Cover Letter Dos and Don’ts for Writers

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You’ve got a manuscript, and it’s glorious. Now, you just have to find an editor that thinks it’s as wonderful as you do. But how do make your work stand out compared to all the other writing in the slush pile?  It’s your cover letter.

Cover letters used to make me nervous, not gonna lie, but here’s some dos and don’ts that helped me get my works out of the slush pile and under contract.

  1. Keep it Brief:

    You need enough, but not too much. Completely useless advice, right? It’s not though. Make sure your letter is not longer than one page. Shorter is better as long as it has an intro, a description of the work, why it’s a good fit for that publisher and your info. That’s it. Cut out all the other fluff.

  2. Be you:

    Cut out the stuffy and let them hear your voice. Yes, you have to be professional, but editors are overwhelmed with words and they probably aren’t going to remember yours unless those words make them feel something. Maybe it’s excitement, or curiosity  about your work (or you just make them smile so they read on because of that). Regardless, remember they connect with your work if they feel something, and they can only feel something when you are you in your writing.

  3. Not published yet? Zip your yap.

    If you’ve been published before, include that. If you haven’t, don’t. Saying you’re unpublished can be worse than not saying anything at all. I know you’re itching to say something, but take a deep breath and trust me.

  4. Know your facts

How much do you love people calling you by the wrong name? You don’t! And neither do editors. They want a cover letter addressed to them and  not one addressed to an editor who worked there ten years ago.  The internet is a wonderful thing. Use it’s powers for good and find the editor’s name.

5. Repeat after me, follow the submission guidelines.

Final piece of advice here, be a rule follower. Break out of the box with your writing, but not how your submit! If they don’t want a cover letter with your manuscript, don’t send it. If they want a query letter first, do that instead. Each publisher has specific submission guidelines. Follow them! So, if they want your manuscript hand delivered by a singing hippopotamus… you should probably rethink that publishing company.

Get your FREE Cover Letter Template Here

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