I thought it might be helpful to share the original submission letter which I sent to my lovely agent, Camilla at Darley Anderson.
Now, please bear in mind I wrote this letter a couple of years ago, when I was young and fairly naive – but it did get me an agent, so I thought still worth sharing in case anyone out there finds it useful (although if I’m honest, it makes me cringe a bit now!)
After this letter, Camilla emailed me within 48 hours and asked to read the whole manuscript – we then did some intensive editing together, and she then made an offer of representation (at which I was delighted, of course).
I attached the letter to an email, along with a synopsis of my book (which gave away the ending – you need the full, summarised plot) and the first three chapters. I emailed Camilla directly, after seeing her manuscript wishlist on a website, having looked for agents who enjoyed the genre I thought I was writing. I don’t know why I call it literary in the letter, as it’s not really, its commercial, and the plot has changed a bit since I submitted it first – but this is the completely unedited letter that led to agent representation. This novel changed name to become The Doll House, but The Architect’s Daughters was it’s original name. It outlines a bit about me, a very basic plot including themes of the novel, and is (I hope…) polite and professional.
Dear Ms Wray,
I would like to submit to you a sample of my novel, ‘The Architect’s Daughters.’ This is a piece of literary fiction which tells the tale of how a mother’s loving lie kills her own daughter.
Thirteen years ago, the death of the famous London architect Richard Hawes left his two daughters reeling with grief. Now, as Ashley and Corinne Hawes navigate the pitfalls of adult life, they find that everything they held true about their parents and what it means to be honest is to be turned upside down. Battling with their own demons of infertility, errant teenagers and an odd dislike for their own mother, the sisters are fighting for the truth within a family that has never understood the term. The underlying themes of this novel are honesty, sisterhood and the illusion of reputation.
I am now working as an editorial assistant at Octopus Books, Hachette UK. Writing is the only thing that I find makes sense to me; I am prepared to work very hard (probably for my entire life!) in order to pursue a career in this field, and would be delighted to have the opportunity to work with you if you like my book. There is nothing quite like the fantastic feeling that comes with reading a really great story, and if even one person could enjoy my own it would be an honour. I am in the process of writing another novel (partly to stop myself frantically checking my emails for agent responses!) and have plans to continue writing for as long as possible.
I worked as a news reporter previous to my publishing role, and have had many news articles published in print and online. However, there is only so much one can write about potholes and 101-year-olds; I find writing fiction to be a little more satisfying! I have also completed a creative writing course at the University of Illinois which is where I really began writing seriously.
Thank you so much for your time, and I do hope to hear from you.
It’s not a perfect letter, by any means. But, it is properly spell-checked, and it does give a flavour of what the book is about. I tried to put a little bit of my personality into it too, which I think is always a plus, but it doesn’t ramble on for too long and it’s quite to the point. I had spent a lot of time on the first three chapters I sent to her, proofreading them multiple times, making sure that the beginning really did give a good insight into the book, and closing the third chapter at a point which I hoped would make an agent want to read on.
Every agent will be looking for different things at different times, but I think as a whole, the submission process can be a very daunting one for a new writer so any light I can shed on it from the author angle will hopefully be a tiny bit useful! I would advise keeping your covering letter relatively short – 3/4 short paragraphs maximum, as agents get a lot of submissions and no-one wants to read an essay. Make sure you outline your commitment to writing, explain your day job if you have one, and give a clear idea, very early on, of what your book is about. Agents sometimes use information from your covering letter to pitch you to editors, so be honest, don’t exaggerate anything too much, and above all, keep it professional – you’re essentially asking to go into business with your agent and sign a formal contract, so they need to know that you’re taking this whole writing thing seriously.
Writing cover letters and synopses can be really hard, because you don’t have pages and pages to play with and you need to be succinct, so give it a few goes, make sure you edit your letter as much as you can before sending, and don’t be disheartened if you don’t get an immediate response. I waited months to hear from some agents – Camilla was very quick but that isn’t always the case, so always keep positive and keep writing while you submit – it will help, I promise.
If you enjoyed reading this article, my debut novel is only 99p here if you wanted to check it out and make me a happy writer 🙂 Thank you for visiting my blog.