Manuscript Assessment

A sample of our Submission Review – practical advice on whether your novel is ready to snare an agent

Please note: This is a sample report, designed to give you an idea of the structure and content of our reports. Every novel is different, though, and our readers will always try to tailor their report to best serve your particular needs. If there's something you'd like your reader to pay especial attention to, just let us know when you submit your manuscript.



The reader will outline the key points their report will cover

All Of Us, Singing is an appealing prospect for the right agent – it has a strong, literary voice and a beautiful historic setting. However, the submission package needs a little finessing to ensure it grabs the attention it deserves – the synopsis in particular could work much harder with some key revisions. The novel has several fairly complicated narrative threads and while it’s clear from the pages that they fit together well, it’s important to get the balance of those in the synopsis to ensure it’s not overly confusing. The tone of the letter is also perhaps not quite right, and doesn’t sell your novel as effectively as it could.


Letter and Synopsis Review

The reader will look at the strengths and weaknesses of your covering letter and synopsis: have you included enough details to whet an agent’s interest? Or have you perhaps given away too much unnecessary detail?

You get straight to the point with the letter – ‘The first 10,000 words of my novel, ‘All Of Us, Singing’ is attached’ – there’s certainly merit to this direct approach, but I wonder if it’s a bit abrupt. Whilst this is a business letter, it’s okay to allow some personality to shine through, and you do settle into a slightly more chatty style towards the end of the letter – it would be good to see that friendly but professional tone throughout.

The ordering of the letter is not quite right – you introduce the novel you’re submitting, and then you talk about others you’re writing, before returning to All Of Us, Singing. This is a bit of a scattergun approach which may put an agent off. Focus solely on this book for now, particularly as the other books you mention aren’t part of a series – a little further down the road, your agent will be delighted to hear you have plenty of other ideas up your sleeve, but for now, you really want to hook them with this one. So I’d suggest removing that second paragraph altogether, and using the space for a little more detail about All Of Us, Singing instead – you mention Nancy and Jerry’s relationship, but I think you should also take the time to discuss Marie’s experiences as an evacuee, which play such a crucial – and beautiful – part in the plot. Her narrative gives the story such depth, and I think it’s a shame not to mention it up front here.

A couple of stylistic notes: novel titles should either be italicised or in all caps rather than in inverted commas. Similarly, some of the historical terms you’re using – Spitfire, Nazi, home front – don’t need inverted commas either. Your last paragraph is good – it’s great to hear about your research and your personal connection to the story, and it really comes across here how passionate you are about this novel. But it would also be a good opportunity to tailor your letter to each agent, with just a short line or two about why you’re submitting to them – do they represent authors you think are similar? Have they expressed an interest in historical fiction on Twitter? This will assure the agent that you have also done your research at this stage of the process, too.

Your synopsis has the opposite problem to your letter, in that you’re trying to tell too much of the story, and as a result, underselling what seems to be a beautifully constructed family history. I’d suggest you try condensing the story right down into a single sentence – what, to you, is the essence of the novel? Is it about the effect of war on one family? Is it about Marie’s time as an evacuee, and the effect that has on her in adulthood? Or is it the story of Nancy and Jerry’s marriage? Once you have that, try expanding that sentence into a paragraph and then another, gradually bringing in the other threads without switching the focus entirely from one to the other. Tell us what happens in the novel, but don’t worry too much about the small events – I’m not sure that the milk thief in the village plays a crucial enough part in the story to take up a whole paragraph of the synopsis; it’s okay to leave some elements of the story to be discovered by the reader once they’re immersed.

I would also recommend removing the final paragraph – ‘All Of Us, Singing is a heartbreaking, beautiful novel about love, families, war and childhood...’. This is a bit sales-y – your synopsis should simply let the story speak for itself. You can let the agent realise for themselves how heartbreaking and beautiful it is!


Pages Review

A short analysis of your first fifty pages – are they giving the best possible impression to an interested agent?

Overall, I think these pages are wonderful. I really enjoyed the framing device of Marie's opening address to the reader – she has a lovely voice that really charms and sets the scene. And then the main body of the text is incredibly evocative – of time, place and character, which is no mean feat. My one concern would be that the first chapter tries to cover too much ground – even just saying you're going to cover five years in the chapter heading could make a reader feel rushed along, and I did feel a little confused about when each of those little early set-pieces were happening, which is a shame because the rest of the chapter really has that lovely languid feeling of the endless days of childhood.

You’ll need to have another comb through for typos, though – there are a couple of misused words (‘hear’ for ‘here’ on p5, for example) which a spellchecker won’t pick up on, and some misattributed dialogue – on p9 we’re told Brian is speaking when in fact it’s only Jerry and Watson in the room (perhaps some characters have changed names over the drafts!).

Another thing to watch out for is the narrative voice – at times this swoops wonderfully close to the characters, and has that charming, wry sense of insight of an Austen or an Alice Munro novel (eg ‘God, how she hated those shoes. He insisted on wearing them; often she thought it was to spite her, or to at least remind her that he was the only thing in the rotten old farmhouse that could not be polished, primped or hidden away’). But this feels a little uneven as is – the first couple of chapters do it perfectly, but then we become more distant, with less intrusion from the narrator, which perhaps removes some of our emotional connection to Marie (who, of course, it’s essential we feel close to). Towards the end of the extract, we go back into a closer narration, with Jerry’s experiences at the factory. I think it’s worth going back over the middle chapters and adding a bit more of that spark, to really keep us engaged with the family and the story as it unfolds.

I think the extract ends on the perfect note – that conversation between Nancy and Mrs Forbes reallys ups the tension – I certainly wanted to know what was going to happen next.



Your reader will finish with final suggestions for your next draft

You’re nearly there with this submission – with a more focused redraft of your letter and synopsis, and just some final tidying up on your extract, you can feel confident that this is in good shape to start sending out. Good luck!