Submitting Your Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novel To An Agent

12th July 2023
4 min read
17th July 2023

Literary agent Molly Jamieson talks about submitting your sci-fi/fantasy novel and the importance of consistency in magical systems.

Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2024

One thing I do look for in both adult and children’s SFF is thorough world-building, and magic systems that have consistent rules. That’s not to say I want to be overloaded with information about these things – far from it – but I want to feel that you, the author, have a really grounded understanding of the world or ‘magics’ you have created. Essentially, as a reader, I want to feel safe in your hands. The best way to show me how your world works is to let me watch a character live in it, let me walk its streets and interact with its society. This can be a character who has lived in this world all their life, or a fish out of water emerging into a new world for the first time, but the thing that matters most is that I get to experience the world alongside that character. I won’t remember lists of names, or extensive histories, but I’ll remember the particular scents of a bustling market or an old dusty library. I may not remember every new magical term or name that you tell me, but I’ll have a better chance of understanding it if I see how it is used by your protagonist (or against them).

When it comes to magic systems in books for children, you can arguably get away with a little more whimsy and looseness than in adult books. But any inconsistencies or breaks with the rules of magic should not just be incidental; they need to be used for maximum impact. Again, as a reader, I must believe that you know how it works – I don’t need to understand how all of the cogs fit together, as long as I feel sure that they do. Similarly, with sci-fi (a famously impenetrable genre for the uninitiated) I’m always keen on seeing authors find ways to make it feel more approachable, especially for younger readers. You can do this by keeping technical jargon to a minimum and establishing clear stakes for the characters, key pieces of tech, and some strong grounding principles to help ease the reader into the unknown.

Molly joined United Agents in 2017 as an assistant. She is now an Associate Agent and continues to work closely with Jodie Hodges and Emily Talbot on their lists of children’s authors and illustrators as well as building her own list.

She has a particular interest in sci-fi and fantasy across both adult and children’s books. For a sense of her taste, she has recently read and enjoyed Sistersong by Lucy Holland, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, and Once Upon A Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber. She loves anything with high stakes, characters you would follow anywhere, big stories, expansive world-building, breathless romance, and threads of adventure running throughout.

She is also looking for commercial romantic fiction in all shapes and forms. She has a real soft spot for classic tropes, a great sense of humour, and anything with a clear pitch that makes you sit up and take notice, but in the end it all comes down to chemistry. In this area, she has recently read and loved The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, Book Lovers by Emily Henry, The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, and The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood. Follow Molly on Twitter.

Writing stage