Our Book Submission Process
Please note that Sallyanne Sweeney is taking no more submissions for children’s writers or children’s illustrators.
Introduction and Explanation
We’ve created our own agency submissions process – a little different than most – which we need you to follow. It’s explained below.
The good news is that we are always looking for new talented writers wanting to tell us about their book.
We launch the careers of new authors constantly. We have, of course, an established roster of writers we represent, and the majority of our time is spent supporting those clients and promoting their interests. But we do love to find new novelists, new subject experts, new thought leaders and new storytellers. We’re interested to hear from anyone with an extraordinary story or set of ideas to convey. We also like to see evidence that you have been building awareness of your work and that you are likely to find an engaged readership.
We have always represented a great deal of memoir, many of these authors are already widely known, some just come with an exceptional story, others are so moving or funny that the book is simply irresistible. It is very hard to get publicity and attention for new books in a crowded marketplace. So in non-fiction, we – just like every publisher – favour writers who have already established a public reputation and have built a following, whether in social or traditional media, or with public events.
We also love delving into new areas of knowledge. If you are an established subject-expert with a positive reputation and an original message to convey, we want to hear from you. If you’ve developed your own fan base of followers because you have something distinctive and powerful to say, get in touch. The precise area of your expertise is not an issue. It could be in strategic thinking, triathlon winning, economic theory, garden design, the impacts of social media on women, creating social change, sustainable home-farming, relationship-counselling, group psychology, vegan cooking, improving family dynamics, 19th century history, 18th house restoration, sex therapy, house-buying, the history of African-American cinema, cosmetic medicine or anything else. We have already sold books (or are currently working on them) with experts in each one of the subjects listed above. It’s a joy for us to learn about new subjects; our authors teach us their expertise and we help them convert their knowledge into a book (or books) that will excite readers and capture the attention of leading publishers. We then secure the best deal for you and review and check on the publisher’s process from the finalising of your manuscript through to the publicity and marketing.
If you write stand-out literary fiction or riveting and distinctive genre novels (especially crime fiction and women’s commercial fiction) we also want to hear from you. We consider digitally-published crime fiction to be an exciting opportunity for authors seeking a wide readership for mainstream crime fiction.
Our two agency principals, Ivan Mulcahy and Sallyanne Sweeney, are both originally from Dublin, so it’s no surprise that our list of Irish authors is exceptionally strong. Our agency is London-based meaning we are selling our books to UK publishers in most cases. We represent many well-known British public figures and authors and are equally interested in finding new British writers. Edwina de Charnace, our newly-acquiring agent, is French-Korean, and is interested in writing from around the world. For this reason, we’ve recently added a submissions inbox aimed at writers in East and Southeast Asia. You’ll notice this is an exception to our submissions policy, which otherwise prioritises writing from the UK and Ireland. Included in our roster of exceptional authors are Professor Ha-Joon Chang, of SOAS in London, the internationally best-selling Korean economist, and breakout literary novelist Aravind Jayan from India, both great precedents to build on.
Now, to the problem: we receive a huge volume of book submissions. We try to give each new manuscript its due attention, but the sheer amount of them has – in the past – been overwhelming. Our goal is to be fair to each person who has sent us a book proposal. Sometimes (with a novelist) it’s the writing itself and the story idea that deserves close scrutiny. With subject-led non-fiction books by experts, it’s the concept and vision of the book that’s important. If the person submitting has already built a significant following of people interested in their work (e.g. on social media), then we will want to spend time examining that fan base closely. To give each submission its due, we needed to create a way to grasp the critical elements of every book proposal quickly.
We came up with a solution. This agency’s new submissions process is an innovative approach which allows us time to think about you and your book. It’s explained below.
The reality is that most submissions we receive are neither to our standards nor align with our taste. The quality issue is clear; a great many people submit books to agents that aren’t up to the publication standards of first-rate publishers. It’s clear that they have not sought independent editorial scrutiny and evaluation of their manuscript, by someone with a good eye of writing, before submitting to agents. On the other hand, “taste” is not a value judgement; it just means that we (the agents who read the submission) have not connected with the book; it doesn’t move or excite us. Another agent at another agency could have a very different response.
Our Submissions inbox used to receive many submissions from around the world but we seek to represent authors from the UK and from Ireland only (NB the exception for writers in East and Southeast Asia detailed above). We are based in London and, both the directors of the agency being from Dublin, have a strong connection with Ireland. We have proved to be first-rate agents for writers based in either the UK or Ireland. If you are based in the US or continental Europe, seek representation in your home country and do not submit to us. A literary agent based in London is not best placed to offer you good support. We have a rare few exceptions to this rule, but these are based on a personal connection with the author.
The gap in the submission standards, our taste and sometimes the writer’s location means that we receive a great many manuscripts that we are never going to take on. Yet they have to be reviewed. When we do put aside time to examine what has been sent into us by prospective new authors, we can be rushed when it comes to making judgements about the submissions we are sent, or simply don’t even have the time to engage deeply with what we are reading.
This submissions process changes all that. We want to ensure we can consider each writer submitting to us as an individual. We want to have a moment to absorb an extract of their work, to perceive a style, a tone, an originality, an energy or a freshness in your submission. Occasionally a book submission is of such obvious and rare quality that we just know we would love to represent the author. And then there are some submissions that display talent and potential, athough the book submitted is not quite there. We want to have the time to respond positively to those writers, to offer them advice about how their book could be redrafted and resubmitted to us.
Let’s be clear though: you should never submit to an agent for the purposes of getting editorial feedback. There are writer’s groups everywhere, many offering free support. There are low-cost creative writing courses available. There are independent skilled readers to be found via your personal network of connections who can read your manuscript and give you their honest assessment. Writing is rewriting. Once you’ve honed your submission and feel some confidence that you have something exciting ready, you should submit to us in the belief that you’ve written something that could be considered by first rate publishers.
We also want to check you have thought about our agency, at least a little. We’re mid-sized; big enough to have all the people needed for foreign rights selling, TV/film rights opportunities, script development, author financial administration and author support. Yet we are small enough that each client matters. We take the time to find you success and we stay with you if that success is a long time in coming. On that, if you’re sending a submission to us, we’re inclined to think that you should have read at least one of our books by an author we represent in the same genre as your own book submission. This is not a strict rule. It’s just the way we think. We are part of the MMB Creative agency group; our colleagues in the theatrical agency and voice agency divisions work with us on shared clients every day.
That’s it for now about the submissions process. We look forward to hearing from you.
SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR POTENTIAL AUTHORS
We want just four things from you.
The should be included within the body of your email and can be addressed “Dear Agent Team” (or a particular agent if you feel strongly about it.)
- Write a synopsis of your book that is only two hundred (200) words long, no more and it can be shorter. The word limit might be best approached as a creative writing exercise, asking you to convey the essence of your proposed book succinctly. If it’s a novel, we want to know its setting, its characters and its most distinctive quality (or ‘hook’). If it’s about a subject in which you are expert, what approach would you intend taking and what topics will you explore? Don’t think of this as a marketing exercise, where you compare it to other books or speculate about who will read it. Think of finding its essence. For a novelist, this should be straightforward. For an expert planning a subject-led book, it may be best to summarise your core message and the most important topics your book should consider.
- Include an author biography that is only two hundred (200) words long and could be shorter. If you are a novelist, you should summarise your key achievements as a writer and evidence of your relationship with the written word. If you are producing a memoir, then this is the moment to demonstrate why readers will be interested in your story. Experts should outline their relevant qualifications (whether academic or school-of-life or both). Tell us if you have created a following on social media, or a fan base that attends events hosted by you or have relationships with well-known people who will provide support for your book. The short word limit is our way of getting you to identify your most distinctive qualities and achievements.
- Give us a short writing sample of no more than one thousand two hundred words (1200) that gives us a taster of your writing. Experts who are not natural writers – please don’t be intimidated by this requirement. If you are a leader in your field with a strong book concept then we want to hear from you. You have made a success in one area of your life. You are not now also required to become a skilled writer. We can put you together with a co-writer or ghost-writer to create your book. We’ve done this successfully for many famous people and high-achievers. Novelists are advised that it’s usually best to send us the novel’s beginning; your version of the ‘once upon a time’ opener. Memoirists might pick a particular incident for the extract. Academic experts might decide to select a critical section of the book. But often for both memoirists and academics it is still most straightforward to send us the book’s first 1200 words.
- Please include a very brief statement, fifty to one hundred words (50-100), saying why you are interested in being represented by this agency. Is there an author we represent you admire? Have you heard something of our work? Is there something in the agency’s style that appeals? It may be something as minor as liking the style of our website. The agent-writer relationship demands working closely together, with trust on both sides and professionalism, of course. We are sensitive that there can be a lot personally at stake for a writer at each stage of their career development. We seek to take on new authors with whom we make a connection and can envisage working with for a long time.
If you have written much or all of your book already, please do not be concerned that we are judging its merits based on such a short sample. First, we review your submission through this process. Then, if we admire what we read, we will ask you to send more of the writing. You will be contacted by one of the agents.
Our goal is to review all submissions within two months of receipt, if not much sooner. We hope to acknowledge each of them in that time.
N.B: We accept that you may want to submit to us and a few other literary agents at the same time. But if you are sending your submission to many agents simultaneously then we would rather not be included.
If your submission doesn’t follow our guidelines here, it cannot be considered.
CONTACT DETAILS FOR SUBMISSIONS
In order to direct your submission to the right person, we have specific emails for the different category of books we consider. If there is no email category for your genre of book, then it is not a type of book we represent.
NON-FICTION SUBMISSIONS including all original book ideas by established experts on any subject and also memoir and autobiography.
Please send your four-part (in one document) submission to: Nonfiction@mmbcreative.com
LITERARY FICTION AND GENRE FICTION:
We divide fiction submissions into genre and literary categories. Genre fiction we define as any novel that follows the form and style of a particular genre and would be satisfying to fans of that genre. We are particularly interested in the crime/thriller, women’s commercial fiction, mystery, adventure and horror genres. Literary should be distinguished by exceptional writing. Where the story is more striking than the language in a ‘literary’ novel, it is sometimes labelled in the publishing industry as “Original Fiction”. Yes, such labels can be reductionist. But they help us here to work through the submissions. We also separate writers who identify as Irish from writers that identify as from the UK. Because of market size and publisher distribution power, we normally look to place both Irish and UK writers with a first-rate UK publisher who will then sell and distribute their book in both the UK and Ireland. However, in some cases, it can be more appropriate to seek to place an Irish writer with an Irish publisher, based in Ireland. So, it makes it easier to consider the two separately.
Genre Fiction from Irish writers
Please send your four-part (in one email) submission to: email@example.com
Literary/Original Fiction from Irish writers
Please send your four-part submission to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Genre Fiction from UK writers
Please send your four-part submission to: email@example.com
Literary/Original Fiction from UK writers
Please send your four-part submission to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Writers from East and Southeast Asia
Please send your four-part submission to: email@example.com
We’re giving a new focus to social media. The following accounts will become more lively in the coming months:
You can read Ivan Mulcahy’s regular blog for writers about the book industry here.
Thank you for your interest in our agency. We wish you success with your writing.