When to submit to literary agents

I discovered there are two schools of thought on when to submit the book to agencies. One can either start querying agents very early on in the writing process i.e., when the book is around thirty thousand words or, hold fire until after the novel is completed and polished to perfection.

As a debut writer I knew there was an extremely low likelihood of my novel getting picked up by an agency on the basis of the first 30K words… However, being an eternal optimist I went for it anyway. My rationale was simple – If I get an agent, great. If not, I’ll get some much needed experience in writing cover letters and synopses.

Using the Writers’ & Artists’ Handbook as my starting point, I searched for literary agents who specialise in dark, edgy, love stories. There are also numerous websites that list agencies and their preferences so pulling together a target list was straightforward.

I sent off sample chapters of De’Angelo’s Orchestra to a few agencies and unsurprisingly received form rejections from all, except three. These wonderful individuals had taken the time from their busy schedules to provide me with some very helpful feedback. Interestingly, they had all made similar observations as follows:

“Strong writing and I like the story but for me it’s overwritten.”

“You are a strong writer but your characters need further development.”

“You have a strong voice but too much detail slows down the pace.”

I cannot stress enough how valuable and timely their comments were at that early stage of the book. I took them on board and re-wrote the novel from scratch. And what a difference it made – The writing began to flow at a natural pace and the characters sprang to life.

So, back to the question of when to submit to literary agents – In my experience, sooner rather than later.






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