Submissions Etiquette

After sending a submission to a publisher or agency, realistically, we can expect to wait eight to twelve weeks before we hear anything.

Speaking from personal experience, if an agent is keen to know more, they will get back to us within the first seven days. Resist the urge to check your in-box every ten minutes, and instead, continue with writing, editing and research.

I recommend doing fewer submissions rather than many. That way, we can give each package our full attention and thus also have some basis for remembering each one distinctly. This sounds obvious, but it is surprisingly easy to forget which agent works for which business… Details matter when making a first impression, so we must make sure we target our work at those most likely to be interested. In doing so, we begin to notice that, despite our natural optimism, the list of agencies likely to be interested in our work is not infinite.

So take the time to consider why you would choose a particular agency and learn about them. Take the time to do a good job, and every agent and publisher will appreciate our effort enough to give our submission a second glance.


  • Select agencies carefully.
  • Find out who to write to, and address them by name.
  • Never send a generic letter headed up “Dear Sir/Madam” which suggests a quick cut and paste job.
  • Deal with them as they prefer (“email submissions only” / “paper submissions only”) addressing correspondence as they ask you to.
  • When it comes to sales, they are the professionals, so resist the urge to suggest that, although they specialise in teen fiction, they might like to look at your life story. They will not be interested.
  • Thank them for taking the time to read your submission.

When doing email submissions, I will sometimes send manuscript chapters and synopsis in separate attachments; certainly, I follow instructions which made that preference clear.

Where the choice of presentation is not specified, I am persuaded that it is better to send text in the body of an email, so that there were fewer buttons for the recipient to click and fewer things for me to forget. On a hunch, I suggest that sending text in the body of an email works better when approaching small agencies run by single agents who haven’t the time to spend opening attachments, and who are in any case, responsible for making all the decisions.

I take time to check that

  • my presentation looks good, is easy to read and tidily spaced.
  • Particularly for e-mail submissions, I use a simple, sans serif font, such as Arial or Tahoma in 12 point, because anything that is easy to read on-line makes a welcome change.
  • I carefully re-read and edit what I am sending, even if that means re-formatting every single paragraph in my ten thousand word submission. If my researches suggest that I and the agent in question are a good fit, I have every incentive to invest the time.

Agents read hundreds of submissions, so I like to make every one I send as clean and easy to read as possible.

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