Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Word to the Wise: Cover Letter/Submission Etiquette

I know, here you expect to read something completely unusual, some insider tip. This one is right in front of you, yet, incredibly, many authors forget.

Even if you've been emailing back and forth with an agent, please include complete *contact information* on your query letter and in the package you send to them with your material. We constantly receive packages lacking an address or a phone number or an email address. This is to the detriment of the author, because in the middle of a hectic day, it's inconvenient to dig around, especially if it's just to tell you "sure, hey, send more". While many authors who contact us are memorable, it's just unrealistic to send a manuscript with no title page, no cover letter, and expect to hear back. We don't keep every single email we write, so you'll want to be sure agents don't have a reason not to contact you.

Granted, some authors are trying to be sneaky by only including a phone number. Here's the bad news: It's unlikely that agents will call you. Some may not even spare the (now) $0.41 to address an envelope back to you! Remember, SASEs and email addresses are your friend! Make sure that an interested agent can reach you immediately upon interest- ride that wave of enthusiasm and be sure you're helping keep their interest up. You don't want them to put your manuscript aside in a 'to deal with later' pile just because you forgot an email address, now do you?

I imagine there are some super-consciencious authors out there who are just forgetting to do this in all the excitement of getting over to the post office (that has come to know them personally, of course). So, for your benefit, again, here's a little checklist:


-correct spelling? (ghahremani is a freebie. i won't penalize you!)

-correct, updated address? (check their website -- if they stop accepting submissions, you'll save time!)

-did you include your name (yes, people do forget)

-if it was requested personally, did you mention that? don't assume we remember, especially if a few days has passed. jog our memories, we appreciate it!

-did you include your complete contact information? (blood type, SS# not needed. yet)

-did you include an email address, even if it's a friend's? (you don't have to tell us that) the publishing world is web-savvy- no excuses here!

-did you include your name/title on each page?

-did you number the pages? (don't get me started on my experience yesterday shuffling papers for an author who had forgotten to do that. yikes)

-did you double-space everything so your adoring agent doesn't go blind trying to read what you wrote?

In forthcoming blog posts we're going to give you the inside scoop from our newest intern Jenna, who we've just welcomed to our team. As the official "gatekeeper", she'll be telling you the honest truth about agency pet peeves, factors you might not have thought about, and the benefits of an easy-to-open envelope.

Happy querying!


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