Have you seen the plethora of Editors–both for adult and children’s periodicals and books–joining us at Mount Hermon in March? Exciting! And many of them are blogging for you here. Today, I’m welcoming Elizabeth Mazer back tot he Mount Hermon Writers Blog.
BLOGGER: ELIZABETH MAZER
Associate Editor, Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense, Love Inspired Historical
HOW TO MOVE YOUR COVER LETTER TO THE TOP OF THE PILE
Writing a cover letter is a little like dressing for a blind date. The right choices can be key to winning someone over…but what’s the best option? What outfit says “I’m funny, charming, and make a killer apple pie”? How can you guess what your date will like or hate? There’s no hard-and-fast rule about what makes a good cover letter. But there are some things you can keep in mind. As someone who reads a lot of cover letters, here’s my two cents (or rather, three hints) to help your cover letter stand out in the best way.
1) Cover the basics: Writing your cover letter may be like prepping for a blind date, but receiving it is like speed dating when I first skim through it to see if your story fits my requirements. Help me out by starting the letter with some key facts: word count, genre, main selling points (in romance fiction, these can be things like “reunion romance” or “secret baby”). Also be sure to let me know that the manuscript is complete. (I’m afraid I can’t review works-in-progress.) And what I want to know most? The title! You’d be surprised how often I get cover letters where the book’s title isn’t mentioned at all.
2) If you know it, show it!: You’ve done your research before targeting an agent or editor, right? You know what books we’ve worked on already, and what types of stories we’re seeking. Pique our interest by pointing out how your writing style fits with what we’re requesting. If you’re targeting me with a Love Inspired story, be sure to note how your sweet-rather-than-sensual romance grows as the hero and heroine face challenges together and achieve happiness in a realistic but still faith-driven manner. Show us that you know what we’re looking for, and that you have it, ready to deliver.
3) Toot your own horn—especially if your hero’s a trumpet player: The information describing your story (word count, title, plot highlights) definitely needs to come first, but when you get to the end of your letter, leave room for a little bragging. Has this story won awards from your local writers’ organization? Have you won awards—or maybe landed on a bestseller list—for any other books you’ve written? Or perhaps you have personal knowledge or experience that enhances this particular story? If you’re writing a story with a special forces hero/heroine and you served in the military for fifteen years, then that’s great information for us to know. But please keep it professional and related to this project—sell me on your book, not yourself.
There aren’t any guarantees in life, but by following these tips, you stand a much better chance of getting a second date—or at least a letter from an editor/agent to say something other than that s/he’s just not that into you!