Works of Richard Marsden

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Writing Hints Blog

Cover Letter - The Novel 2

Posted by rmarsden on August 23, 2010 at 1:53 AM

Welcome back!


Today's topic is the cover letter for a novel submission. Unlike short stories, in which the cover letter is mostly just a 'hello', 'title' and personal info, the cover letter for a novel is different.


What the Novel Cover Letter Does

The cover letter in a novel is what gets an author in the door or not. An editor will look at this short bit of information and decide then and there if to consider the book or to move on to the next letter. It's an entirely unfair process. Can you imagine summarizing your 80-100k word novel in a measly page?! It's hard work and the internet is full of advice on how to deliver a proper cover letter. I'll cover just the basics.

An author has three paragraphs to catch an editor's eye! Let's try an make it count.



Your Name

Your Address

Phone Number




Introduction Paragraph (Who are you, Who are you writing to, What genre is your book, who will it be marketed to?)


Book Blurb Paragraph (Imagine what would be written on the back cover of your book)

Credentials Paragraph (Professional sales or writer's organizations)


Thank you for your time and consideration,


Your Name




The letter must fit on one page and the format above is industry standard. What you write will determine if your proposal will be considered or not. So, to cover some basic rules. Ensure spelling and grammar are without fault in the cover letter! Be professional given your audience is an agent/publisher who is in the writing business for money.


Introduction - Use the editor's name if possible. Mention specifically the agency/publishing house. Indicate the genre of the book and who the target audience is.


Blurb - The blurb is the selling point. If the agent/publisher is in need of a book for the genre and target audience mentioned in the introduction then he/she will read the blurb and make a decision. The blurb must encapsulate the essence of the novel and encourage the editor to want to read more. All an author's prose and magic needs to be distilled in this all-important paragraph.


Credentials - If you are a new author, this section will be brief. Don't worry! New authors are not avoided by publishers, quite the contrary. If you do have a writing history then the only thing a publisher/agent cares about is how well your past books sold. A sign of an unprofessional is citing credentials the editor doesn't care about. These include local awards, college experience, personal experiences, non-professional (pay wise) publications and so on.


Which Cover Letters Work?

While most successful cover letters follo the three paragraph format, what's in them varies greatly. I saw one sucessful letter that was entirely campy and conversational in its tone. The author's mystery set in the swamps of Louisianna was picked up! Meanwhile other authors are concise and proper in the writing of their letter. What does this mean? Although an author should follow the three paragraph format, the rest is more open to an author's creativity, especially the blurb-paragraph.


I can't stress enough that THIS letter is the most important thing an author will write. Without a winning cover letter the best novel may remain undiscovered! Research! Research! Research! Investigate successful letters (wuth the magic of google) in genres you are interested in. See what looks right and model it!


The good news about the Novel Cover Letter is that everyone knows how important it is. The internet is loaded with helpful hints on how to make that successful letter!


Good luck!

Next time we'll cover the synopsis!

Categories: Novel Advice

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