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How to Submit Your Manuscript to an Agent in 6 Steps
The same commitment you brought to writing your book will be critical when facing the publishing world. For both first-time writers and published authors, publication can be a difficult path. The best way to make the manuscript preparation, submission, and review process a little easier is to be prepared.
- Polish your manuscript. In addition to making sure your manuscript adheres to formatting guidelines such as word count, title page, page numbers, and typesetting, you’ll want to make sure your manuscript is free of typos before sending it to a potential agent or book publisher. Reading your own work aloud is a great way to pay closer attention to your sentences and catch unintentional repetition or awkward phrasing. Look for honest feedback in the form of a peer review from a member of your writing group, or consider hiring an editing service to look at your manuscript. You can find our editing checklist here.
- Do background research. As you prepare to submit to literary agents or publishing houses, do your research and try to find agents and houses that might be a good fit for your project. Check agents’ and publishers’ websites to find out if they’re accepting manuscripts, and learn about their submission guidelines and manuscript formatting requirements. If you’re submitting directly to a publishing house, without using an agent as an intermediary, check to see if they accept unsolicited manuscripts. (Traditional publishers generally won’t.)
- Network within your genre. Make sure you’re familiar with what’s going on in your genre before reaching out to agents. Whether it’s literary fiction, thriller, young adult, picture books, short story collections, or science fiction, finding a writing community and attending writing conferences in your genre can help you find the right book publisher and learn more about your niche in the publishing industry.
- Develop a strategy for contacting potential agents. As you’re researching potential literary agents and publishing companies, keep a list of those you’d like to reach out to. Rank your list, and prepare to send manuscript submissions to about five agents at a time, starting with your top choices and moving down the list.
- Send query letters. While you’re figuring out which agents you’d like to query, you’ll need to craft an excellent query letter. It should be concise (no more than three paragraphs) but just as exciting and suspenseful as your novel. Generally, you’ll need to send a query letter to agents before sending them the full manuscript. The query letter is a sales pitch for your book that includes the most important information about your book (genre or subject matter, word count, title) and an enticing hook. Focus on what makes your story stand out—you should have some idea of this based on your background research. Make sure to personalize your query letter for each agent: Like a good cover letter, it should include few reasons why you’d like to work with them in particular. Mention if you’ve been referred by another writer or if you met the agent at a writing conference. If you’re already a published author, list the titles of your published books.
- Send manuscripts. If an agent responds to your query letter, congratulations! They will likely ask to read your full manuscript. If not, they may ask for a synopsis, book proposal (usually for nonfiction books), or sample chapters. Be prepared to send in any of the aforementioned so you’re not caught off guard.
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