The Cover Letter
The first piece of paper the agent or editor will see when you submit is the cover letter. This sets the tone for the entire proposal. You would think people spent time crafting their cover letter, but most of the time it gets a standard format that is less than personal to that agency. I’ve even heard horror stories from agents that they received a cover for a different agent. The author used the same cover letter for all of his or her proposals and didn’t even bother to check and make sure they had changed the addressee. As you can probably guess they did not receive a contract from said agent.
I’m not saying you have to recreate the wheel every time you write a cover letter, but at least make it personal to that agent or editor. If you met agent A at dinner during conference, but you had an appointment with agent B, make sure you add this little personal identification to your letter.
Of course you want to follow the format of a cover letter. Date, the name, title, and address of the person you’re sending your proposal to, and then the actual letter.
1st Paragraph: Where you met the agent/editor or a simple little introductory sentence will suffice.
2nd Paragraph: Your one line pitch for your book. Steve Laube calls this the sound bite. He goes into more detail of what to include. My suggestion is to hook the agent into wanting to read more of your story, and you already have that in your one sentence summary you used when pitching your manuscript.
3rd Paragraph: This is where you give information about your manuscript. Who is it targeted to? What makes your manuscript unique to other stories out there?
4th Paragraph: Is your manuscript completed? How many words? Are you submitting a proposal to another agency? It’s also suggested that you let the agent know that if your proposal is rejected, they can discard it.
I know it doesn’t seem difficult, but choose your words carefully. It’s important to keep your letter tightly written.
I’ll include a portion of my cover letter as example, but I also encourage you to check out Steve Laube’s blog post on writing a great cover letter: https://stevelaube.com/hints-for-a-great-cover-letter/
Dear (Agent or Editor):
I enjoyed meeting you at (Where we met) earlier this year. Thank you for the opportunity to submit my fiction proposal for (Manuscript name and genre).
Six years after the military presented Izzy Davis with a folded flag and their condolences, she remarried and started a new career, but five little words change everything: “Sergeant Alex Davis is alive.”
My manuscript is targeted to women ages 30-60 with an interest in small town contemporary romances with a twist. Most romances have widows moving on to a new love, but my story explores the ramifications of moving on when Izzy’s first husband is discovered alive.
This is a completed manuscript at approximately 62,000 words. I am also submitting it to Jonathan Clements at Wheelhouse Literary Group. If rejected, you can discard my proposal.
Thank you for your time,