Submission Procedures…Do we Understand Them?

Posted: June 10, 2012 in Regular Posts
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Most literary agents are normally happy to read new work from potential clients. Make sure you first browse a list of your chosen agent’s existing authors lists to get a good idea of the kind of work they handle or are comfortable with. The most successful unsolicited approaches to agents are those which have been carefully targeted to a particular agency, rather than a blanket approach to lots of agencies, which is NOT RECCOMMENDED! Normally, the agent will tell you under the ‘submissions’ section of their website, what they represent and specifically what they do not. Make sure you read this section of your prospective agent’s website… in detail, BEFORE making your submission.

Submissions by email: Most agents living in the real world, and there are of course some that don’t,….. prefer to receive submissions by email. You will find individual preferences and email addresses etc listed on a ‘contact’ web page or more often on an individual agent’s web page. You would normally be required to send your submission directly to the agent you feel will be most compatible with your work. Agents will generally read all submissions made to them in order of receipt. It is to their advantage to do so and no one wants to miss the next J.K Rowling…do they? However, most agents will only respond to submissions if they wish to read more. You can safely assume that if you have not heard back from your submitted agent within eight weeks then you can more or less take it for granted that the agent submitted to does not feel that the work is right for their particular agency. Submissions by post: If you can afford it, you can often send your manuscript in hard copy to your agent. Check the website to see if this will be accepted. Again, they will normally only respond if they wish to see more. Do not expect to see your hard copy manuscript back. If they don’t like it, then it’s straight in the bin….or as they refer to the process of binning…..recycled. Some will send your manuscript back to you with an SAE envelope….but they are rare.!

What’s Required… ?

For fiction: For most submissions, you should send in the first 50 pages or first three chapters of your manuscript, (normally, no more) and a synopsis in a single document, (maximum two or three pages) as an attachment to the email, with a covering letter as detailed below. If it’s a picture book, then you would normally need to send the full story. If you are an illustrator, e-mail a selection of JPEGs with a covering letter.

For non-fiction: Again, for most submissions, email a proposal and short example of the proposed work…..a sample chapter, for instance. Include a short note on any competing or comparable literature stating, where possible the author, title, publisher and publication date. It would be helpful to have an overview of possible marketing outlets for your work and a biographical note outlining your background, training and experience. This is an important point of emphasis for a specialist subject whereby the agent needs some initial assurance that you, as the author, have a suitable knowledge of your subject.

The Covering Letter: Write a SHORT covering letter, normally embedded within the body of the email, giving an account of the background of the book and your writing career to date. If you have references from previous writing efforts, then make this clear. If you have had previous correspondence with any other agents, make sure you mention this. Most agents would also appreciate knowing if your project has been sent to or is being considered by other agents or publishers. That seems fair. The more cynical among you may say that if you do, your book goes to the bottom of the review list. Honesty is nearly always the best policy..! Do not use the ‘cast your net wide’ approach as this will no doubt backfire upon you.

The E-mail itself….…

There are many differing conventions used by agents and publishers for submitting work, but nearly all of them require a way of finding your work when it has been downloaded and posted to their computerized storage systems. Most also have some very heavy SPAM filters in operation and so require the ‘Subject’ section of the email to represent certain common information such as the following.

Date: Date of submission as Name: Surname then First name. Title: Book Title.doc

For example: 01.06.12_Whittikar_James_MyBestSellingNovel.doc

Another well used example is: [SUBMISSION DATE]/[TITLE OF WORK]/[NAME OF AUTHOR]

The Manuscript…

For fiction: A normal requirement will be the three opening chapters (double line spaced) and a very brief synopsis of the whole plot, with a word-count of the complete book, combined together in one WORD DOCUMENT. Make sure you provide a title page and number the pages in the submission in case the agent or publisher decide to print it for their reviewers. Use a common font with the most respected being Times New Roman and good sized margins such as 4.5cm all round to give the reviewer the ability to write in the margins when the manuscript is printed out.

For non-fiction: Again, a normal requirement will be to provide a submission all together in one WORD DOCUMENT to include a proposal which tells the agent the date you could actually complete the book, the full word-count, a detailed outline of the story (synopsis) and three chapters (double line spaced) if you’ve written them. Make sure you also do a title page and number the pages in case they decide to print it. You should also indicate how much of the book is available in case the reviewers want to read on some more. The font and margins may vary depending upon the style and type of manuscript you are submitting.

Please make sure that any manuscript or attachment is a word document or PDF and not a link to any ‘cloud’ download format. Also, do not send hard media such as a CD or other storage devices. You will be unpopular.

So, do we now understand the submission procedure for getting your masterpiece in front of an agent or publisher who is about to launch your career as a world recognized Author? Maybe the subject is a little clearer but the best advice will always be to research your chosen agent or publisher and follow their own specific submission rules…to the letter.! Happy scribbling.!

The E-Book Writer


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