Hints for a Great
A few suggestions for you to consider. Remember to use these as hints…do not follow them slavishly as if our agency is going to spend their time critiquing a cover letter.
Address the letter to a specific person. If sending something to The Steve Laube Agency, simply address the letter to Steve Laube. Everything crosses his desk eventually.
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 our 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 office changed its mailing address in February of 2007…and folks still send material to the old address.
The 4-part Cover letter:
1) Don’t waste their time. Whatever you do, do not say your book is the next Prayer of Jabez, The Purpose Driven Life, Left Behind, The Shack, or will sell better than The Da Vinci Code, Lord of the Rings, 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.
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
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.
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.