1. KhalieLa
    Offline

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2015
    Messages:
    669
    Likes Received:
    390
    Location:
    United States

    Ah, the cover letter.

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by KhalieLa, Feb 23, 2016.

    Ah, the cover letter.

    You’ve slaved over that manuscript for years, polishing it to perfection. Now you stare at a blank page and start another document. This is the document that determines the fate of all the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into said manuscript, it’s the cover letter. So much rides on just one page, how do you know where to begin?

    I haven’t a clue, so I’ve been busy looking for examples and examples abound! Unfortunately, most of the advice is contradictory.

    Bang2write insists on a 1 page, three paragraph approach. Others prefer four paragraphs and give detail on what goes in each. Iain Broome suggest a longer approach and thinks more than one page is acceptable, especially if pitching a series or trilogy. He also suggest including a few representative titles, so editors can get a better idea of what you are offering and who else is writing and publishing similar works. However, Steve Laube says you should never include similar titles because it comes off as amateur and arrogant. So, who’s a writer to believe?

    I think the best article on cover letters came from Carol Clark, an editor, who went into detail about the process she uses to determine rejections. That said, an article by The Rejectionist (pseudonym for a New York literary agent) on how agents determine who to reject left me cringing in fear. In it, she claims to make 50 rejections in 30 min. For those of you who aren’t good with numbers, that one rejection every 36 seconds!

    That’s right . . . Your manuscript will be rejected based off a 30 second glance at your cover letter, nothing more. Because part of those 36 seconds includes opening the envelope, the agent only reads the first sentence of the cover letter before making that decision. And sometimes she doesn’t even read that much, simply looking at the address instead. “[T]hey emerge most frequently from placid backwaters and sleepy Midwestern towns, that vast expanse of "the middle" so famously spurned by New Yorker's and left-coasters alike.” This has me wondering, why bother writing a letter at all if simply putting your postal code on a piece of paper will suffice?

    Obviously, the best advice is to follow the submission guidelines on the website of wherever you plan to submit. The problem is, a lot of those guidelines are incredibly vague. How can someone new to fiction publishing sort through the contradictory information in order to get the best advice available?

    Bang2write (http://www.bang2write.com/2013/07/5-steps-to-writing-the-perfect-cover-letter-for-your-novel-by-rebecca-perl.html)

    Iain Broome (http://www.iainbroome.com/blog/the-key-to-selling-your-book-is-the-cover-letter)

    Steve Laube (http://www.stevelaube.com/hints-for-a-great-cover-letter/)

    Carol Clark (http://www.caroclarke.com/iamyoureditor.html)

    The Stranger/The Rejectionist (http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/a-good-author-is-hard-to-find/Content?oid=2820559)
     
  2. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,821
    Likes Received:
    2,377
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Is she nuts? I thought some of the best - authors, leaders, artists came from mid-western states. Maybe it's just a recent flow of junk? Either way that sound highly prejudicial. At least, come on, give 'em the 30 second glance. lol.

    Also what's behind the choice to send a cover letter versus a query?
     
  3. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,281
    Likes Received:
    5,150
    Location:
    London, UK
    I didn't come across that much contradiction in my research. I saw a lot of methods, but it was clear that they weren't mandatory - like you can find 50 different ways to outline a novel, but we all know there isn't a single right way.

    Everyone agreed on the basic things:
    - Keep it to around 250 words. The guy you found suggesting more than one page is definitely an outlier.
    - Give title, genre and word count.
    - In your bio paragraph talk about previous publications and, if you don't have any, a sentence or two about you.

    When I did come across contradictions, I used my common sense. For example:

    - Disagreement over whether to put the 'housekeeping' (title, genre, word count) first or last. To me, it makes no sense to read a blurb without knowing the genre to put it all into context, so I put mine first.
    - Offering similar titles. When I read queries that do it, a little voice in my head goes "oh really? You think you can write like Dean Koontz [other authors are available] do you?" It sets them up to fail, for me. So I don't do it. If an agent can't work out from my query what type of book I've written, my query is crap anyway. I'm aware why some like this - because it helps them get an idea of potential audience - but as I said... my query should do that.

    I think the advice given on websites is vague because there aren't many mandatory requirements. They want to get an idea of what the book is about, and be enticed to read more. They want a sense of who's written it (just a sense) and to know whether the genre is something they represent/sell, and the word count is sellable/publishable. If you've achieved that, it doesn't matter what order it's in.

    The postcode thing is ridiculous. Your query can't guard against such idiocy, no matter how good it is. I hope it was tongue-in-cheek.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,922
    Likes Received:
    5,458
    I just read the article. I don't see any evidence that she leaves letters from the "wrong" location unopened.

    Adding more, below replying to KhalieLa:

    From the article: "I am now so ruthlessly efficient that I can blow through an inbox of 50 e-mails in half an hour, "

    (Emphasis mine.)

    Where did she say that? Her statement about where many of the failures come from doesn't mean that she throws out the envelopes unopened
     
  5. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,775
    Likes Received:
    7,287
    Location:
    Scotland
    I've read The Rejectionist's article as well, and I can't say she (or he) has impressed me at all. Reading through query letters is a very important part of an agent's job. We all have parts of our job that we don't much like. The tone of her article was tongue-in-cheek, perhaps written on a 'bad' day, but I found it self-important and arrogant. Minds me of the Red Queen screaming 'off with her head, off with her head' at everybody who crosses her path.

    @ChickenFreak is right, in that The Rejectionist didn't actually say she rejects books from the Midwest—although she does apparently breenge through queries at the rate of 50 every 30 minutes, and does seem dismissive of what she views as a Midwestern mindset. But I think @KhalieLa 's assessment of the Rejectionist's poor attitude was justified. Just a quote from that article here. I would never consider submitting to agents who view their job and their potential clients—who may have worked for months or years on their projects—in such an arrogant manner:

     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
  6. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,281
    Likes Received:
    5,150
    Location:
    London, UK
    "the seeding of the earth by lizard people" I'd so read that book.
     
    peachalulu, jannert and Shadowfax like this.
  7. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,775
    Likes Received:
    7,287
    Location:
    Scotland
    I'd "ruthlessly blow through it in seconds," and "reject it within moments of its arrival," but there you go. Hey. I can be an agent too! :):twisted:

    Apparently what they do is sift through tons of badly-written overblown crap, looking for a tiny seed of genius? I already do that every day. It's called Facebook.
     
    Tenderiser likes this.
  8. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,585
    Likes Received:
    5,068
    I agree that The Rejectionist is pretty negative and arrogant, but I disagree that reading queries is necessarily an important part of an agent's job. My agent's most important jobs involve selling my books, negotiating my contracts, and consulting with me about future projects. Agents have a duty to their current clients, and most successful agents are quite busy just looking after those duties. Reading queries? Agents have no responsibility to read any queries, and there are some who don't, some who are busy enough with their current business that they do not respond to solicitations for more. Saying that it's an important part of their job to read queries would be like saying it's an important part of my job to read all the junk mail I get at work!

    Some agents, when they have time, look for new clients via queries.

    This isn't to say that agents should be snarky or arrogant about things. And obviously lots of agents find new clients through queries. But there's no obligation on either side, not from agents or writers, until the writer actually decides to engage an agent.
     
    jannert likes this.
  9. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,775
    Likes Received:
    7,287
    Location:
    Scotland
    I stand corrected, especially if the agents aren't advertised as actively seeking submissions.
     
    BayView likes this.
  10. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Just for laughs, here's Slush Pile Hell :D
    http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com

    Basically an actual agent who posts anonymous snippets of actual queries he gets, with a sarcastic response from him below.

    It's true that if even a portion of daily queries looked like this, then the rejection per 36 seconds doesn't seem so absurd after all :p
     
    jannert and peachalulu like this.

Share This Page