Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The covering letter

The covering letter or email that the author sends in with her work needs to follow EXACTLY the guidelines of the publisher or agent to which she is submitting. This is absolutely essential. Too many authors write one covering letter then copy and paste it to use with every submission thereafter, wherever they may be sending it.

This is not a good idea. Quite apart from the likelihood that the facts included in it may have changed since it was first written, it simply won’t be targeted to the company to which the author is now writing.

The aspiring author needs to do her research carefully. Does the company ask for real name as well as author name? Do they want a blurb? A synopsis? Or even both? If they say a 200 word blurb this does not mean 250 words or 180 words. It means 200.

Do they ask for your blog or website address? If so, when was the last time you updated your blog? Are the facts in it still accurate? If the editor reading your submission likes the covering letter the next thing she’ll look at is your blog. If it was last updated in 2011 she’ll probably look no further into your work.

Once the covering letter is checked for accuracy and that it matches what was requested, get a critical friend—not your best friend or your mother—to read through it for typos and flow. This is the first thing an acquiring editor sees so it’s important you make a good impression.

Good luck!

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

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