Getting an agent is easy.  All you have to do is follow these simple steps:

 

  1. First of all write the best book ever.
  2. Now, rewrite the best book ever.
  3. Repeat step 2 until you are absolutely convinced this really is the best book ever. 
  4. Put the best book ever to one side for a couple of months and then read it again.  If it is still the best book ever, continue to the pre-submission process.  If you think it wasn’t quite as good as you thought, go back to step two.

 

The pre-submission process:

This comes in two parts, the Decision and the Package

 

The Decision

Who are you going to send your masterpiece to? 

 

  1. If you haven’t already done so, this is where you really need to come out from hiding and get yourself out there.  Meet other writers, meet published authors, meet agents and meet editors.  In other words, network!  I’ve written a whole page on this and you might like to hop off there now.
  2. Have a look in The Writers Handbook or The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.  There is a children’s version of the yearbook.  Look out for agents who accept UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS.  If you have met an agent while networking, you may submit even though they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, but mention that you met them. 
  3. At the same time, check to see if any publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts.  Very few do these days, and very few actually take on an author this way.  Small independents and picture book publishers are more likely to accept unsolicited manuscripts. 
  4. You should have several possibilities before you start.

 

The Package

Getting it ready to send off

 

  1. Make sure you have checked what your agent wants in a submission package.  This is most likely to be a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters with a title page.   This is what I have put in my Perfect Submission Package.  Click on the link to see what one of these looks like, plus advice on how to put one together.
  2. Remember – A good looking submission package is vital!
  3. You are now ready to go on to the Actual Submission Process, which comes in three parts - the Pre-send, the Send and the Wait.  I would suggest you try four agents at a time.

 

The pre-send

Assuming you are POSTING your submissions, this is what you do:

 

  1. Put your title sheet on top of your sample chapters and put a single elastic band the whole lot.
  2. Put your synopsis on top of that.
  3. Your covering letter goes on top.
  4. Now take a blank postcard and write on the back ‘[name of masterpiece] received by [name of agent].  On the front put a stamp and your address.
  5. If you want your masterpiece returned, type or write your address on a big sticky label
  6. Attach postcard and address label to covering letter with a paperclip.
  7. Put all this into a good strong A4 envelope addressed to the agent.  Do NOT seal it yet!!  MAKE SURE YOU PUT THE RIGHT SUBMISSION IN THE RIGHT ENVELOPE!

If you are EMAILING, then you send the above as a word attachment, but without the postcard, address label, elastic band, paperclip and envelope.  If you are POSTING, go on to The Send.  If you are emailing, scroll down to The Wait.

 

The send

 

  1. Without sealing the envelopes, take your submissions to the Post Office.  Take some Sellotape with you!
  2. Assuming you are sending four submissions, ask for FOUR first class postage labels, plus FOUR lots of stamps to the same value (assuming you want your stuff returned).  This often causes confusion and you might have to be firm.
  3. DO NOT SEND YOUR SUBMISSION RECORDED. 
  4. Put the four postage labels on your envelopes.  Put the four lots of stamps on your sticky address labels.  Watch out for stamps flying about.  Take this opportunity to check that you have got the right submission in the right envelope.
  5. Use the Sellotape you remembered to seal the envelopes.  Now, be very brave and POST THEM!
  6. Now you have the wait.

 

The wait

While you wait for your rejections, make sure you keep busy by doing the following.

 

  1. KEEP WRITING!!
  2. Keep a record of who you have submitted to
  3. For each rejection, put together another package to send to the next agent on your list.
  4. Categorise your replies as follows:
  • SRL – standard rejection letter.  This may be a compliment slip with a standard message, or a letter saying no thanks and please don’t enter into correspondence about this.  You might think that your submission hasn’t been looked at.  (See my Perfect Submission Package for reasons why).   This is perfectly normal.  If you collect 20 SRL’s it might be an idea to have another read of your masterpiece – it might not be as good as you thought.
  • NRL – nice rejection letter.  The agent has bothered to say why you are being rejected.  This is a huge step up from the SRL and means you are getting there – so don’ t be disheartened by these! 
  • VNRL – very nice rejection letter.  A more detailed letter about why the agent feels they can’t take you on.  Take heart with these letters and take note of what they say.  It is always worth a rewrite and resubmission to these agents – you are nearly there!
  • Request for full Manuscript.  Yippee!  You’ve got the perfect submission package!  This is a great achievement an means you CAN write.  Stop submitting while the full is being considered, but do be prepared for this to be rejected.  It often happens.
  • Offer for representation.  This is where you fall over, faint, float to the ceiling, have a drink, a huge bar of chocolate and go around with a big smile on your face.  Now, it’s your agent’s turn to go through this process with publishers!!

 

Did I say it was easy?  Oops . . . . .

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