Monday

Electronic Cover Letters (Part 1)

In this day and age of electronic communication almost completely overtaking all other forms, I feel that electronic submissions are only going to become more and more common. As more agents and editors want files they can read on-screen (either on readers at home or on computers at work), more and more authors will be emailing instead of mailing submissions. This means we need to discuss electronic submission formats and etiquette. To that end, I'm going to devote the rest of this week to this very subject.

First up, let's discuss the electronic cover letter.

Now, in a traditional hard copy submission, you would place your cover letter on top of your manuscript. It would look like a standard business letter with the date, contact information, and the actual content of the letter. Obviously, an electronic letter is going to differ in several ways:
  • You don't need to date it or include your email or mailing address of the recipient.
    All of these things are going to be automatically included in the email anyway.
  • You are going to need to have a subject line.
    This line can easily be overlooked when you are busy worrying about the contents of your email. However, having a No Subject email is the surest way to have it deleted by the recipient unopened. If (like me) the editor/agent is specifically asking for a particular subject line, use it. Otherwise, here are some potential ones:
    • Requested Submission -- The best one, but it had better be true.
    • Submission from XYZ Conference Attendee -- For people who met an agent/editor at a conference and were invited or told to submit online.
    • Picture Book Submission, Teen Romance Submission, etc. -- No harm in naming it what it is.
    • Unsolicited Manuscript Submission -- Probably what most submissions are, but avoid using this unless specifically told to.
  • You will need to address the email to someone.
    I don't mean the To: email line here. I mean that you will need to start your letter to Dear ____. This is a formal business email. Do not just start typing away as if this is a casual acquaintance.
  • You will need to sign your full name.
    Again, this is a business email. Sign it "Sincerely" or "Thank you again" or something else appropriate with your full name. You are not just dropping them a line. You are approaching a potential business contact.
  • Add full contact information after your name.
    This includes your phone number, website, and blog(s) if you have one. You can put your address if you like, but most likely the person will either call or reply to the email. You do not need to put your facebook or twitter links here. Even though editors and agents realize what great marketing tools these are, they are a more casual form of communication than websites or blogs. I would only have these if you have thousands of followers and you specifically mentioned them as potential marketing tools in your cover letter.
After you've worried about all this small stuff, you'll need to actually write the cover letter content. This should be the same thing you would put in a regular hardcopy cover letter. But, for folks who would like a refresher, we are going to discuss what that should be tomorrow.

2 comments:

T C Mckee said...

Well crap! See I'm good with all that stuff, it's the meat in the middle that makes me squirm;)

The Buried Editor said...

I started with the easy stuff. It turns out the easy stuff is easier to write about too.

And I'm pretty sure the middle makes just about everyone squirm. I know I can take days to compose a decent business letter that I feel confident about it.

These suckers are your first impression with an important business contact, and as such, are nerve wracking.