Despite the well-worn saying that everyone has a novel in them, this is a huge achievement. You’ve written a novel, you kept with it, and now here it is. You pushed through the self-doubt and the writer’s block, and you have your opus, the hard-earned product of your blood, sweat and tears. First, take a moment to soak this in. Be proud, bask, feel free to gloat. Second – well, what comes next? Next comes the terrifying task of sending it to the ever mysterious and closed off publishing world. Be it a literary agent or straight to a publisher, we know this task is daunting. How do you even begin?
- EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. Is your novel the best it can be? Is it really ready to send to industry experts? Our advice is you have someone else read it first, someone trusted – preferably not a family member or very close friend. We understand you will want to send it to your family first, but they are unlikely to give an honest opinion. You’re too close to the book to see what might be wrong with it, and they’re too close to you to be honest.
- Do your research. Who are your favourite authors? Who else do you admire who writes in the same genre as you? Research who represents/publishes them. Put those people at the top of your list.
- Tailor your letters. From having worked in the industry a long time, we can tell you there is nothing worse than a covering letter or email that reads generically. If you want to get someone’s attention, be personal. Remember, these people are inundated with submissions every single day. What’s going to make them stop and take stock of your letter to them? Do your research! Use their website, use social media, anything at all. Have they written a blog or article recently? ‘I loved reading your article on X, especially where you said Y’. Try to connect with them when you reach out, and you’ll be far more likely to receive a positive response.
- Check each agent/publishers’ requirements. Some ask to see the first three chapters, some only want a covering letter and synopsis, some want to see the finished manuscript. Check what genre they accept and other authors they represent. Are you submitting your children’s picture book to an agent who only represents suspense and thriller writers? Are you sending a finished manuscript to someone who specifically asks for only a synopsis? Make sure you tick all their boxes before you hit send.
- Write a good synopsis. Ok, we admit it – this is a tough one. We’ve all been there, that dreaded conversation with a new acquaintance where you happen to mention you’ve written a book and they come out with that one sentence that sends a chill down every author’s spine: What’s your book about? How do you define your opus, your baby? Too many times have we seen synopses almost as long as the book itself. Unfortunately, most agents or publishers simply won’t read it. As hard as it can be, you’ve got to try to get the story across as succinctly as possible. Think: title, one or two crucial lines that serve as a pitch, then the key points of the story. Don’t get bogged down in details.
- Be patient and keep at it. We recommend you send to a few agents or publishers at a time so you’re not wasting time waiting weeks between answers, remember some can take up to twelve weeks to come back to people. If the answer finally comes and it’s a no, then don’t be disheartened. Don’t give up. One day you’ll get your yes.