provided by The Fiction Forum
Your cover letter is the first impression any editor will have of your writing abilities. Therefore, the cover letter should be straightforward and concise. Treat your cover letter as a business letter–after all that is what it is. Below you will find some basic guidelines.
- Limit your letter to one page.
- Capture the editor’s attention right off.
- Give the editor or agent a brief description of the story, article, or book. (Look at the back of a book and read the blurb. This is about the same length and structure you want your description to be.) Make your description appealing so that the editor feels he or she must read the book.
- Provide some personal and or professional background information that relates to your skills or experience. Draw from your publishing history and any background that is special to this story (such as if you were a nurse and you wrote a book which takes place in a hospital).
- Be sure to include the word length and genre of your book.
- Use a proper business form letter as your guide. (Most word processors have letter templates) Single space the letter.
- Be sure to include your contact information such as your name, address, phone number and email address.
- Don’t forget the date.
- When addressing your letter be sure to use the Editor’s name (or agent’s name is querying a book.) Use a Writer’s Market guide or similar resource for contact information. Many book publishers do not accept unagented books so you must check the publication’s guidelines before sending an unsolicited manuscript. However, this cover letter format is appropriate for querying an agent. Check the publication or agent’s web site or call to verify the name of editor or agent before sending your letter. Remember: editors are not permanent fixtures at publications.
- When ending your letter be sure to thank the editor or agent for his or her time and consideration.
- Type your closing, leave a few spaces and then type your name. Within the blank spaces you should sign your name.
Below you will find two generic sample cover letters. Using these as your basic format should get you off on the right foot. However you’ll want to adapt it to fit your style and work.
At the request of a few visitors, we’ve added a third option for those who are applying to submit stories online.
Dear M. [Editor],
I have recently completed a romance novel titled: “My Novel.” I have enclosed the 50,000-word novel for publishing considerations.
“My Novel” is a story of true love … [include blurb here.]
I have published work with such publishers as…[your background here.]
I have enclosed a self-address, stamped envelope along with my manuscript. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
[Sign name here]
Dear M. [Editor],
[Start your letter off with your blurb, draw the editor in right from the start.]
The above passage details the central conflict of my 50,000-word romance novel, “My Novel.” Like the heroine, I have a vast knowledge of the solar system as I was a high school science teacher. My writing has been featured in several magazines… [continue with background.]
I’m excited about “My Novel” and believe it’s appropriate for your Out Of This World Romance line. I have enclosed a copy of a synopsis and my manuscript for publishing consideration. This work is also available by email or on a 3.5 inch disk in Word or ASCII format. An SASE is enclosed for your convenience.
Thank you for your consideration.
[Sign your name here.]
SAMPLE 3 (for online submissions):
PO Box 333 [Physical Address]
New York, AZ 85333
Jean Martin [Sponsor’s name (if known)]
Free Flash Fiction [Publisher (if known) or Website Title]
Physical Address (if known. Look at the bottom of the website home page)
18 April, 2013 [Date of submission]
Dear M. Martin [Editor] (or, if unknown, Dear Free Flash Fiction [Website Title]),
(Provide a brief blurb of your story. If your story is short, your blurb could be as short as a single sentence.) Imagine a homemaker out for a typical day of shopping with his kids when he is accosted by street hooligans, demanding his wallet and diaper bag. Next, imagine that he was a kung fu child prodigy who now teaches conflict resolution techniques to fast food chains.
(Then provide the word count, genre, and responses to other submission requirements. Try to get them all into one or two sentences). This is the premise of my 923 word flash fiction entry in your Satire and Humor category.
(Provide a relevant history to justify your knowledge of the content and your writing ability.) A homemaker myself, I also studied martial arts extensively and hold three black belt degrees. I have also been published on your site before, and have won three competitions on a social writing site. (If your writing history is not extensive, provide less relevant personal history so that the editor can create an image of you in their mind while they read.) I am a retired sniper spotter for the Navy SEALS who has seen my share of conflict. I also have experience with stand up comedy because I am the designated Master of Ceremonies for all of my church gatherings. In addition, I’ve also got four children, who constantly ask for bizarre stories.
(Provide a sentence or two of gratitude for their willingness to consider your work and, if appropriate, provide you with feedback or compensation.) I am excited at the prospect of being published on your site again, and would like to thank you for the opportunity you provided for me to grow as a writer and see my efforts rewarded. I look forward to hearing back from you regarding my submission.
It is important to remember that in your cover letter you should be informative and never chatty. This is a business correspondence, not a letter to your dear old aunt. Good luck!