It’s novel writing week over at Bang2writers, so here is a round up of questions I received on the Facebook page, via Twitter and email, all of which centered on novel submissions.

Do I submit to an agent or a publisher in the first instance?

Whilst some publishers take direct approaches from writers, I recommend submitting novels to agents in the first instance. Why? Because they have a huge amount of contacts, not only in getting English deals but foreign sales too as well as selling other things like movie rights. In other words, it’s their JOB, they know that world inside out. Writing is *your* job, so produce the best piece of writing you can to entice those agents to your work and inspire them to sell it.

How do I approach an agent?

You need four things: a well written cover letter, a super-shiny synopsis (of the whole book) and the first three chapters maximum (usually you’re looking at in the region of 15,000 words, though obviously it depends on the structure of the work, don’t send incomplete chapters).

Oh: and you need to have done your research, so five things really. But there’s NO point submitting your novel to the “wrong” agent – ie. if they don’t deal in science fiction, or young adult, or historical romance, DON’T submit to them.

Last of all – address the cover letter to the person you’re targeting BY NAME. In this age of the internet, there really is no excuse for “Sir/Madam” or worse, “To Whom It May Concern.”

Is this true of Non-Fiction books too?

Yes, as I understand it. Though instead of a synopsis of the story, you’ll presumably want to talk about the content of the book.

Where can I find out which are the “right” agents for my work?

Check out their websites and submissions policies. There is also a comprehensive listing of literary agents and their policies in The Writers’ And Artists’ Yearbook.

Can I make multiple submissions, or must I submit one at a time?

It depends on the agent and how interested they are in you and/or your work. Generally speaking, if you’ve queried first (ie. sent a letter/email or met them in real life BEFORE sending the ) I think it’s polite to ask them what their policy is on this when you send the novel. If however you’ve picked names off websites to submit to (who welcome submissions!), I think generally it’s okay to send several at once.

Is it worth getting a professional editor before submitting?

Yes. Absolutely yes. Most submissions are badly edited (if at all) and have not been proof read properly. Editing and proof reading services can be expensive but first impressions count, so they’re worth their weight in gold. I have never used one myself, though I hear good things about Bubblecow from my Bang2writers.

Is there a “standard” font for novel writing, like there is Courier 12pt for screenwriting?

An agent told me once he expected Times New Roman 12 pt double-spaced for novels – and certainly all the novels he had me read that summer were. Whether it’s the “standard” like in screenwriting I don’t know, but certainly I’ve never had my own work sent back , so I always ensure it’s TNR 12pt double spaced!

How can I make my work stand out?

That old chestnut I’m afraid – with a great concept and great writing! DON’T print your novel on pink paper, spiral or leather bind it or spam the agent on Twitter in a bid to get noticed.

If you have a question about novel submissions that isn’t covered above, or something else aboout novel writing in general, tweet me or leave your question in the comments here or on the Facebook page.

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3 Responses to Novel Submissions

  1. Phil Peel says:

    Hi Lucy

    I’m exploring the idea of converting one of my feature screenplays, (based on true story about local woman entrepreneur in Jane Austen period) to a novel.

    I’ve written and taught screenwriting for over 20 years, but never tried novel writing. Any advice?

    • Lucy V Hay says:

      This is a good question Phil and really one that deserves a post in its own right! In the meantime I’ve written a lot about my own experiences of writing a novel; click on the labels “novels” and “my novel” on this blog to find the articles.

  2. Phil and Lucy,

    I’ve read the book Adapting Sideways which talks about adapting screenplays into novels, and although largely feeling like a description (and promotion) of the co-author’s own adaptation, it does offer some really interesting ideas and techniques and is a good place to start, perhaps?

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