If you’re thinking of writing a cover letter or a query letter, you’re taking the first steps toward getting your writing published!
The prospect of writing cover letters and query letters often sends writers into a state of anxiety. But we’ve been helping writers compose cover letters and query letters since 1994! What follows is a basic introduction to cover and query letters.
For advanced strategies and techniques, visit our Free Writers Toolkit!
What is the difference between a cover letter and a query letter?
What is a cover letter? The term cover letter is generally used to refer to the letter of introduction that accompanies your poetry and prose submissions to literary journals and magazines.
What is a query letter? A query letter is a type of cover letter that is geared specifically toward literary agents. Literary agents represent book projects and sell them to publishing houses. They rarely represent short stories or poetry.
In the freelance writing industry, the term query letter can be used to refer to a letter that is pitching a nonfiction article to an editor at a news magazine or other periodical. But in the book publishing industry, query letter describes letters that are sent to pitch books to literary agents.
What do cover letters and query letters have in common?
Literary agents and editors want concise, clear information. They don’t want to be distracted by gimmicks or bogged down by long-winded explanations.
Both cover and query letters are letters of introduction. Both contain author bios and basic information about what is being submitted.
The primary difference is that, while query letters include a synopsis of the project in question (in order to entice an agent to read more), cover letters do not.
A cover letter presumes that the editor who receives it will read the enclosed/attached materials.
A query letter must entice a literary agent to read the attached/enclosed materials or must entice said agent to request more pages of a manuscript.
How long is a cover or query letter?
One page. Single-spaced. And, no, your letter is not the exception that can be longer than one page. :-)
What’s the bottom line with cover and query letters?
Editors at literary magazines or literary agents may or may not read your cover letter, but you’ll still need to follow their submission guidelines carefully in order to be taken seriously.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to create an amazing cover or query letter. Our free articles will help. Be sure to check out our Free Publishing Took Kit!
Here are some other important posts about cover and query letters:
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