Top 5 Tips for Submitting Your Manuscript
last updated 01 July 2022
Katie Blagden is an Agent with Bright Literary, representing authors across Fiction, Children’s, YA and Graphic Novels. Before joining the Literary team, she worked for Bright in marketing, with previous experience as a bookseller. She loves working with authors to find their books an audience. Here, Katie takes us through her top tips for fiction authors submitting their manuscripts.
One of the best parts of my job is reading fantastic undiscovered stories. We get a huge number of submissions every day, and we make sure to read and carefully consider every single one. However, as an author, you can help make your manuscript stand out from the crowd easily just by making sure you’ve ticked some basic boxes.
I know that you might be querying multiple agents across different territories, all with their own guidelines and preferences, and that it can be hard to re-format your work each time. However, taking the time to do this tells us you’re serious about working with us, and means we can read, consider and potentially respond to your work that much faster.
Here’s my top tips for author submissions…
1) Start out strong
Tell us what you’re pitching straight out of the gate. Boil your idea down to one cracking line and put that early on in your submission letter. I want to know what I’m looking at as quickly as possible. Ideally within the first paragraph of your submission I want to know the title of your work, what age range it’s for and the word count. You’d be surprised how often people bury the lead in unnecessary information and waffle. Start with it!
2) Tell us a bit about yourself
While your writing is the star of the show, I want to know a bit about the person behind it. This doesn’t need to be your full life story, but we want to hear pertinent information. How long have you been writing? Have you taken part in any awards or writing schemes? Have you published anything before, or self-published? Have you written in other fields (academic, journalism, copy-writing, etc)?
As well as your writing experience, tell us anything that’s important to who you are as a person. Cover the basics that you’re comfortable sharing; where are you from, how old are you, what’s your gender and cultural identity, do you have kids, do you work? I also want to get a sense of who you are beyond your writing; do you have a book blog, or volunteer at the local footie club? Have you had experience of different careers or lived in different countries? I love working with people whose personal experiences contribute to their writing, so paint me a picture!
On the other hand, you don’t need to tell me how much you love writing, or that your three year old nibling* thinks your writing is the bees knees - this should go without saying, and uses up precious space on your submission which could be used for relevant info.
(* ‘Nibling’ is the gender-neutral term for niece or nephew and I’m determined to make this a thing that’s widely used. So fetch. )
3) What else you got?
If you’ve got the writing bug, the chances are that you’ve not just written the one book. Tell us a bit more about anything else you’ve written, especially if they’re in different genres or age-ranges. Even if you’ve not finished other books yet, put in some other ideas and what stage they’re at. We’re looking to represent writers for their full careers, not just one-hit wonders, so I love hearing when an author has other books on the back-burner.
4) Put it all in one attachment
We get books submitted in all different types of formats. However, it helps me keep track of your work if I’m not juggling three or four different files. Instead, try putting your submission letter in with your synopsis, followed by the text of your first three chapters. This also means that if I’m sharing your work with colleagues, they can get all the info they need in one tidy package.
5) Be bold… but not too bold
Please don’t put yourself down! Again, it’s remarkable how many submissions I receive from people who spend precious time telling me how they’re probably not very good, that they haven’t done much and that I’m probably too busy to even consider them. Even if you secretly feel this inside, don’t put it in a submissions letter. You’ve worked hard to get your book ready to be considered, so channel some confidence and sell yourself!
That said, try not to go to far the other way. Occasionally we do get someone who tips over the confidence line into trying to tell us how to do our job before we’ve even read their work. Traditional publishing is a collaborative process, and we need to know you’ll be humble enough to listen to criticism and take feedback. Red flags for me are when someone tells me in their submissions letter that they only want to work with specific publishers, or that they know that their book doesn’t need much editing. Writing a book is just the first step in your publishing journey, and I love someone who comes into that process open-minded and willing to learn.
A final note on your submissions:
Here at Bright we receive on average between 200 to 300 submissions per month, and we make sure to read every single one. As you can imagine, this number of submissions means that it can take a while to get through them all, so we ask that you allow at least two months for any response. Additionally, while we wish we could reply personally to every single person who submits to us, we can’t. We can only guarantee responses and feedback to submissions we’re interested in pursuing further. That said, if you don’t hear from us, please don’t be disheartened – even if Bright isn’t the right home for your writing, we always encourage those submitting to us to continue honing their craft, and we welcome those unsuccessful at this stage to submit new work to Bright in the future.
As we do to all unpublished and published authors, we’d recommend reading the latest Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. It is a superb resource that contains invaluable industry advice about publishing.
To submit your work to Bright, take a look at our submissions page here.