Making submissions to Canterbury Literary Agency.
Please note that Canterbury Literary Agency is only open to submissions when this is stated here on the website. We are currently open to submissions.
Please make sure you include the best phone number for you on any email you send us submitting material.
What to submit
If you’ve written, or are writing, a novel, we ask to see a 500-word outline of the entire story (i.e. not a blurb, or a partial outline, that ends with a teaser about what happens at the end of the book: we at the agency want to know the entire story) and also the first twenty pages of the book. We ask that this material is submitted, please, in Times New Roman 14 font and that you indent paragraphs, both in the summary of the story and in the actual material of the novel, and that you don’t leave a line space between paragraphs. We also ask that you use single speech marks unless you are quoting speech within dialogue in which case you should use double speech marks.
Above all, we ask that you don’t please send us first drafts. Send us the best material that you can send, because that gives you the best chance.
It’s not essential for you to have written all of your novel before you approach the agency. What we do want to see, as stated above, is a summary of the entire story and the first twenty pages. We won’t want to represent your novel until the book is finished, but if we think your idea and your writing shows promise, we will very likely give you encouragement.
Ideally, though, we prefer writers to have finished their entire novel before approaching us.
As regards non-fiction, there are two kinds of non-fiction in which we are interested.
Firstly, we are interested in biographies of famous people, whether dead or alive. Secondly, we are interested in narrative non-fiction, that is, non-fiction that tells a story, whether the story of an idea, such as my own book Spellbound, which tells the story of spelling in general and of English spelling in particular, or my forthcoming book America's Reluctant Heroine: how Frances Kelsey saved the United States from thalidomide. Biographies of famous people and well-written narrative non-fiction are often very saleable to publishers, sometimes on both sides of the Atlantic. A biography of a person who is not famous, however, is usually difficult or impossible to sell unless it is very well-written. Indeed, all non-fiction for publication needs to be very well-written.
We don’t handle academic non-fiction, or specialised non-fiction for a niche market. Those kind of books are often saleable, but most agencies, like us, don’t handle them because the amount of commission from the sale is likely to be very low, and indeed often the publisher will not offer an advance for the book at all. If you have written a very good academic book or other specialised non-fiction book, you would probably do better approaching a publisher direct yourself and not using an agent for the project. Publishers of academic books or of other specialised non-fiction books are usually happy to receive submissions direct from writers.
We don’t handle memoirs or autobiographies unless you are famous, or the memoir or autobiography is so well-written that it would be of interest to readers who have never heard of you.
If after reading the above you think you have a non-fiction idea which might interest us, please follow the following submission guidelines:
Please send us an email detailing your idea, and why you think you’re the right person to write the book. If we like your idea we will ask to see the first twenty pages of your non-fiction book. If we decide to go ahead with representing you, we may help you draft a proposal with all the information that publishers require. In practice, it is not always necessary to draft an entire non-fiction book before submission to publishers; publishers are often happy to make a decision based on a proposal and on the first twenty pages of the book.
And please note…
Like most, if not all, literary agencies, Canterbury Literary Agency cannot pledge to respond to every submission. This is just a question of practicality. We know perfectly well that when a writer submits to us, they are submitting their dream. By definition, and because of fundamental and common-sense time constraints, we can only respond to a certain number of people’s dreams at any one time. If you don’t hear back from us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your work isn’t any good but simply that we don’t think it’s right for us at this particular time. There are plenty of other literary agencies and you should consider approaching them as well.
Please do make sure that you include your phone number on all emails you send us. In practice, the agency tends to get back to people in the first instance by telephone, partly because we’re interested in what writers in whose work we are interested are like as people and we can obviously find out more about this on the phone rather than by email, but also because our experience has taught us that writers prefer to get initial feedback by phone rather than in the more permanent form of emails.
Why your geographical location matters…
From its foundation, Canterbury Literary Agency has often received submissions from the United States. In almost every case, a writer based in the United States, or in any other English-speaking country other than the United is better off finding representation in that country rather than in the United Kingdom. We don’t bar submissions from outside the United Kingdom, but if you are living in an English-speaking country we ask you to let us know why you are submitting to us rather than to an agency in your own country. If the truth or reason for this is that every agent you’ve approached in your own country has rejected your material, we’d rather know this than not know it: knowing this won’t necessarily prevent us from wanting to consider your material.
Experience has taught us that it is practically unheard of for the agency to receive a novel sample, or a complete novel, which doesn’t need further work to bring it up to publication standard. Furthermore, experience has taught me that it is almost impossible to work successfully with a writer, whose book we are interested in representing, unless we can meet the writer.
So, if you live more than 150 miles from the agency, you may need to accept that your comparative geographical remoteness from Canterbury can be a factor in the agency deciding not to take an interest in your work, though you should feel free to submit us your work all the same. Please tell us where you are based when you make your submission.
The reason why meeting writers is something we find so advantageous it’s because it’s simply easier to communicate what needs to be done to a book if one is in a face-to-face meeting than by email, phone, or by Skype. There’s another factor too, which is that because for every committed writer their book is, as I say, something of a dream which they want to come true, they are unlikely in practice, I think, to trust an agent unless they have a chance to meet that agent. This works both ways.