14 November 2012

A little bit of research goes a long way

by Richard Pike From the Agents, Writing Tips

As I looked on the slush pile for the first time, I was reminded of the reasons I had sought a career in book publishing. This was my chance to get closer to the creative process, to knuckle down and discover the next prize-winning bestseller – before me lay a pile of literary rough diamonds, waiting to be given a gentle polish before sending on their way to a grateful publisher.

Two weeks later and I was starting to feel worried – while there were undoubtedly good stories waiting to be uncovered, I became disheartened at the number of manuscripts that were sent without a submission letter, suffered from missing pages, or even, frustratingly, contained no contact details for us to send a response to.

The launch of the Curtis Brown Creative website was designed with this in mind. My colleagues had recognised flaws in the traditional process and worked hard to create an author-friendly new system. It’s become clear that you share our enthusiasm, with an overwhelming number of submissions, well over 1,000, received in the last two months.

In fact, one of the most positive things about the new website is the way that we can now communicate with you, the author. With expanded agent profiles, including those of the New Writing team for the first time, it’s possible to find out exactly what everyone at Curtis Brown is looking out for. With our agent tips and regular blogs you will (we hope!) begin to get a better understanding of how best to present your work to us. By following our guidelines and using our submission form, you can be certain that you’re not missing out on essential information. With greater transparency, we hope you will feel confident that your manuscript will reach the desk of the agent most suited to you and your project.

But the launch of this website is also an invitation to you to think ever more carefully about the way you submit your work. Spend a few minutes exploring the content available to you and familiarising yourself with the aforementioned features. No more should we be reading a submission letter that begins ‘Dear Curtis…’ and never again should an agent looking for children’s stories receive a manuscript entitled ‘Sixty Shades of Scarlett’.

It seems to me the best author/agent relationships are a partnership between two people equally driven to deliver a book, in its best form, to the hands of the reader. We want to partner with writers that are willing to graft as hard as we will, that care about their work as much as we do. With hundreds of new writers contacting us every week, we want to be spending time engaging with stories and not losing time redirecting and rejecting manuscripts that were sent with little thought or planning.

If you are reading this blog, you have undoubtedly spent weeks and months, perhaps years, crafting and redrafting your story and have reached the point where you’re ready to share it with the wider world. Give it the best chance possible to find its audience, and don’t jeopardise its chances by closing your eyes and ears to our efforts to communicate with you. A little time spent exploring the Curtis Brown Creative site could well grow into the best investment you’ve made this week.

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.

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