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Submitting to a literary agent

Getting ready to submit to an agent is an exciting – and nerve-wracking – time. We’ve put together a few tips on getting ready to make a submission to help you on your way.

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Make sure you're ready

In the rush to find an agent, there's always a danger of sending off a submission before it's ready. Don't start contacting agents until your book is finished (if you're writing fiction) or you have a solid proposal (for non-fiction). Be sure your work has also been closely edited and re-drafted until it's in the best possible shape it can be in.

Hunt out suitable agents

Just as all writers are different, all agents are too. Take the time to research the agents you’re thinking of submitting to and find out what they like or don’t like to avoid wasting your time (and theirs). Writers & Artists(this link will open in a new window) is a great place to find agents, or you could try Googling the writers and books you admire to see who represents them. We also have a list of literary agents based in Scotland.

Think about what’s a good fit

As well as an agent who’s into the kind of writing you do, it’s also a seriously good idea to look for one who is a good match for your working style. Do you need a hard taskmaster to drive you onward? Are you looking for a collaborator who spends time editing? Or someone with a particularly sympathetic ear? Have a look at interviews with prospective agents online and see which may match temperamentally too.

Send the right stuff

There are a few things that are thought of as standard, including the first three chapters of your book, a cover letter or email and a synopsis, but each agent tends to have a slightly different set of submission requirements. Looking to see what they are and making sure you’re following the rules is essential for making a good impression. Check out our tips for writing a cover letter and synopsis for help getting started.

Be positive and polite

Finding an agent can be challenging and rejections and slow responses can be painful, but you still need to be polite, professional and respectful. Agents need to prioritise their existing clients and often have many, many tasks on their hands. If you are waiting for a response and it’s taken longer than stated on the agent’s website, it’s ok to send a brief query, but avoid pestering!

Keep trying

You never know, you may find your perfect agent on your very first try, but it's more likely to take some time. Don't be discouraged if you don't find an agent, or even get any feedback, at first. Apply to several agents at a time and keep a note of who you've contacted. If you've sent out dozens of submissions and heard nothing at all, you might want to think about adjusting your submission package. Most importantly, just keep trying!