Q&A: Writing and Publishing

Over the past two weeks you’ve been sending in questions about writing and the publishing industry. Now you can see them answered by our Head Copyeditor and founder, Eleanor Hemsley. Keep reading to find out how to appeal to agents and style your manuscript.


How do I choose an agent?

Choosing an agent you’re happy with is relatively easy. Think of a writer that your writing is similar to. Got one? Now see who their agent is and apply to them. If you don’t yet know what writing your work is similar to, have a read around writers within your genre. Chances are one of them will have some similarities with yours. Agents probably won’t think you’ve copied this writer; it’s inevitable that your writing will be like someone else’s. By doing this you’re just choosing an agent that you know will like your style, and showing them that you’ve done your research.

Which bit of my submission is most important to an agent?

It’s really hard to say. Some agents focus on the synopsis, others focus on the first page of your manuscript. The best thing to do would be to attend a talk that your agent is at. If this isn’t possible, follow them on social media. You’ll find that a lot of them give small tips for writers. It also doesn’t hurt to call the agent or the company they work for to ask for advice. This doesn’t show weakness, but more shows a determination to get your submission right.

How can I make my writing good enough to get published?

Just try your best. Write every single day, and be a harsh critic for your own writing. Join writing groups in your area and give in a chapter every now and then to see what they think. As a writer you’ve got to be able to take criticism on board and respond to it well. Get friends and family to read your manuscript and ask them to be honest and brutal. And, if you’re still unsure, send it to a copyeditor or proofreader. It’s their job to make sure your manuscript is good enough to be published, so trust them.

What’s the most important think to get right in my story?

Character! There’s no story without a good character to experience it with. If you’re finding it hard to build a character, try spending time writing about their life, from the very beginning up until the start of your story. Here are a few questions to help you build your character.

Do I need to attend a writing course to become a writer?

Definitely not! Obviously attending writing courses can teach you skills that you possibly may not otherwise learn, but this doesn’t mean not attending one will stop you from being published. If you want to be a writer, just write every day and you’ll soon be good enough. Read online magazines and articles about writing, commit yourself to it and you’ll be just fine.

How should I lay out my manuscript for submissions?

Double spacing, not single spacing. No matter who your agent is, they will want this. Start every chapter on a new page, and write the chapter heading in such a way that they’re obviously new chapters (either in bold or underlined, but not a different size). Make sure page numbers are at the bottom of every page. Keep the font at either 10pt, 11pt or 12pt, and simple. Times New Roman is a good, solid submission font. You don’t want fancy embellishments here because agents just want to get to know the content, not your artistic prowess. And when it gets sent to be published they’ll get rid of all of these things anyway.


Thanks so much for sending your questions to us, and we hope we’ve managed to answer them I a way that you find helpful. You just need to remember that writing is something that needs passion to drive it, so work hard, enjoy yourself and eventually you’ll achieve your writing dreams.

Happy writing!


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