Queries and Cover Letters:
Making that First Impression
Copyright Judy Bagshaw - All Rights
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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: