Approaching Agents #writingtips #wwwblogs


So you’ve finally completed your manuscript and you’re wondering what to do now. If you have decided not to self-publish and want to try and secure an agent, then how to you go about it?

1. Make sure your manuscript is ready
And I mean really ready. It’s vitally important that your manuscript is as clean and professional-looking as possible. This is your chance to showcase your work – don’t send it out with typos and grammatical errors. Has it been edited and proofread? This doesn’t necessarily have to be done by a professional editor or proofreader, but have you at least had two or three people go over your manuscript? If you’re worried or embarrassed about having someone read your work then this is a good time to get over it. After all, if you are lucky enough to see your work published then hopefully lots of people are going to read it.

2. Do your research
Get a copy of the latest Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and look through the agent listings really carefully. Pick out those agents that look the best match and make sure they accept unsolicited manuscripts. Then check their website. You should be looking for agents that:

  • are open for submissions
  • are interested in your genre
  • have published similar works

3. Stick to their requirements
Read the submission requirements really carefully. Make a note of how they accept submissions (email or post?), and what exactly you need to send. Most will ask for a query letter, a brief synopsis and the first two or three chapters of your manuscript, but it does vary.

4. Stick to their requirements
No, that’s not a typo. This is so, so important it’s worth saying it twice. Send EXACTLY what they ask for. Don’t be tempted to send the middle three chapters of your book, or the two first chapters and the last. Only send what they ask for.

5. No gimmicks
No weird fonts to make your submission stand out. You need to send your manuscript in a clear format. No silly jokes or ‘surprise’ gifts in your submission that are related to your manuscript. You may think no one’s done that before, but they have. The agent is looking for a manuscript they can sell – your WRITING needs to shine, that is what needs to attract their attention. Bells and whistles will get you nowhere.

6. Prepare your query letter carefully
This is the first impression an agent will have of you. It’s really important that you get it right. There’s lots and lots of (sometimes conflicting) advice about this online and I’ll also be writing a whole post on the subject in a couple of weeks.

7. Take time over your synopsis
A synopsis can be a tricky thing to write. How do you express your book in so few words? This is another subject worthy of its own post which will be on this blog soon.

8. You’re not ready yet
Double check. And triple check. And check again. The agent isn’t going anywhere, so take your time and make sure you have everything ready that each agent has asked for.

9. Send it out
Once you’ve checked and checked and checked, then send it out. This can be terrifying I know, but you’re not getting an agent unless you pluck up the courage to approach one. So send it. Go on.


10. Be realistic
Getting an agent is difficult. Really, really difficult. You’re extremely likely to be rejected. Several times. Accept this. You’re going to probably have to send your work to more than one agent. More than five agents. Possibly more than ten. And it might never happen. And even if it does, that’s only the beginning of a very long process after which your book might still not find a publisher. There may come a point when you will have to decide whether or not to keep submitting. No one but you knows when that point is. But do remember that agents ARE looking for authors – it’s their livelihood after all. But you’re going to need a thick skin and realistic expectations.

Good luck!

fingers crossed


  1. Agent Alert: what you also need to factor in is that your agent will take 10 -15% of your earnings. And they may not secure you a better deal than you can get for yourself. Many publishers are now choosing to cut ut agents and accepting subs from writers. The Soc of Authors has an easily downloadable contract to use as a checklist. I was with a top London agent, but left, as they were not serving my interests. An agent is not the be all …but if you want one, good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Brilliant stuff, Alison – you’ve reiterated everything I put in a post I wrote about this a couple of years ago, and said it better! It’s so important to give them EXACTLY what they’re looking for, and not try to be clever. I’ve had work read and considered by several agents (as opposed to never getting a reply or just getting a rejection letter) so I thought I was probably on the right track with the query letter, at which point many submissions can be discarded – thus, I’d like to add this: keep it simple. Two short paragraphs giving the title, genre, length and target market for the book, and a few lines (ie, the second SHORT paragraph) about your writing experience. And to keep it businesslike – write it as a business letter. I also think it’s good to give the synopsis to a couple of people you trust, for their opinion. Each time I’ve had books seriously considered by agents, I’ve spent a whole weekend on the synopsis and letter, to get it just right – the Virgo checking is worth every minutes spent on it!

    I took my advice about query letters from the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great advice. You’d think it would be common sense, but judging by agents comments and posts I have read (Inc one I just read tonight) most wannabe authors just dont get it! I’m looking forward to your post on the query letter. I also think that going forward, the most successful authors will by hybrids, with some Indie pubbed work, and some trad pubbed work, so we really do need to know this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for the advice. Another useful tip I have heard is to read the manuscript out to yourself and/or record yourself reading it and listen back. Good for picking up potential snags. I plan to use this once I have finished the final edit on my novel.

    Liked by 1 person

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