Create the perfect agent submission
Creating the perfect agent submission is not rocket science, so why do so many writers get it wrong?
With many agents receiving a staggering 10,000 submissions a year, the so-called ‘slush pile’ is inevitably high. Agents generally sign only a handful of debut authors. With this in mind, how can you avoid the mistakes and pitfalls that many writers make, and succeed in getting agents to sit up and take notice of your manuscript submission?
The do’s and don’ts
Submitting to agents is a positive step in the right direction. But the most important thing you need to remember is that they are looking for the negatives to ensure they don’t sign you. With this in mind, making your submission the best it can be should be a top priority.
By following my ten-point plan, you can hopefully avoid being instantly castigated to the slush pile, and impress the agents in question. Following a few simple rules can, with all intents and purposes, lead to agents asking to see your full manuscript. That’s an opportunity to gain some vital feedback on what you have written and impress them.
Does this all sound overwhelming? If so, just follow a few of my basic rules and give yourself that vital lead in the race to get signed.
Follow my ten-point plan
- The title page should include your name, contact info, and word count
- Use double or 1.5 line spacing
- Insert page numbers
- Use font size 12
- Apply the accepted industry font
- Set standard margins
- Chapter breaks should be marked by page breaks
- Indent paragraphs
- Do not overuse ellipsis… or exclamation marks!
- Apply perfect grammar and punctuation
Achieve the basics
Once you have mastered the basics for your agent submission, what else can you do to ensure your manuscript is a ‘stand-out’ read for agents before pressing the ‘send’ button on your email?
I should let you know that I was once that person on the agent submissions desk, happily deleting the majority of manuscripts that appeared in my view. In all honestly, after reading the first page, I instantly knew whether it would be a ‘yes’ or a big fat ‘no’. But there are several steps a budding debut writer can take to avoid inevitable obstacles. Who knows, you might even put a smile on the submission editor’s face – well there is no harm in trying!
Avoid the Pitfalls
They key thing to remember is that you are submitting your manuscript – not a fully-fledged published novel. There is nothing more tiresome for the person sat on the submissions desk than reading through dedications, acknowledgements or lengthy footnotes.
Keep the information on your manuscript basic. The first page should give the title of the novel, along with your name, contact email and telephone number. This should be followed by the total word count of your manuscript and the genre it is written in.
This is all an agent needs and wants from you. If you do have dedications and acknowledgements, it would be wise to hold back on this, until you have some positive feedback. A literary agent has to like you to want to sign you. Don’t complicate the process!
How to title your document
As a rule of thumb, the best practice is to title your document after the title of the novel you have written. This should also include your name. In the worst case scenario, a submissions editor will see documents named as ‘my first three chapters’, ‘synopsis’ or even worse, ‘agent query letter’. But take it from me, there are often 20 or 30 submissions with the same title every day of the week.
So what can you do to make your submission stand out from the crowd? You can ensure the agent in question can quickly refer back to your document. Using myself as an example, the document could be titled, ‘The Fire Inside’, Shelley Routledge submission.doc. My document is now clearly and succinctly titled. If an agent enjoys what you have written, they can quickly contact you and ask for the full manuscript. It’s a win-win situation!
What to include in your agent submission
We have discussed the format of an agent submission, but what about the content?
Apart from the first three chapters of your novel you should include a short author biography. This isn’t about providing the agent with your latest CV. It is an opportunity to share something interesting about yourself.
Give them some basic background information on who you are, what you do for a living and why you decided to write your novel. It should not take up more than one paragraph. I would personally recommend that the remaining two paragraphs on your A4 page should be a sample extract from your novel that is truly exciting.
Choose an extract that’s mysterious and intriguing. Or perhaps a sample from the climax of your story. Your extract should ideally be in italics, to quickly gain the attention of those reading it.
My Agent Submission Service
With all my advice, you should now feel confident in grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns, and creating a pitch-perfect agent submission, that to all intents and purposes increases your chance of standing out from the slush pile.
Still none the wiser? If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of submitting your manuscript to agents, you can take a look at my bespoke agent submission package. It might just be the thing for you. After all, why do all the work when I can do it for you?