News & Media

Submissions – a helpful ‘how-to’!

So, you’ve written a novel, you’ve edited it, and you’ve decided that you’d like to find an agent for it. What do you do next?

The first step is to know the genre of the manuscript you’ve written. It sounds simple, but this will inform the fundamentals of your submission: which agents you submit to; which comparable authors/titles you refer to; how you pitch your novel.

Compiling a list of agents

Once you have honed-in on the genre, research agents who represent authors in that space and start compiling a list. The Writers & Artists Yearbook is a useful place to start, and I always recommend looking in the Acknowledgements section of authors you admire or who write in the same genre as you, to see who their agent is.

Most agents accept submissions that are out with other agents simultaneously, so – with a few exceptions – you are fine to send to lots of agents at once.

Once you’ve got a list together, then you can start to research each of the names on there and find out more about them: how big is their client list? Are they actively looking to take on more clients? Do you admire other authors on their list? Are they a member of the Association of Authors' Agents? What services do they offer in terms of translation and dramatic rights? Think about what you want from an agent and try to hone your list accordingly: do you want your agent to be active on TikTok; do you want your agent to be very hands-on editorially; etc.

Writing your query email

Different agencies will have different requirements and guidelines, so always make sure that you are checking their website in order to adapt your submission as follows. At Greenstone, we want to see an elevator pitch; blurb; comparative titles; author bio; and any other relevant information…

- Elevator pitch: this is one or two lines that sums up the heart of your novel and leaves us wanting to read on. If you could only sum it up in a few lines, how would you pitch your novel to a stranger? This should be concise, hook-y, and leave us intrigued!

- Blurb: this is a paragraph/several paragraphs that explains the premise of your novel in more detail. We would expect to see the key characters/narrators mentioned and the key set-up/tension of the book introduced. This equates to the blurb you might read on the back cover of a published book.

- Comparative titles: we’d love to know which published books or authors you would compare your work with. Does it have the chemistry of an Emily Henry but the wistfulness of a Carley Fortune? It’s really useful for us to know how you see your book being positioned so that we can consider with this in mind.

- Author bio: tell us a little bit about yourself! Where do you live; is this your first novel; what inspired you to write the book. We sign authors, not books, and we’d love to see an insight into who you are and what inspires you.

- Other relevant information: have you been published previously? Did this novel win a prize? If there is anything else about you or your work that you think is useful context to have, then please do let us know.

What next?

It’s important that you keep track of which agents you have submitted to, so that you can add any updates and feedback when you start hearing back. If an agent suggests some revisions and requests to see the manuscript if/once you have made those changes, then you should consider whether you agree with the feedback before jumping on it: if you do agree, then this suggests a compatibility with the agent. If you disagree with it, then consider whether you would want to work with an agent who has a different editorial view/direction in mind for your work.

Similarly, if you are offered representation then it is important to discuss editorial work, your goals, ambition for the novel, etc. with the agent before accepting. It is important for both of you that your views regarding you and your writing are aligned, as this is what makes for a long and happy agent-author dynamic.

Do check each agent’s guidelines regarding response time on submissions: some agencies don’t respond unless to request the full; others will give a timeframe. If you don’t hear back within the timeframe then do make sure to check in.

June 10, 2024
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