Five tips on approaching agents

I’ve been approaching lots of literary agents (50+) recently, trying to get support on my existing novel Deep & Meaningless, as well as my next project, Time Bomb (a working title). Here are a few things I’ve learned. There is no new advice here, but it is good to know that the answers are out there.

1. Research

Make sure you find agents that represent the genre you have written. If you write crime, find agents that look for crime writers. Each literary agency has more than one agent, so find the one that specialises in what you do. Also, bigger agencies are going to have pretty full lists, so rarely take on new authors. So find one that is taking submissions. Target your submission to that particular agent.

2. Stick to what they want

All agencies have similar, but different submission criteria. It is tempting, because of this, to send each the same submission. DON’T. If an agent wants a 500 word synopsis and the first 30 pages, send them exactly that. Don’t be tempted to send 38 because that’s how your chapters pan out.

3. Proofread

Not just your book, but your cover letter and submission. Of the 50-plus submissions I’ve made, I’ve spotted at least half a dozen where there is a literal in the cover letter. This will switch the agent off straight away. Proof, proof and proof again.

4. It’s your book, sell it

It is easy in a cover letter to talk about yourself rather than your work. You have to talk about your work, even giving serious plot points away. The last thing an agent wants is to hear your life story. They want to know that your book is different and why.

5. Be human – agents are

It is east to be really formal and beholden to agents as gatekeepers to the industry, but they are people too. I know a published popular author who sent agents her book on a Friday afternoon with a bottle of wine and a glass. Ok, this is a bit extreme, but be human in your approach, try to entertain, but above all, be honest.

I hope this helps. There are probably several more pieces of advice I should take and I would like to hear from you if you have any other good tips. I will also let you know when I get something other than a rejection letter.


About Niall Hunt

Niall Hunt was born in the shadow of the Cotswolds and brought up in the Vale of Evesham. He is an award-winning journalist and now lives and works in London. Deep & Meaningless is his first novel. His second work, Time Bomb, is under way.

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