Literary agents play an important role in the publishing world. They help make writers' work more saleable through critique, champion that work before publishers on writers' behalf and negotiate fair contracts between writers and publishers. Approaching a literary agent with your play manuscript can be a daunting experience, in particular for playwrights new to the industry. However, there are some general strategies that will significantly increase your likelihood of acceptance.
Research the literary agent to whom you plan to submit your play before contacting them. Make sure they represent playwrights, that they are accepting new submissions and that they have a history of representing work with similar thematic or genre conventions to your own. Read their submission guidelines carefully. Find out what other writers the agent represents and, if possible, get testimonials.
Follow the agent's submission guidelines to the detail. Some agents accept unsolicited manuscripts, while others require a query letter prior to submission. Some have very specific guidelines, while others are more relaxed. Whatever the case, deviating from an agent's specified guidelines will often result in automatic rejection.
Write a query letter, if requested. This should include a brief personal introduction, an account of past publishing credits and a synopsis of the work you hope to submit. Regard the query letter as a sales tool -- it should be written to generate interest in your play. Be professional, direct and personable. If the agent likes what she reads in the query letter, she will solicit the full manuscript.
Thoroughly edit your manuscript for spelling, punctuation, grammar and correct formatting. Agents generally expect manuscripts to be formatted in accordance with industry standards. If accepted, your stage drama will end up in the hands of stage producers, directors and actors, all of whom will also expect industry-standard formatting.
Send a clean copy of your manuscript. The majority will expect a hard-copy, but some agents do accept electronic submissions. Generally the manuscript should be sent unbound in a padded envelope or manuscript box. Unbound means that there should be no staples, glue or binder used, leaving the pages loose for ease of reading. If no query letter was required prior to mailing your full manuscript, include a cover letter with the same information unless otherwise specified.