QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, August 31, 2009

Cover Letters for Snail Submissions

If you get a request (yay!) and the agent wants you to send the material via snail mail, you should include a cover letter with the submission. Some agents request snail submissions even when queried electronically. But don't panic.

Cover letters are simply business letters, complete with the date and address at the top. Greeting, body, complimentary close, all of that. Include the following parts, and you’re good to head to the post office. It should fit on one page, just as the query does, and be the first page in the stack of papers you’re mailing off to the agent.

1. Date / Agent’s name and address
2. Greeting
3. The first paragraph of the body should thank the agent for requesting the material. Include the date of the request, the title of the work and how much is enclosed
4. Query blurb
5. Bio / Publishing credits (just like from the query letter)
6. Complimentary close / signature / mailing address / contact information
7. Enclosures
8. Self-addressed stamped envelope

Tips When Sending Requests Via Snail Mail:
**Write “REQUESTED MATERIAL” on the outside of the envelope, front and back.
**Pay for priority with delivery confirmation. The agent won’t have to sign, but you’ll know when they receive it.
**Use white plain white paper for the letter and the submission. Don’t forget to sign the letter.
**Don’t bind any pages.
**If they ask for a synopsis, put it behind the requested material. You want them to read the MS before the synop, right? Right.
**Stack everything in this order: cover letter, copy of their request letter (print the email or make a copy of the letter they snailed you), the requested material (synopsis last). I tuck the flap of my SASE around my cover letter so they come together when the agent pulls them out of the envelope.
    Here’s a sample:
    18 September 2007

    Eddie Schneider
    JABberwocky Literary Agency
    PO Box 4558
    Sunnyside, NY 11104-0558

    Dear Mr. Schneider,

    Thank you for your interest in my young adult dystopian novel, CONTROL ISSUES. As per your request on September 9, I am enclosing the first ten chapters of the manuscript (76 pages) and a brief synopsis for the rest of the work. You may contact me at any time via email: [email address].

    In a world where Thinkers brainwash the population and Rules are not meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces. When secrets about her “dead” sister and not-so-missing father hit the fan, Vi must make a choice: control or be controlled. (This is my two sentence pitch. Do you have one? You should.)

    CONTROL ISSUES addresses the topic of teens fulfilling their duty as citizens of society, along with how hard it is to grow up under the expectations of parents and other adults when they're trying to make their life their own.

    I am a graduate of Southern Utah University, with a B.S. in Elementary Education and a minor in Mathematics. I now teach elementary school (well, from August to May, I do) as well as write for the QueryTracker blog.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,

    Elana Johnson
    [personal contact information]
    [email address]

    Enclosures: SASE
    76 pages of CONTROL ISSUES
    Brief Synopsis of CONTROL ISSUES

    Elana Johnson writes science fiction and fantasy for young adults. Besides a serious addiction to the Internet, she can never get enough reality TV, Dove dark or reasons to laugh. Click here to visit her blog.


    Tess said...

    Really great cover letter, Elana. Heck, I wish I was an agent so I could read that intriguing novel!

    And, great advice. There never were two better words than 'requested material'. Well, maybe 'signed contract', but oh well...

    Lynnette Labelle said...

    Fantastic post! That's a keeper. Thanks.

    Lynnette Labelle

    Clementine said...

    I've printed this post and taped it to the wall, next to my monitor. Thanks for the great information, Elana!

    Jen said...

    Thanks for this, Elana! I'll take all the sample letters and forms I can get!


    Anne R. Allen said...

    Thanks. A really useful post on a subject not often addressed.

    Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

    Thanks for the advice! I've saved this post in Favorites.

    Rebecca Knight said...

    This is seriously helpful! Thanks for sharing yours, Elana! :)

    kathrynjankowski said...

    I just reviewed your posts on writing queries, and now this! You are a true gem.

    Your pitch is intriguing. Can't wait to read the book.

    Tere Kirkland said...

    I'm sure there's nothing an agent appreciates more than a professional looking submission. And it really doesn't take that much effort to make yourself look good on paper BEFORE the agent even reads any more of your work.

    Great post, Elana!

    RC Writer Girl said...

    Good post. But, one question.

    Why do they want an SASE? Can't they just e-mail you their response if it's no? And if they want you to be their client, can't they chalk up that initial postage to business expenses?

    Elana Johnson said...

    Aw, thanks guys! I hope it helps at some point.

    RCWriterGirl, some agents only deal with snail mail. I always always provide my online contacts, but when sending something through the mail, you should provide the agent with a way to send something back. Even if it makes no sense. I got my request using my SASE, so it's important to send one for the response on the request.

    But you're right. Often, agents reject the snail submission through email. But it's 42 cents, shows professionalism, and needs to be included, IMO.

    Thanks again everyone!

    Stina said...

    Great post, Elana! Do you usually include enough postage for the whole ms to be returned, or just for the rejection? For Canada and overseas, that can be quite pricey.

    Elana Johnson said...

    Stina, I only include a SASE to cover a rejection. I don't care about getting my manuscript back. If I ever need to, it's a click away to reprint. You know? So just a regular #10 envelope with a single stamp. That's all I send.

    Sherrie Petersen said...

    After I sent in a requested manuscript last December, it occurred to me that I didn't mark the envelope to let them know that requested material was included. I know it's languishing in a slush pile, never to be seen again. I sent a follow up letter and I'm hoping they ask me to resubmit...and this time I'll have your advice to follow!

    Anonymous said...

    Perhaps I'm missing something here. I have it from several agents and a couple of writing groups that what you have here is a query letter. A cover letter doesn't include a blurb, only pertinent personal info and manuscript data like word count.

    But I did hear that even amongst agents, some ask for cover when they mean query and vice versa, so perhaps I'm a victim of that misunderstanding?