How to Write a Great Cover Letter

The Cover Letter Guy

We’ve all been told not to judge a book by it’s cover.  I agree that not everything is as it appears. Take for instance the stunning dress that turns a plastic mannequin into a supermodel, but makes you look like a guest on the Richard Simmons Show.

I absolutely judge an actual book by its cover.  Why wouldn’t you? If it’s got a bloody dagger on it, I’m guessing it’s not a comedy.  If it’s got curly-Q font with bunnies on it, my dad won’t like it.  If it has a couple embracing wearing period costumes, I’m guessing I’ll gag.

I have excluded lots of books simply because I don’t like the cover.  What have I missed?

Editors and agents judge a book by its cover letter. It must be short, to the point, and captivate the reader enough to to make him/her want to read the actual manuscript you spent half your life writing. If it does not dazzle, it follows that your story will not either.

While there are many resources for formatting your cover letter like The Purple Crayon or Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Cynthia Laufenberg, a few basics are in order.

  • Include your name and contact info
  • Include the actual name of the editor/agent – do your homework
  • Include a compelling “hook” – a one sentence description that grabs the reader
  • Include a brief engaging description of the story – 1-2 paragraphs
  • Include genre, word count, and target audience
  • Define how your manuscript will stand out in the marketplace
  • Include your bio, if relevant, membership in writing associations, and any publishing credits – leave out that your kids loved your story
  • Thank the reader for their time.
  • Fit it all on one page

While there is some debate over whether some editors and agents actually read the cover letter, there is no question that it should be as good as the manuscript it proceeds.

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