Discoveries, Writer's Toolkit

Tips from literary agents: ‘Keep the faith. Keep on creating’

Not sure how to polish up your novel (or Discoveries entry!) for submission? Here are some top insights from four agents at Curtis Brown, Discoveries judge Lucy Morris , Jess Molloy, Rosie Pierce and Viola Hayden.

Submissions are open until January 17th for Discoveries 2022, our pioneering writing development programme. Make sure you get your 10,000 words in!

DO

  • Try and fix those niggling inconsistencies in the plot if there are any. Publishers and agents will pick up on them so try and make sure they are fixed by the time you submit your 10,000 words or full novel. 
  • Make sure you get to know your characters really well so you know would they react in any given situation. 
  • When submitting your 10,000 words to Discoveries, or sending a novel to agents make sure your cover letter is simple and to the point. Include the premise or broad idea of genre, a short bio about yourself and why you are submitting to that specific agent.  
  • Believe in the story you have written – it’s vital to be able to write a succinct cover letter and confident pitch. Make sure you know your novel really well so you can explain why you have written it and why you are submitting it. 
  • Check the agency’s submission guidelines and personalise your cover letter to the agent you are contacting. It makes a big difference if an author has thought about why the chosen agent would be best to represent their book. That small amount of research goes a long way!
  • Include comparative titles when submitting a query letter to an agent. It really helps them get a sense of the book I am about to read and demonstrates how the writer sees and values their work. 

DON’T

  • Don’t be self depreciating! We know it can be hard marketing yourself, but we want to feel your passion for the story come through. 
  • Don’t feel like you need to have a completely finished book. This prize is for novels-in-progress. We are looking for potential, not something that is a final draft. 
  • Don’t worry too much about the formatting or the odd typo or error. Especially with Discoveries, the judges are not expecting perfection or the final draft and they wont discount an entry if they find a spelling mistake. 
  • Don’t put all your hopes on one agent. Query and submit widely and if you receive a full manuscript request or an offer of representation from one agent, let the others you have submitted to know – then they can prioritise their response to you. 
  • Don’t get disheartened if you do not get offered representation straight away, the submission process should be exciting but it is also tough. If you do get rejected don’t lose sight of why you write. Keep on creating!
  • Don’t forget to put your book front and centre in your query letter!

Find out more about Discoveries here >

Viola represents two of our 2021 Discoveries shortlisted authors, Niloufar Tabatabai and Nana Afua Pierre. 

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