What are publishers and literary agents looking for?

The world of publishing is very, very competitive and every publisher and literary agent will have their own wish list of ‘books they’d like to see’ but – in a nutshell – we are all looking for one thing: great storytelling. (You can probably add extraordinary writing, interesting characters and an original idea/voice to that list too.) Easy, right?

Here at Hindsight, we are always won over by a couple of other key components as well:

  • Clear commercial appeal: your book needs to be marketable. Publishing is a commercial business, and you need to be able to convince publishers (and literary agencies) that there is a potential (and preferably large) audience for your manuscript. Publishers and agents can tell when you don’t understand the market – in other words, read, read and read some more.
  • Uniqueness: while it might be tempting to write a dystopian YA novel because that’s what sells (right?), don’t try to replicate something else. Chances are that by the time you’ve identified the ‘next big trend’ in publishing, the market has already moved on. Also, publishers are not generally interested in cookie-cutter books – if you are planning on writing within a specific genre or market, make sure your book offers a new twist or fresh perspective.
  • Diversity of voices: we love to read proposals that present genuine diversity or come from under-heard voices.
  • Non-fiction: more non-fiction, please! Particularly if you have a personal understanding, passion or expertise in a specific area.
  • Humour: you’ll always catch our attention with something that makes us laugh.
  • Polish: while we will always overlook the occasional typo or error, the joy of reading a well-polished manuscript or proposal cannot be overstated.