For most writers, the answer will be to go the traditional route and try to get it published by one of the major publishing houses. It takes more than just popping it in the post to your favourite publisher and hoping for the best, though. Few, if any, publishers will consider unsolicited manuscripts these days. Instead, you need to find an agent, who will then find a publisher for you. Make sure you research which agents represent which genre before approaching them. You need to choose one who is likely to enjoy the type of book you’ve written.
Your Submission Package
What does an agent expect from you?
You have to provide a two-page synopsis. However long your book is, condense it down to two pages (three at a push). Otherwise the agent will give up before they’ve read page 1 of your sample chapters. Of which you need to provide three. The opening three, not a random selection of your favourite bits.
You must also include a letter. The letter should tell the agent why you chose them (you write similar books to such-and-such an author, who they already represent, etc), a one sentence blurb about your book (make it sound exciting), a short bio including your literary achievements, if any. Include successes in competitions, short stories you’ve had published and any recognition you’ve had for your writing.
You can also provide a sheet with your ‘back page blurb’, which is the type of thing you find on the back cover of any book.
Making it Stand Out
An agent sees thousands of submissions a week and – here’s the facts and figures – they might take on only two new authors a year. Getting your book to stand out from the thousands of other submissions they have to plough through is a real challenge and there are no tricks you can employ that no one’s tried before. Coloured or scented paper, pretty folders, cute font, glitter or glitz. Such tactics don’t work. The agent sees it regularly and ignores it. It just shows that person up as an amateur.
To stand out (aside from the fact that your book should be well-written, engaging and has that opening ‘hook’) it has to look like it’s written by a professional. This means you must lay it out in a conventional, industry typical style. It means making it as easy to read as possible. It means throwing no curve balls at the agent at the risk of confusing them.
Your submission, including the synopsis, should have the following layout.
- Headers and Footers with authorname/title at the top right of the page and page #No centred at the bottom.
- Your address, phone number, email and other contact details at the top left of the first page, word count on the right. (Agents now accept the word processor word count over actual count)
- Title and by line (your author name, which might be different to your actual name)
- Page 2, include 6 line spaces before your chapter heading, which should be bold : Chapter 1
- Double line spacing throughout. 1 inch margins, top, bottom and each side.
- For fiction indent 1 cm at a new paragraph/line break. For non-fiction double line space, no indent.
- Left justify with ragged right margin.
- Font should be a serif font such as Times New Roman or Courier, size 12 pt.
- Each new chapter should start on a new page with 6 lines before heading.
More agents are accepting email submissions these days, but for those that don’t:
Print your submission pages onto plain white paper, not too thick or slippery. (Regular printer paper is fine) You don’t want the agent to get paper cuts or not be able to turn pages easily.
DO NOT staple, clip, perforate or glue the pages. Put them loose into a square cut folder with the book title and author name on it.
If you want your submission back you must include a stamped self-addressed envelope with the folder. Remember to include your letter.