Writing An Agent Submission Letter

img_3729After seven days of writing about an otherworldly weekend away with The Silent Eye, it’s back to reality with a rather prosaic thud – this post is all about crafting the agent submission letter.

I’ve written before about submitting your manuscript to agents – while I don’t consider myself by any means an expert, I have had a bit of experience in sending the things out. I also attended a workshop some time back at Bloomsbury, where a couple of London agents shared their idea of a perfect submission letter, and several other agents have commented that my submission package stood out from the others (although no-one has taken me on board as yet – boo-hoo).

So, how do you structure the all-important letter? (I say all-important because it’s the first opportunity you have to make an impression, and we all know how important first impressions are). Well, here are some key points to consider:

  1. The tone of this letter should be professional. It is a business document, being sent to a professional person, and should be written as such. So no nicknames or rambling about personal information or bad language. I know we, as writers, love to get a bit creative, but the submission letter is really not the place for it. Also, address the agent by name – sending a letter which begins ‘Dear Agent,’ really isn’t going to inspire confidence that you’ve done your research into the agency.
  2. Start with your novel title, the genre and word count – ie I am seeking representation for Beneath The Stars, a romance novel of 75,000 words. If it’s your first novel, say so at this point.
  3. Follow this with a brief (back cover blurb size) description of the novel- ie Sally never thought she could love again, until a chance encounter with a stranger at a planetarium changed everything. But he holds a secret that could break them apart. Will she ever find a happy ending? Beneath The Stars explores the themes of learning to love again, and the secret world that hides within us all. (yes, I know this is awful, but it’s just an example – I’m sure you can do much better).
  4. Then follow with a brief paragraph about yourself, citing any relevant experience, books published, writing competitions won etc. Add in any current projects you are working on too.
  5. Finish with a paragraph stating why you think your novel would be a good fit for their list, reiterating the genre and the type of reader it might appeal to – ie After researching several agencies, and your agency in particular, I think Beneath The Stars might be something you’d like to consider. As a romance novel, it would appeal to readers of (bonus points for a title already on their list, but not too similar).
  6. Then sign off.

That’s it. That’s all an agent wants to see. They get loads and loads of these letters every week, so don’t want to wade through details about why your mum thinks you’re the next J.K Rowling, or the fact that you used to play baseball (unless the book you’ve written happens to be about baseball). Of course, whether you choose to do something completely different is up to you and, hey, it might get you noticed. But in an industry as over-saturated with writers as ours is, why give them any extra chances to say no?