In researching the writing of cover letters and advertising promotional letters, I came across this helpful information. Thank you to my Guest Bloggers – “The Queensland Writers Centre”.
A cover letter is the brief letter that accompanies your submission to an agent or publisher, otherwise known as a query letter. The purpose of the cover letter is to present your manuscript to the publisher or agent. While in this letter will also introduce yourself, the primary focus should remain on the manuscript and on your writing.
Read the submission guidelinesIf you are preparing a submission for an agent or publisher, the first place to start is with their submission guidelines. In most cases, each will ask for a specific set of materials to be delivered in a certain way. This information can be easily located on their website.
- If a cover letter is requested, the below information forms some general tips on how to craft one.
- How to format it
The cover letter is just one part of your submission package, so it doesn’t have to say everything.
This letter should fit on one A4 page (two at the most) and be made up of a few brief paragraphs.
- Even if you are submitting your pitch by email, unless otherwise requested, format your letter in the standard way (use a block template if needed) and send it as an attachment.
- Address your cover letter correctly, using the name and title of the person to whom the submission is to be sent. Taking the time to find out this information and include it is as simple as searching the publisher or agent’s website, or consulting The Australian Writer’s Marketplace, and will be appreciated.
What to write
Begin by introducing your manuscript, including the title.
This paragraph should summarise the plot in two or three sentences. The best way to do this is to focus on the key elements of your story.
- Who is the main character,
- what they are trying to achieve,
- and what is getting in the way of their goal.
Any further plot details, twists and other characters can be revealed in the synopsis.
- If you have written a hook or tagline for your project, you may like to include it here.
- The next sentences will give context to your novel: specify the genre, the length of the manuscript and the target audience.
Now that you have introduced your manuscript, you can add a note about yourself.
Keep this brief.
- In a short paragraph include any writing credits or courses you may have done.
- If you have a particular area of expertise or experience in the subject you’re writing about, you should mention it here. “As I was the captain of a pirate ship for fifteen years, I am eminently qualified to write a novel about a pirate captain”.
- In the last paragraph, return the focus to the manuscript.
- You may like to mention what inspired you to write the book, and note any authors whose work is similar to yours.
- As a courtesy, if you’re submitting to other agents/publishers, mention that as well.
Sign off professionally, inviting the publisher or agent to get in touch.
Below is a sample cover letter
Please find enclosed a synopsis and three chapters of my [insert genre if relevant] novel, Imperfections, which is approximately 80 000 words in length.
Imperfections is the story of Louisa, an orphan from Outback Australia at the turn of the century, from her humble beginnings to her rise to become one of the richest and most powerful madams in Sydney. [Ideally this should be a pitch more than a description. You can take up to two paragraphs for this.]
The target audience for this novel is most likely to be women in the age range of 30 and up who enjoy the work of authors such as Kate Grenville and Thomas Kenneally [or relevant writer].
I am a Brisbane-based writer of literary fiction [or whichever genre you write in]. My previous publishing credits include short stories in Island Magazine, Meanjin and Overland Journal – a full list of my publications is attached. I am a graduate of the Queensland University of Technology Masters in Creative Writing Program.
I undertook the writing of this book after discovering some family secrets in old letters my grandmother had hidden away in her glory chest. The character of Louisa is based on my grandmother’s mother – while she was not actually a brothel madam, there are certainly some dubious gaps in her history and I found myself thinking ‘What if?’ [only include such a paragraph if there’s a real story there –or fold this into the description/pitch, above – this kind of information isn’t as important as the pitch]
Please be advised that I am sending this submission to other agents/publishers. I do not require the manuscript to be returned [increasingly this won’t apply as agents/publishers accept electronic submissions].
Many thanks for considering my work, and I look forward to hearing from you in this regard.
Where to send it
The Australian Writer’s Marketplace (AWM) is Australia and New Zealand’s only guide to the writing industry. AWM is a comprehensive resource providing submission guidelines and contact information for the publishing industry, details of support organisations and information services, a range of writing courses and workshops, literary events and competitions, and services for each stage of the writing, editing and publication process. http://www.awmonline.com.au
Still have questions? Contact Queensland Writers Centre on +61 (07) 3842 9922
or email email@example.com
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