In the early 1990s, I started my first novel because I wanted to write the type of book I wanted to read, but couldn’t seem to find in the shops and though I started my second novel (Chloe) once I’d finished my first (Sally), even though I didn’t have an agent, let alone a deal – publication was of course my ultimate goal.

I made a lot of careless mistakes when I first started submitting my manuscript – here’s my advice to help you bypass them!

  • You don’t need to have written the entire book when you tout it around – but you must feel confident that there is a whole book in you, not just a killer opening chapter!
  • Don’t approach a publisher directly. Yes, it worked for Roddy Doyle – but he was lucky. If you send your work direct to a publisher, it’ll be plonked on the slush pile. If a publisher is sent your work with an agent’s seal of approval, they sit up and take notice.
  • Do seek out a copy of The Writers & Artists Yearbook as this lists all literary agents. Choose an agency who represents authors you like. Find out which agents there represent those authors and then approach them when you are confident enough that your work is polished enough to be read by the experts.
  • These days, mostly agencies insist that work is emailed.  So phone them first and ask what they are looking for in a submission.  Usually, they want a synopsis, a short biography and just 3 chapters.
  • Keep your synopsis short and tempting – akin to the ‘copy’ (blurb) you find on the back of a book. Choose your three best chapters (they needn’t necessarily be chaps1-3). The idea is to have the agent gagging for more…
  • Use line spacing of 1.5.

Finally, good luck! If it could happen to me it CAN happen for you – and I look forward to sharing shelf-space in the bookshops with you!