1. Marge
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    Marge Member

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    cover letter calamity

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Marge, Nov 25, 2011.

    I'm preparing a novel proposal to send to an agency and for the cover, along with the sound bite, they suggest a short description of what's "fresh, new, different" about my book. This is driving me nuts because everything I put down sounds either pompous and arrogant, or very lame. For those who have done novel proposals before, is it better to write something and risk sounding unprofessional, or just leave it out altogether and let the sample chapters speak for themselves?

    Any input is appreciated!

    Marge
     
  2. Prophetsnake
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    Prophetsnake Contributing Member

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    I'm preparing my cover and query letters as well and have the same problem. Your putting the question out there has made me think I should write it as if I were trying to tell a friend what excited me about it. I'll probably wnd up spending the rest of the evening at that and be no better off, bu ti am going to give it a try!
     
  3. Pellshek
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    Pellshek New Member

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    edit
     
  4. Slinkywizard
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    I can give you the insider on something I experience every day. On my magazine, I get emails constantly from people who want to freelance for the mag. Much like an agent/editor in the fiction publishing world, the process I use to screen these is pretty easy to follow. The email they send, along with the example of their work should:

    Be as brief as possible, stating the minimum needed, for us that's:
    i. Where you've been published before.
    ii. What specifically your specialist area is.
    iii. Why specifically you want to write for us (as opposed to similar publications). Editors like to feel we're being pitched to in a totally bespoke fashion, not in a way that's been copied and pasted from the other 20 emails you sent that day.
    iv. Meticulous spelling and grammar. Meticulous. If you want to show me you can write, the email/cover is the best place to start, and in that kind of email/letter, that means clarity and lack of errors.

    What it should not do, is any of the following, all of which will most likely lead to me not even reading the example work you've sent.
    i. Be overly familiar. Just because you saw I went to Nepal on Twitter does not mean you know me well enough to ask me about it.
    ii. Resend or badger me about it via email if you don't get an immediate response. Some even phone and get quite aggressive. Bad, bad, bad.

    Of course, this is all on the assumption that when dealing with books rather than magazines, editors see these in a similar way. Hope that's helpful.
     
  5. Slinkywizard
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    Slinkywizard Member

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    Oops, double post
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't done this before. :) But from what I've read, you can't afford to just let the sample chapters speak for themselves, because if the cover letter isn't engaging enough, they may never read even a word of those sample chapters. Now, that's on the assumption that you're coming in cold - if you already have an established relationship with whoever you're submitting this to, that may be different.

    ChickenFreak
     
  7. Marge
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    Marge Member

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    Folks, thanks so much for all your help!

    Slinkywizard: How wonderful to get an editor's take on this! Very informative and enlightening. Just to be sure I understood correctly, if I ever send anything to your mag, ask about Nepal, right? (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

    ChickenFreak: I'm coming in cold, so I guess that means I roll up my sleeves and work a little harder. I think you're right, and I do want them to get past that cover letter to my chapters.

    Prophetsnake: Good luck with your cover letter as well!

    Thanks again, y'all!
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    1. one does not send a 'proposal' for novels... that's done only for non-fiction books...
    2. there shouldn't be any 'cover' because agents don't usually accept submissions unless they've been queried first and have requested sample chapters or the full ms...

    1. did they use the term 'sound bite'?
    2. if they did, do they give an example of what they mean?... such as, a single sentence that sums up the novel's plot [called a 'logline' in screenwriting]?... or...???

    1. see above re 'proposals'... are you sure this is a legit agency and not one of the many ersatz ones that prey on clueless new writers?
    2. it's never good to sound unprofessional in queries/whatevers, since that will make the reader doubt the quality of the ms...
     
  9. Marge
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    Hi mammamaia,

    Yes, one does indeed send proposals for novels, and the agency I'm sending mine to has very specific guidelines for both fiction and non-fiction books, as well as what they want on their cover letter. They prefer this over queries unless you are from overseas, which I am not.

    They specifically used the words "sound bite", indicating they wanted a 40 word summary of the novel which had to include seven different elements.

    This is a legit agency; I am familiar with novels written by one of the agents, as well as many of their authors.

    And no, I've no wish to sound unprofessional, which is why I posted my question in the first place.
     
  10. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Glad somebody pointed this out, because I've never heard of a proposal for a novel, nor a cover or sound byte. I'm really curious about the nature of this agency.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can believe that there may be somebody, somewhere, who accepts proposals for novels. But it's not normal, not the _least bit normal_. You say that this is a legit agency, but I want to emphasize that this is extremely nonstandard, and suggest that if you left any stone unturned in checking their legitimacy, that you continue investigating.

    ChickenFreak
     
  12. Marge
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    Marge Member

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    It's surprising to me to hear novel proposals so uncommon. I'm going through a Christian agency, and perhaps that makes a difference? I don't know. What I do know is that it's recommended you have a novel proposal prepared before you contact any agent (again, agents representing authors of Christian material--romance in my case).

    Thus far in my search of agencies and listings of reputable agents in the Christian publishing industry, the novel proposal has been the norm.

    That said, I appreciate the concern you folks are showing, one writer to another.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd have to assume those folks don't know what goes on in the real world of literary representation and publishing... or they don't care and want to do things their way regardless...

    i agree that the agency should be very carefully and thoroughly vetted before dealing with it in any way...

    for the record, i checked a list of 'christian agencies' and found that some seeming to be pros, like matt bialer in nyc, ask for queries the 'normal' way for fiction, and proposals for non-fiction, which is also 'normal'... while others, like the steve laube agency in tennessee, seem to lump fiction/non-fiction together and ask for a proposal, not a query...

    the ones in off-the-beaten-path for the publishing industry in places like tennessee [the south seems to be the mecca for christian-aimed ones] are often 'packagers' which means they're not strictly agents... such companies should be avoided, as
    they most often charge fees for their subsidiary services [decidedly not kosher for a supposed literary agency!]...

    here's the list, for anyone who wants to look further into this issue:

    http://michaelhyatt.com/literary-agents-who-represent-christian-authors.html
     
  14. TemporalV01D
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    I think the easiest way would be to explain why your book isn't cliché (but not directly) or, if there are cliché areas, how your story takes a unique view to those often-used concepts.
     
  15. Marge
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    Thanks for the "cliche" tip. I'll definitely keep that in mind! :)
     

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