So you’ve written your novel, what now?

Literary agent Joanna Swainson shares her top five tips for hooking an agent.

Writing a novel is pretty darn impressive. Lots of people have the big dream but never actually type ‘The End’. If you’ve managed to do that, then you’ve achieved a lot already. Well done!

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Image by JillWellington on under Creative Commons.

1. Finish the novel to a high standard

There are no shortcuts to being a published author. Don’t underestimate the amount of work and refinement that will be needed to get a manuscript ready to send to agents. Depending on genre, a good word count to aim for is 70k or 80k words plus.

2. Be receptive and resilient to feedback

Some writers work alone, and that’s great if it works for you. Others like to seek feedback from trusted others, especially when they’re starting out, and this can be very useful prior to sending your work out to agents.

3. Know your genre / your market

When you begin writing you may not think particularly about genre or about who you are writing for other than yourself. But by the end of the process, before you send your finished manuscript out to literary agents, these things need to be clear and you need to be able to communicate this to the agent.

4. Research agencies and make a targeted approach

Some agents have areas of expertise — they only represent children’s fiction, for example, or non-fiction. Some agents might have a broader remit but exclude certain genres such as, for example, science fiction.

5. Be professional in your approach

Gimmicky approaches (queries that include boxes of chocolates, booze or the promise to make us all millionaires) tend to set alarm bells ringing.

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