Submitting Your Book Idea to a Literary Agent or Book Publisher

Q: I have, what I think, is a great book idea but that is all it is – just an idea. I don’t know whether to write a few chapters or to just send a simple synopsis. I am really excited about my idea, but I just don’t know where to go. -Robert

You don’t say whether this book idea is fiction or nonfiction (I’ll assume fiction, because this is FictionAddiction, after all), and you don’t say to whom you’re thinking of sending something. I’ll assume an agent, for the simple reason that very few publishers will even look at unagented submissions anymore.

In any case, the answer is pretty simple. You send a query letter telling the agent about your book. If the agent’s entry in the guide (or on the website, or wherever you’re getting your information) says to send a synopsis, you send that, too. Ditto for sample chapters. Only send what the agent specifically asks for.

And you don’t do any of this until the book is D-O-N-E. Nobody will want to hear from you before then, believe me.

An idea by itself means almost nothing. My 87-year-old editor once told me that she’s only heard one truly bad book idea in her entire career. So go do it, man. And good luck.

Steve Hamilton, Author of the Alex McKnight Novels
Winner of the Edgar and Shamus Awards for Best First Novel