Friday, 31 October 2008

Writing a killer cover letter

Writing a cover letter is a bit of a black art. There is no one right way to do it, but there are many wrong ways.

A writer can go a long way by making sure that they don't make any basic mistakes – typos and bad grammar – but beyond that they are very much on their own.

The aim of a cover letter is to do two things.
  1. To give the publisher a snapshot of your work and you as a writer.
  2. To give them a taste of your style.
However, ultimately, the cover letter's goal is to get the publisher/agent to pick up your synopsis and read your manuscript.

Here's a few pointers:

Name: Make sure you have addressed the cover letter to the correct member of the publishing/agenting team. Also include your name, address and contact details.

First Paragraph: Five or six sentences outlining your book and the story. This should include your elevator pitch – a couple of lines that sell the book.

This is the pitch for the recent 3Para:
50 degree heat. Few provisions and no water. Bullets whistling past, shot from the guns of an enemy you can't even see. Can you imagine it? Probably not.
Second Paragraph: Five or six sentences about your market. Include examples of similar titles and your proposed readership. I would also include a little bit about what sets the book aside - its unique selling point.

Third Paragraph: Three or four sentences about your future as a writer. Tell them about any plans you have for other books and if you have had anything previously published. Place emphasis on the fact that you are committed to writing and have other ideas/works. Also three or four sentences about you, including any information you feel will be of interest to them when marketing your book.