The process for submitting a novel to a literary agent is very different from submitting a non-fiction memoir, business book, or self-help book. Non-fiction books require a full proposal, which is essentially a marketing plan: Your credentials, your platform, the intended market for your book, the need you are filling in the market. With your proposal you also attach two or three sample chapters. You typically do not attach the entire manuscript.
If you have written a novel, when you seek a literary agent who does not already know you, there are generally three steps:
1. You send a one-page query letter or email. Very rarely, an agent will want a “partial” or the entire manuscript. Again, this is extremely rare.
2. The agent may then ask you for a “partial.” This will be the first one or two chapters of your book, or the first fifty pages, or whatever the agent asks for. It will always be the first pages. The agent believes that if a book cannot be sold on the basis of the first few pages, it will never sell. This is an ironclad rule in fiction. The first few pages must grab the reader–not necessarily with a violent scene, like in a James Patterson thriller, but with the quality of your writing and your ability to set up an intriguing premise.
3. The agent may then ask for your full manuscript.
Literary agents expect that when you offer a novel, it has been completed to the very best of your ability. It is not a “work in progress.” In contrast, when you submit a non-fiction project, it’s assumed that the book is not yet complete. It may be complete, but this is not expected.
- Thomas Hauck is a leading freelance book editor and ghostwriter. Questions? Contact Thomas today!