How to write a cover letter

Remember the misadventures? This is one of them. In the early days, I happened to be under the impression that a novel had to be picked up by a literary agency and, as luck would have it, I managed to sign with one. Here are some helpful points regarding cover letters.

When it came to querying literary agencies, I was surprised to discover how varied their submission guidelines were. In general, most agents require a cover letter, synopsis and sample pages of the manuscript.

Preparatory work is required in producing the draft cover letter.

1. The first step was to clarify the book’s genre. Krish is a modern love story with a dark, thriller-like edge, so I had to find agents who represented commercial women’s fiction, romance, and cross-genre novels. Based on that search criteria, I drew up a list of agencies to query.

2. The cover letter is the interface between the writer and the agent. A positive first impression will encourage the agent to peruse the sample chapters, therefore it has to look and sound professional, and clearly show you’ve done your research. Make it short and to the point, allowing the synopsis and sample chapters to do the talking.

3. In the opening line explain why you have chosen to submit to that particular agent and, why the novel might appeal to them. Then provide a ‘hook’ or ‘elevator speech’ for the book. This is a very brief synopsis. As a rule of thumb, it should be no more than a couple of lines. The purpose of the hook is to entice the agent to read the submission. Too much description is unnecessary in the cover letter if you are submitting a full synopsis as well.

4. Next, in a sentence or two, provide the background and setting of the novel, and explain why you wrote it. Here it is useful to include your inspiration for the story and personal experience of the subject matter.

5. Mention your educational background, particularly courses/qualifications relevant to writing. Any previous publications would also be beneficial in building credibility.

6. Clarify whether the manuscript is complete, giving the total number of words. Do also mention whether the book is a one-off or part of a series.

7. It is helpful to outline the target audience of the book. One can also mention similar books in the market to indicate potential readership.

8. I was asked by a couple of agents where I saw Krish sitting on the shelves in the book stores. Worth covering this point in the letter when dealing with cross genres.

9. And finally, don’t forget to provide your contact details.

Once the draft cover letter is done, it can be tailored according to the submission guidelines for each target agency.



4 thoughts on “How to write a cover letter

  1. This is a bit difficult, sometimes they just want the query letter and a few sample pages, and then I’m thinking I probably should include more of the synopsis in the query letter…(or actually was thinking it after I sent it… 😉)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: How to write a synopsis – Taking To The Ball Pen…

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