Writer on a Horse
And a Dog

The world looks better from the back of a horse and the roads of life are easier with a good dog beside you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

An article A Day


Something y'all might not know... For over three years I wrote a question and answer article for The Blue Review monthly newsletter. I've decided to post an article a day for the next week.


What should go in a cover letter?

A cover letter is not really a letter but a note that consists of three paragraphs; introductory, biographical and concluding. The introductory paragraph describes what you’re enclosing and why. The biographical paragraph explains a little about you. The concluding paragraph politely closes the letter.

The key word in composing a cover letter is brief. Your manuscript is the important item in your submission; the cover letter is the foreword, so to speak, to your story. The editor does not care how long you’ve working on the story or how much you mother, cousin or teacher loves the story or how you think it will be the next best seller. All the editor wants to know is what is enclosed, who wrote it, period. The last paragraph is really just to show your mother taught you manners and that you know how to say thank-you.

Should I include a resume with my cover letter?

I researched this question and found that editors don’t really count work and education background or awards and accomplishments as useful information. That is why you need to be brief. Your writing will speak for itself. Really the cover letter, in most cases, separates the beginners from the seasoned writer.

What manuscripts should have cover letters?

All manuscripts that you send the entire story, like short stories, essays, and humor pieces. A cover letter is not necessary when you query.


What is the acceptable length of a cover letter?

Never over one page, remember short and sweet are the adjectives used to descript a cover letter. In most of the how-to books I’ve read, it states a half to three quarter of a page is the ideal cover letter.

What is the correct format of a cover letter?

Rule number one, address the cover letter to the correct editor and make sure you spell their name correct. Most experts recommend a business letter format with the address of the sender and publishing company and the date at the top. The introductory paragraph with the necessary information, the biographical paragraph is your moment to shine in three or four sentences. The concluding paragraph is a polite thank you for you time and consideration. I personally think you should always close with a positive note by adding, ‘I look forward to hearing from you.’

Sincerely or respectfully are good closers, and always add a footnote;

Enclosed:
The title of your manuscript
SASE

With the announcement of the SmartWriters.com contest and the guidelines stating a synopsis had to be included, I have been asked by several writers, what is a synopsis?
I don't think any of them would have been satisfy with my answer, “Something I hate to write!”

I found this simple but powerful definition of synopsis.

Simply put, the purpose of the synopsis, to the acquisition editor, is to determine whether or not you have a solid plot, and whether or not it's something they might want to take a look at. That’s it.
A synopsis covers four parts:
1. Where you story start?
2. Who are the main characters and what do they want, problems they are trying to solve.
3. What happens physically and emotionally to prevent them from achieving what they want.
4. What happens at the end?

These sounds simple but believe me they aren’t. You work to put all the ‘show don’t tell’ in you manuscript and it all changes in a synopsis. You’re back to telling in short, to the point sentences.

3 comments:

Jana Hutcheson said...

Great info, Pat!

Gail said...

Thanks Pat. The more we hear the correct way to do these, the greater the chance we'll actually do them right!

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