Why do writers need to write cover letters?
It’s the 2020s and the digital era, so why do writers need to worry about cover letters?
Well, these days cover letters are most likely cover EMAILS … but you’ll still need the basics of how to write them. The only thing that’s changed is the delivery, basically.
This means you’ll usually write cover letters as part of your submission process. This will frequently be a requirement, even if you’re using an online submissions portal such as CoverFly, Submittable or QueryTracker.
Other times you may be expected to use cover letters is querying via ordinary email, or as applications for public funding or finance from investors.
Cover Letter Basics
As mentioned, nothing has changed radically except the delivery of cover letters. If you take NOTHING ELSE from this post, check out these basics on writing cover letters below …
Advanced Pointers On Cover Letters
Many writers worry about what the above means, so here’s some more detail.
1) Always research WHO you’re sending to
There’s no excuse for not doing so, in the internet age. Don’t waste your time or anyone else’s by sending them your stuff when it’s unsuitable. It’s easy to check this! Look at …
- Websites and script calls in detail
- Check out producers’ and agents’ wish lists online via Twitter
- Network with people (online and offline)
In other words, just know who is interested in what. MORE: How To Build Relationships With Agents & Producers Online
2) A good length = roughly half a page
I often tell Bang2writers roughly 300 words is a good cover letter length. It means plenty of white space, but has enough detail for you to get your point across without getting carried away either.
Sometimes writers say this is too short. Trust me: it is NOT too short!
By the way … If you ‘know’ the person you are making the submission to, it’s not only fine to say so, it is ENCOURAGED!
So mention the event you met, or the fact you’ve chatted online on Twitter, etc. Just don’t lie about this!
3) Just don’t do comedy. Ever
Yes, even if you are submitting a comedy book or screenplay. You just don’t know how it’ll come across in the context of a cover letter. So better just to sidestep that potential hornet’s nest altogether.
4) Let them know you know what you’re talking about
I’m always surprised by the number of cover letters whose writers hide their lights under bushels. We’re talking authors with epic bestsellers right through to screenwriting showrunners.
Once a very famous and much-admired writer wrote me an email telling me all about himself as if I didn’t know who he could be … when just his NAME in my inbox gave me a (welcome) heart attack!
Of course, this just came off as very cute … But if you’re NOT as big as this guy, then making sure the person you’re writing to knows what you’ve done is a great tactic.
NO, it is not boasting!
5) Having a platform/presence is a great idea
Put simply, if you direct the person you’re writing to straight towards your website or social media profiles, they’re likely to go straight there and check you out. This enables you to showcase who you are ‘upfront’.
Be warned though: this can be a double-edged sword. Make sure your platform or presence works FOR you, not AGAINST you!
Double-check all your socials and make sure you don’t look like an amateur, slagging off all and sundry. MORE: Top 5 Ways To Build Your Writer Platform In 2023
Cover Letters WORK
NEWSFLASH: A good cover letter WORKS, because the spec pile WORKS.
Whilst contacts and strategy ALWAYS help, a well-presented submission package can catch producers’, readers’, publishers’ and agents’ eyes … FACT.
But too many cover letters catch people’s eyes for the WRONG reasons. They’re scrappy, overly long, unprofessional, or just plain weird.
(Whatever you do: just don’t ever, ever write a cover letter LIKE THIS HORRIFYING EXAMPLE, as our dearly departed Carole Blake demonstrated).
Grab 50% off B2W’s Submissions Secrets Course!
When first impressions count for so much, writers can’t afford to waste time on submissions that look like crap, don’t follow the guidelines, or are sent to the wrong people at the wrong time! Learn all my secrets in this online, on-demand course you can start TODAY.
Craft your own personalised submissions strategy with B2W … I walk you through everything you need to target your dream agent, publisher, producers or other industry contacts.
The summer is always ‘dead time’ for the industry, so get ready for September submissions with B2W. CLICK HERE for details or on the pic and grab 50% off … but hurry, this offer ends on Sunday July 23rd!