How to submit a novel to a literary agent

I have finished writing, editing and rewriting my second novel. I wouldn’t say that it is perfect (what book is) but it is as close as I can get. I finished the work on it last Friday and since then I have been submitting it to UK literary agents. It isn’t the quickest process in the world, but is well worth going through as it helps you to understand what publishers are looking for and how your work will be seen by others. I have enjoyed the process, and there have been several things I have learned about how to submit a novel to a literary agent that I thought I’d share with you here.

Selecting an agent

I’ve been deliberately false in this heading. It states that when you are ready to submit a novel to a literary agent that you should select one. This isn’t the case. You should select as many as you have the time to. There will be many people in the world of literary agency that will, represent books in your genre. You should check out that they match what you want from an agent, but there is nothing stopping you sending to scores at once. Some agents will get back to you quickly (one got back to me in only 2 days) but others might take months. You will prolong the process of submitting your books if you carry this out in a linear fashion. One by one isn’t the way to go about this.

Knowing what to submit

Literary agents will be sent hundreds of submissions per week. They know what they want from you. Don’t think that you know best and decide yourself what to send. The first rule of how to submit a novel to a literary agent is to find out what they want. This is usually a covering letter, a synopsis and your manuscript in one form or another. This can be one of many ways -

* The first three chapters

*Any 3 chapters

*Any 3 consecutive chapters

*The first 50 pages

*The first 80 pages

There are as many different requirements as there are agents, so look over their website and make sure you know the format needed.

The covering letter

This is a basic introduction. The covering letter goes through the basics, but won’t change a bad manuscript into a good one. You should look at the most basic level of information -

*A paragraph about yourself

*A paragraph about your book

*Maybe the motivation for the book

*And nothing else

It’s that simple — don’t try to make it any more complicated.

The synopsis

Again, there are differing requirements when looking at how to submit a novel to a literary agent with your synopsis. They will, again, be outlined on the website of the agent you are dealing with. The rule of thumb is not to make it too long. They will get your writing style from the manuscript, not as much the synopsis. This outlines the story and gives an overview of where the work will go. Don’t think that you have to embellish it with masses of detail. The literary agent will read your manuscript to determine if you should be put through to a publishing house — not the synopsis. If they want more detail or want to read the whole book then they will ask you.

I’d say that one page, or slightly more if it is a complex plot to describe will be more than enough. Once you start to head towards the end of page two onto page three, the brain will switch off. Don’t put your book on that list.

How to submit a novel to a literary agent

They are in charge of the process. If you want to work things your own way then consider self-publishing. If you want to get a book deal with a major publisher then you will need a literary agent 99.9% of the time. The other 0.1% are manuscripts that jump off the page and attract all the publishers at once. They don’t come along very often.

Now you have a better idea of how to submit a novel to a literary agent you can go ahead. After that, sit back and wait for the results. I know I am at the moment. It’s a really exciting time in the life of your book, so enjoy it.