Byrd Leavell on Submitting to a Literary Agent: Separating the Generic Proposals from the Successful Submissions

Byrd Leavell

November 14, 2021

Byrd Leavell on Submitting to a Literary Agent: Separating the Generic Proposals from the Successful Submissions

Literary agents are inundated with daily submissions from hopeful authors. Publisher Byrd Leavell offers some insight into what sets the everyday submissions apart from those that secure an agent.

Considering the competition authors face in the search for representation, it’s not surprising that some feel pressured to reinvent the wheel when submitting to literary agents. Herein lies the problem. Agents simply don’t have the time to cater to every author’s unique querying approach.

Their submission guidelines are in place for a reason. As you do your research and create a list of the ideal agents for your book, focus on how they prefer to be queried and observe those preferences.

Do your due diligence and put in the effort that many authors fail to. Any submission beginning with ‘dear agent’ is an immediate signal that the author hasn’t done their homework and is probably going to be deleted.

Even as you follow an agent’s guidelines, you’ll still find yourself fighting for their time and attention. Illustrate to a prospective agent that you’re serious about your career and your efforts to secure their representation. Avoid long-winded submissions and tangents; instead, snare their interest with a strong pitch that urges them to continue reading.

Whether it’s a fully polished novel or a primed and ready book proposal, ensure it’s as close to perfection as you can achieve. The premise might be fascinating, but if your pitch doesn’t entice them into reading, it’s essentially pointless.

Nailing a pitch is easier said than done, but taking the time to perfect it will put you miles ahead of authors who phone it in. Specificity is key here; Byrd Leavell stresses that agents don’t have time for ambiguity. Compact your plot and include only the necessary but vibrant details that provide insight into your story.

Authors are creators, so following a set formula can sometimes feel a little foreign. But formula is a necessity in both writing a book and finding an agent. Review successful queries of books within your genre to better identify the structure that caught the agent’s eye. Study the form of the author and replicate the format while applying your own style and voice.

Overall, show the agents you’re querying that you’ve applied genuine effort and thought to the process.

You might think that they couldn’t possibly know you’re using a boilerplate submission that’s been sent to countless agents, but after years of experience reviewing thousands of submissions, agents like Byrd Leavell have developed a keen eye for identifying those who are genuinely committed.

Let them know you’re targeting them specifically and they will be all the more prepared to give you and your book a chance.