You might be asking what you actually submit to a publisher when you submit a picture book manuscript. I submit three items. This may be debatable, and many of you may submit items differently. I’d love to hear what the rest of you submit, but I’m going to share with you what I learned at one of my first conferences and therefore, what I submit. I’d especially love to hear from you if you’re an editor and like to receive submissions in a different manner. Please comment below.
The three items I submit are a cover letter, proposal and formatted manuscript. We’ll cover each item in separate blogs.
Today we’ll talk about the killer, knock the socks of an editor cover letter. If a publisher requests query letters first, before full submission of the manuscript, then this will be your query letter. The Market Guides relay which method the publishers prefer. Send in what they prefer. Don’t stuff your whole proposal into an envelope if the publisher prefers queries initially.
A query letter is a single letter asking for permission to submit your full proposal. A cover letter accompanies your proposal and briefly describes your proposal. Both may be the only item an editor reads, unless it’s good. This letter should do more than pique an editor’s interest. It should reflect your great writing skills and make them want to keep reading and ask for more. Both letters serve the same purposes of highlighting your book and making it something an editor will want to pursue.
It’s nice to start with a name of an editor as opposed to Dear Editor. If you can find the name of the editor, by all means, use it. If you have met the editor at a conference, make that the first item mentioned.
“It was a pleasure meeting you at the XXX conference on (state the date). I enjoyed dining with you that evening and discussing possible book titles with you, (or whatever you discussed to bring who you are to their mind). I have a manuscript I thought you might be interested in reading.”
Then start with a bang, a hook, a question, something to tap an editor’s interest and touch on the main idea of your book. If your book is about a girl who loves purses and can’t get enough, you might start with something like this:
What’s not to love about purses? What if you had one in every shape and size to match every pair of shoes you owned but didn’t have room enough to put them all? What would you do? I’ve written a story about a girl who can’t get enough purses…
I know you could make it stronger. Spend time on your hook. Make it playful, fun, interesting.
State the audience for whom you wrote it and get as specific as possible. Elementary age children is a bit general. Tell which age group and if there’s a specific market, highlight it here. Say for example, it’s a book for children having surgery, or a bed time story for preschool children, or for young girls 4-6 who love purses. Tell specifics, but not too specific to make your market too small.
Briefly state any special ideas in your book that will make yours stand out. Have you included an easy how-to-make-your-own purse template or an easy how to stack and store your purses chart? Mention this here.
Note the word count, projected page count, and a brief bio about yourself, especially if it would help shine on why you’re the right one to write that particular book. I wrote a book once for children to ease the stress and fear of surgery and mentioned that I’m a Nurse Anesthetist. It relayed the fact that I’m a professional and might know a little about the topic. (I still don’t have a contract on the book, but hopefully it’s not because I’m not qualified to write it…)
Mention why you think this is the perfect publisher for your book, why you chose them. Why you think your book might complement other books they’ve published. If you’re sending it to more than one publisher, mention that it is a simultaneous submission.
Keep your cover/query letter one page or less. Keep your writing tight. This is not a letter to your best friend, so keep it short, simple, to the point, but enticing.
End with something like, Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Sincerely, XXX and sign it.
Before you send it, make it perfect. This letter reflects your writing skills. Don’t let them find grammatical errors, typos, wrong use of commas, etc. or they may not pursue your book further, even if the idea sounds great. Spend time on your query/cover letter and make it shine.
Cover Letter Format
provided by The Fiction Forum
Your cover letter is the first impression any editor will have of your writing abilities. Therefore, the cover letter should be straightforward and concise. Treat your cover letter as a business letter–after all that is what it is.
You can read our basic guidelines below, but I can recommend the book “How to write the cover letter for your submission to a publisher“.
Below you will find some of our basic guidelines.
- Limit your letter to one page.
- Capture the editor’s attention right off.
- Give the editor or agent a brief description of the story, article, or book. (Look at the back of a book and read the blurb. This is about the same length and structure you want your description to be.) Make your description appealing so that the editor feels he or she must read the book.
- Provide some personal and or professional background information that relates to your skills or experience. Draw from your publishing history and any background that is special to this story (such as if you were a nurse and you wrote a book which takes place in a hospital).
- Be sure to include the word length and genre of your book.
- Use a proper business form letter as your guide. (Most word processors have letter templates) Single space the letter.
- Be sure to include your contact information such as your name, address, phone number and email address.
- Don’t forget the date.
- When addressing your letter be sure to use the Editor’s name (or agent’s name is querying a book.) Use a Writer’s Market guide or similar resource for contact information. Many book publishers do not accept unagented books so you must check the publication’s guidelines before sending an unsolicited manuscript. However, this cover letter format is appropriate for querying an agent. Check the publication or agent’s web site or call to verify the name of editor or agent before sending your letter. Remember: editors are not permanent fixtures at publications.
- When ending your letter be sure to thank the editor or agent for his or her time and consideration.
- Type your closing, leave a few spaces and then type your name. Within the blank spaces you should sign your name.
Below you will find two generic sample cover letters. Using these as your basic format should get you off on the right foot. However you’ll want to adapt it to fit your style and work.
At the request of a few visitors, we’ve added a third option for those who are applying to submit stories online.
Dear M. [Editor],
I have recently completed a romance novel titled: “My Novel.” I have enclosed the 50,000-word novel for publishing considerations.
“My Novel” is a story of true love … [include blurb here.]
I have published work with such publishers as…[your background here.]
I have enclosed a self-address, stamped envelope along with my manuscript. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
[Sign name here]
Dear M. [Editor],
[Start your letter off with your blurb, draw the editor in right from the start.]
The above passage details the central conflict of my 50,000-word romance novel, “My Novel.” Like the heroine, I have a vast knowledge of the solar system as I was a high school science teacher. My writing has been featured in several magazines… [continue with background.]
I’m excited about “My Novel” and believe it’s appropriate for your Out Of This World Romance line. I have enclosed a copy of a synopsis and my manuscript for publishing consideration. This work is also available by email or on a 3.5 inch disk in Word or ASCII format. An SASE is enclosed for your convenience.
Thank you for your consideration.
[Sign your name here.]
SAMPLE 3 (for online submissions):
PO Box 333 [Physical Address]
New York, AZ 85333
Jean Martin [Sponsor’s name (if known)]
Free Flash Fiction [Publisher (if known) or Website Title]
Physical Address (if known. Look at the bottom of the website home page)
18 April, 2013 [Date of submission]
Dear M. Martin [Editor] (or, if unknown, Dear Free Flash Fiction [Website Title]),
(Provide a brief blurb of your story. If your story is short, your blurb could be as short as a single sentence.) Imagine a homemaker out for a typical day of shopping with his kids when he is accosted by street hooligans, demanding his wallet and diaper bag. Next, imagine that he was a kung fu child prodigy who now teaches conflict resolution techniques to fast food chains.
(Then provide the word count, genre, and responses to other submission requirements. Try to get them all into one or two sentences). This is the premise of my 923 word flash fiction entry in your Satire and Humor category.
(Provide a relevant history to justify your knowledge of the content and your writing ability.) A homemaker myself, I also studied martial arts extensively and hold three black belt degrees. I have also been published on your site before, and have won three competitions on a social writing site. (If your writing history is not extensive, provide less relevant personal history so that the editor can create an image of you in their mind while they read.) I am a retired sniper spotter for the Navy SEALS who has seen my share of conflict. I also have experience with stand up comedy because I am the designated Master of Ceremonies for all of my church gatherings. In addition, I’ve also got four children, who constantly ask for bizarre stories.
(Provide a sentence or two of gratitude for their willingness to consider your work and, if appropriate, provide you with feedback or compensation.) I am excited at the prospect of being published on your site again, and would like to thank you for the opportunity you provided for me to grow as a writer and see my efforts rewarded. I look forward to hearing back from you regarding my submission.
It is important to remember that in your cover letter you should be informative and never chatty. This is a business correspondence, not a letter to your dear old aunt. Good luck!
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