Shifting Focus and Changing Plans

For most authors in search of traditional publishing, it is only after diving into the deep end head first that you realize that you can barely tred water among all the other authors in the pool. It is only then that you might decide to take a step back and survey the landscape so that you can find a more likely path. In my case, that’s exactly what happened, and now I’m changing course toward calmer waters. It’s not the shortest journey, but it’s become more apparent to me now more than ever that an author must have patience and, in my opinion, layout a series of stepping-stone goals.

It has been my goal to get my novel published. However, the path that I chose to get there was to submit to literary agents (the gatekeepers to the publishing industry). My reasoning was that I knew they could educate me on the process, negotiate for a fair deal (so I would know whether I am being taken advantage of), and sell my manuscript better than I could. However, submitting to literary agents as a new author is like trying to take a shortcut in the publishing world. Literary agents generally look to get their clients that highly desired hardcover deal which is not often achieved by first time authors.

So it is time that I “start small” and choose the other path. I’m going to submit directly to some of the smaller, more focused publishing houses that usually deal with paperback and ebook deals. This was somewhat difficult for me to wrap my mind around as any self published author can achieve those same things via Amazon’s Create Space or other similar venues. However, a publishing house does more than just publish. It’s the editing, the marketing, the recognition amongst the consumers of a quality product, the brick-and-mortor store distribution, and the commitment of a team that is involved in your success as much as you are.

I feel that now, with my short story published, my query letter will exhibit more confidence, and with my progress into book two, it’ll demonstrate my dedication. If successful, I’ll have to negotiate the terms of my own deal and manage my own career, but it’s all about the journey, and it will all be worth it in the end.

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Write a Cover Letter for a Fiction Submission

As of late, I have been revising and submitting my fantasy short story, The Ravenous Flock, to fantasy magazines for publication. However, with every submission comes a cover letter. Usually, the submission page of the particular magazine’s website will tell you what sort of information to include in your cover letter, but 90% of the time they always want prior publication credits (if you have any), and subject matter expertise qualifications (if you have any).

As a side note: If you are having trouble finding magazines to submit to, I recommend going to the Writer’s Association that you want to join (SFWA, RWA, etc) and look at their membership qualifications. They usually have a list of magazines that they consider as qualified publication sources to become a member of that Writer’s Association.

If you are like me and don’t have prior publications (yet), it is hard to develop an impressive cover letter. But, if you are a fantasy writer and studied Medieval History as your emphasis in college, then that is the subject matter expertise that you should definitely include. But if you have neither, writing a cover letter can seem dry. (Also, please see my prior blog about writing an author Bio with no experience here).

When composing the cover letter, the salutation is very important. Always write “Dear [name of Editor in Chief]”. Personalizing the cover letter is critical to help you stand out among their slush pile (much the same way as a personalizing a query letter to an agent). To find the Editor’s name, it can sometimes feel like a treasure hunt. Most of the time, you can find it on the magazine’s website under the “About” page, however, once I had to view a free preview of their magazine to find the Editor’s name. In the event that you cannot find a name, you should resort to using their title: “Dear Editor,”.

Even though it is stating the obvious, it is important to describe your intentions in the body of the letter. In my opinion, it says something about your skill to be able to fit it all into one sentence. For example: Please consider my unpublished 5,000-word original fantasy manuscript, “The Ravenous Flock,” for publication at [name of magazine].

Remember to thank them for their time and for their attention/consideration. Be sure to end with “Sincerely” or “Respectfully” or “Regards” or any other polite sign-off. Always leave your full name, website (if you have one), and contact info such as phone number and email. But as I mentioned before, this is a rather short and dry letter that is all business and no creativity. I’ll leave the creativity up to you, as that can be considered risky. I chose to add humor to my most recent cover letter (below), but I cannot recommend it for everyone.

Dear [name of editor],

Attached, please find my unpublished 5,000-word original fantasy manuscript, “The Ravenous Flock,” for your reading pleasure. Oh! And please consider it for publication at [name of magazine] too.

Respectfully,

-Adrian V. Diglio

But be sure to check out these other sites that helped me craft my cover letter.

  • Underdown.org http://www.underdown.org/covlettr.htm
  • About.com http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/thebusinessofwriting/tp/coverslettershowto.htm
  • Streetdirectory.com http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/16061/writing/writing_a_cover_letter.html