Home > Getting Published, Literary Agents > Before you Submit to an Agent

Before you Submit to an Agent

Follow submission guidelines. Every agent interview I’ve read stresses this fact. If the agent doesn’t want attachment, and most don’t, that’s what you do. They will tell you what they want in addition to a query – read this carefully. Some want a 1 page synopsis, others 4. A few want the first few pages of your manuscript (they’ll specify the number).

It is going to do you no good it if you submit your collection of short stories to an agent who is looking for historical fiction. How do  you figure this out? Check their website. If they do not have a website, Agent Query is an excellent place to start.

Since my interest is fiction, I have no knowledge of book proposals (which you need for non-fiction). For fiction, you need to have a completed manuscript before you query an agent. Absolutely.

Check to make sure the agent is not tagged on Preditors and Editors.

You also need to know the word count, the genre your book fits best in. Don’t say your book is historical and romance and chicklit and whatever. It has to be one genre.

Make sure your manuscript is as polished as can be. You are going to get only one chance at this. Make use of it. Get more than one person – not your mother, not your husband/wife – to critique your work, preferably, other writers. If you have no local access, sign up online. One of the best ones I know (its been featured on the Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Resources for Writers) is the The Internet Writing Workshop. It has lots of critique groups, and members from newbies to the very experienced. Disclaimer: I’m a member of the IWW.

Your opening paragraph – and I can’t stress this enough – has to be able to grab you by the throat and not let go. In our 5-sec-flip-the-channel-if-it-doesn’t-hold-interest generation, we do not have the luxury of endless exposition. Unless your book is literary, it has to be a page turner. Tighten your prose, prune those adverbs, work on that show-not-tell . There is no way around it.

Above all, a killer query. More on queries in another post.

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