Don’t give agents or publishers a reason to reject your manuscript submission. I could write a book and fill it with these dreadful “submissions” that came to my inbox/mailbox in the last years. On one site I feel pity for the sender, on the other hand I just can’t understand why they don’t make the effort to read submission guidelines on publishers websites, get it right and learn how to write submissions to publishers. Why do authors work many months or even years on a manuscript, and then don’t learn how to sell it? There are just a few basics to be familiar with:
Genre / Category
Most publishers or agents are specialized in certain genres. It also gets harder for authors if they do cross-genres. However, sending a query for poetry to a publisher, who explicitly states on his website under submission guidelines, that they only accept non-fiction and how-to-guides, is a waste of your and their time and money to ask “if they take on poetry”. Not researching what genres an agent or publisher is interested in, is not only impolite, but will for sure result in rejection.
Many resources such as PublishersGlobal, PublishingWeekly, Writer’s Market or AgentQuery.com will help you to find the right places / agents / publishers for your genre. Another possibility is to perform a Google search for the words literary agent and your genre. Carefully study your selected agents’ website to find more information.
A word of caution: In former blogs we wrote that – as in many other publishing fields – there are a few “rotten apples”, meaning agents that are charging authors for reading their manuscripts or demand a fee for his or her “evaluation” of their manuscript.
Follow Submission Guidelines
Not reading and acting accordingly to an agent’s or publishers individual submission guidelines will end your query letter immediately in the recycle bin. Find answers to questions like these in the agents’ guidelines:
- Do they want a query letter only?
- Do they want a query with the first pages of your manuscript?
- Do they want a query and the first three chapters?
- Do they accept queries via e-mail or via regular mail?
- Read and follow their guidelines in detail!
How to Write a Query Letter
First of all: find out the name of the agent or editor at the publishing house you will query. Never, ever, write “To whom it may concern”. It only shows your are not caring whoever will receive it. Maybe the intern … Don’t forget to add all of your contact information: address, e-mail address, and phone number.
The QueryShark advises:
- “The opening paragraph is meant to make a pitch regarding your protagonist and your book in a way that the agent will fall in love with them.”
- “The second paragraph provides the synopsis. Do not include every little detail, it is meant to summarize the essence of the obstacles in the story. Stick to the big picture.”
- “The third paragraph is all about you. What relevant credentials, honors, and awards have you or your books achieved? In other words, why you and not another author should be published.”
- “The closing paragraph should recognize the agent’s submission guidelines, why you felt they were a good fit for your novel, and an action to take…i.e. requesting the full manuscript.”
You will need a complete book proposal, three sample chapters and a cover letter (the query). A book proposal is made up of several components, such as an overview, competitive titles, marketing of your book, etc., and should be at least 10 pages long – a kind of business plan for your book. BTW: This is something that every writer should do for their work, no matter if they pitch an agent or publisher or if they intend to self-publish their book.
Most writers don’t know that they need only three chapters written, not the entire manuscript when pitching to an agent or publishing house. Once the offer is accepted, the rest of the manuscript has to follow within a certain time frame.
Spelling and Grammar
When submitting a query letter to agents, ensure that all spelling and grammar issues are resolved. Typos or even shortcuts are a turnoff. Do hire a professional to read your letter!
Following these tips will help you in landing an agent. Read about all the famous authors who were rejected, but, it was their persistence that paid off in the long run. Get lots of tips from literary agents here. Consider not only to submit your manuscript to publishing houses, but to author-publish it, in order to earn more and if successfully, agents and publishers will approach YOU!
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