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Cover Letter Book Review Submissions

Here are a few suggestions for you to consider when approaching an agent. Remember to use these as hints…do not follow them slavishly as if a literary agent is going to spend their time critiquing your cover letter.

By the way, we make a distinction between a cover letter and a query letter. A cover letter is what goes on top of a longer proposal and sample chapters. The query letter is a stand-alone letter that goes by itself to the editor/agent without a proposal or sample chapters. We happen to prefer the cover letter along with the rest of the package. Why? Because a query only shows that you can write a letter. A proposal begins the process of showing that you know how to write a book.

Address the letter to a specific person. If sending something to The Steve Laube Agency, simply address the appropriate agent. Every proposal will cross the desk of the designated agent eventually.

Don’t waste your time or ours. 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 Steve Laube’s 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 main office changed its mailing address in February of 2007…and we still discover that material is being sent to the old address. You would be astounded by the number of calls or inquiries we receive from writers who have not done their research.

Whatever you do, do not say your book is the next Purpose Driven Life, Eat Pray Love, Left Behind, or The Shack, or that it will sell better than The Da Vinci CodeTwilightHarry Potter, 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. Read this blog post for a larger discussion on this point.

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The 4-part Cover letter:

1) A simple introductory sentence is sufficient. Basically you are saying “Hi. Thank you for the opportunity…”

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
e. Action
f. The ending
g. A grabber
h. Or a twist

Thenon-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.

Click here to review a sample non-fiction cover letter from one of our clients who approached us via an email inquiry.

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.

 

After more than 12 years of writing, I finally felt confident enough to start submitting my poetry around for publication in January of 2006. Since then, I’ve had around 20 poems published in print and online journals–quickly growing more as both a writer and a submitter of poems.

Writing the poems is the natural part of submitting. I love writing poems, and I’ve been teaching myself to be harder and harder on what is ready for submission and what is not. But the less natural, though technically easier, part is preparing the submission.

First off, you should always follow the submission guidelines of the journal or magazine to the T. If a publication states they only accept submissions by traditional mail, then only submit by traditional mail. If an editor says no attachments on email submissions, then don’t think you will be the one exception that doesn’t get deleted without being read.

Secondly, there is the cover letter. It used to intimidate me to no end. I felt I needed to crazy creative, impressive, and fun to be around–all in one brieft letter that accompanied my poems. Actually, all the cover letter really does is prep the editor for the submission. Cover letters do not get poems accepted, but they can get them rejected by knocking an editor off balance before reading them.

So I thought I’d share samples of my cover letters for the poets who don’t have much experience with them. Feel free to take what I’ve written and personalize it with your own information. Over time, as with writing poems, you will find that you develop your own style and voice with these simple little letters.

Traditional Mail Cover Letter Sample

Dear Poetry Editor.

Please consider the enclosed poems–“Watching the Ice Melt,” “My Father,” and “Relevant”–for possible inclusion in a future edition of Dayton Quarterly. After reading several sample poems online and the most recent print edition (especially work by emerging poet J. Alfred Prufrock), I feel like my work may be a fit with your publication. 

I’m the editor of Writer’s Market and co-founder/sole contributor to the Poetic Asides blog at http://www.writersdigest.com/poeticasides. My poems have been published in several print and online publications, including MEAT, Words Dance, Otoliths, and MiPOesias (Cafe Cafe Edition).

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Robert Lee Brewer

Email Cover Letter Without Attachments

Dear Poetry Editor.

Please consider the following poems (included within the the email message as requested in your guidelines)–“Watching the Ice Melt,” “My Father,” and “Relevant”–for possible inclusion in a future edition of Dayton Quarterly. After reading and enjoying several poems online (especially work by emerging poet J. Alfred Prufrock), I feel like my work may be a fit with your publication. 

I’m the editor of Writer’s Market and co-founder/sole contributor to the Poetic Asides blog at http://www.writersdigest.com/poeticasides. My poems have been published in several print and online publications, including MEAT, Words Dance, Otoliths, and MiPOesias (Cafe Cafe Edition).

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Robert Lee Brewer

Email Cover Letter With Attachment

Dear Poetry Editor.

Please consider the attached poems–“Watching the Ice Melt,” “My Father,” and “Relevant”–for possible inclusion in a future edition of Dayton Quarterly. After reading and enjoying several poems online (especially work by emerging poet J. Alfred Prufrock), I feel like my work may be a fit with your publication. 

I’m the editor of Writer’s Market and co-founder/sole contributor to the Poetic Asides blog at http://www.writersdigest.com/poeticasides. My poems have been published in several print and online publications, including MEAT, Words Dance, Otoliths, and MiPOesias (Cafe Cafe Edition).

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Robert Lee Brewer

*****

As you can see the basic language does not need to change drastically from one cover letter to the next. However, you do want to make sure you actually study each publication before submitting. It takes hard work, but just blasting out submissions without no thought is a waste of time, paper and postage (or digital space if you’re submitting online).

More publications are beginning to accept submissions only through online submission forms. The same rules of cover letter writing apply with these as well. And don’t worry about your bio paragraph: Just keep it honest and not overly long. For instance, I could’ve just as easily used this as my bio paragraph when I was in college:

I’m a full-time student and part-time ice cream scooper with a passion for reading poetry. Currently, my favorite poets are Bob Hicok, J.D. McClatchy, and Louise Gluck, though I’m also fond of Dr. Seuss.

Bios matter most to the poets who write them. Editors care about the poems. So just remember that when writing your cover letters, and you’ll be A-OK.

 

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