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Cover letters

I've been preparing cover letters for material I am sending out to publishers. It's amazing to note that a "letter" can still be effective in this day and age. And what are the criteria for a well-written letter?

One would be the most impact in the smallest space. "Brevity is the soul of wit." And what this requires is a writing spirit or persona that knows instantly the right word, at the right time.

Remember that when you send out a cover letter to an editor or agent you aren't begging for anything. Treat the cover letter as an opportunity for the person reading it to get to know the accompanying piece of writing.

An editor wants to know something of your background and what the manuscript you have entrusted to her is about. Editors hate to guess.

And the way you present yourself in the cover letter tells the editor a great deal about how you think through and edit what you write.

The publishing world is ruthless in this day and age and every 't' must be crossed and every 'i' dotted.

I can say this as an editor, albeit at a small, modest literary ezine: I look for what eliminates manuscripts first. I try to eliminate as many as possible. Don't give the editor the opportunity to reject your manuscript because of something you overlook.

* * * * *

When a manuscript comes to me in e-mail with a cover letter that says something intelligent about C/Oasis, I take some note. It clues me that the writer has read the publication and wants to contribute and add value to it.

Credits do help if you make the list concise and it is relevant to the publication you are submitting to. Just as you should visualize the potential reader, you should visualize the editor as you prepare the cover letter. Is the editor male or female? Young or old? In the city, suburbs, or rural areas? Don't make the cover letter appear that you want to be friends with the editor. Make the cover letter initiate a mutually beneficial professional relationship between you and the editor.

* * * * *

If you are preparing a book manuscript I recommend the Todd Pierce article and his 11 tips to do it right. Check the "links to use" section below.

"Never published anything? A cover letter is a persuasive document designed to do one thing: entice an editor or agent to read your manuscript. Say whatever you have to, within reason, to accomplish this."

Well, outline what you need to say first and then flesh out the outline with pithy, well-thought out words.

* * * * *

There are differences between the proposal, the cover letter, and the query. In the cover letter answer the questions, "who am I?" and "what do I have to offer you?"

And what would the book editor or agent like to know?

  • Have you won any prizes in writing?
  • Are you an expert?
  • Do you belong to an association or group that gives you insight into the subject?
Remember that the cover letter is not the selling point of the package. The book proposal is going to convince the editor or agent to take up the manuscript and turn it into a book. But the cover letter is going to be a segue into the proposal. For some agents and editors it is a kind of gate keeper. "If she can't write a cover letter, for goodness sake, how in the world can she write anything?"

The cover letter gets the editor moving toward your manuscript and helps establish that plum of qualities, relationship.

Make sure you go to these resources and read the excellent things said about cover letters.

         >>>>>>>>>>links to use<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Todd Pierce's 11 Tips.
The Cover Letter Made Easy by Liana Metal
Cover letter writing blues by Sylvia Van Nooten

Written by David Eide, Sunoasis.com

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