What to put in a cover letter to a publisher!?!

by Kaye

I have been putting off sending any of my children's books for a long time now due to worrying too much about what to put in my cover letter. I've heard that publishers can be so put off by a cover letter that they won't even read your book, and I don't want that to happen (obviously).

What to put in a cover letter to a children's book publisher

I have read a lot of the things you shouldn't put in a letter but have struggled to read what you should put and how long you should make the letter.

I really want to know what and what not to include in my letter and if I need to write a query letter first, or if you just send your submission off with a cover letter.

Is anyone able to help me at all? I have considered putting in my letters things like:

-what inspires me to write,
-where the idea came from,
-which books of theirs I like the most and feel are most like my own, i.e. why I have chosen to send my book to them.

I'm not sure if I should mention that I have written other books (I've heard this makes you look like an amateur). I'm also not sure if I should be setting the story out into pages or just to send it as a long story?

I really, really would like some help on this and have found it so hard to get any answers. I really hope I've come to the right place.

Thanks so much in advance.


Kaye, hi. I'm the webmaster here, but I'm not going to call myself an authority on the subject, because I'm not. I'll give you some of my thoughts and responses, but I certainly invite others to chime in.

What to put - and not to put - in a cover letter to a children's book publisher

When I write a query letter, or a cover letter that wasn't preceded by a query, I keep in mind a number of things.

1) It's a writing sample!
2) My correspondent's time is valuable.
3) The ONLY thing they care about is whether your book might be a good fit for them and potentially make money.

Those items should help you decide on some of what you should and SHOULDN'T include.
If I'm writing a cover letter for something that someone has already agreed to read, I write two words: As discussed.

Now, I must say, I'm not thoroughly convinced you've done enough research on this yet.

When you say you don't know whether to first send a query, well, that's going to differ by publisher. You have to do your best to track down their submission guidelines.

Remember, cover letters can go to agents too.

Almost all of them will have websites, often with their submission guidelines right there. You can also send for their guidelines (or at least you used to be able to!) There are online resources as well, plus of course Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market.

My goal with a cover letter is to describe my story in as succinct and appealing a fashion as possible. My ideal is to come up with a single sentence that lays out a sense of my main character and his/her predicament.

I'm also looking to convey, succinctly, a sense of my success and competence as a writer (if you have real, relevant credits, mention them; if not, keep silent), as well as a sense that I've done the requisite research on the outfit I'm trying to tempt. But even that I try to make germane to the letter. In other words, I don't write

I know you published If You Give a Pig a Pancake.

I write

My story has a similar sense of whimsy as Laura Numeroff's books, but with a lesson to impart as well.

Make sense? Don't talk about what inspires you to write, where the idea came from, or any other UNpublished manuscripts you've written. Just convey professionally what the work you propose to sell to them is about in a professional and concise manner. If you have a good enough premise, and if your letter is executed with the kind of professionalism that suggests the manuscript is likely to be well-written, you have a chance!


P.S. If you happen to be struggling with how to concisely describe your book, or if you struggle with writing stories with premises that can be boiled down to conciseness, I recommend checking out Save the Cat!

Comments for What to put in a cover letter to a publisher!?!

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Cover letters: use brevity and focus
by: Jeremy Foster-Fell

I endorse everything that Steve just said above.

As an agent in a similar field for 35 years, my office was overwhelmed with unsolicited submissions.

We used to get over a thousand a month.

Even a "human, curious and compassionate" agent is faced with a difficult task of responsibly reviewing that quantity of mail, whilst doing their daily job.

We would have junior staff or interns filter a large quantity of mail out that was not suitable for our company.

Therein lies advice #1. Make sure you tailor your cover letter specifically to each company...at least do enough research to know what kind of stuff they handle. A mass mailed circular, however well written, will probably lose out on round one!

Follow each company's basic submission rules.

#2) Brevity (and I do mean extreme brevity!) is the key in your letter submitted with your material.

There is a temptation, with a cover letter, to let the agent know how passionate you are, or how much you have enjoyed (fill in the blank) since you were a young child.


Try to say what you have to say in 2 sentences or under.

After the pile of submissions had been filtered, I would turn my attention to the 10-30 suitable submissions on my desk.

I would probably finish up by meeting with only 3 of them.

Focus is far better than buckshot. It significantly improves your chances of your submitted material being read and responded to.

That may sound a bit unfair or harsh but it is the real world. Knowing how the real world operates increases your odds.

As does (and I add "unfortunately") having a personal contact.


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