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  • Writer's pictureIan Brooks

Submission Time

A typewriter with books beside it

Bloody hell, the nerves.

Yup, that’s pretty much how I feel every time I submit. It’s amazing how difficult it is to send your work out into the world. It’s like you’re losing a part of yourself.

But this isn’t my first rodeo. Or my second. Or my third. This is book submission number nine to literary agents (I think!). It could be 10. There were one or two books I cut my losses with and didn’t bother submitting they were so bad.

And in terms of individual submissions, it’s number 100? 150? 200? Who knows. It’s a lot anyway. Let’s put it like this, if I had received all my rejections as physical letters, I’d be able to build a nice, cosy fire for myself.

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

Once more I venture forth into parts unknown. Although I almost greet it as an old friend by now.

I’ve gone through the rigmarole of it all again. Scouring the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook. Making sense of all the different types of submission guidelines. Crafting my cover letter. Drafting my synopsis. Editing and re-editing my opening pages.

It’s an exhausting experience. Energy sapping. Mind numbing.


This time it feels different.

Whether I’ve matured (about time as I saunter on up to my thirtieth birthday), or the book is better or I’ve been calmer this time, something is definitely different.

In preparation for this submission, I took an online Novel Submission Prep course with Claire Hennessey of the Big Smoke Writing Factory in Dublin. And to say that was eye-opening is a whopping understatement.

So, first off, the course. 4 weeks. 4 modules incorporating lessons about the industry, agents, submissions, cover letters, synopses, opening chapters, coping mechanisms and so on. Each week participants on the course had to submit work, whether it be the opening chapters, cover letters, synopses etc. and receive feedback from Claire.

I’ve mentioned the difficult of receiving feedback before. Thankfully I’ve reached a stage where I’m now thinking, ‘GIVE ME THE FEEDBACK. GIVE ME ALL THE FEEDBACK!’ And it was really interesting.

The only other person I have ever had look at my cover letter and synopses is a non-writing friend. And while they offered great feedback from their own perspective, it wasn’t the perspective that I needed. I needed the perspective of someone in the literary world.

And even though my cover letter and synopsis weren’t terrible (you do tend to get better at them over time), there were still obvious errors. When Claire gave me feedback, it immediately resonated and made sense. She laid out potential changes in the cover letter which tidied it up and made it read better. With the synopsis, she suggested condensing. I had overwritten in parts with extraneous detail. Afterwards, it was almost half as long and twice as good.

But then there’s the first ten pages. When you submit to agents, they look for the first 10 pages, first 1,000 words, 10,000 words, 3 chapters or some other variation. I thought my opening chapters were pretty good. I write Middle Grade humour and I thought I had set the right tone, included the right jokes, hooked the readers early. And still I was uneasy about something.

Claire spotted the major flaw immediately. And by highlighting it, I have been able to rectify the problem.

Now my work is as strong as I can possibly make it. I am more confident than I have ever been. When I was a kid, I would want to read this book. I’d laugh at it. Get hooked by it. Hell, I’d read it now (although I already have…about a thousand times…editing can be tough!).

So if you’re reading this, wish me luck. And if you’re not, then it doesn’t really matter. The nerves continue to mount. The butterflies are starting to flutter. And maybe, just maybe, I will succeed.

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