anatomy of a cover letter

As always, people will call cover letters query letters and vice versa. But I’m not going to try to confuse you. I’ll tell you what C LIU thinks a cover letter it is. It’s something you stick on top of your manuscript when the editor or agent has already read your query letter at some point (from an earlier communication) and now you’re following up with more material. You need something to “cover” your manuscript.

The anatomy of a cover letter is simple. The beginning of a cover letter is the same as the query letter (with regards to format, headers, etc.,) all the way through The Greeting.

After the greeting, you’ll have…

  • Purpose
  • Closing
  • Sign-off

The combination of Purpose and Closing shouldn’t exceed one or two short paragraphs. You’ll want to keep the letter simple and non-controversial. Why? You want them focused on your brilliant story, not your brilliant cover letter.
Purpose

  • This is where you’ll remind the editor or agent why you’re communicating with them.
  • Examples:
  1. Thank you for requesting my YA novel MS-TITLE. I have enclosed the first three chapters for your review. (this assumes that’s what the editor and agent asked for)
  2. I have enclosed my MG novel MS-TITLE per your request in August (if it’s been a while since they’ve requested it)
  3. Thank you for the revision suggestions for my picture book MS-TITLE. I loved your ideas to X and Y, and I have revised accordingly. (never hurts to flatter if you really mean it, but try not to gush)

Closing

  • The closing is a simple thanks or “wrapping up” statement.
  1. If you haven’t already expressed a thanks, you might say, Thank you for your time and consideration. Please note: this is a simultaneous submission.
  2. If you have already expressed thanks in the purpose, you may say, I look forward to hearing from you. Please note: the exclusive expires on X DATE.

If you don’t know the difference between exclusive and simultaneous submission, read post, exclusive submission or simultaneous submission?

Sign-off

  1. Regards
  2. Sincerely

Enclosures

  • You’ll state what you’re including, like this
  • Encl: SASE, ms MS TITLE

A word on personalization

If you’ve had some sort of meaningful interaction with the editor or agent and you feel compelled to personalize the letter, you may. But be careful. Use good judgment. Remember your goal is to get the editor or agent reading your fabulous work, not your cover letter. This isn’t necessarily the time to get all casual or “let’s-hug”-kind of friendly. Remember you have a business purpose and so does the recipient of your letter, so don’t go overboard.

And that is the anatomy of a cover letter. If we put it all together, the body of your letter might look like this.

Dear Ms. Editor’s Last Name:

I have enclosed my MG novel MS-TITLE per your request in August. Thank you for your time and consideration. Please note: this is a simultaneous submission.

Regards,

[YOUR NAME SIGNED]

Your name

Encl: SASE, ms TITLE

If you need a visual, an example template of a cover letter is included in the book version of my Crash Course.

If you’re taking my online crash course, return to write queries, cover letters, synopses, outlines, author bios, and more.

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