23 December 2019
What goes into your submission package to agents or publishers?
Putting a submission together
There are three parts to the submission package that you need to send to an agent. DO check to see what specific requirements each agent you plan to contact requests, as they may differ slightly from each other. Details will be on their website along with instructions on how to contact them. Some agencies have submission forms with fields you need to complete when prompted and you should upload your documents in the format that they request. Such forms will go to a central agency submission inbox. Other agencies provide an email to a general account which you should use, or to a specific agent or to their assistant if they have one. Double-check which method is preferred by each agent and stick to their instructions to the letter. If you don’t conform to the simple steps that the agents ask you to follow, it will look as though you couldn’t be bothered to do your research properly or present your submission in a professional way.
If there is a single submission email for an agency, do still address your cover email or letter, to the specific, named agent that you have identified on your list of ‘targets.’ Assume that most agents expect to receive digital submissions. If you post a submission, keep a copy of your manuscript and include a stamped addressed envelope with the correct postage if you want to have it returned to you.
The usual three ingredients in a submission are:
• A cover email or letter (in the US this is also called a query letter)
• The first few chapters from your manuscript
• A synopsis
Some agents also ask for a writing CV, but this is not by any means standard. This would include details of any previous publications and unpublished work including blogs you might have contributed to, writing courses and events you have attended or creative writing groups you belong to. If you have won any prizes for your writing or been shortlisted, then the writing CV is where that should be mentioned along with any other professional credentials you think will strengthen your submission. In most cases, if you have this kind of relevant experience then you would include a line or two about it in your cover letter or email.
The submission package is your professional calling card, a way to ply your literary wares, and so should be focused and as clear as you can make it. Many, many submissions are poorly put together, riddled with spelling, grammatical and factual errors (one agent I spoke to suggested that 75% of unsolicited manuscripts she received were in this state). Your aim must therefore be to sit somewhere amongst the well-executed 25% of submissions, which will immediately bump you up the slush pile.
Exclusive advice by Alysoun Owen from The Writers' & Artists' Guide to Getting Published