You’ve finally received it: the letter that asks you to submit your completed manuscript to an interested literary agent. This is a moment of which all writers dream, and you should be proud that you’ve written a query letter or proposal strong enough to elicit the interest of a professional. In the midst of your excitement and phone calls to friends, however, you might want to think about how you’re going to ship your manuscript to the agent.
How you ship your manuscript will depend on its size and the type of mail carrier you’re using. While you want your manuscript to arrive safe and sound on the agent’s doorstep, you’ll also need to follow accepted procedures that won’t serve to discount your credibility later down the line.
The best way to ship your manuscript to an agent is through the U.S. Postal Service. Using UPS or Fed-Ex is honestly a waste of money and won’t get your manuscript there any faster. Eager aspiring authors often make the mistake of spending twenty dollars on shipping only to discover that it doesn’t make any difference in response times. Your agent will get to the manuscript on his or her own time.
Never request that the recipient sign for your package when you ship your manuscript. Many literary agents have mail sent to their homes rather than to their offices, and even if this isn’t the case, he or she will not always be at the office. If you require that the agent sign for your manuscript, the agent will have to make a special trip to the post office just to retrieve it, which might put him or her in a bad mood when it comes to reading it.
Fewer Than 15 Pages
If your manuscript is fewer than fifteen pages long, you can ship your manuscript in a soft-padded folder or a simple paperboard mailer. Don’t fold the pages (unless they number fewer than five) and be sure the manuscript has a clean title page and a cover letter describing what you are shipping. (i.e. As requested, I am submitting my full manuscript for your consideration…)
More Than 15 Pages
If you are submitting a full-length manuscript to an agent, you’ll need to get more creative when it comes to shipping the manuscript. Most authors ship their manuscripts in 8.5” X 11” boxes (the kind in which copy paper is often packaged). This ensures that the manuscript will be shipped safely, and also gives the agent something in which to ship it back. Make sure to package the box in heavy-duty packing paper.
Outside the Manuscript
Different agents have varying requirements for marking the outside of your manuscript package. Some will ask that you write the genre of the manuscript on the outside (or the back) while others don’t want anything. Check their submission guidelines for information or place a brief call to the agent’s assistant for clarification.
SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) is no longer necessary unless you want the manuscript returned. In this age of computers and super-fast printers, it is usually easier just to roll out another copy should your manuscript be rejected by the first agent. When shipping your manuscript, enclose a regular, business-sized envelope (stamped) so that the agent can reply with his or her response rather than returning the entire manuscript.
Many aspiring writers research how to query literary agents, how to interest an editor and other facets of the publishing industry, but they rarely prepare for the day when their work is requested by a professional. To avoid the panic that will inevitably creep into your mind as you stare at that letter, be prepared to ship your manuscript to an agent and get a feel for how the industry works.