Sending off baby

Taking the leap; letting baby fly

Now, you have your completed, proofread manuscript in hand (or on file). It’s time to send baby off to the agents, or at least ask the agents if baby can come visit.

You will find agency contact details in the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook. There are many listed, read through carefully as there is no point in sending a historical romance off to an agency that specializes in SciFi. It might be a good idea to do further agency research online. Take note of who accepts email submissions, or hard copy only, and make sure you meticulously follow any guidelines.

In terms of choosing an agent to approach, I suggest thinking of an author whose work yours most resembles and then finding the agency or agent who represents them. Read through the acknowledgements in a book by that author and you’ll probably find the agent’s name listed, as writers usually thank their agents in the credits.

Initially, you ought to send a single-page inquiry letter to the agency. Outline your writing credentials. Include, in a few lines, the plot, genre and theme of your work. Ask if the agent would be interested in reading the first few chapters. You could attach a brief synopsis with this inquiry but I wouldn’t advise sending on your chapters until invited to do so.

Be aware that agents can take months to get back to you. Aware of this fact, many writers, understandably, send their work off to multiple agents at the same time. However, these multiple send-offs don’t sit well with the agents themselves. It’s a tough call, and the few agents I’ve spoken too say that although they’d prefer if you didn’t simultaneously approach other agents, they understand it happens and in such cases they appreciate it if writers let them know the work is under consideration by others too (and don’t send to more than three agents in one go).

If the agent likes your proposal, they may ask to see the first three chapters. If these fly, you may get a request for the full manuscript. The wait can be nerve-wracking. The best advice I’ve received is to start working on your second (or third or fourth) novel the day the first one goes off to the agents. If nothing else it gives you a new focus and if you do get picked up, you’ll be ready with a second book by the time the first goes to print.

 And as a final check :

1)       Make sure all your pages are numbered.

2)       Make sure your name and the title of your work appears on the header of every page.

3)       Use a standard serif typeface (Times New Roman or Georgia) in 12 point. Avoid weird or wacky fonts.

4)       Print double-spaced and single-sided on (non-scented) white A4 paper.

5)       Don’t send pictures of your cat’s kittens or glitter or a poem. You won’t look cute, you’ll look weird and desperate and you’ll never make it past the slush pile.

Here is a sample letter (email) of inquiry:

Dear Mr Agent,

I am a published poet and I have also written some articles for local papers in my home city of Ipswich.

I have recently completed my first novel, ‘The Big One’. I believe the genre and story-line accord with many represented by your agency and I would like to send my manuscript to you for consideration. The novel is approximately 78,000 words long, is set in contemporary Ipswich. It is a crime novel.

The plot centres around three old prison friends, recently reunited on the outside. The trio plan a jewel heist in order to help a fourth friend fund a medical operation. The heist is bungled and the former inmates discover they have been duped by the very person they had risked all to help. The novel explores friendship and betrayal and the battle between revenge and forgiveness.

I am attaching a more detailed synopsis and will forward my manuscript at your request.

Please let me know if you are interested in reading the same.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph T. Doe


About suehealy

From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022. Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer. TV Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series. Stage Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts). Radio Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. Prose Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy. An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus. View all posts by suehealy

7 responses to “Sending off baby

  • Th3Scribbl3r

    Thank you again for following my story site, the postings you have been putting up have been tremendously helpful. I am just starting to get my short stories polished to start sending them out into the wilderness. Even though its a different rule book for shorts it’s similar enough and this was a great reminder of the basics. Any personal feedback you have – even a line or two – on my own work would be sincerely appreciated. Thank you again and keep posting helpful advice, I look forward to every one of them.

  • redjim99

    I love the idea of sending scented paper, raises a smile at the idea of an agent opening his post. Being wafted by some random smell.


    • suehealy

      Thanks for the comment, Jim. Believe it or not, it happens. And worse. Rose petals, confetti and even money enclosed. Although, of course, this doesn’t happen all the time. I imagine those who include ‘extras’ are usually writers who haven’t had much contact with the professional world – and publishing is a business. Obviously, sending work on scented paper looks anything but professional and it could be the death knell for what is otherwise a decent novel. A friend of mine who worked a slush pile as an intern for a month told me about the cat’s kittens pictures and how the story wasn’t awful but was badly presented and the photos put the kibosh on it. The problem was, that agency (a mid-level one) gets about 100 submissions a week and with so many professional packages around, a submission with ‘cat’s kittens’ enclosed are never going to get the type of respect and attention they might otherwise merit. My intern friend also told me of a manuscript that came in with coffee stains etc.. as if the writer was waving an artistic flag. In fact, they were just waving an unprofessional flag. And yes, I agree, it does raise and interesting image. Feel a story coming on?

  • Magdalena Wiklund

    Dear Friend,
    since you are one of my subscribers to my Swedish blog Kalejdoskop I just want to inform you that I have another blog now – in English. It is the same stuff mostly, just in English. Feel free to jump over there and have a look, and you might want to subscribe to that one. Offcourse you are free to stay with my Swedish blog also.
    Take Care of yourself.

  • submeg

    Great information! Bookmarked for when I get to this point.

  • website

    Seems like you actually understand a great deal with regards to this
    issue and this shows via this amazing posting, called “Sending off baby | suehealy”.
    Many thanks ,Santos

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