So you’re ready to hit submit and send off your manuscript to an agent or editor – congratulations! You deserve a celebration – one that probably includes a trip somewhere and a shopping spree at your favorite bookstore.
But before you hit that button and pop open the bubbly, there are a few things you need to know. We’ve compiled the top 10 tips from literary agents and editors of things to do (or not to do) before you submit your work.
1. Get your manuscript ready!
Don’t even think about sending out your query letters until your manuscript is ready to go at that exact moment. This is a big one. When an agent or editor reads your query letter and synopsis, then requests your manuscript, they want a reply straight away. Any requests for extensions will fall on deaf ears – this is not university.
2. Research the agent or editor diligently.
Research the agent or editor you are querying. Check out their website, blog, twitter, and anything else you can find to get a sense of their style and taste. Find out who they represent. Read some of the novels they have published. Use this information to tailor your submission accordingly. Trust me, your diligence will show and will be rewarded.
3. Word count is everything.
While you’re at it, you should have already researched and read other books in your genre, giving you a good sense of pacing and acceptable word count. Make sure your manuscript word count aligns with your genre. As an example: a 20K YA high-fantasy manuscript is not a novel, nor would it be considered a novella in most instances.
4. Give your book a killer hook.
Many projects are rejected within the first 30 pages due to poor openings. Make sure your book as a killer hook that grabs the reader’s attention (and keeps it) for the first 30 pages and beyond.
5. Pick a genre.
A lot of authors (especially new authors) combine genres when they market their novels to agents and editors. Your book isn’t a YA/MG hybrid. Those are two completely different audiences. When in doubt, go to your nearest bookstore and roam the aisles. Where would your book be stocked? Pick the most appropriate genre and stick with it.
6. The more eyes on your manuscript, the better.
The agent or editor you are querying should never be your first reader. Ever. No exceptions. Before you start querying, your manuscript should have been through multiple versions of the edit/beta/revise/edit/perfect cycle.
7. Test your pitch and premise.
Test your pitch and premise on people who haven’t read your manuscript and ask them to say it back to you in their own words. Do they understand the story and conflict? Do they seem intrigued and excited about your novel? If not, you need to do a bit of tweaking.
8. Agents aren’t a back-up plan.
Some authors turn to agents after their self-published novel doesn’t sell well, thinking that an agent will then pick it up and help boost sales. Self-publishing is not a “test run” for your novel. It is published. Don’t self-publish and then plan on submitting to agents. Select the publishing route for each manuscript and stick with it.
9. Get your documents ready.
Agents and editors will all ask for different documents when you query, depending on their requirements. These should be noted on their websites (which you will know as part of your diligent research in point 2 above). Query letters, synopses and proposals are all different things. Learn the difference and submit accordingly.
10. Co-writing agreements are for keeps.
If you have co-written your manuscript, make sure you have a collaboration agreement formalised with clear splits before you begin to query agents and editors. This even goes for spouses. Agents and editors will be suspicious of co-authors that query without an agreement already in place.