10 Things to Remember When
Submitting Your Work to an
by Carole Blake
1. Research the agency before submitting
There’s no excuse not to: we all have websites, often with a mass of useful information. An agent wants to represent writers who are serious about their work, and that must include a professional attitude. Sending me material in a genre I don’t represent demonstrates you’ve not done your homework. We have profiles of all our agents on our website so that you can research our tastes.
2. Send what the agency requests
Seems simple, but I’m often sent whole manuscripts, when we clearly ask for a synopsis and the first few chapters as an initial submission. We’ll ask for more if we like what we’ve read. Send by email as our website clearly requests in the submission guidelines.
3. Give the agency time to deal with it
Most agencies (certainly all the good ones) receive overwhelming quantities of submissions: many thousands a year. Most of us try to look at everything we are sent but working for our clients has to come first: I can only read unsolicited submissions out of office hours – and after I’ve read the work of my clients. If you do want to chase, after a reasonable period of time, please email, don’t phone. The person who answers the telephone will seldom be the one dealing with your manuscript: an email is much easier to respond to. Remember how long it takes you to read a novel: an agent reading critically may read slower than someone reading only for pleasure: I know I do. Remember responses will take longer around international Book Fair dates and during the summer, over Christmas and New Year: agents need holidays too.
4. Pitch carefully
This is a business proposition: don’t send in jokey letters that won’t seem funny when the agent is reading dozens, late at night. Don’t compare your work to the literary greats: I want to form my own opinion. Don’t trash other authors: they might be my clients, or my friends.
5. Gain some distance, after you finish your manuscript
Never submit as soon as you have finished your draft. Put it aside for several weeks at least, read it again with clearer eyes, revise. Submitting too early, without revision, may gain many rejections. I certainly don’t want to receive a sequence of submissions with one revised version after another.
6. Accept rejection graciously
Most people do. But every agent I know has received abusive responses, or emails pleading for detailed feedback. Abuse will not gain you an agent. Asking for feedback shows a lack of professionalism. I take on 1 new client a year maximum: sometimes none at all. See no 3 above: do the maths. It would be highly unusual if you were not to receive some rejections so accept that and move on to another submission,
7. Submit professionally
Have your own email address. Don’t send 3 manuscripts at once. Don’t send your own cover design. If sending by snailmail (I would MUCH rather you sent by email) don’t mark the parcel ‘Private & Confidential’. It isn’t, it’s business. Don’t submit simultaneously to 50 agencies with an open list of their email addresses. Choose carefully and submit separately. We like to think you’re looking for a special partnership, rather than submitting to any and every agent whose email address you can find. If you have submitted to multiple agencies (perfectly acceptable) and you accept representation from an agent before I have responded to you: please do tell me. I don’t want to spend hours reading a manuscript that is already represented by someone else. The same applies if you give up on the submission process and decide to self-publish. It’s only courteous not to waste an agent’s time.
8. Don’t fib.
If you’ve read my book, or been recommended by one of my authors, please do say so. But if you send me a science fiction novel, or a film script, while praising my book, I will know that you have not read it.
9. Social courtesy
By all means follow me on Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest. I love these sites as a means of winding down, and am happy to chat to many. But social media is just that: keep it social. Pitching should be done as the website advises: by email. If we meet at parties or conferences by all means pitch your project to me succinctly: if I am interested I’ll invite you to submit it. What I do not want is to be pinned to the spot while you tell me every nuance of the plot over the next 5 minutes. Ordinary politeness is appreciated in the book world as much as anywhere else.
10. Stay hopeful!
Agents WANT to discover exciting new writers: it’s our livelihood. And I always remember that a large proportion of my clients have come from unsolicited submissions.
© Carole Blake 2013
Author of FROM PITCH TO PUBLICATION: Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Novel Published, Macmillan £14.99
photo by Jack Ladenburg
About the author:
Carole Blake founded her own literary agency in 1977 after 14 years working for publishing houses, finally as Marketing Director of mass market paperback imprint Sphere. President of The Book Trade Charity: BTBS. Past President of the Association of Authors' Agents, past Chairman of The Society of Bookmen (only the 2nd woman, since it was founded in 1921). . She is a member of the advisory board for the post-graduate publishing studies courses at both City University and UCLA. Author of FROM PITCH TO PUBLICATION (Macmillan,1999) now in its 13th printing.
The prize with this post is a copy of Carole's book, "From Pitch to Publication: Everything You Need to Know to Get Your novel Published." If you are already a signed-up member of ChaBooCha, then all you need to do to be entered for a chance to win this book is to comment on this post no later than noon GMT on the 27th of March.
Now, I understand that, as so many ChaBooCha members already buy writing books, some of you might already have this book. Because of this, if you are the winner and you already have the book, you can do one of two things; you can choose to give the book as a gift to someone else in the challenge, either anonymously or with your name attached and it will be sent directly to them instead of you OR you can choose ONE of the following two things from the Chapter Book Challenge 2013 shop in place of the book.