1. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    The perfect cover letter

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by EileenG, May 15, 2010.

    I've been rewriting and editing like crazy, and my agent thinks I should start trying to get published, and should write a cover letter to go with the MS.

    What is in the perfect cover letter? What is not in it? How long should be it?

    My novel got to the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. How much should I push this? Should I quote the judge's comments?

    How much personal information should I give?

    Is there anything extra I can do to make my letter stand out?
     
  2. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    I wouldn't quote the judge's comment. Keep your letter brief, though I'd mention quickly any writing credits.

    What you want is to entice the editor to read the full book. I bet you've picked up books, read the back cover copy, and then wanted to read the book and bought it, right? That's what you are trying to do with your letter. Sum up what the novel is about (not the entire plot, just what the book is really about) the way you'd expect to see the book presented in a back cover blurb. The back cover won't tell you the whole plot, just enough to give an idea of what the book is about and usually contains a good hook showing why this book is great and something someone who reads these kinds of books would like to read.

    I guess my advice would be to look at books like yours that have already sold and read their back cover copy and see how they are summed up. Then do that for your novel (two paragraphs, maximum, you want to fit the whole letter on one page). Include a brief statement of any relevant information to why you are uniquely qualified to write this book if you can (is it set somewhere you've lived your whole life? does the main char have a job you've held? etc), plus a very quick list of publishing credits if you have any. The whole goal of the letter is to get the editor to read the book.

    Good luck!
     
  3. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you have a literary agent, shouldn't they be doing that? Or even if they want you to play an equal part in the process, they should be able to advise you.
     
  4. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    The agent said to write the letter and she would read it over and help if it needed fixing. But I want to get it right the first time.

    What I want to know is what is the sort of thing that should be included, how much personal information, how much technical stuff about the novel etc. What would the first paragraph be about?

    I'm including a synopsis, so I don't plan to mention more than the concept of the novel in the cover letter, along with the target audience.

    To me, the Amazon judge's comments seem much more useful than various writing prizes.
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps the reason you're having trouble is the fact that you are determined to get it right the first time, then. The thing that a lot of people need to do is give themselves permission to write badly. You already have an agent, so you have a lot less to worry about than most of the people here. If you were able to snag an agent, you probably already have a good idea of what would get a publisher interested.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree with rei... you should be asking these questions of your agent, not of writing site members...
     
  7. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    I always thought that the agent was the one who writes it for you when it is time for them to find you a publisher?
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    your agent doesn't sound totally kosher to me... tonten is right in that it's the agent who writes the cover letter when submitting your ms to publishers...

    sorry i missed that till now...

    have you checked out this 'agent' to make sure s/he knows the ropes?... who is it?
     
  9. Laos
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    Laos Member

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    agents vary. Always make sure you get your bang for the buck, cause' in the end they will be in charge of ensuring publishers treat your book right and get a cut of their choice in the process.

    If you are pulling too much weight, make sure they know you won't be compensating them or find a new agent.
     
  10. Tamsin
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    Tamsin Senior Member

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    I agree with the above posts. The lit agent is the one who approaches the publishing houses on your behalf. That is their job, it seems strange that yours is making you approach them yourself.

    They should come to you with a schedule of which publishers they are planning on approaching and how they intend to do it. If they are a reputable agent, they should have contacts at the major publishing houses already.
     
  11. Northern Phil
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    Northern Phil Active Member

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    Hi,
    I agree with the comments of the others made here, but I think one thing that you're forgetting is that you should be completly happy with your work before you even try to get it published.

    I wouldn't mention the award, I just did a quick search on this award and apparently there are 100 semi finalists, so I wouldn't know how many people got through to the quarter final stage.
     
  12. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    I'm going to mention the award. 10,000 novels were entered in that competition, I beat 9,500 to get to the quarter final. Also, I've got a professional review from it, which I intend to quote. Obviously that won't make a publisher decide to publish, but I reckon it should make sure that the initial reader is less disposed to bin it right away.

    I'm happy with my novel, I've spent a lot of time and effort polishing it. Anything I can think of now are tiny tweaks.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you still should not be writing that cover letter, in any case... it's your agent's job to do that!... what do you think you'll be paying him/her 15% of all you make for, if you're doing the work?

    who is the agent?... doesn't sound legit to me...
     
  14. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, so would I be correct in saying that the "agent" you refered to isn't a literary agent in the same sense that we are refering to, as in the one who promotes your book to different publishers and helps negotiate contracts? Either that, or he's not legit and you should not waste your time with his person. If that be the case, there are plent of people here who can advice you, and there are plenty of websites you can find with sample cover letters you can use as a guideline. But when you do your google search, make sure you're specific about it being for publishing or else you'll get regular employment cover letters.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    take a good look at what an agent is and isn't in the info offered here:

    http://www.invirtuo.cc/prededitors/pubagent.htm

    and if your 'agent' doesn't fit the 'legit' parameters, i strongly suggest you dump him/her immediately or sooner...
     
  16. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    I've been talking to my writing teacher (widely published) and she reckons that my agent, while well-intentioned, is not well enough connected for what I'm doing. She thinks I need an agent with international connections.
     
  17. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't need one with international connections necessarily. You just need one who will do their job, not ask you to do it for him. Once you have an agent, while you can give input on how you want it promoted to the publishers, it's their job to write the letter to the letter.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    true... you need one with good connections to publishers in your primary market [us or uk]... don't need one with global 'ins' at this point, unless your primary market is not in your own country...
     

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