What the Submissions Coordinator Would Like You to Know

Querying can be a tricky and time-consuming process which can understandably become a bit frustrating with each agency having a different policy on how to submit. As the Submissions Coordinator for the agency inbox, I read every single query letter that is submitted to Holloway Literary. Here are a few tips that I would recommend to make your submission stand out.

Always Research an Agency’s Submission Guidelines

16446563124_940532453f_oIf you’re like me, the first thing you’ll probably think of is that “guidelines” are just guidelines, not rules. This isn’t quite the case with submission guidelines though. These guidelines really should be treated as rules. If you’ve submitted to us and hadn’t quite followed our guidelines, you’ve probably heard from me. Now, it’s not a bad thing to hear from me. Interacting with authors is great, but it can be very time consuming. For that reason, many agencies won’t respond back and will use the guidelines as way to weed out some submissions. While this may seem harsh, agents are looking for more than just a great manuscript; they are also looking for writers they can work well with and can pay attention to instructions.

Our submission guidelines can be found on our website under each agent’s name. When submitting to us, please have the agent’s name, the manuscript title, and the genre in the email’s subject line and copy and paste the query and the first 15 pages of your manuscript into the body of the email.

Know What the Agent Is Looking For

This tip goes hand in hand with the one above. Research the agent prior to submitting. Your time is valuable! Don’t waste your time by submitting to an agent who doesn’t represent your genre of work. If you are querying a screenplay, make sure to submit to an agent who represents screenplays. You can find links below to what our agents are looking for in a manuscript.


Word Count

Always list your manuscript’s word count in your query, but also please know the Untitledstandard word count for the genre that you are writing in prior to submitting. For Holloway Literary, If the word count is too far over or under, you will be notified and asked to resubmit only when the standard word count is met. If you receive this notification, don’t take it personally. It’s nothing against you as a writer, it’s just what publishing houses are accepting at this time. While there are classics out there with significantly lower word counts, often times they were published over thirty years ago when the publishing environment was different from what it is today. Of course, there are more recent examples of published works that have very high word counts, but it is always recommended that debut novelist stick as close to the standard word count as possible. I’ll list below a few of the word count ranges for the genres we receive most often.

  • Literary: 70,000-100,000
  • Women’s: 80,000-100,000
  • Memoir: 80,000-90,000
  • Thriller, Suspense: 80,000-90,000
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy: 80,000-120,000
  • Romance: 70,000-95,000
  • Young Adult: 50,000-80,000 (Word count can go higher if science fiction or fantasy.)
  • Middle Grade: 25,000-55,000

Query Letter/Proposal

I cannot stress this enough. Always include a query letter or proposal in your submission email. While vast majority have this in their submission, we do receive some that only have the first 15 pages of the manuscript attached. The query portion is vital because it gives us more information about what the manuscript will be about and gives us a feel for who the author is. Always include the word count, a brief synopsis, and a brief author bio including any previous writing experience and/or publications. Also, it’s always a smart idea to include comparable titles!

How to Respond to Rejections or Notifications Regarding Word Count

0b497e7f2db857ab72f3a1dd865f67ff--rejected-quotes-wide-awakeI understand that querying can be frustrating. I’m sure that most of you would prefer writing your next novel instead of querying. I get it. I know that it’s even more challenging to receive rejection letters or to hear that your novel’s word count isn’t where it should be. Unfortunately, rejection plays a large role in the publishing industry, and it happens to all of us, authors and agents alike. It’s important to remember not to lash out with your frustrations though. We’re all human. Even though all communication in regard to submissions is done through email, it doesn’t mean that a robot or computer is reading them on the other side. I see every single email that comes through our submission inbox. If you ever feel as though your frustrations may take control, take a few deep breaths and walk away for a while. Please try to be as polite as possible or just don’t respond back.


Finally, if you have any questions in regard to the status of your submission and the our response time has passed, please always feel free to reach out! I try to get back to all status check emails as quickly as possible.

Rachel Beck’s Manuscript Wish List

By Rachel Beck

Holloway Literary’s motto is We love a good story! And I think this sums up, in a very broad way, what all agents are looking to represent: a good story. I thought it might be useful to sum up in more detail what I’m looking for right now—what I’d love to see cross my inbox. Consider this a shout-out to any writers who are looking to pitch me at the moment. If your book falls into any of these categories, do not stop, drop and roll; do not pass go. Send me your manuscript instead!

  • Women’s fiction that slants lighter in tone: I don’t want to say “chick lit” because it’s a scary term in the industry. But I’m talking about stories where the characters are a bit younger, the themes less weighty and the voice a little more youthful. Some of my favorite authors who write lighter women’s fiction are Emily Giffin (my all-time favorite!!), Jennifer Weiner and Sophie Kinsella. These are books for and about twenty-somethings or early thirty-somethings figuring it all out. The plots and topics addressed aren’t super dramatic or complex—the premise can be quite simple, actually—but they are about real-life questions and crossroads, and the dilemmas faced on the page are relatable, the characters flawed but trying.
  • Women’s fiction that leans heavier in tone and tackles weighty issues: These types of stories often focus on moral or ethical issues. A perfect example is Liane Moriarty. (Her plot twists are awesome!) Jodi Picoult is also a great one. (Her characters are fabulous!) Maybe there’s a hint of suspense. Often the characters are caught in a questionable moral situation. A good person who does/did something bad. Someone caught between a real rock and a hard place. A story that makes you look at a period of history or a situation or a type of person in a new way.mswishlist
  • A complex family saga that perhaps spans generations of family members: Diane Chamberlain is one of my favorite authors for the way she’s able to wind together these sort of fantastically complex and deep family stories. Multiple POV’s work well in these sorts of stories. Check out Before the Storm for an example of this done really well; it’s my favorite of her books and one of my favorite novels in general.
  • Thrillers: If you are the next Gillian Flynn, I will adore you. I’m a big fan of “unexpected witness” stories such as The Girl on the Train or The Woman in Cabin 10. I don’t like traditional suspense stories as much; I’m not looking for formulaic authors who write detective stories, but something more out of the box, fresh and with a twist that makes your hair stand up on end or gives you goose bumps. Unreliable narrators are juicy, as are unlikeable narrators, such as Amy from Gone Girl and Ani from Luckiest Girl Alive, one of the best books I’ve read recently. Mary Kubica and Heather Gudenkauf are two great authors in this genre; check ‘em out!
  • Literary or historic period piece: I would be open to something similar to The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis, or Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan. Especially ones set in New York City or the South, in the 1920’s or 1950’s (two of my favorite eras!) that are rich in setting and period details.
  • unnamedA beautiful, moving young adult book: Something as emotionally powerful as The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson or The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Call me a masochist, but the sadder the better. It’s very competitive out there for young adult authors, so anything that comes along right now has to really stand out. Larger-than-life premise and characters. Books about really big issues that teenagers today face. Broken homes, diversity, LGBTQ, all of this is really good. I’m okay with death and darkness. Terminal illness, eating disorders, mental health disorders, gender identity—bring it on!


If any of this strikes a chord with you, please think of me for your submissions! Or maybe I’ve inspired you to write something in one of these genres. Even better, maybe you already have something cooking or complete that sounds like I might be into based on this. If so, waste no time hitting send—I’d love to see it!

Rachel is an agent with Holloway Literary. Learn more about her here and then follow her on Twitter @Rachel_Burkot.