Thursday, 4 June 2009

Hot Or Not?


This insanely hot weather is making me all funny (in a humorous way) so I've brought some giggles (hopefully) to the blog this week. I've just watched a Paris Hilton film too, so my brain is not really geared up to tell you all about the shakers and movers in the publishing world! This film, The Hottie and the Nottie, tells the story of Nate who moves to L.A. to track down Cristabel, the woman he's been in love with since childhood, only to discover that his plan to woo her has a hurdle to overcome - what to do with June, Cristabel's not-so-hot best friend? It's a movie of opposites - good and bad, beautiful and ugly, and with this in mind, I am employing the idea 'hottie and nottie' to this post.

Below are two covering letters, one hot (well, I wouldn't go that far as it was written by me, but it gives you a rough idea), and one not so hot. The letters have been written to imaginary agents, by a Mr A. Moron and a Mrs I.M. Smart (that's me). Hopefully this blog is self-explanatory, but in case you are a little worn by the heat, the first is a covering letter which you wouldn't send to an agent - not even in your wildest dreams - while the second is my own sent to a top agency, who, in their rejection e-mail complimented me on a 'very good covering letter.' Now I don't want to get all big-headed about this, but it should give the novice writer a rough idea of what an agent is expecting to receive. Mr Moron wrote his letter in green biro on the back of a soggy cereal-stained Cornflakes packet, while Mrs Smart typed her letter out and printed onto nice white paper.


Dear sir or maddam
I've written a book, so tel me how much money your gonna give me for it. Its caled 'Henry Porter' - it's like Harry Potter only its better. Its about this boy and his talking cat and they do stuff like magic spells and slaying dragons. My brother says this is the best thing Ive ever written so thats why Im sending it to you to see how much money I'm gonna make. If you dont get back to me, Ill send it to other agents. I haven't written anything before, this is my first time cos Im a plumber and Im busy fixing peoples toilets. Ive sent you chapter six and ten cos they're the best ones. I'm not including a synopsis in case it spoils the plot for you. Its not finnished yet, but I thought Id let you know in case you wanna start reading now. My brother says this will sell more than JK Rowlings books. So, what are you waiting for??

Ring me now.
Mr A. Moron (andy the plumber)


Dear (insert name - make sure it is correct)
I am seeking representation for my novel (insert title - 00,000 words), the story of (brief description of book, summing up in one sentence).

I work as a newspaper journalist, covering a wide variety of news, politics and entertainment stories, but I have a particular love for human interest features which is where my strength lies (this is relevant to my writing as my book is human interest and based on current events). (Insert Title) is the result of extensive research and indeed a personal interest in (the topic of the book).

Over the course of my career, I have had a wide range of news and features published in newspapers at home and in the USA (this is relevant, so I've included this, BUT it doesn't matter if you don't have any publishing credentials - the writing will speak for itself). I have taught creative writing and journalism to A Level students (also semi-relevant, plus I added some writing for television experience - don't get too bogged down in this). I have also had poems published in various magazines and anthologies and (I have also been shortlisted/won - mention competition success).

Although this can be read as a stand-alone novel, I am currently working on a follow-up which traces the life of the only member of the family to escape the concentration camp (shows you're not a one-book novelist).

I enclose the first three chapters of my book as well as a synopsis in the hope that this is a piece of fiction you'd be interested in (make sure you do enclose them, along with an SAE). Thank you very much for taking the time to read and I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely

Miss I.M Smart

12 comments:

Samantha Tonge said...

I'm trying to decide whether i err on the side of moron or smart!

I always feel my lack of writing credentials makes my cover letter very weak - but the format of yours is good and i suppose as long as you make it crisp and to the point, then it will catch the agent's attention - or at least do the job.

Great post!

Geraldine Ryan said...

Gillian,
interesting post, but, um, have you really spent time and money watching a film with Paris Hilton in? Why, in God's name?

Fionnuala Kearney said...

Great post, made me giggle - at letter one of course! The cover letter always daunts me as I feel they're really looking for experience of some sort - some sort of publishing record, experience in the industry etc. Like Caroline I always feel mine look a little .....bare?!

Gillian McDade said...

I don't think writing credentials help in the least. It may get your sub noticed a little more, but if the writing doesn't engage, then you lose.
On the other hand, if your letter shows a huge lack of writing credentials, yes, the sub may be furthe down the pile, but if the writing grabs the reader....!!
Geri - it was on Sky Movies - don't worry I didn't rent it!! :)

Julie P said...

Great, and amusing, post, Gillian! I always struggle with covering letters as I feel I don't have a lot to say! And I only write them for short stories, Lord help me if I ever have to do one for a book!

Julie xx

Gillian McDade said...

It's not that hard, Julie! I think my first covering letter was like Mr Moron's (well, maybe not as bad!) but we all start somewhere!

CarolineG said...

The 'nottie' letter made me laugh, Gillian!

I'm not sure about the writing credentials thing. Although it may help catch an agent's eye, I think the idea and the writing are ultimately much more important.

Gillian McDade said...

I agree, Caroline - let the writing speak for itself!

Derek Thompson said...

When you say you watched a Paris Hilton film, you surely don't mean that...ahem...personal video?

Caroline R said...

I always wonder about the proportion of hotties to notties in a real slush pile - I bet there are loads of hotties, and yet the notties must be so much more fun to read and therefore the ones that get talked about.

On the writing credentials question, I think you have to go for all or nothing - include them if they are relevant (as yours are, Gillian), or include none at all. It's the ones saying "I was delighted to achieve third place in the class poetry competition in 1987" that probably have a negative effect.

Geraldine Ryan said...

Or, Caroline, like me - "I was a runner up in the Cadbury essay competition in in 1960 with my essay entitled "The Story of Chocolate" for which I won a whole box of Cadbury's Neopolitans."

Lydia said...

I agree. I think a few writing credentials might make them look beyond the first paragraph of your writing, but after that the work speaks for itself and if it doesn't yell at them at full volume, it will be coming back to you in a brown enevelope!