Rock Your Cover Letter

The cover letter is the first thing a publisher sees. It’s a place for you to tout your work, brag about yourself, and professionally request a review of your novel, to see if they would be interested in offering a contract.

As with all aspects of writing, there are rules for a cover letter. A professional cover letter will impress the individual reading submissions. A rambling cover letter will turn them off before they have the chance to look over your novel.

The first rule of a cover letter is that it must be a single page. Verbosity isn’t rewarded when writing this document. Your letter should consist of three concise paragraphs.

The first is basically an introduction of yourself. Not your bio, but that you are submitting your work, always include the title. A one or two sentence synopsis of your book is always a good addition to this area, to let the individual reading the submission know what the book is about. You might even include the genre(s) your book falls into.

In the next paragraph, you might list works similar to the one you’re submitting. Mentioning novels, short stories, anthologies, and collections you’ve had published is also good.

The final paragraph is pretty cut and dried. Thank the publisher for considering your work. Tell them that you are looking forward to hearing from them, at their convenience, and let them know that you’ve attached the documents their submission guidelines require to the submissions system.

Your final act on a cover letter is to “sign” it. In this electronic age, that usually means inserting your name and email address.

By following these simple rules, you will show you are a professional wanting to put your best foot forward. You will also show the publisher you respect that they are very busy and won’t have to waste their time perusing an extremely long letter that will repeat what is in your synopsis and/or submission.

Some things you should never include in a cover letter are long descriptions of your characters. This is something best left to the synopsis or the actual novel. Never waffle about the title of your book or expect a publisher to change it for you. A book’s title is best done by the author, but you may be asked to come up with a new one if the publisher has recently released a book by the same title or one very similar.

Also, make sure your letter is professional, not a greeting to an old friend. Publishing is a business, and all letters to a business should be done in a manner of one professional speaking to another. Leave the emoticons, cute greetings, and anything else you might use when contacting your friends out of this.

One last thing to remember—as with all elements of writing, ensure your cover letter has been spell and grammar checked. This is your first impression, probably your only chance, to impress a publisher. Nothing says you’re not serious than that all important cover letter being full of spelling and grammatical errors.


Gaby Patt said…
Thanks for the info.
Ron Hepner said…
K.C. Your cover letter remarks are right on. A writer who wishes to show a publisher/editor he's serious about submitting his/her work should read your statement and re-read it. Boy, did I learn the road 'ain't' smooth when you're submitting. Believe me.