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How can I make my book stand out to an Agent/Publisher

So you’ve written your wonderful book and now all you need is to get a literary agent to spot it.

But, as we all know, literary agents and publishers get HUNDREDS of manuscripts so how do you get yours to stand out, how can you make your manuscript be the one to be picked out from the pile?

Well, it’s not easy but after being asked this question on my last blog (thank you lovely Spencer!) and many times before I decided that the best people to talk to are the people who do the choosing: literary agents and publishers.

Below is a list of top tips and advice from a fellow author, a literary agent and a publisher. Get ready to take notes…

Jo Hayes

Jo is a literary agent at The Blair Partnership..

What Jo says:

Read as much as you can in the area that you’re writing in – see what’s in bookshops and take note of what’s working, or even what you didn’t like about something

Be different – as much as it is good to write about what you know, be unique with your subject matter and or plot to stay ahead of what publishers think they are looking for

Get into the habit of writing something every day, even if you don’t really want to. You can always revise it another day

Be open to feedback and suggestions from friends and family who have read your work

Lindsey Heaven

Lindsey is Editorial Director for fiction at my publisher Egmont, the largest specialist children’s publisher in the UK. She put the sparkle into The It Girl

What Lindsey says:

I would say, don’t underestimate the strength of a good pitch letter to grab an editor’s attention. You or your agent are your book’s best (and only!) sales people. I will prioritise a manuscript I receive over one that I have already had sitting in my inbox if it sounds like just the thing I am looking for – or, even better, didn’t know I was looking for!

A very good practice when thinking about how to pitch your book is to try and think how you would sell it in one-line. It’s much harder than you think but really focusses your attention on what is extra special about your book. Think about who it’s for, what the competition is and deliver a very brief but cracking synopsis – think the dramatic voiceover man on film ads at the cinema for inspiration!

Robin Stevens

Assistant Editor at Egmont AND the author of the incredible Wells & Wong murder mysteries. She is a true inspiration in the literary world!

What Robin says:

I think it’s important to remember that editors don’t usually read manuscripts during normal work hours. They’ll be working on the books they’ve already acquired, a full-time job in itself, and so most editors read submissions during commutes, early in the morning or late at night, or on weekends. They’re tired, they probably have six more submissions queued up – and that’s what you as an author are up against.

You have to make that editor fall in love wi

th your book (the emotion really has to be that strong) despite how tired and stressed they are. Your opening has to be punchy, interesting, excitingly written – and then (sorry to say) you have to keep them reading and loving it all the way to the end.

I’ve seen a lot of submissions that were initially exciting, but which waned over the course of the story, and so turned a potential yes into a no. Imagine yourself as a gymnast – you have to nail the run-up, do a series of amazing tricks in the air and then stick that landing perfectly. No big ask . . .

So there you have it! Top tips from top people. Hope this helps and best of luck!

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