Hints for a Great Cover Letter

Here are a few suggestions for you to consider when approaching an agent. Remember to use these as hints…do not follow them slavishly as if a literary agent is going to spend their time critiquing your cover letter.

By the way, we make a distinction between a cover letter and a query letter. A cover letter is what goes on top of a longer proposal and sample chapters. The query letter is a stand-alone letter that goes by itself to the editor/agent without a proposal or sample chapters. We happen to prefer the cover letter along with the rest of the package. Why? Because a query only shows that you can write a letter. A proposal begins the process of showing that you know how to write a book.

Address the letter to a specific person. If sending something to The Steve Laube Agency, simply address the appropriate agent. Every proposal will cross the desk of the designated agent eventually.

Don’t waste your time or ours. Do your homework! If you are submitting to an agent, visit their web site and follow their guidelines!!! We cannot emphasize this enough! Make certain to spell the person’s name right. (We’ve had people spell Steve Laube’s name as “Laub” “Labe” “Lobby” “Looby” etc.)

If you use a market guide book or some online database listing of agents or editors, make sure you have the most current information because addresses do change (go to the web site). Our main office changed its mailing address in February of 2007…and we still discover that material is being sent to the old address. You would be astounded by the number of calls or inquiries we receive from writers who have not done their research.

Whatever you do, do not say your book is the next Purpose Driven Life, Eat Pray Love, Left Behind, or The Shack, or that it will sell better than The Da Vinci CodeTwilightHarry Potter, or The Chronicles of Narnia. That shows an ignorance of the market that is best left alone.

In addition, please do not claim “God gave me this book so you must represent or publish it.” We are firm believers in the inspiration that comes from a faith-filled life, but making it part of your pitch is a big mistake. Read this blog post for a larger discussion on this point.

____________

The 4-part Cover letter:

1) A simple introductory sentence is sufficient. Basically you are saying “Hi. Thank you for the opportunity…”

2) Use a “sound bite” statement. A “sound bite” statement is the essence of your novel or non-fiction book idea in 40 words or less.

The fiction sound bite could include:
a. The heroic character
b. The central issue of the story
c. The heroic goal
d. The worthy adversary
e. Action
f. The ending
g. A grabber
h. Or a twist

The non-fiction sound bite should include the main focus or topic.
One suggestion is to describe the Problem, Solution, and Application.

If someone were to ask about your book you would answer, “My book is about (write in your sound bite.)”

3) Tell why your book is distinctive-who will read it. (Targeted age group….adult, teen, youth) – point out what’s fresh, new, different.

One suggestion would be, for your intended genre, read a number of recent books in the same genre as your own to familiarize yourself with market.

4) Give pertinent manuscript details: a) mention whether or not book is completed (if it is not, then give an estimate as to when it will be finished) b) word length of the complete manuscript, even if it is an estimate (approximate – round off the number) c) pertinent biographical info d) tell the agent if it is a simultaneous submission e) let the agent know they can discard the proposal if rejected.

Click here to review a sample non-fiction cover letter from one of our clients who approached us via an email inquiry.

Keep letter to one page!!

Please don’t use narrow margins or tiny print to fit it all on one sheet. That is silly. We once received a cover letter written with an 8 point font and 1/4 inch margins. It was virtually unreadable.

 

Leave a Comment

Checked Your Copyright Lately?

Have you checked your copyright lately? I mean, have you actually gone to the US Copyright Office web site and searched for your registration? You might be surprised at what you won’t find. Here is the link to start your search.

Most publishing contracts have a clause that requires the publisher to register the copyright, in the name of the author, with the US Copyright Office. This is supposed to be done as part of the in-house paperwork process.

If you do not find your book, don’t panic.

Read More

Book Tour Lesson: Listen to Publisher

Melanie Benjamin, author of Alice I Have Been, reflects on book tours, in an article for the Huffington Post.  Especially the difference between the one she put together herself several years ago and the one she is currently doing with the help of her publisher.

“I’ve also learned to listen to my publisher. When a bookstore contacts me personally about an appearance, I pass the request on to my publicist. Only once did I ignore her advice and do an event anyway.

Only the janitor showed up.”

Read More

Even the Best Get Rejected

[/caption]

I’ve written about rejection before and yet it is a topic that continues to fascinate.

Recently Adrienne Crezo did an article on famous authors and their worst rejection letters. I thought you might enjoy reading a couple highlights of that article and some additional stories I have collected over the years.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected by Alfred Knopf saying it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
Read More

Someone Hacked My Website

And a “Merry Christmas” to me… (sarcasm dripping).

In the last 24 hours someone hacked my web site by utilizing a security hole in my host server. They didn’t need even my password! They were able to piggyback on these blog posts and added 853 scripts to my web site redirecting visitors to malicious sites. These little beasts are also known as Malware.

Read More

Lawsuit over Hyperlink?

In Canada a man is suing another person for linking to allegedly damaging web content on a web site (the suit is currently before the Canadian Supreme Court).  A big “thank you” to Mac Slolcum for writing about this issue last week. In his article Mac asks the pertinent question, “Is a link on your web site equivalent to an endorsement of that content?” Think about it for a second. If you click the “Like” button on Facebook aren’t you telling your “friends” that you endorse that product, idea, video, or web site? What about when you re-tweet someone’s comments and then link to their site (like I hope you do with my blog posts!

Read More

All About E

This was the year of the E word. “E-Books.” The topic replaced the other “e” word…the Economy…as the number one topic among authors, editors, publishers and agents. And the news media reported every nuance with breathless excitement. The iPad, the iPhone4,  the Droid, the avalanche of tablets, the Kindle, the Nook, and a deluge of e-reading devices, all commanded our time and attention.

But the story is not over. In fact 2011 promises to continue this conversation as our industry writhes in chronic pain from its various twists and turns.

Read More

E-Book Buyers Buy More Books

New research by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has made some interesting discoveries.

E-book consumers say they are buying more books overall, but fewer in print, and are decreasing their total dollars spent More than 40% of e-book readers have reduced the number and dollars spent on hardcovers and paperbacks. Retailers are becoming more important than publishers as a source of information about e-books. General fiction and mysteries are the fastest-growing e-book genres. More respondents received e-readers as gifts than bought them for themselves.
Read More