Wednesday, 1 September 2010

How to E-Mail Your Work to Me And What The Rest of This Blog Contains

If getting some feedback on your slush-pile submissions is of interest to you, please e-mail me the following in any Word format:
  • Your covering letter
  • Your synopsis
  • The opening ten (double-spaced) pages of your novel (if you send more, I'll only read the first ten (double-spaced) pages; sorry)
  • If you could put your name and the title of your novel in the file-names - so, for example, name them along the following lines: Daniel Clay Broken Covering Letter, Daniel Clay Broken Synopsis, Daniel Clay Broken Opening Pages - that would be helpful, but I won't ignore files that aren't named in this way  
My e-mail address is I will read your work as soon as I can and get back to you with my thoughts on what you've done. It may take a while as I'm doing this around my own writing commitments, but you will definitely get an answer from me (if you don't, it's because I've messed up my admin, so don't be afraid to send chasing e-mails after one week).

I don't care what genre your novel is in, and I don't care where you're based – England, Canada, the US, anywhere at all in the world, so long as you're writing in English. I just want to help unpublished writers by giving a bit of feedback on their slush-pile submissions.

I'm not an agent or editor, but I am a writer who has had to deal with well over a hundred slush-pile rejections in my time – some friendly, some rude, many who just didn't bother to reply – so I know how depressing the process can be, and how easy it is to give in.

On a more positive note, I've also managed to gain representation from Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown through a slush-pile submission. He's one of the most influential literary agents in the world.  After he took me on my debut novel, Broken, was published in the UK, US, and Canada, translated into Dutch and Italian, optioned by BBC Films and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book Award 2009 and Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2009.   

Before that, again through slush-pile submissions, I managed to catch the attention of Luigi Bonomi (then at Sheil Land), an editor at Hodder & Stoughton, and requests for full submissions from the following agents: Judith Chilcotte, Jane Conway-Gordon, Dinah Wiener, Christine Green, and Peter Buckman (of The Ampersand Agency).

I managed to do this even though I had no connections to anyone in the publishing industry or any interesting angle to plug: all I had was what I had written.

Below you will find posts on the following:
  • A high-level summary of what I believe a slush-pile submission should consist of;
  • My thoughts on how to write a good covering letter (including the letter I used when submitting my debut novel, Broken, to slush-piles);
  • My thoughts on what constitutes a good opening page;
  • My thoughts on how to approach writing a synopsis (including the synopsis I used when submitting Broken to slush-piles);
  • My thoughts on the best places to find the names and addresses of agents and editors who might be willing to consider your writing;
  • My thoughts on the best strategy to take when submitting to slush-piles.
I stress these are simply my thoughts because many agents and editors have different opinions – some like a synopsis to be five pages long and consist of a detailed list of what happens in a novel, the majority probably believe it should be one or two pages long and detail the beginning, middle and end of your novel, whereas I believe it's acceptable to have a synopsis that's no longer than a single page and written in the style of a blurb. Some like to see the first fifty pages of your novel, whereas I believe the risk of losing someone's attention (plus the cost of posting) is too much, so would never send out more than twenty: For Broken, I sent seventeen.

The truth is you'll never please everyone with the format of your slush-pile submission, but by taking a simple and professional approach, I believe you'll upset the least number of people, meaning every single person you submit to is likely to read through the whole of your submission and consider whether they want to see more, which, surely, is the whole point of a slush-pile submission in the first place.