Skip to main content

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in your closet on your first date, don’t overshare by telling us that the work you’re submitting is your third unpublished book or that your mother lives in Kalamazoo.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

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

From having reverence for the original to making it your own, author Nikki Payne shares four tips for writing a modern retelling.

Faint vs. Feint (Grammar Rules)

Faint vs. Feint (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use faint vs. feint in your writing with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples. Plus, we answer whether it's "faint of heart" or "feint of heart."

6 Books to Cozy Up With This Winter | Book Recommendations

6 Books to Cozy Up With This Winter

Here are 6 book recommendation perfect for winter reading.

12 Things to Consider When Writing Fight Scenes in Fiction (FightWrite™)

12 Things to Consider When Writing Fight Scenes in Fiction (FightWrite™)

Trained fighter and author Carla Hoch shares 12 things all writers should consider when attempting to write effective fight scenes in fiction.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unreal Character

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unreal Character

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character turn out to be less than they seem.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 15th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

Valeria Ruelas: On Teaching Tarot, Brujeria, and Witchcraft

Valeria Ruelas: On Teaching Tarot, Brujeria, and Witchcraft

Author Valeria Ruelas discusses the process of writing her new book, The Mexican Witch Lifestyle.

What Is the Hook, the Book, and Cook Query Pitching Technique for Writers?

What Is the Hook, the Book, and the Cook Query Pitching Technique for Writers?

Find out what "the hook, the book, and the cook" are in relation to writing query letters and pitching books to literary agents and book editors. This post answers the question of what each one is and how to successfully assemble the pieces.

Romance Retellings of Literary Classics

Romance Retellings of Literary Classics

Author Chloe Liese makes a case for the romance genre being the natural home for retellings, and shares some tips on how to write a successful romance retelling of literary classics.