The covering letter is an important part of your submission package, but it shouldn’t be one you have to agonise over. The main thing is to keep it business-like. Introduce your work and yourself, and then let the writing do most of the talking. In the States it can be a bit different as you may be asked to pitch your idea before being invited to submit a sample, in which case your initial letter will be more of a sell. But for a simple covering letter to accompany your one-page synopsis and three sample chapters (usually – or whole text if it’s a picture book), these tips will help:
- Address the agent or publisher you are writing or emailing to by name if possible. Dear Sir/Madam hints at a blanket letter to multiple recipients, or at the least a lack of research.
- Introduce your book with a snappy blurb and an indication of length and market.
- Include a short paragraph about yourself, focusing on relevant information, eg writing courses you have done, or any contact you have had with your target audience eg teaching, volunteering.
- It can be helpful to mention why you are approaching that particular publisher or agent. For example, you admire the work of one of their writers, or you see that they publish books in rhyme. Remember to keep the tone business-like. This is, after all, a business letter.
- Don’t ask for feedback.
- End with ‘Yours sincerely’ if you are addressing someone by name – or you can end with ‘Best wishes’ if you like.
- Add a link to your website or blog under your name.
- Remember to attach your manuscript and synopsis!
Once you’ve submitted, make a note in your diary for three months’ time. If you haven’t heard back by then, I think it’s fair to submit elsewhere. But don’t give up hope – I heard back after nine months with a yes!