Queries and Cover Letters:
Making that First Impression

Copyright Judy Bagshaw - All Rights Reserved


Query letters and cover letters are separate animals, but both are the first impression that a publisher has of you and your romance manuscript. So you want to make them exceptional. 

Before you ever send a manuscript for consideration, you send a query. This lets the submissions editor know that you have a romance suitable for their company. You show them that it fits with the submissions guidelines you have carefully researched before contacting them. Some submissions guidelines will request the first three chapters, or a small excerpt of your book to be sent with the query. Polished to perfection, your letter shows you to be the consummate professional.

Start with creating a professional letterhead containing your name and contact information including two viable email addresses. This can be easily done in Word.

Make sure to address your query to the right person. Do the research to find the name of the submissions editor for the publisher you target. This courtesy shows you to be considerate and thorough. And by all means, make sure you spell the person’s name correctly. In publishing, personnel change frequently, so really do your homework carefully. And you might want to polish up on your "writing-a-business-letter" skills to get the form right.

Your first paragraph introduces you and your book; the title, projected word length, genre (romantic suspense, paranormal romance, historical romance etc.), and if applicable, which imprint you are targeting for your book. For example, this is what I wrote for my first submitted book: "I am currently seeking representation for my completed novel, "Lady Blue", a 40,000 word contemporary romance featuring a plus-sized heroine. It is targeted for your RealWomen/Real Romance imprint." 

The second paragraph is a blurb for your book. What is it about? What is the theme? How are the characters changed by the book’s end? Think of the blurbs you read on the back of most paperbacks, and that’s the type of thing you want to include here. How can you sum up the substance of this wonderful romance you’ve written? Here is the beginning of what I wrote for Lady Blue: "Lady Blue" is the story of Deborah Spencer, a plus sized housewife and mother who finds herself married to an unfaithful and abusive man. When she fears for the safety of herself and her son, she flees to the anonymity of the city, changes her identity and embarks on a new life as Sabrina Blue, singer…" I go on to tell how she meets the hero and roughly how she is changed by the end of the book.

Now that you’ve sold the editor on the greatness of your book, it’s time to sell them on the greatness of you. The third paragraph should cover your writing experience and credentials. Include any publishing history and any professional organizations to which you belong. You can even touch on expertise that helped you write the book. For example, if your heroine is a chef, have you had experience as a chef or working in a restaurant? If your hero is a cop or lawyer, do you have some background in law inforcement? If you’ve won contests for your writing, by all means mention this in this paragraph.

End your query by thanking the editor for his or her consideration, and express how you look forward to hearing from them.

It is important to remember that the submissions editor’s time is valuable, so avoid rambling, excessive superlative language, or expressing your opinion of the book (or your mother’s, best friends’, writing group’s…). Try and keep the letter to a single page.

A cover letter is needed when, hopefully, your brilliantly crafted query has resulted in a request from the publisher for your completed manuscript. Many times, this can be done via email these days, but the concept is the same. You are acknowledging their request for the full manuscript (and anything else they may have asked for at the time), and politely thanking them for taking the time to consider your work.

Again, you want to be concise and professional, whether corresponding by snail mail or by email. Use the same letterhead you used with your query. Follow the standard business letter format. Address it to the correct person, and keep it very simple.

Something like this would suffice:

Dear Editor Smith,

Attached is the completed 50,000 word manuscript of my book, Heart’s Desire which you requested June 5, 2007.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Jane Doe

You may be required to enclose an SASE if sending by snail mail, but that should be outlined in the publisher’s submission guidelines.

There are no "do overs" with first impressions, so it is vital to get it right the first time. Take the same time and care to polish your queries and cover letters, as you do your romance novels and short stories, and you are well on the way to making a great first impression.


About the Author: Judy Bagshaw has been published since 2000. Writing romance featuring full-figured heroines, her publishing credits include 4 novels, 1 collection of short stories, and short stories in three anthologies. She was also part of the writing team for the Ginn Reading Series, and Reaching Readers Series, used in many elementary schools. Retired from teaching, she writes full-time from her home in Ontario, Canada. Visit Judy's website:




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