The start of our series, putting together writing advice, based upon our collective experience.
We’re beginning with submissions because many of our group are currently going through this, either to agents or to publishers, or have gone through the experience over the last few years.
None of these are golden rules, or should be taken as gospel, but simply as the best advice we can give to our fellow writers to help when they come to do this process themselves. (And do feel free to add your own in the comments below).
Before you read ours, here’s a few great links on submissions…
- Curtis Brown Creative – Several blogs post from the team on submission
- Writers Workshop – How to get a literary agent without dying of old age
- Jane Friedman – How to write a query letter
- Writers and Artists – A whole series on the different elements of submissions
- Writers HQ – An affordable course dedicated to the submission process – a review of the course is here.
‘Agents (and publishers) go through busy cycles in the year, so research the times where there are big book fairs like London or Frankfurt, or where they have an author with a big release date. All their energies at this time will be on their clients. Try to target a time where they’ve tweeted or blogged a wishlist (check #MSWL on Twitter) or where they might be looking for a fresh author – I’ve seen a number say this in January.’
‘Do your research. Agents can spot a cut and paste Job a mile away. Even though you’ll be doing multiple subs, make sure your tailor your letter to what each agent wants, what they are looking for. It’s like a job application, so no dear sir/madams or to whom it may concern. If you can’t be bothered to make the effort to find out which agent you should be assessing, why should they bother working it out for you?’
‘Every time you send a submission out, there is hope. It’s not an easy process but cling on to the belief that your work could be the one an agent likes. Oh yes and, follow the rules they set on their website. They have them to make their lives easier and it shows that you have taken the time, consideration and dedication to check everything out thoroughly.’
‘Don’t send a submission in too early. Make sure it’s as perfact as you can make it – and once you think you have reached that stage, check it again.’
‘Write your submission letter as though you are your own best friend. You have to project the story in a nutshell and say why it’s the best/funniest/most marketable creation since the dawn of time – in a genuine way. And do your research, find out what your prospective agent likes/doesn’t like but not so they feel like they’re being stalked. Above all, take time to do your story justice -demonstrate why you believe in it and chances are the agent will too. (And if they don’t, try another 😉)’
‘Do your research. Twitter is invaluable for looking at what’s currently selling, which agents are looking for new talent and who they already represent. Seek out your best matches and personalise your submission letter. There’s no point in sending your MG novel to someone who only reps adult fiction! Finally, look at the acknowledgements in books that you love. Chances are, they’ll thank their agent – then you can really personalise your letter by mentioning you enjoy that author, or even comparing your book to theirs – but only if they really are similar.’
‘Most published authors you talk to have one or more novels in their drawer/hard drive that never got published. This is all part of the learning curve and it doesn’t mean you aren’t publishable. It just has to be the right book at the right time. Stick with it!’
‘The submission process can be brutal, but once your work is out there the wait can be even harder. To avoid staring at your emails all day, throw yourself into another brand new idea and spend your energy creating something new. It’ll distract you from the wait and also give you something extra you can work on if all else fails.’
‘Check, check and check again for typos, spelling or grammar mistakes- I sent in a piece and there was nothing but crushing embarrassment when it came back and all that was commented on were the mistakes!!! Toe-curling…’