Things to Keep in Mind When You’re Writing That Cover Letter

cover-letter-impressive-resumesI’m quickly approaching the point in the writing process, where I need to start looking at  submission requirements for the agents/publishers I would like to contact with a proposal.

Agents and publishers have different requirements. It’s very important that you find out what those requirements are and follow them to the letter. Failure to do so could land your proposal in the rejection pile without being reviewed. It doesn’t matter how great you think your novel is. They will never know.

The first step to most proposals is the cover letter.  It should be no longer than one page. Not one and a bit, and not one in an uncomfortably small font. You may have a lot to say, but at this point, remember to keep it concise. Just because your plot is complex, doesn’t mean your letter needs to be.

The main aim of your cover letter is to give the agent/publisher more details about your manuscript and you, the author. Things like

  • manuscript title
  • genre
  • word count
  • manuscript blurb
  • market placement
  • target audience
  • author background
  • contact information (don’t forget this one)

Remember to follow the submission guidelines and tailor your letter to the requirements specified. For example, some ask you to say how you heard about them, and whether you have sent your work to other agents.

In every case, it is very important to address your letter to someone, rather than to a generic ‘To whom it may concern.’ Consider your cover letter an introduction to you and your work.

Also keep in mind that your cover letter, is the first impression any agent/publisher will have of your writing abilities. Therefore it should be straightforward and concise. Treat your cover letter as a business letter-after all that is what it is.

Lots of information and great examples of winning cover letters on the internet. I would recommend that you read a few, or maybe a lot-especially if this is your first attempt 🙂

-Jan Rouse

Things to Keep in Mind When You’re Writing That Cover Letter

Why Do Publishers Reject Your Manuscript?

1e7cba28f25210164154825f3d16c176After I completed the first very rough draft of my manuscript, I couldn’t wait to send it out to literary agents. It was a great story and I was soooo excited. What if I got more than one offer. I am a realist but a very positive one and I new that story was great.

When I started getting rejections, I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it. Well as I like to say-you don’t know what you don’t know-and I didn’t know much of anything about writing and publishing.

All I knew, was I had a great story and maybe it wasn’t perfectly written, but publishing companies have editors-right? The answer of course is yes, but that editor is there to clean up a mostly polished manuscript. Publishing companies don’t have the time or money to put in to tearing your story apart and rewriting it for you.

If you’ve ever submitted to a literary agent or publisher, you know they don’t want your entire manuscript. They want a small segment of your writing/story. A professional editor can determine if your work is worth their time within the first two to three pages.

So what are they gleaning from such a small segment?

  • Editors can tell within the first two to three pages how much editing would be required to make a manuscript publishable.
  • Are you grabbing the readers attention from the beginning?
  • Have too many characters been introduced to quickly?
  • Are you head hopping (remember only one POV character per scene)?
  • Is the setting and tone interesting?
  • Is there too much throat clearing (skip the description and backstory and get this thing moving )?

An editor can answer all of these questions within the first two to three pages. If you find yourself saying, “but they didn’t get to the good stuff,” then you need to put the good stuff at the beginning.

One of my rejections did come with notes. A gracious literary agent praised my premise stating that in fact it was a very good one, but the novel was not ready. The list of shortcomings included: grammatical and structural errors, head hopping (something I had never heard before), on-the-nose-writing(another term I had never heard), and the dreaded dragging dialogue.

She ended the list by encouraging me to not give up, learn my craft, and apply it to what I had written. I would like to encourage anyone else who has received the dreaded rejection letter likewise. Literary agents and publishers are not our enemy. They want us to succeed. When we succeed, they succeed. Give them something to work with.

-Jan R

Why Do Publishers Reject Your Manuscript?

Working With Beta Readers

So you’ve completed your manuscript and want to have a beta reader review it prior to sending it to an agent or editor. Having your work reviewed by a new set of eyes is a great idea! We are so close to our work that we don’t pick up on things that a new set of eyes would see. You might think it’s great and it might be but odds are, it still isn’t where it needs to be.

Beta readers are a great option. Unlike family and friends, they are impartial and will tell you the truth. Also if you find the right beta reader, they will be experienced in writing and reading manuscripts. They will know what to look for and what works and what doesn’t.

Warning! While most beta readers are great people who want to help you out, because they are in the same boat, there are those who will steal your ideas. Choose your reader carefully. If you choose someone you’ve developed a relationship with, they may think twice before pinching your content. Loyal readers of your blog, or previous books would make excellent beta readers.

In my last post Beta Readers, I  pointed out a few websites you could follow up on as well. Wattpad and Scribofile are probably the most popular. If you want a local group, try meetup.com.

So if you do decide to work with a beta reader there are a few things you should keep in mind.

  1. Don’t give them a draft. Give them your very best work. Give them the manuscript you thought was ready to submit. You don’t want them bogged down in structural and grammatical errors. You want them to see the content.
  2. Ask them what format they would like it in (mobi, epubfile or pdf). They may want to print it out or read it on a kindle.
  3. Let your beta reader know what kind of feedback you are looking for. If you create a list, they want spend their time punctuating sentences.
  4. Don’t take it personally. Your beta reader may not come back with platitudes. Thank them for their comments and move on.
  5. Return the favor. Most Beta readers aren’t being paid to read your book. They are offering input because they want to help or are interested in your books premise or topic.

Hope this helped you on your journey. I would love to hear from you. If you have any comments or suggestions please let me know. Also I would like you to consider following me. I post on Tuesdays and Thursdays of each week and you will receive an email whenever I enter a new blog or revise and existing one. Thank you for your consideration.

-Jan R

Working With Beta Readers