Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Submission Reminder

While I know I’ve said this before, it obviously bears repeating. Whenever, anytime, every time, you send a submission to an agent, make sure to include a professional, detailed cover letter. To make it simple for you, here’s what I advise. Every query, proposal, full manuscript, or attachment you send an agent should include the following information:

* Name, address, email address, Web site, phone number

* Dear Ms. Faust (Jessica if you know me personally)

* An opening line that tells me why this material is coming my way (either I’ve requested it, you think I’m great, or you’re just looking for representation). The title of your book, word count, genre, target market.

* Your opening line should also include any details that make you stand out from the crowd. Are you published? A major award winner? Do you have editors reviewing requested fulls? All of this information can help get you to the top of my stack.

* A blurb of your book. This is that very exciting one-paragraph blurb that is so strongly written the editor will want to use it for the cover of the book. The blurb is your hook. Editors don’t need to know each and every plot point, they simply need to know what makes your book stand out.

* Additional information about you, your book, contests, organization memberships, professional background, etc. All of this can close your letter.

I can’t stress this enough. Each and every time you submit work to an agent you should include this letter. We don’t remember names, we don’t remember titles, and we don’t always remember why we requested something, so that gentle reminder (your blurb) is critical. When you send an email attachment (this should only be sent when requested), I would suggest you include your letter in the email and as the first page of your attachment. That way when I send it to my printer I know exactly what is coming back.



JDuncan said...

It's amazing how often this information gets detailed at various places (and not terribly difficult to find places either)and how often it must get ignored, because agents always seem to be reiterating it. It's not really that hard...ok, the blurb part is hard, but the rest is a pretty basic format.

And honestly, one would think given the basic concept of the blurb and the simple information that goes into it, that it would not be so insanely hard to write well, and yet...

I have what I consider a good story, and reasonably well written, if folks who have read it are any indication, but I am pretty confident that the tricky little blurb is about the most important part of your story to get right. After thirty or so rejections to this point and only four or five requests for more material, I can almost bet I haven't got that blurb right yet. Of course it's a story with vampires in it, and god knows what the percentage of vamp stories is in the slush pile, but I'll bet it's pretty damn big. This brings up a whole other can of worms. Being unique.

I got one rejection back that said while there were obviously some new twists in the story (someone actually went to my website to look! yay!) there was too much that was familiar given all of the vampire stories out there now and in the piles. This may be another reminder to all of those out there that timing is important too. An otherwise publishable story might end up on the shelf because the bandwagon has writers falling off into the road. This story is getting close to that shelf at this point, but I still think it's a good story with struggling characters attemptin to handle their own issues and catch a nasty vampire (a little different than your usual vamps, but not unique enough at this time). Not to say I won't dust it off in a year or so when the vampire market has started to cool off a bit, and of course I will make yet another attempt to get that blurb just right.

By the way, it never hurts to keep reiterating this stuff, because you never know...after a dozen times or so, it might just start to sink in.

JDuncan. www.jimnduncan.com

elysabeth said...


Just a quick question - are cover letters and query letters the same thing? Because you use the words "cover letter" and "every query" in the same paragraph, so I'm wondering now if they are same thing. I hadn't felt they were the same thing but from your posting, they seem to be the same. - Just curious - E :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information! I'm going to refer writers to this entry. With many formalities going by the wayside, I guess people don't know to do this. You've provided a perfect reminder for those who do know and a great summary for those who don't!

Liz Wolfe said...

I'm usually pretty good at letters, but I have to admit that I haven't been including the blurb in the cover letter accompanying the requested full or partial. Now I see a reason to do so and I will.
JDuncan, I don't think your results are so bad. You're over 15% requests which is probably pretty good. But, you're right that the blurb is very very important. Have you read Miss Snark's Happy Hooker Crap-O-Meter? Lots of good information there.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


When in doubt include as much as possible. There's really no reason your cover letter and query letter should be that different.


Lacey Diamond said...

Yikes...No wonder I haven't heard back from you yet. I forgot to include my blurb in my cover letter. But I did include our email exchange which includes the blurb. I also put 'requested material' on the envelope. Does that count?

Sandra Cormier said...

I just sent out a requested partial this morning with a cover letter. It wasn't the same as my query letter, but I made sure I included my particulars, a thank you for allowing me to send the partial, and the title of the book. I mentioned the email he'd sent and when I had received it.

Hopefully, the requested synopsis will make up for the lost blurb.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Do you have editors reviewing requested fulls? All of this information can help get you to the top of my stack.

I've heard different opinions on whether or not to mention to a prospective agent that your full is being reviewed by an editor. I've been swayed to not include that information.

So that's a piece that I left out of a cover letter that I just sent with a partial you requested.

Obviously, an agent will need to know all of the editors to whom a ms has been submitted and what the response was before the agent agrees to represent it. That's just good business.

But in your opinion, is it typical for agents to want to know that, say, an editor at one of the big houses has your full on request if it hasn't been rejected yet? (And is it too late to mention that now?)

I've heard other agents say they see windows of opportunity closing for every submission made to editors that they didn't make, and that it's best not to mention those submissions up front.

Thanks for sharing your insights with us!

Marie said...

Thanks for sharing this information.

Tori Scott said...

I basically included the same letter I sent as my query, with the addition that I was enclosing the requested material. I hope that was the right way to do it.

It's amazing how nerve-wracking the whole process is. You stand in the post office lobby after handing over the package, your stomach in knots, wondering if you left something out. :)

Princess Bootz said...

This is incredibly helpful, and I'm planning on repeatedly referring back to this when I write my query letter. But the question I have is this:

Do you want the first three chapters included WITH the query letter, or after you've asked for it?

I'm sure you've answered this somewhere in a different blog, I probably just haven't found it yet.