agent wise stand out, right? Well, I am here to tell you are wrong. You see, this is where rules, and the ignoring of should not happen. In fact, the one huge mistake I think aspiring authors make is ignoring the rules.

Now look, as explained above, I am no lass for accepting the norm. But I am also something of a realist. And a determined gal. As yet, while I have a self-published book that’s popular, plus some writing newspaper columns, I still want that publishing deal – and that means playing by the rules. It seems so obvious, really, but you’d be amazed how many writers just ignore this, frankly, really easy bit of the submission machine.

Agents give submission guidelines for a reason – they are stacked busy. They want submissions to adhere to the guidelines because it makes their life easier, and here’s the thing – it means they can spot a good piece of work a mile off. As writer, we have a lot of hoops to jump through.  We have to first send a query letter, a synopsis, the first chapters. And that’s before an agent even considers requesting the full manuscript. In fact – and you may want to close your ears at this one – the amount of full manuscripts taken on my agents is only 1%. I know.

But have no fear! While my first book didn’t bite publishing wise, the full manuscript was read by three agents, which I am mighty chuffed about. So, while I am still something of a novice myself, some things are still blindingly clear, and therefore, as we’re all in this together, here are my little top tips for putting together a submission:

  1. Follow the guidelines exactly. Do not deviate AT ALL. No jokes, no scented paper. NO DODGY PHOTOS. Forget it – you will just end up in the bin. If they say they want a query letter, one page synopsis and the first three chapters, send that only.
  2. Send chronological chapters. Vital this one. Some people think they should send the ‘best’ chapters that represent their work, despite what has been requested. If they ask for the first chapters, send them. Simple.
  3. Be professional. Think of your submission, effectively, like an application for a job. You wouldn’t mess about in that. Sure, give across your personality, but keep it professional.
  4. Be polite when rejected. Everyone gets rejections, everyone. JK Rowling famously had her Harry Potter manuscript rejected SEVEN TIMES. It happens. What you don’t want to do when receiving a rejection is get shirty with the agent. They are just doing their job. So be polite, be professional and move on.  It will do you good in the long run.

So there you go. My top tips. But, I can now, if I may, direct you to an actual agent who can give you the skinny even more than I can. Said agent is Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group. Here is a link to her dos and don’ts for submitting to an agent – follow them to the letter.

And finally, my last tip. There is, actually, one thing we can do to make our submission stand out. No, it’s not a inserting a musical card, nor, indeed, giving said agent tonnes of cash. Nope. The most toppest tip for making your submission stand out is this: TELL A CRACKING STORY.

See? Simple? Hmmmm…Good luck.

LINK to Juliet Mushens’ Dos & don’t of book submissions

**I’m away for a few weeks now, so have a brilliant summer of writing and see you back for more wafflings late August.  MASSIVE Thanks for reading! **


Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

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