First of all, I don’t have an agent. However, I have done a lot of research on how to get an agent and so think I can be of some help. Publishers don’t (as far as I know) accept unsolicited manuscripts so you will have to get an agent first to go down the traditional publishing route.
Here is a list (because lists are my preferred form of informing people) of the steps you have to take to get an agent:
1. Buy or borrow Writers & Artists Yearbook, it is the guidebook to becoming a published author. It’s basically where this list comes from… yeah, I sort of cheated.
2. Write a one page synopsis of your book.
3. Proof your synopsis. More than once please.
4. Create a spreadsheet of all the relevant agents.
5. Write a generic covering letter – make sure you include any other writing you have done.
6. For each agent add a personal touch to that covering letter, unless there are only four agents you want to approach, in which case tailor each letter indivudually. I sent out my manuscript to 32 agents, I don’t have the patience to write 32 individual letters.
7. Proof your letters.
8. Extract the first 3 chapters (unless otherwise specified).
9. Proof chapters.
10. Proof them again.
11. And again.
12. Make sure they are double spaced and the chapters start at the top of pages.
13. They don’t like them stapled. Don’t staple them.
14. Double check how they want your work submitted – some agents ask for them electronically. Most still take them by post so splash out on some envelopes and stamps.
15. Record all responses in a spreadsheet, that way you know who you’re still waiting to hear from.
16. Good luck!
Agents get sent loads of submissions so be prepared to wait 1-2 months for a response.