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Hannah Sheppard

Hannah Sheppard, literary agent

How to submit your novel – advice from Hannah Sheppard (and literary events from 3 Sept 2019)

Hope sprouts like a weed in the heart of every aspiring author when Hannah Sheppard from the DHH Literary Agency walks into the room. The Hastings Litfest workshop on How to prepare your novel for submission was held on Friday 30th and Angela J. Phillip reports on what happened.

Hannah welcomed us and put us at our ease. Participants were asked to say briefly what their novel was about and it became clear that there was a wide range of genres with writers at different points in the process. The workshop tackled two main areas – pitches and blurbs and the query letter. Hannah took us through how to make these successful with the aid of useful handouts and practice sessions where we were given feedback.  Here are some of the questions that came up.

  1. Can you submit to more than one agent at once? – Yes, it is assumed that you will be submitting to more than one agent at once. It’s a good idea to submit to about six so that you can use any feedback you receive to improve your pitch for the next agents you query if not successful the first time.
  2. How long should your novel be? – For an adult novel approx 75 – 90,00. For Young Adults about 65- 75,000. If a new author submits something that is too long, a publisher might be wary of the extra costs involved before success has been established.
  3. What’s best – an agent or self-publishing? – Both can be good, but it depends what you want from the process. With self-publishing you have a lot more control – but also more up front costs for help with editing and cover design etc that are difficult for the author to do adequately by themselves and marketing that requires professional services unless the author has special expertise and a great deal of time. While you will need to be involved in promotion going the traditional route, you’ll also have a lot more time to focus on being a writer.
  4. How long roughly will you have to wait after submission? – It varies depending on the agency with details usually available on specific websites. Expect a wait of approximately six weeks. For example, Hannah receives about 5 submissions a day which are normally dealt with after working hours (and she takes on approximately 2 new authors per year).
  5. How to handle two main characters when pitching a story? – It is a good idea to choose one character as the main protagonist.
  6. Which agents should you choose and how to find them? – You need to choose agents who represent the kind of novels you are writing. The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook is a good source of information as well as online information. Once you find an agent, you can research them further by looking for them online. They may have given interviews, written for blogs etc.
  7. What are beta readers and where to get them? – A beta reader is someone you don’t know who will give you valuable feedback on your novel when it is first finished. You can find writing communities on Twitter and some of these will offer exchange beta reader services.
  8. General rules for submission – be informative in your subject heading e.g. don’t call it ‘submission’ but give the title of your book and your name and make sure you pitch the book/ always be polite/ give information about yourself that is relevant to the novel you are submitting/ don’t boast but don’t be negative.
  9. What happens if you get interest in your submission? – Let the other agents (to whom you have submitted) know and make sure you have a chat with any interested agents so that you can make sure you think you’d work well together.
  10. Should you include spoilers in the synopsis? – Yes, the synopsis is there to make sure that the structure is working.

I would like to thank Hannah Sheppard for sharing her expertise and the Hastings Literary Festival 2019 for making it possible. The session was unusual in the amount of help offered to each of us individually and in the clarity of advice that felt both realistic and encouraging. A marvellous workshop!

for further information, please see:
Hannah Sheppard, DHH Literary Agency
Hannah Sheppard Twitter
New books

Amos, Steve and Bronwen Griffiths
Silverhill Press are delighted to announce the publication of two new works of prose, Bronwen Griffiths‘s Listen With Mother, and Steve Amos‘s Two Sides of an Indie Dad. More information and ordering on our website.
You can also buy these from The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards

Booth, Francis
Code 17
  (March 2019) – a thriller, published by Amazon
Code 17.2  (July 2019) – a thriller, published by Amazon

Donohue, Pete
Poetry is Feathers (July, 2019) – a collection of poetryorder locally or from

Robinson, John D.
Singing Arias (July 2019) – a collection of poetry, order locally or from Analog Press.


Bookbuster 39 Queens Rd, Hastings
Thurs 19 September 6 – 9 pm £2 entry Sheer Poetry – an open mic poetry night
Go to Bookbuster’s Facebook page and see what happened at the last Open Mic. There are little clips of poetry readings.

Printed Matter Bookshop 185 Queens Rd, Hastings TN34 1RG
Thurs 12th Sept Book launch of Guy Standing’s Plunder of the Commons : A Manifesto for Sharing Public Wealth. At The Printworks
Weds 18th Sept Book launch of Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialisation with Grace Blakeley at St Mary’s in the Castle.
Mon 30th Sept, 6pm at the shop. Das Kaptial Reading Group.
Jan 2020 – Book launch of Paul Anderson’s ‘Suedeheads’ & film screening of Horace Ove’s ‘Reggae 1970’ at The Electric Palace Cinema, Old Town.

The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards
Come and look at our Facebook page to see what’s happening.

The Literary Shed Writing Circle run by A. Vasudevan
Two-hour weekly writing sessions in safe, creative spaces in Hastings and St Leonards
Tues 3 Sept, 10–12 am (free) at Sea Kale, 29 London Rd, Saint Leonards-on-sea TN37 6AJ
On the second Thursday of each month, there is a writing critique group in which members share work.
For further information, please email:, subject: WRITE-INS.

Writing Courses from CWP with New Writing South
2 year Creative Writing Course
Advanced Writing Course
Autobiography and Life Writing Course
for details on all courses, please see  Creative Writing Programme in collaboration with New Writing South

See review Word of Mouth – marvellous creative writing courses from CWP and New Writing South

Taster Sessions on Sat 7 September at Sussex Coast College (next to the station)
Autobiography and Life Writing Programme (2-year) 10.30 am – 12.45 £10

Well, folks, that’s it for this week. I hope you’ve all had an amazing week and a wonderful weekend at the Hastings Literary Festival.

For an update on my writing, please see – Never Alone.

Thanks for reading and happy writing.

Angela J. Phillip

Image of Hannah Sheppard  supplied by Hastings Litfest









from the DHH Literary agency brings practical advice on how to submit your novel

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Posted 09:00 Tuesday, Sep 3, 2019 In: Hastings Bookchat

Also in: Hastings Bookchat

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