News room: Expert tips on submitting your book to a literary agent - by Carrie Plitt (Conville & Walsh)

Expert tips on submitting your book to a literary agent - by Carrie Plitt (Conville & Walsh) by Sarah Juckes

This edition of our Expert Tips series is from top literary agent, Carrie Plitt, who shares her thoughts on what submissions catch her eye and how you can send your book to her for review. Carrie is currently on the look out for new fiction and non-fiction authors.

Q1: What’s the biggest mistake you see authors make when pitching their book to you?

A mistake I see made often in pitching is the tendency to give too much away and over-explain the idea. A pitch is meant to tease the reader – so give me a paragraph at most which introduces the central characters and plot ‘hook’ like you might see on the back of a book. There’s no need to tell the whole story or the rationale behind it.

Q2. What makes a book submission stand out for you?

For me it’s always the writing – I’m looking for an original voice that will jump off the page and engage me from the very first few sentences.

Q3. If a book has been self-published previously, what information do and don’t you need to know about this?

It’s useful to know where the book has been self-published, and roughly how many copies it has sold if it’s a very significant number. Even if you do have a full ebook published already, please send your submission in the form we ask (so a word document with the first 3 chapters or 50 pages, along with a covering letter and a synopsis).

Q4. What are you looking for right now, and how can authors send their books to you?

I’m looking for both fiction and non-fiction. In terms of fiction, I’m most drawn to excellent writing and compelling characters regardless of genre. That said, I usually find myself reading literary fiction, reading group fiction and sometimes high-concept YA. I love writers like Marilynne Robinson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Virginia Woolf, who plumb the depths of the human heart or Zadie Smith, Elena Ferrante and Colum McCann, who aren’t afraid to write far-reaching novels about The Way We Live Now. I’m always drawn in by a unique voice and a strong sense of place, and I seem to be a sucker for coming-of-age stories. I’m also on the lookout for less-represented voices in English-language fiction.

On the non-fiction side, I’m keen to see strong writers who are passionate – perhaps even bordering on obsessive – about a topic, and who can convey big ideas through fascinating stories. I’d especially be interested to hear from authors writing about science, nature, sport, health, feminism and music. Non-fiction books I have read and loved recently include Do No Harm by Henry Marsh, Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton, How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran and Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.

Authors can submit their work to me directly at Please send the first 3 chapters or 50 pages of your manuscript, along with a covering letter and a synopsis

Carrie Plitt is a literary agent at Conville & Walsh Ltd where she is building a list of both non-fiction and fiction with a focus on literary and upmarket commercial titles. Prior to joining C&W in 2011, she worked in the rights department at Penguin Books. In her spare time, she hosts a monthly books talk show and podcast on NTS Radio called ‘Literary Friction’.

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Written by
Sarah Juckes
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Expert tips and Literary agents