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.

13 Responses to Your Compelling Cover Letter

  1. DAMON J GRAY March 31, 2021 at 5:55 am #

    Thank you, Tamela. You do such a good job of putting a human face on remote communications. There are real people on the other side of the screen!

    One item you highlighted was particularly interesting to me – personalizing the query for a particular agent. The reason this jumped out at me is that some agencies say right on their web landing page that a rejection by one agent is a rejection by the entire agency, so there is no need to query anyone else at that agency.

    I did anyway, in several cases, and it paid dividends.

    I’m wondering then if this would not/does not apply to editors at a publisher. Just because one editor decided to pass, perhaps another one might say, “Hmm, this has possibilities.”

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 31, 2021 at 6:32 am #

      Damon, the answer to that question really depends on the publisher. That’s where a knowledgeable agent can make all the difference.

  2. Jeannie Delahunt March 31, 2021 at 6:19 am #

    Helpful information to consider, thank you.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 31, 2021 at 7:04 am #

    Dear (agent) at (agency name),
    you’ve been chosen by your reputation
    for bringing fortune and some fame
    to writers of bright aspiration,
    specifically in (put genre here),
    in which (book title) fits so well;
    from (comparatives) it will stand clear
    as by reading, you will tell.
    I’ve worked with (name-drop author friends)
    who think me the next (famous writer),
    with style and grace that truly lends
    thought to make lit landscape brighter,
    and other friends to aid my plea
    in the choc’late industry.

  4. Kristen Joy Wilks March 31, 2021 at 8:40 am #

    I love all the helpful details you’ve included, Tamela! It is always a struggle to know what to include in the short cover letter. Thank you so much for all these great ideas!

  5. Loretta Eidson March 31, 2021 at 9:05 am #

    Very informative, Tamela. Thank you.

  6. Lyli March 31, 2021 at 12:06 pm #


    This was incredibly helpful. Thank you! 🙂

    Would you suggest including a description of your potential reader and the felt need or pain point?

    • Tamela Hancock Murray March 31, 2021 at 12:41 pm #

      I would definitely include that in the proposal. If the audience isn’t obvious and dedicating a sentence or two will encourage the agent to pursue, sure, go ahead and include that in the cover letter.

  7. Ash March 31, 2021 at 9:27 pm #

    Thanks Tamela, this was such a helpful post and included a few ideas I hadn’t even thought of before. I liked the part where you mentioned that you work hard on these posts and delight in your reader, because these posts are honestly so inspiring and mean a lot to us too. And it’s also encouraging to hear that you as an agent have a heart for new authors… I hope many agents share that heart

  8. Sydney F. Grey June 19, 2021 at 4:11 pm #

    Thank you for fleshing this out, Tamela. Very helpful and practical.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get New Posts by Email

Get New Posts by Email

Each article is packed with helpful info and encouragement for writers. You can unsubscribe at any time with one click. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!