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‘Don’t be a stalker, but be personal’

So you’ve whipped your manuscript into a sugar-spun showstopper and if you make one more tweak to it you will spontaneously combust along with your laptop and your passion for writing – it’s time to send that baby out into the world.

It’s a good idea to find a literary agent. Most publishers just don’t have the resources to trawl through the slush pile and sending an unsolicited submission is a fast track to getting your manuscript filed in the bin, I’m afraid. A literary agent will know which publishers and editors to send your book to, and will make sure it lands in the hands of the person most likely to enjoy and commission it. They’ll have the best interests of your book at heart.

So how do you obtain one of these elusive agents? There are a few things you can do to get to the top of the reading pile. The first is to format your manuscript. This means double spacing, page numbers, a decent font (no Comic Sans please, you may not think this needs saying but you’d be surprised). Check it for typos, spelling mistakes, and at the very least make sure your character names are consistent throughout.

Next you need to research, research, research. Think about authors you like, or whose writing is similar to yours, and find out who their agent is. They’re more likely to enjoy your type of writing if they already have someone similar on their list. Always check that the agent you are submitting to is interested in your genre – it’s a waste of everyone’s time if you send your sci-fi novel to an agent who only does fully illustrated cookery books.