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How to write a successful cover letter for a manuscript submission

This post is in reply to a question posted to the Writers and Authors Facebook Page


"How to write a successful cover letter for manuscript submission to publishing companies" is the million dollar question all writers want the answer to. 

It's important to include a cover letter when contacting either an agent or a publishing company. Lack of one would definitely be viewed badly. Would you launch into a conversation with an editor in person without introducing yourself first? Probably not if you don't want to come across as rude. The same applies to the written approach.

N.B. For digital submissions the cover letter is either written in the body of the email or sent as an attachment (as specified in the guidelines).

Let's take a look at what should be included in the cover letter:

  • Your name and address. This is a business letter and should be presented as such. It's also a good idea to include your email address too.
  • The title of your book
  • The genre of your book/ type of book it is
As a basic rule, keep it simple. The letter should be mostly about your book not yourself. This is especially the case for fiction. For non-fiction you can be a bit more 'me' as your experience and qualifications play an important role.

Always research well and make sure your sending your letter to an agent or publisher that deals with your genre. If not you're just wasting your time and theirs.

Most importantly, follow submission guidelines. If guidelines are supplied there's a reason for it and not following them will most likely result in an instant rejection.

Now let's look at what you shouldn't do:
  • Never address your letter "To whom it may concern". Do your research and know who you are sending it to.
  • Avoid opening with a rhetorical question that might get you an instant "no".
  • Don't fake it. Be honest. There's no point in saying you're best buddies with 'VIP' if you're not. Also don't state that you've been published numerous times without giving details. If you self published say so. Don't try to pretend to be something you're not.
  • Not taking the time to proofread and edit. This is your first step towards the door. Make sure you put your best foot forward.
Do you have any tips for writing winning cover letters? Can you share a sample of a cover letter that resulted in success?

5 comments:

  1. Useful information. It is high time that we must focus on creating a crisp cover letter as first impression is the last impression, and when we talk about jobs, creating a first impression is very important.

    ReplyDelete
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