Book Proposal Basics

Your Compelling Cover Letter

In light of my recent posts discussing what we can and cannot overlook in submissions, I think authors may benefit from quick tips on how to add sparkle to an email cover letter.

What is the subject line? When you look through hundreds of emails in your inbox, you gravitate to those that grab your attention, right? So do we! Consider these possible subject lines:

    1. Book Submission
    2. Query
    3. Romance Novel Submission
    4. Romance Novel Submission: Love’s Burning Light by Bestselling Author
    5. Romantic Suspense Submission from Genesis Winner

We will review all of these emails, but you can see that choices 1 and 2 are especially blah. The more detail you offer in your subject line, the better.

Why us? We realize that writers can choose from many excellent Christian literary agents, including four in our agency alone. We don’t need flattery from authors. We’re interested in why you are querying us in particular though. Revealing this reason not only helps us, but it helps the author. The author needs to know why they are asking us, and not another agent, for representation. For instance, the author who’s written a book of poetry might set out to query me. However, after discovering more about me online and through the blog, the author may decide to query a different agent. Targeting queries to an agent who can offer serious consideration saves everyone time and shows the author’s professionalism.

When applicable, you can mention such factors as:

  • Recommended by a client of the agent’s.
  • Recommended by other authors in general.
  • Recommended by an editor.
  • Conference connection. Please name the conference because some agents are in a conference whirlwind with many authors.
  • Genre. The agent has demonstrated success in the author’s chosen genre.
  • Social media. You have gotten to know the agent through social media.
  • Blog. We work hard on these posts, and we delight in our readers.

Who are you? We already know traditionally published authors or can discover more about authors online. Whether published or not, authors should still highlight one or two most remarkable accomplishments in the letter. We can learn all the details in the author’s attached proposal.

Who are your friends? If you are working with authors we know, that fact helps us understand that you are already connected and have author support. However, I cannot stress enough that a fantastic author who’s new to the industry will garner careful consideration from me. I remember when I was a new writer and no one had any idea who I was, so I have a heart for new authors.

What do you know about the market? Just as an author should be aware of current agents, the author also needs to be versed in today’s market. Of course, the agent’s job is to identify publishers’ book needs and contact the right editors. However, the author who knows the market demonstrates that they will be a good partner for the agent. One good way an author can demonstrate knowledge of the market is to mention publishers they hope will review their proposal. This part of the letter also helps the agent realize some of the author’s expectations.

Your letter is your personal introduction and should reflect who you are as a person and as an author. The goal of the cover letter is to entice the agent to open the proposal. The more the letter engages the agent, the greater the chances are for everyone’s success.

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