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What to send to an Agent and when?


Just wondering, when would I be best to start submitting my work to agents and what I should submit exactly? For example, should I wait until I have finished my novel, or should I send the first few chapters? OR, should I submit a few pieces of my work, short stories, poems etc, to give them a general feel for my style as a writer? 

Am feeling a bit lost as to when would be best 🙂 

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Replies (8)
  • The following comments apply to the UK:

    Agents typically specify their requirements on their websites. Although requirements tend to be similar they can differ in small details and you would be well advised to follow their instructions to the letter.

    They are not going to be even slightly interested in getting a general feel for your style as a writer and anything submitted not precisely tailored to their requirements as set out on the website will be binned.

    The usual requirement is a covering letter, a synopsis and the first few chapters (they will specify if they want the first three chapters or the first 10k words or whatever).

    Don't submit until your novel is finished. Apart from anything else they will want to know the final word count. And if they want to see the whole MS it will not look good if you then have to make them wait a year while you finish it.

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    • Ok, thank you for your advice Bella. 

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      • HI Kelly,

        I'm assuming you write fiction (it's different for non-fiction I believe). If so then I wouldn't submit to an agent until you are 100% happy with it and finished. If an agent likes it and asks for the full manuscript you need to be in a position to send it. Plus, they like to see that you are able to finish a manuscript!

        When you are ready - most will ask for a synopsis, (usually a short one so an A4 page) the first 3 chapters and a bio. (Check what each agent wants as they are sometimes very specific and if you don't give them exactly what they want they won't even look at it.)

        As most agents, now ask for submission by email - they will ask you to put the title in the email, together with the genre and an elevator pitch. This is exactly what it sounds like - a one or two liner that summarises the book. That's a tough one but some agents won't even open the email if the elevator pitch doesn't float their boat.

        Your bio should contain anything good in terms of your writing - eg competitions won, etc.

        Good luck

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        • Me who knows not much would agree with waiting until you have completed and double and triple checked because the worst thing that could happen is they love it and it's not ready to hand over then the fire goes out and they move on.  I'd wait.  I'm in the same boat actually, I'm trying to polish up the synopsis, so I'm looking around for some good thoughts atm, if anyone knows where I could find that information?  

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        •  As BellaM mentioned every literary agency has a submission page on their website where they detail their submission guidelines and requirements.

          You need to have your novel finished before you start submitting, and normally that will involve several drafts, edits and revisions. There is a lot of competitions so they expect for a novel to be extremely polished before being submitted.

          If you have had short stories or poems published or placed in competitions you can mention those in your cover letter but you shouldn't send them along.

          I hope this helps.

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          • It does help. Thank you. 

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          • It's Probably worth mentioning that a limited number of publishers will still accept submissions direct without an agent's input - they do tend to be smaller operations but for someone starting out it's worth a shot. The same rules apply as above - but make sure they are real publishers and not vanity publishers - the basic rule is publishers pay you not the other way around.

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            • Thanks for all your advice, Danny. Much appreciated 🙂

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