covering letter · social media · Submissions · Uncategorized · unsolicited manuscripts

How to write a covering letter or email

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Introduce your book with a snappy blurb and an indication of length and market.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Don’t ask for feedback.
  6. End with ‘Yours sincerely’ if you are addressing someone by name – or you can end with ‘Best wishes’ if you like.
  7. Add a link to your website or blog under your name.
  8. 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!



About me · articles · My Writing · social media

Factual feast!

Hello fellow subbers.  This bulletin brings news of some non-fiction successes.

handbook of creative writingI have a chapter on Social Media for Writers included in the second edition of The Handbook of Creative Writing, just published by Edinburgh University Press.  I can honestly say it’s the most comprehensive and thorough guide to creative writing I have ever read!  So many different types of writing are covered, including the more unusual types such as flash fiction, song lyrics, memoirs, humorous fiction, literary magazines, writing as therapy, screen writing and many other areas that aren’t covered by the regular manuals.  (Great to read a chapter on writing for the theatre.)  Also discussed are MAs, writing in the community, how to present yourself as a writer, teaching writing, making a living as a writer and even the theory and history of creative writing as a leisure activity.  At over 500 pages it doubles as a useful paperweight!

Also out this month is July’s Writing Magazine which includes my article on grammar checking software: The Proof is Out There!  I love punning titles and this one just about slipped through the cheesiness filter.  Now there’s an idea for a useful piece of software.

Writing Magazine July 2014There’s some new opportunities for YA out so I’ll be posting on them soon.  In the meantime, keep subbing and good luck!


picture books · social media · websites

Stretch your wings with Storybird

storybirdAspiring picture book writers and artists should check out Storybird, a beautifully presented and well structured site that is a cross between online publisher, social media site and playground!  Basically Storybird allows you to create your own online picture book using presupplied artwork.  The artwork is uploaded by artists who are sharing their work for free.  You type in a keyword, bring up some pictures and start pulling them into your blank pages.  Add some text and you have created your own picture book which can either remain private or be shared on the site and commented on.  If you want a hard copy you can pay for one (and the artist earns royalties), otherwise everything is free.

So what’s the catch?  Well, you’re not really in control of the material because you can only do one search (keyword or artist).  You have to use the pictures that your search brings up.  The point is to be inspired and create, not to prewrite your own story and find pictures to fit it.  Also it’s not the place to publish the picture book you’ve been working on for months as you don’t get any revenue for sharing it (and it may not be accepted by a traditional publisher as it will be seen as already published).

Instead, Storybird should be seen as a place to play.  It’s a place to try out your style, connect with other people, admire the amazing artwork and see if you can do it justice with your words.  Here’s my tips on how aspiring writers can use Storybird:

  • Read other people’s books and see how they’ve stretched the definition of a picture book – writing for teenagers and adults, for example.
  • Browse the artwork and get inspired.
  • Try out some different layouts on your storybook text.  Keep this one unpublished if it’s something you plan to send out to publishers.
  • Create a book and get feedback from other members.
  • Join a challenge or challenge some friends to come up with themed stories.
  • Sign on as a teacher and create a ‘class’ for your writing group or friends.
  • Create a story for your child, relative or grandchild.
  • Create a story with your child, relative or grandchild.

Here’s my story The LapTopper.  It’s a Catvert!

Have fun on the site and let me know if you create a book.

articles · Facebook · Interactive story · My Writing · social media · Twitter

Creative Social Media

Probably the most important thing you can do this year to increase your chances of success – apart from writing your brilliant book, of course – is to boost your web profile.  If you’re looking for inspiration, why not try:

  • tweeting or facebooking as your book character
  • tweeting or facebooking as your villain!
  • blogging a serial
  • creating a collaborative blog with other writers
  • creating a magazine-style publishing blog
  • tweeting micro-fiction
  • creating an interactive story

All these ideas are discussed in detail in my article Get Creative with Social Media in Writing Magazine, February 2013 (available in the UK in WH Smith).  Plus ten tips for getting creative, and a step-by-step guide on using WordPress to create an interactive story, just like I did.

WM Feb 2013

social media · Submissions · Twitter

Twitter Fiction Festival approaching!

Twitter is getting all creative this month with the first Twitter Fiction Festival.  It’s running for five days from 28 November to 2 December and you need to have your idea approved first to take part.

Twitter Fiction Festival details

Submission form

They are looking for original ideas that push the boundaries of what Twitter can do in terms of telling stories.  This is new, exciting territory so be as creative and lateral-thinking as you can!  I’ll be sending off my submission form this weekend.  The deadline is 15 November and the successful authors will be announced on Monday 19 November.  It would be nice to see some well known authors taking part but this is also a chance for an unknown to make their mark with a cracking idea.

Internet Resources · marketing · social media · Twitter

It’s Twitter Time!

I have signed up to Twitter in order to stalk some of my favourite writers and find out what’s happening in their worlds.  There’s something about Twitter that’s more intimate than following a blog or visiting a website; the equivalent of being passed a note under the desk at school from the popular boy at the back of the classroom.

I don’t know if Twitter will be a permanent fixture in our fast-moving media world or if it will be regarded in the same way we do the Rubik’s Cube now: the symbol of an era, fun at the time but really – why?

I’m also not sure quite how to negotiate through the millions of twitterers out there.  It seems like a tornado of information whirling around without order.  Perhaps just letting a little bit through at a time will help; hence I will keep the list of people I follow small while I get my head around what it’s all about.

If you like the same children’s authors I do you might want to follow:

  • @jasperfforde
  • @davidwalliams
  • @Patrick_Ness
  • @ScottWesterfeld
  • @garthnix
  • @kdueykduey

I will be tracking down some more of my literary heroes over the next few weeks.  If you would like to keep me company (I will be tweeting about the writing process, the books I’m enjoying and any good leads I get on submitting children’s books), please click on the Follow@LouTreleaven button on the right as I currently have only 1 follower who is a piece of spam.