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Top Ten Tips for Submitting to an Agent or Publisher

July 14th, 2014

Most published writers would agree that the hardest part of the process is finding someone in the industry who is willing to take a chance on your book. Agents and publishers receive hundreds of submissions from unpublished writers every day, so what can you do to give your work the best possible chance?

1. Write your book! – There isn’t an agent or publisher worth having who will offer you a contract based on a book you haven’t written yet, so your first step is to get writing. Even if the submission guidelines state that they only want the first three chapters or an outline to begin with, you still need to have the finished product ready to be sent out to them if they do express an interest. Imagine how you’d feel if an agent wrote back saying they loved your work, only for you to have to explain that you didn’t have a manuscript for them!

2. Read the guidelines – Every publisher will have a slightly different set of submission guidelines, so make sure you read them carefully before sending out any work. If a publisher asks for an outline and sample first chapter, then sending a full manuscript is going to get you an immediate rejection. You should never send a full manuscript unless it has been specifically requested by the publisher.

3. Get rid of files and folders – We know it looks great when your manuscript is bound together in a nice folder or when each page is inserted in its own plastic pocket, and we can’t blame you for wanting to make your work stand out. The problem is, this actually makes it more difficult for an editor to read or make comments on, and they will spend as much time taking it out of the folder as you did putting it in. In most cases, publishers and agents would like a stack of papers bound together with a single elastic band. Much easier to read, and it saves you a lot of time!

4. Invest in yourself – When it comes to presentation, there is one area where it’s worth spending a bit of time and money. Firstly, make sure you have a good, reliable printer that can handle being used a lot. If you’re writing a book, your manuscript is likely to be over a hundred sheets of A4 so you’ll need a printer that will be able to withstand printing several copies of this. It’s also a good idea to purchase some good quality printer paper, as cheap paper tends to smear or rip very easily.

5. Do your research – Every agent and publishing house will have a particular area or genre that they work in, and you need to find one that deals with the kind of book you are writing. A good way to do this is to visit a local book shop and look for books of a similar topic and style to yours. Then, look at the first few pages until you find the name of the publisher. You should be able to make a list of a few different publishers you could work with, then go home and double check that they are still operating and accepting new submissions. After all, it’s no use submitting your novel to a publishing house that only deals with poetry!

6. Review and Re-Write – Although you will be working with an editor when your book is accepted by a publisher, you should still be prepared to edit and review your own work several times before sending it off. There is never an excuse to send off your first draft, and we can guarantee that it will be rejected if you do. If you expect an editor or publisher to put in the effort to market and sell your book, then you need to be prepared to make it as good as it can possibly be before they even set eyes on it.

7. Be Brief – Always enclose a query letter with your manuscript, but keep it to a maximum of one page. An agent or publisher does not need to know your life story, and they are far too busy to read several pages of letter for every submission they receive. Make their job easy and be brief, efficient and polite.

8. Proofread – And by this, we don’t mean use a spell-checker! Spell-check cannot tell the difference between to, too and two or there, their and they’re. It also doesn’t know the difference between an exciting opportunity and an exiting opportunity. Spell-check is a great tool, when it works, but it won’t catch all of your mistakes!

9. Don’t overpay for postage – As tempting as it might be to send your work by courier, special delivery or registered mail, it actually doesn’t do you any favours. Work sent this way won’t get there any faster, and will need to be signed for by the addressee. You won’t endear yourself to an editor by tearing them away from their work to sign for a letter, and if they aren’t available when it arrives, your work will end up at the local collection office. The chances of your work being lost in the post or in the office are slim to none, so you have nothing to worry about. A sturdy envelope sent by First Class post is perfectly safe, and will be dealt with along with all other post. Save yourself some money and just buy a stamp!

10. Make a backup! – If worst comes to worst and your work does end up lost in the post or left on the wrong desk, it won’t be a problem at all if you have another copy on your computer. Always keep a copy of everything you send out, and then make sure you have a copy on something other than your home computer. A memory stick, external drive, or online storage system like dropbox or Google docs can save you a lot of stress if your home computer lets you down. It can happen to you, however much of a computer wizard you are!


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