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This article about literary agent submissions and submitting to literary agents is part of our free 15-Part Guide About How to Get a Book Agent. It explains how to approach and contact publishing agents, and everything else you need to know about book agent submission guidelines.

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How to Contact a Literary Agent – book Agent Submissions

Always submit literary agent submissions using the book agent’s preferred contact method: email (most common), online form (second most common), or postal mail (least common). Some publishing agents offer more than one option. When approaching a literary agent, you can see how they each allow you to contact them in our Directory of Literary Agents.

What to Submit to a Literary Agent – Literary Agent Submissions

Make sure your submissions to literary agents follow exactly what’s in each book agent’s submission guidelines. What literary agents want varies, but every publishing agent wants one or more of the following: query letter, synopsis, book proposal, sample pages or chapters, author profile or platform information, etc.

How to Write a Literary Agent Query Letter – Book Agent Submissions

A query letter for literary agent submissions should usually be no more than one single-spaced page. However, it should include all the following: book title, word count, book genre, target market, description, comparable titles, author bio, marketing plan. Authors of all types of books–fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books–need a query letter. Click here to learn more about How to Write a Literary Agent Query Letter.

How to Write a Synopsis for a Literary Agent – Publishing Agent Submissions

A synopsis for submissions to literary agents should be one to two double-spaced pages. The goal of the synopsis is to outline or summarize, as best you can in such a short document, everything covered in the book. A literary agent synopsis is not a “teaser” but a “spoiler.” All fiction authors, some nonfiction authors, and most children’s book authors need a synopsis. Picture book authors do not.

How to Write a Literary Agent Proposal – Book Agent Submissions

A book agent proposal for literary agent submissions can be as long as a dozen or more pages. It should include the same information in a query letter, but more detail as well as additional information such as chapter summaries, sample pages/chapters, etc. Most nonfiction authors need a book proposal, but very few fiction and children’s book authors.

How to Submit a Book to a Literary Agent – Literary Agent Submissions

Only submit a manuscript to a literary agent with permission. Just a handful of publishing agents allow authors to send their book with their query letter. When you get permission to send your book to a literary agent, follow their preferred format (print, Word, or PDF document) and method (email, online upload, postal mail).

How Many Literary Agents YOU Should Query – Book Agent Submissions

How many literary agents you should query at once depends how many publishing agents represent your book genre. Query no more than one person per agency at a time. If you get a rejection–or don’t get a response after eight weeks–query the next book agent at the agency, unless the first person said your book isn’t right for “us” or “our agency.”

Best Time to Submit to Literary Agents?

The best time of year for literary agent submissions is any time other than July or August (a summer thing in the industry), and November or December (due to the fall holidays). The best day of the week to query publishing agents is Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Too many authors query on Monday, and email open rates are lower on Mondays and Fridays.

How Long to Hear Back from Literary Agents?

How long do literary agents take to respond to submissions? The literary agent response time for 80% of book agents is two weeks or less for an initial submission. In other words, not a complete manuscript but any of the following: query letter, book synopsis, book proposal (usually nonfiction authors only), and sample pages or chapters.

Literary Agent Response Time Full Manuscript?

Publishing agent response times vary, but the literary agent response time for 80% of book agents for a complete manuscript is two months or less. Generally, the shorter your book is, the faster response time you can expect. The majority of author representatives who request a full manuscript eventually respond, though it might take many months.

What Happens When a Literary Agent Requests Your Full Manuscript?

When publishing agents request your full manuscript, they might not confirm receipt or tell you how long it will take them to read it. After reading a full manuscript, book agents will sometimes provide an offer for representation, a rejection, editorial comments, an offer to resubmit your book if/when/after you revise it, or an offer to submit your next book. Here you will learn more about What Happens When a Literary Agent Requests Your Full Manuscript.

Literary Agent Not Responding – book Agent Submissions

When you get no response from a publishing agent during literary agent submissions, don’t follow up. It means they’re not interested. However, if a book agent doesn’t respond after requesting your partial or full manuscript–or your book proposal (usually needed for nonfiction authors only)–you should follow up after 6-12 weeks. Any sooner and there’s a chance it will irritate the book agent and negatively impact your relationship.

How to Follow Up with a Literary Agent – Publishing Agent Submissions

Wait 6-12 weeks after your partial or full manuscript (and/or book proposal) has been requested, to nudge a literary agent, unless they have said otherwise. When you follow up with a book agent, use the same method you used to send the requested material: email, online form (if the form allows it), or postal mail (with an SASE).

Literary Agent Rejection Letters – Literary Agent Submissions

Literary agent rejections are usually received only 10-30% of the time for queries, but as much as 70% of the time for material requested by book agents: a partial or full manuscript and/or book proposal (usually needed for nonfiction authors only). Dealing with, and decoding, literary agent rejections can be difficult, so you should consider consulting about it with someone who works in–or has worked in–the publishing industry.

Revise and Resubmit to a Literary Agent – Book Agent Submissions

Most authors don’t realize many book agents will allow you to revise and resubmit your book after it’s been rejected. It is more likely you will be able to revise and resubmit to a literary agent if you say you have applied any suggested changes the book agent made when rejecting the manuscript.

This article about submitting to literary agents was written by a former publishing agent turned author coach. Mark Malatesta is creator of The Directory of Literary Agents, host of Ask a Book Agent, and founder of Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author.

Mark has helped hundreds of writers get offers from book agents and/or traditional publishers. Authors of all Book Genres have used our Literary Agent Advice coaching/consulting to get the Best Literary Agents at the Top Literary Agencies on our List of Literary Agents.

Literary Agent Submissions – Next Steps

Now that you’ve read this guide about literary agent submissions, click here to:

  1. See the next part of this guide about getting a publishing agent that applies to you:
         – How to Get a Book Agent for Fiction
         – How to Get a Book Agent for Nonfiction
         – How to Get a Book Agent for Children’s Books
  2. Visit our Ask a Publishing Agent page, where you’ll find a complete list of questions and answers about getting a book agent.

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    How I Got My Book Agent

    Successful Authors

    Photo of author NJ sharing a Mark Malatesta review at Get a Literary Agent

    Thanks in part to your query letter, manuscript suggestions, and support prioritizing agents, I received multiple offers from agents. Within two weeks of sending out the first query, I knew who I was going to sign with. I value our friendship.

    N E L S O N . J O H N S O N

    NY Times bestselling author of Boardwalk Empire, produced by Martin Scorsese for HBO, and Darrow's Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America's Most Famous Trial Lawyer

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    After following your advice, my book was acquired, the prestigious PW gave it a great review, and Time Magazine asked for an excerpt. Thank you for believing in my book, and for helping me share the surprising truth about women’s most popular body part!

    L E S L I E . L E H R

    Author of A Boob's Life: How America's Obsession Shaped Me―and You, published by Pegasus Books, distributed by Simon & Schuster and now in development for a TV series by Salma Hayek for HBO Max

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    Fine Print Lit got publishers bidding against each other [for my book]. I ended up signing a contract with Thomas Nelson (an imprint of Harper Collins) for what I’ve been told by several people is a very large advance. What cloud is higher than 9?

    S C O T T . L E R E T T E

    Author of The Unbreakable Boy (Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins), adapted to feature film with Lionsgate starring Zachary Levi, Amy Acker, and Patricia Heaton

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    AHHH! OMG, it happened! You helped me get three offers for representation from top literary agents! A short time later I signed a publishing contract. After that, my agent sold my next book. I’m in heaven!

    M I R I . L E S H E M . P E L L Y

    Author/illustrator of Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper (Penguin Books/Philomel), Scribble & Author (Kane Miller), and other children’s picture books

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    Find answers to all your book agent questions. Search our Ask a Literary Agent FAQ and/or post your question(s).

    Photo of Mark Malatesta - Former Literary Agent MARK MALATESTA is a former literary agent turned author coach. Mark now helps authors of all genres (fiction, nonfiction, and children's books) get top literary agents, publishers, and book deals through his company Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author. Mark's authors have gotten six-figure book deals, been on the NYT bestseller list, and published with houses such as Random House, Scholastic, and Thomas Nelson. Click here to learn more about Mark Malatesta and see Mark Malatesta Reviews.
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