Submitting your Novel Manuscript (Or as I call it, sending your baby out to sea!)

Part of my work is supporting writers on my creative writing courses with knowing how to put their all-important book submission together and believe the following pointers may be of use to other writers at that point with their novels too:

Your submission package will comprise of three elements (the covering letter, the first three chapters and the overall synopsis) which will be discussed in more detail below.  Each element should be polished to perfection and absolutely free of typos, poor spelling or grammatical errors.  It should be typed in Times New Roman or Aerial (12pt).

You should check your intended agent or publishers’ submission guidelines carefully and follow them exactly.  Some will not accept a longer synopsis than one page.  Some want the first three chapters; others want the first fifty pages or a particular number of words.

They will all look at a different part of your submission package first.  Some will read your letter to see if you have demonstrated a ‘personality’ they could work with.  Others will turn to your synopsis to ensure that your story is a consistent page turner from beginning to end and others will turn to your opening chapters to see if they are hooked in from the start.

The Covering Letter

Ideally, fit this onto one page and start with the ‘pitch’ of your book.  You should have this lodged in your mind anyway.  If anyone says what’s your book about, then you need to be able to answer them concisely – that is your pitch.  You should also mention the genre and give the title at the start of your letter.

The next paragraph should offer the word count, completion confirmation (it really should be finished before submission) unless it’s a competition where support to complete is part of the prize.  You should have knowledge of where it might sit in the marketplace and why and which readers might like to buy it.

This should be followed by your own biography as a writer, offer a hint of your personality, why you write and your successes and history.

Finally, you can reassure your agent or publisher about your willingness and ability to help with marketing.  This could include information about your web presence and any media contacts you may have.

Those of you who are current or previous students of Write a Novel course, I have given you my own submission letter as an example.  Anyone wanting a copy can obtain one by visiting and going to ‘Contact Me.’

The First Three Chapters

Your pages should be numbered and include a header which gives your name and the title.  Your manuscript should be double spaced and paragraphs all indented.  Apart from the first one in each chapter.  It should be flawless, having undergone rigorous editing and additionally embody all the aspects of an engaging opening.

If you grab your reader here, there is a good chance they will be asking for the entire manuscript.

The Synopsis (refer to my ‘Writing a Synopsis’ Checklist – drop me a line at for a copy of this)

This is an important document and more difficult to write than it first appears. It sells your novel as a marketable proposition.  It demonstrates that you know your characters, their motivations and have developed an engaging plot which enough twists and turned to keep prospective readers turning the pages.

It differs from the blurb (which exists to persuade a reader to buy and appears on the back of the book jacket) in that it must offer the ending to the agent or publisher.

And finally …

Check and double check everything carefully before submission.  You only have one chance to impress each agent or publisher.  They are looking for reasons to reject your manuscript as they are inundated with submissions.  Be prepared for rejection and have a list ready of your next targets to submit to.

It’s a painstaking procedure; literary professionals will only take on what they really like and believe in.  Always remember it can be a subjective process but by following the advice I have offered, you are giving yourself the best chance possible.

Maria Stephenson

For more information regarding my online writing courses, visit

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