Publish date:

Checklist: The 6 Essentials for Submitting Your Novel to Agents

When submitting a query letter to an agent or a publisher, there are several important items you must keep in mind. Here is a checklist of the top six.

When submitting to an agent or a publisher, there are several important items you must keep in mind—follow the agent's submission guidelines, spell his or her name correctly, etc. But there are six basic elements you really need to focus on when crafting and submitting your query letter. Thankfully, we've gathered them here in one helpful checklist. Bookmark this list and reference it each and every time before you send out your queries to agents that represents fiction.

—Mollie Glick

Employ the basic query format:a 3-paragraph letter with a salutation, book description & bio.
But if you’re really confident in your letter-writing prowess, feel free to mix it up! The best letters convey the tone of the book, and my favorite query letter of all time (Gennifer Albin’s letter for Crewel, which is coming out from Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers next fall) actually started with a few lines from her preface, which captured the spirit of the book perfectly. (Just be sure to include the other elements on this checklist, regardless of your approach.)

Explain why you’re approaching that particular agent.
Remember all that research you did in figuring out who to pitch? Here’s your chance to use it by explaining that you’re submitting your work of X genre because you saw that the agent represents it. If you want to go one step further, list one or two specific authors the agent reps whose books you love. (Just be sure you’ve actually read those books so you can discuss them if the agent brings them up!)

Give a brief description of your book.
We don’t need a full plot synopsis—think of this as a thesis statement or an elevator pitch. Give a sense of the overall arc of the book and the broader themes it touches upon, rather than listing everything that happens.

Provide a short author bio.
At the end of your letter, include a one- to three-line bio, describing who you are and why you wrote this book. Just as you wouldn’t mention all the skeletons in your closet on your first date, don’t overshare by telling us that the work you’re submitting is your third unpublished book or that your mother lives in Kalamazoo. Simply give us the parts of your bio that are charming, impressive or directly related to the matter at hand. Wow us with your strong publication history, your distinguished educational pedigree or your unique, relevant life experience.

Make sure to include your contact information.
You’d be amazed at how many people don’t. At minimum, list your e-mail and phone number so that if we’re excited about the submission (or if we have questions) we can ring you up.

Be prepared for the next step before submitting anything.
Make sure you’ve got all the material an agent might request (a finished and revised full manuscript, information about your previous publishing history and a synopsis) on hand and at the ready to send, should an agent ask to see that material after reading your query.

Want to learn more?Expand your publishing knowledge with these great writing books and online resources:

************

wd-Brian-web-19.jpg

Follow me on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Enjoy funny parenting blogs? Then you’ll love: The Life Of Dad
Sign up for my free weekly eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

Need a gift for Father’s Day (especially for dads with daughters)? Consider:
OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL: A DAD’S GUIDE TO RAISING DAUGHTERS

Jenny Bayliss: On the Power of Second Chances

Jenny Bayliss: On the Power of Second Chances

Author Jenny Bayliss discusses the process of writing her new romance novel, A Season for Second Chances.

A Few Tips for Writing Personal Essays

A Few Tips for Writing Personal Essays

Here are a few tips for writing personal essays from the Publishing Insights column of the March/April 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Dispel vs. Expel (Grammar Rules)

Dispel vs. Expel (Grammar Rules)

Let's look at the differences between dispel and expel with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Laura Davis: On the Story That Begged To Be Told

Laura Davis: On the Story That Begged To Be Told

Author and writing instructor Laura Davis discusses the process of starting, stopping, and starting again with her new memoir, The Burning Light of Two Stars.

From Our Readers

Which Writer or Work Made You Think About Point of View in a Different Way and Why?: From Our Readers (Comment for a Chance at Publication)

This post announces our latest From Our Readers question: Which writer or work made you think about point of view in a different way and why? Comment for a chance at publication in a future issue of Writer's Digest.

4 Tips on Research for Writing Novels and Stories Beyond Getting the Facts Right

4 Tips on Research for Writing Novels and Stories Beyond Getting the Facts Right

The kind of research you do can make or break your story's authenticity. Author Blake Sanz offers 4 tips on research for your novels and stories beyond getting the facts right.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Annual Writing Competition Early-Bird Deadline, Seven WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce the Annual Writing Competition early-bird deadline, seven WDU courses starting this week, and more!

3 Big Tips for Writing a Children’s Picture Book Like a Pro

3 Big Tips for Writing a Children’s Picture Book Like a Pro

Small but mighty, picture books help raise children into lifelong readers. Children's book author Diana Murray offers 3 big tips for writing a picture book like a pro.

5 Things I Learned About Writing From Watching Soap Operas

5 Things I Learned About Writing From Watching Soap Operas

Lessons in writing can come from various forms of art or entertainment. Author Alverne Ball shares 5 things he learned about writing from watching soap operas.