Every agent is different, and every agency has slightly different guidelines, but here are a few tips I would suggest bearing in mind when submitting. Agents receive a number of novels and non-fiction proposals every day, making it so important to do everything you can to ensure yours stands out from the rest… good luck!
1 Make sure your covering email is personalised, concise and well written. It’s not necessary to attach a covering letter but it does need to feel as if you have considered properly the agency (and agent) you are approaching. Emails that open with “Dear Agent” are not recommended!
2 Always include a blurb in the body of the email – much in the same way an agent’s job is to catch the attention of an editor and get them excited about a project, a writer needs to hook an agent. One way of ensuring your book/proposal ends up on the top of their reading pile is by including an enticing blurb that piques their curiosity without giving too much away.
3 Synopsis – keep it brief, ideally under a page.
4 Comparisons – If you can think of a good one in terms of your work/ writing style then make it. Describing your work as a cross between x and y can be very useful. If you can’t think of one, don’t make one up for the sake of it.
5 Opening material – make sure your first chapter is polished and the best it can possibly be. It is no good starting with a ropey chapter and then ramping up the standard in the second and third. If the first one isn’t brilliant an agent may stop reading and not get beyond it.
6 Profile – it is extremely helpful to include a short bio at the bottom of your covering email but a full CV- detailing everything from your part in the school play (aged 11) to your recent summer work – is not necessary.
Tessa David is an Agent in the Books Division of Peters Fraser + Dunlop. She joined PFD in 2014 as a graduate in English Literature from Edinburgh University and is actively building her client list. She loves fiction for its freedom to question, provoke and alter the reader’s understanding of life. She is interested in psychological thrillers, literary, historical, and commercial crossover fiction and particularly loves dual time narratives. She is also looking for quirky children’s books, non-illustrated and illustrated (adores, for example, The Sheep Who Hatched An Egg) and clever and thought provoking YA. In terms of non-fiction she is interested in forgotten pieces of history, cookery and any and all types of narrative non-fiction – two of her favourite books are When Breath Becomes Air and The Shepherd’s Life. You can contact Tessa at email@example.com
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