Help! bloody cover letters.

Writing Evil Characters

11 (Warm) Writing Conferences and Workshops in January 2023

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Jake E

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Apr 6, 2020
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Hi all,

I've been sitting on my novel for weeks and have made a submission package, put it all in a nice email ready to go, but I just. can't. hit. send.

I am most unsure about the cover letter. This is what I have so far.

Dear _______,

I am writing to you because I believe you will enjoy my novel The Trouble with Prophecies. An adult fantasy of 85,000 words.

Monty Python meets Terry Pratchett… is how some have described my work.
I wouldn’t be nearly as arrogant to suggest such a thing myself of course, but the fact someone else said it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside – and no, it wasn’t my mother.
She said she didn’t like it.

I currently work as a teaching assistant in a Special Educational Needs school and write in my free time. I have written many books over the years but have only recently found my voice with this latest work. I hope you enjoy it regardless of whether you decide to take it on or not. I write to entertain and hopefully make people smile.

Thank you for your time.
I look forward to hearing from you,

J

Too informal?
What are everyone's thoughts?

J
 
Hi all,

I've been sitting on my novel for weeks and have made a submission package, put it all in a nice email ready to go, but I just. can't. hit. send.

I am most unsure about the cover letter. This is what I have so far.

Dear _______,

I am writing to you because I believe you will enjoy my novel The Trouble with Prophecies. An adult fantasy of 85,000 words.

I seek representation for my novel, The Trouble...(the rest as written)
Monty Python meets Terry Pratchett… is how some have described my work.
I wouldn’t be nearly as arrogant to suggest such a thing myself of course, but the fact someone else said it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside – and no, it wasn’t my mother.
She said she didn’t like it.
This is shit. Cut. There's nowt less sexy than a creative person who apologises for their art. Just say that you are inspired by the humour of Python and Pratchett.
I currently work as a teaching assistant in a Special Educational Needs school and write in my free time. I have written many books over the years but have only recently found my voice with this latest work. I hope you enjoy it regardless of whether you decide to take it on or not. I write to entertain and hopefully make people smile.
Don't be gushing, insecure. If you have some really fascinating background info that gives you an authority in your genre, mention it here. Bear in mind that most writers don't.
Thank you for your time.
I look forward to hearing from you,


J

The ending is fine.
Too informal?
What are everyone's thoughts?

J
 
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Dear _______,

I seek representation for my novel The Trouble with Prophecies. An adult (Do you really need he word adult? It suggests NSFW) fantasy of 85,000 words.

The tone is Monty Python meets Terry Pratchett. (Add your USP. WHY are you the person to write this book?)

I work as a teaching assistant in a Special Educational Needs school. I'm a keen member of Litopia and have a number of beta readers who have helped me to shape my manuscript.

I look forward to hearing from you,
J
 
Hey @Jake E

I like how @RG Worsey has changed it and agree, don't apologise, but I do like:

it wasn’t my mother.
She said she didn’t like it.

This shows off your humour and hints at the tone of your book. Just brainstorming another suggestion:

Dear _______,

(I'd put a bit about the book here)

I seek representation for my adult fantasy, The Trouble with Prophecies, complete at 85,000 words.

Some readers say it's Monty Python meets Terry Pratchett…and, no, it wasn’t my mother.
She didn’t like it.

I work as a teaching assistant in a Special Educational Needs school. I'm a keen member of Litopia and a number of beta readers helped shape my manuscript.

Thanks for your time.
I look forward to hearing from you,


Use what resonates, toss the rest :)

Maybe carve out some time and take it to a huddle. But hit send and good luck!

Cheers
Rachel
 
Hi.
Good advice so far.
Absolutely lose the word ‘adult’ - as Matt would say, that indicates ‘sexy time’.
Also, where is the blurb?
And why not bring it to a Huddle and have Pete look over it before hitting send?
Xx B
 
I am writing to you because I believe you will enjoy my novel
To me this is too fuzzy. Be direct.

Some readers say it's Monty Python meets Terry Pratchett…and, no, it wasn’t my mother.
She didn’t like it.
I like what Rachel did here. She took your humour and condensed it. Perfect.
I work as a teaching assistant in a Special Educational Needs school. I'm a keen member of Litopia and a number of beta readers helped shape my manuscript.
I feel this could do with more of YOU. Also, Litopia may not mean anything to everyone, so you could simply say 'a writing group'. You could refer back to your mother and say, you belong to a writing group but you're keeping it a secret because your mother would only want to join if she knew (or something better, obvs).
Having said that, belonging to a writing croup is kind of a given for an author (same goes for the Beta readers) and not unique, so maybe find something else to mention, something from your daily life, a fun moment at the job, or a day when you walked into a lamppost, you could make it up, or that your ambition is to fly through space on turtles, or say you recently found an ex-parrot, and put your humour to it.
 
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I agree with a lot of the above. I would also insert your blurb near the top, and a section about why you are querying them in particular (i.e. personalise it to the agent based on authors they rep, their wishlist etc).
 
Thanks everyone. Great advice.
Didn't realise the word adult would have those connotations.

I'll have a other crack and get back to you all.
 
Hi all,

I've been sitting on my novel for weeks and have made a submission package, put it all in a nice email ready to go, but I just. can't. hit. send.

I am most unsure about the cover letter. This is what I have so far.

Dear _______,

I am writing to you because I believe you will enjoy my novel The Trouble with Prophecies. An adult fantasy of 85,000 words.

Monty Python meets Terry Pratchett… is how some have described my work.
I wouldn’t be nearly as arrogant to suggest such a thing myself of course, but the fact someone else said it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside – and no, it wasn’t my mother.
She said she didn’t like it.

I currently work as a teaching assistant in a Special Educational Needs school and write in my free time. I have written many books over the years but have only recently found my voice with this latest work. I hope you enjoy it regardless of whether you decide to take it on or not. I write to entertain and hopefully make people smile.

Thank you for your time.
I look forward to hearing from you,


J

Too informal?
What are everyone's thoughts?

J
Hi, Jake

I know you said you are constructing another version, but I thought I'd just mention a few important things to add to the letter:
  1. COMPS that are book related and published in the last five years
  2. Your writing credentials (courses, published work including articles, short stories, etc)
  3. Individualise the letter to each agent or publisher using related books they have published or been part to publishing if it's an agent
  4. Your book blurb
  5. Why you had to write this book
Wishing to great success

Rachael
 
Hi, Jake

I know you said you are constructing another version, but I thought I'd just mention a few important things to add to the letter:
  1. COMPS that are book related and published in the last five years
  2. Your writing credentials (courses, published work including articles, short stories, etc)
  3. Individualise the letter to each agent or publisher using related books they have published or been part to publishing if it's an agent
  4. Your book blurb
  5. Why you had to write this book
Wishing to great success

Rachael
I think comps is where I'm going to fall down.
I have no idea what other books mine is like... Not recent ones anyway.
I don't tend to read modern titles and my work is nothing like the stuff i normally read. GOT, the Witcher series, mistborn etc..
 
I think comps is where I'm going to fall down.
I have no idea what other books mine is like... Not recent ones anyway.
I don't tend to read modern titles and my work is nothing like the stuff i normally read. GOT, the Witcher series, mistborn etc..

You can only try...as Peter says, "if it works, it works". Just make sure your humour is front and centre and makes an agent read pages. If you're worried though, try to make a Huddle :)
 
I am writing to you because I believe you will enjoy my novel The Trouble with Prophecies.
I'm sorry, but I think you need a better, more personal reason than this. I agree with R Burnett.
Try to find a client of theirs that you admire*, or whose work 'shares similarities'* with yours, or even – worst case – 'I see you are looking for/interested in' whatever type/genre/area you describe your work as. (Only if they do say that in their bio, obviously. And if they don't, then they might not be right for your work.)

This letter business is worth taking time over. It's hard and time-consuming, but it's worth it if it makes the recipient pick up your sample text, and read it. If your letter makes them go 'Byerrgh!' (or something similar), they won't.
Letters are better if they are each differently targeted and personalised. That's where the work comes in.

*You can exaggerate, but outright lying is a hostage to Fortune.
 
You can only try...as Peter says, "if it works, it works". Just make sure your humour is front and centre and makes an agent read pages. If you're worried though, try to make a Huddle :)
I think you're probably right. I'll need to try and clear some time to get to a huddle.
 
I think comps is where I'm going to fall down.
I have no idea what other books mine is like... Not recent ones anyway.
I don't tend to read modern titles and my work is nothing like the stuff i normally read. GOT, the Witcher series, mistborn etc..
The the thing that worked for me was to use Amazon books and search for key words that relate to your book and then look at the top rated books in the list. You don’t have to have read the whole book, just the blurb to see if it’s comparable. Is it a no. 1 bestseller (the publisher will always add this to the description for kudos and you can use that to add to your own book’s kudos in your letter). Use that research info in the letter for your COMPS. Also, when looking at the publisher or agent website, see if there’s anything comparable by again reading the blurb and then see where it rates on Amazon, etc. and use as applicable in your letter.
 
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I'm sorry, but I think you need a better, more personal reason than this. I agree with R Burnett.
Try to find a client of theirs that you admire*, or whose work 'shares similarities'* with yours, or even – worst case – 'I see you are looking for/interested in' whatever type/genre/area you describe your work as. (Only if they do say that in their bio, obviously. And if they don't, then they might not be right for your work.)

This letter business is worth taking time over. It's hard and time-consuming, but it's worth it if it makes the recipient pick up your sample text, and read it. If your letter makes them go 'Byerrgh!' (or something similar), they won't.
Letters are better if they are each differently targeted and personalised. That's where the work comes in.

*You can exaggerate, but outright lying is a hostage to Fortune.
This I find hard. Personal.

How do you choose the right agent?
How do you craft such a letter when all you have to go on is a short, fairly vague, bio on their website?
I'm not very good with people in general.
 
This I find hard. Personal.

How do you choose the right agent?
How do you craft such a letter when all you have to go on is a short, fairly vague, bio on their website?
I'm not very good with people in general.
For me the word isn’t personal but tailored to the publisher/agency from the perspective of the books they have published or represented. As you’re selling yourself and your book to the person, your humour will definitely appeal, but showing you know what writers and books they’ve published or represented identifies you as not only a serious writer but that you really want to work with them. The tailoring is a pain in the backside and takes more time, but should help in getting them to take you seriously and read on. As I said in my other post, you don’t have to have read every COMP just the blurb and book description to tailor your letters.
 
For me the word isn’t personal but tailored to the publisher/agency from the perspective of the books they have published or represented. As you’re selling yourself and your book to the person, your humour will definitely appeal, but showing you know what writers and books they’ve published or represented identifies you as not only a serious writer but that you really want to work with them. The tailoring is a pain in the backside and takes more time, but should help in getting them to take you seriously and read on. As I said in my other post, you don’t have to have read every COMP just the blurb and book description to tailor your letters.
I see.

And i thought writing the book was the hard bit...
 
How do you choose the right agent?
For starters, check they represent your genre. They need to represent what you write. They will have specific contacts in a publishing company who will know the agent for repping certain books. If you send an agent something they don't represent, they won't have anyone to sell it too. Agents are just the next step in the sales chain. They need to sell to the publisher. So you need to find out what product the agent wants and what a publisher might want (trends or proven sales). Once you know that, it gives you a talking point in your letter.

How do you craft such a letter when all you have to go on is a short, fairly vague, bio on their website?
You don't need that much info as long as it's targeted and matches with what they're looking for. Go to social media. Follow them for a while. You'll pick up clues. Check out their MS wish lists. Do some research. I tend to refer to similar author of theirs. They can sell what has sold for them before.

I'm not very good with people in general.
It helps if you put yourself in an agents shoes. Imagine you're the agent for an unknown Terry Pratchett. How would you sell his work to a publisher?

It's essentially a sales game. You need to identify their need (what kind of book), then give them the solution to it (your book). Those two things need to match.

Don't look at agents as someone who holds the key to your success. Instead, look at this whole game from their point of view. They want to earn a living. You need to show them that you have the product that will earn them commission. To do that you need to give them reasons to buy. So find those agents who represent a similar author or similar books. If they've sold this kind of thing once, they can sell it again. Or you could show them there's a market for your book.

Not sure this helps. I hope this helps.
 
I know. I’m like, just read the bloody book and see if you actually like it rather than all this jumping through hoops to get you to read the book because unless you like the actual book what’s the point. But, he ho it’s the nature of the beast that is publishing.
 
A quick google told me this is the agent for Terry P's estate.


Follow them on Twitter, Insta etc. Scroll back in their history. See if there's anything you can grab onto. Then write to them. Say you've been inspired by TP and give them your spiel about your work being a cross between TP and Python and your mum gasping at the idea. Check out if there's another similar author this agent represents. Again, you can mention that author in the same breath.

Terry P has a following. Follow them too. See what fans say. Is there anything in what they say that could serve you? Is there a TP fan club? Is there anyone in that club who could endorse your book? (Fab thing to mensh in a letter to an agent.) TP fans may not be open to endorsing if they're purists, but if you build a relationship among the fans and the club, they may and at the same time, you're already building your own readership. Start a social media presence. Get those fans to follow you. The more specific followers you have the better. It's your potential readership and an agent will see an audience and its something to say in your letter.

Stuff like that.

Again, not sure it helps. I hope it does.
 
A quick google told me this is the agent for Terry P's estate.


Follow them on Twitter, Insta etc. Scroll back in their history. See if there's anything you can grab onto. Then write to them. Say you've been inspired by TP and give them your spiel about your work being a cross between TP and Python and your mum gasping at the idea. Check out if there's another similar author this agent represents. Again, you can mention that author in the same breath.

Terry P has a following. Follow them too. See what fans say. Is there anything in what they say that could serve you? Is there a TP fan club? Is there anyone in that club who could endorse your book? (Fab thing to mensh in a letter to an agent.) TP fans may not be open to endorsing if they're purists, but if you build a relationship among the fans and the club, you're already building your own readership. Start a social media presence. Get those fans to follow you. The more specific followers you have the better. It's your potential readership and an agent will see an audience and its something to say in your letter.

Stuff like that.

Again, not sure it helps. I hope it does.

I never thought of myself as anything close to Pratchett until Litopians started to make the comparison.
I feel it would be disrespectful to compare my work to his. He was brilliant and i don't think there will be another like him.

As for social media, I don't really go in for all that. I have a Twitter account that i don't use and Facebook which i haven't updated since before the pandemic.

The advice here is great. I'm not sure i can follow it though. It's just not who i am.
 
I feel it would be disrespectful to compare my work to his. He was brilliant and i don't think there will be another like him.
I don't mean that you say you're the next TP. But you can be similar, tribute-ish, a new variation inspired by TP. That's perfectly ok. I've seen a chapter of your work a while back and you're good. So don't sell yourself short.

Comparing is a tool to show the agent where you would sit. You're not saying you're the next TP, but you're saying you're your own thing and placing yourself in his readership.

You could say: My novel is targeted at readers who enjoy Terry P.

That way you're not comparing yourself to TP, but you're pinpointing your audience.
 
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I think comps is where I'm going to fall down.
I have no idea what other books mine is like... Not recent ones anyway.
I don't tend to read modern titles and my work is nothing like the stuff i normally read. GOT, the Witcher series, mistborn etc..
Snap. No comps on my letter, either. It's better to leave off than to flail around if you can't think of one.
 
@Jake E - I feel your pain. I am in the same pain. The Marketing Pain. But good for you for following your instincts and seeking feedback before hitting that send button. That can be hard to do. I applaud you for making me smile in your query! I thought your personality came through and that's very hard to do. However, your query is missing some key elements. I think you could cut down on some of the cute humour (unfortunately, as I enjoyed it!) and add in more meat to the query.

If you haven't watched it already, Pete's video on writing a synopsis is fantastic. I got a ton of great ideas and tips on all my marketing material, including the blurb and logline (which you need for the cover letter) from that. And coming from an agent's perspective is super helpful.

- I just took a workshop on query letters this weekend and here are the elements that they recommended go into it: (same stuff I've heard from other classes and articles)
1. Personalize the query.
2. The Pitch. 1-3 paragraphs.
First paragraph should include the title, genre, word count, and comparable titles, as well as a very short logline.
Second/third paragraph is the book's blurb. (The dreaded blurb!!)
3. A little bit about yourself. If you have no writing credits, that's fine. If there's anything about you that's relevant to your book that's good. Anything interesting about you that's unusual. Agent Pete's seminar is really great to get ideas on this one.
4. Closing and thanks.
The query shouldn't be longer than 1-page. Professional, but not too dry. As i said, you have this already, as your query was charming and made me smile several times, which is very hard to do in a query.

As I am going through this as well, I thought I'd share some more stuff that helped me (apologies if I'm repeating what you already know!):

- The Huddle definitely helped me! They even let me rewrite and revisit 3 weeks in a row, which was super helpful. Awesome group!

- Remembering that whatever we write, cover letter, blurb, or whatever, it will never please all the people all the time. In the end, use what feedback works for you and your story. I know that's obvious, but sometimes, it can help me to remember that, otherwise it can be a bit discouraging.

-Personalizing the letter is important to agents because they want to know that you have researched them, and your book fits their MSWL The Official Manuscript Wish List & #MSWL ® Website. They also hate the idea that they're getting a mass-emailed form query. So just enough to show that you have looked them up. I think something specific works. I do a lot of research on each agent I query, and find something in either their website, or their MSWL to comment on. Nothing major, just to show that I know who they are. "I feel my book is a good fit for you becasue I saw on your MSWL that you're looking for xyz." or "I loved the book xyz that you represent." or "I participating in xyz workshop that you gave and I'm excited to send you this query."

- When researching agents, to find a good fit for me, I found some good resources. QueryTracker is great and free. I also get Duotrope, which is great, but not free. MSWL is fantastic, and then of course, their websites. Twitter can be good, but if you don't use it, then no biggie. Some agents are using Instagram now, which I like a lot better. Researching them takes me a TON of time, but I have a list now that is very tailored to what I write. With info that I can use in my queries.

- The Pitch is the hard part. Here's what the workshop this weekend said:
1. Hooks! The blurb is all about the hooks. You don't need to tell the story, just make them want to read the story.
2. About 200 words, or less.
3. 4-10 sentences/ 1-3 paragraphs.
4. You can format it as the plot catalyst, the set-up, and the implied question (whatever will make them want to know what happens.)
5. Keep it simple. Only a few characters, only the main plot thread. If there's room, you can add a few extra bits like some character info, plot elements or theme.
6. Try to use the tone/voice that is in keeping with the book.
7. You do not have to give away the ending. (and Agent Pete says you shouldn't!)

- General tips that I got from another workshop I did on marketing:
1. Don't put yourself down.
2. Don't be too weird. (super subjective!)
3. Don't make claims of greatness. (haha, this is not your problem)
4. keep it professional, but infuse some personality/humour (I think you did this)
5. Pitch your book, not a series or more than one book.
6. Never use attachments or links.

- A lot of guidelines for querying also include a synopsis. Again, Pete's seminar is great. This article also really helped me on writing my synopsis. How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel

Phew! I know, it's a lot. Use what's helpful and ditch the rest! Best of luck!
When you've done a revision, post again. We're here to help. :)
 
Oh and to add (because my last post wasn't long enough...)

For comp titles, I found the advise from Agent Pete's seminar really helpful on this too. He talks about a "sell sheet" which I found to be an excellent exercise and in that he gives an example of this wording for comps...

<My novel> will appeal to readers who loved <comp titles>.

This way you're not comparing yourself to these awesome authors, you're saying what kind of reader your book will appeal to. I personally really liked this approach. And my 2 cents, don't worry too much if it's not the exact match. If it's in the ballpark, then that's what they want. Just an idea of the vibe.
 
I am writing to you because I believe you will enjoy my novel
Rather than coming across as assuming you know what the agent would enjoy reading, be specific as to why you think that is so for the particular agent you are querying. Personalize it for each agent. They'll be much more receptive to an approach that says you've given thought to why you are pitching them.
 
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11 (Warm) Writing Conferences and Workshops in January 2023

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