Allow me to tap the breaks just before we head out on the motorway to crafting your cover letter (or agent query letter). If you’ve not yet been on an agent hunt, put your letter on hold and make that your first port of call. Why delay? Because, as when writing a novel, your Cover Letter is most likely to hit its target if you know exactly at whom your aiming. No two agents are alike in what they are seeking in a new author for their list/ perfect novel. But all agents I’ve come across are alike in this: they expect you to do your homework before submitting.
How do you know which agents are the right agents to pitch to?
- Check out Bri’s article, We’re going on an agent hunt, for some handy resources. For those of you hunting in the UK, I would add the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook for a full directory of agencies & what they look for.
- Once you’ve found agents who reps similar writers to you, check out their blogs, twitter, etc. to find out if they have wish lists & to find personal points of connection. After all, agents are really people in disguise as agents (*SHOCKING*). Hence you want to address them as people in your Cover Letter.
*So the key to pitching your cover letter is the 3 Ps:
- Make it particular to the agent your querying. Do your research. And by all means, address the letter to the agent BY NAME! Not Dear agent,…
- Make it professional. Don’t try to be cutesy, though not too formal either.
- Make it personal. Again, you’re writing to a person, so you use the personal ‘you’ to address him or her. And it doesn’t hurt to let your own personality shine through a bit too!
Huzzah! So you’ve gone and hunted down the perfect agent? Now you’re ready for the nuts & bolts of crafting that Cover Letter.
What to Include:
- General Information – Title, author, genre, age range, length (word count), etc.
- Your 1-Line Pitch. See how to write one here.
- Your Blurb. *This should be the main body of your letter as you want the book to primarily sell itself! Check out these how to tips on blurbs.
- Selling Points – Who will just love your book? What published books are similar, but also what makes yours unique? Show you’ve done a little market research (which may simply mean you’ve snooped around your local bookshop to see what’s selling!)
- Profile – This is your chance to share just a little about you as the author. Don’t get carried away about your favourite foods and TV shows, but do include anything relevant – other projects on the go, previous work, anything published or short-listed for a competition, etc. – or interesting details that may help promote your book.
- Miscellany – very briefly why you’ve selected this particular agent/agency; maybe a 1-line idea for your next book
- Your Cover Letter should take up about 1 side of A4 (no more!), usually single-space, 12 font (something generic like times new roman), with spaces between each paragraph/section.
- Check your agent’s instructions carefully. Most these days want the Cover Letter pasted as the body of an email, but others prefer it attached.
- Remember to let your novel sell itself – the letter should be 90% novel, 10% you.
- Be excited and proud about the work you’re submitting! Don’t down-talk it to the agent, but at the same time, don’t pitch it as better than anything on the market to date.
- Look online for good & poor examples of Cover Letters to get a feel for what to do & what not to do. And stay tuned – Bri & I may be sharing our own in the coming week!
Hope that was a helpful introduction if you’re new to or rusty on Cover Letters. Good luck crafting yours, and leave us questions and comments below!