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Mother Hen's Bin March 2009


Scary Words: Cover Letter

By Lea Schizas


Why is it that cover letter brings ‘the bag over the head’ hyperventilation on a writer? As writers, we manage to finish a manuscript yet panic, hands epileptically shake, and our muse disappears once the pen is poised to write the cover letter.


A cover letter is a one page, short letter to the editor/publisher. Oh, wait, now I get it. Everything rides on that small introduction to the editor. Well, okay, now it makes sense. You need to summarize a whole novel in one paragraph, tell the editor a bit about yourself in another short paragraph.


If you have read enough articles, books, and studied novel or even short story beginnings, you should know that a beginning is the most crucial aspect of a book. Well, think of the cover letter in the same way. Entice, grab, intrique the editor in your cover letter in as few words possible and he’ll request to either read the first three chapters or the whole manuscript – you lucky duck!


Remember the editor is your reader. He has no clue what your book is about. Think of the cover letter as your personal ad to who you are as a writer, your capability to grab a reader’s interest.


The first ‘in your face’ thing they’ll see, however, is ‘Dear Editor’. Always try to find out the editor’s name you are addressing your cover/query to unless they stipulate in their guidelines to send it to the Acquisitions Editor. Then it won’t be ‘Dear Editor’ but ‘Dear Acquisitions Editor’. Hey, if that’s what they want, then that’s what you will give them. Don’t mess around with a publisher’s guidelines or you may end up in the SLUSHPILE.


The only tip I’ll emphasize is this:


Write as though your life depended on it…no, just joking!


Give the essence of your storyline with your creative and pulling writing voice. Don’t sound robotic, telling, stale, office-like – jump right in and pull that editor with your very first sentence.


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