Wednesday, 11 May 2011

WHAT NOT TO SAY IN A COVERING LETTER - COMP

Carrot: there's a competition at the end of this post! As part of the countdown to the launch of Write to be Published - three weeks to go -  I have two more crabbit bags up for grabs. (Oh, and I am thrilled and excited to say that the books ARE now in the warehouse and if I wasn't away tomorrow my copies would be arriving then! Yay!)

But first, the "learning", as management-speaky types say.

Here are some things you should NOT say in a covering letter. I have seen them all in various forms:
  • My book is for readers of 9 to 99.
  • You and me are going to be rich. ( Or "You and me are" anything.)
  • I have printed my book on a HP Photosmart XB100.
  • I enclose for your delectation...
  • I have chosen to send you chapters 3, 8 and 73, because I think they are the best ones.
  • I have chosen to send you chapters 3, 8 and 73 because I haven't printed the others out.
  • I have chosen Comic Sans because it's nice and clear.
  • I enclose my fiction novel.
  • Dear Sir. (Or Dear Madam.)
  • Hi!
  • Most readers couldn't give a toss about books nowadays but I promise they'll love this.
  • It's like Love in the Time of Cholera, but way more interesting.
  • It doesn't really fit any genre.
  • My kids almost died laughing when they read it.
  • It's not like the other books out there.
  • I have already published it as an ebook so I've proved there's a market. Now I'm looking for print publication.
  • I don't think it needs much editing.
  • I know it needs a lot of editing. 
  • It's been my life's dream to write a book but I never had time.
  • Several people have said I have real talent. 
  • I was highly commended in an online competition and one of the judges said I have a very unusual voice.
  • It's written in a very simple style because readers of this age are not very clever.
There are plenty of other things people get wrong in covering letters but these are the most common and most glaring. All my sensible advice for covering letters is in Write to be Published, as well as in previous posts on this blog, but can also be summed up as:
  • Be sensible and professional.
  • Be calm and sane.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Write a decent book. (Though it may also be indecent. But be careful if it's for children...)
OK, so, here's the competition. It's an easy one this time.

I have admitted several times on this blog that I once wrote a covering letter in rhyme. However, there was something else tacky and stupid that I did in that same covering letter. What was it? (If you don't know, guess. If no one gets it right, the most creative wrong guess will win!) If there are several correct entries, I will put names in a hat. Deadline: 1st June, midday UK time.

Answer in the comments below - even if someone has already given what you think is the right answer. And please do spread this competition around - anyone can enter! Yes, overseas bods, too. I love y'all.

And do please also enter the BIG WTBP Comp - details here. Entries are so far few but fab. And I know that several of you are working on it.

If you want to order your signed copy from me in advance - AND GET IT EARLY! - click the Buy the Book page at the top of this blog. If you order from me you will automatically be entered into the monthly draw to win another crabbit bag. And I will be happy, which should make you happy and the world a therefore happier place.

Now, comment away. And you can answer up to three times, as long as your answer is different...

66 comments:

The Staff Wielder said...

You decided to close the letter with a particularly witty 'Man from Nantucket' haiku?

Wendus said...

You told them you are the only writer in the village.

Sally Clements said...

You said: 'The last agent I submitted it to said she thought it reminded her of Amanda Hocking's work, but unfortunately she declined to represent me.'

Rebecca Brown said...

You enclosed a bunch of headless roses in your hand-delivered submission package?

Stephanie Butland said...

You included a photograph of yourself doing a thumbs-up and holding a mock-up of the cover of the book you were pitching that you'd designed, and coloured in, yourself.

Nicola Morgan said...

I love your answers so far! I will have to have two prizes - one for being correct and one for being amusing!

Sian said...

Did you add something like this:

You don’t have much time
So I’ll finish my rhyme
But before I bid you adieu:
A lock of my hair
In a brooch you can wear
Designed especially for you.

A holiday pic
(No, don’t take the mick)
That hat just slipped over my nose
My best autograph
(Oh please, please don’t laugh)
And a freshly picked red dewy rose.

Did I nick it? Well maybe
From next door’s old lady
(She won’t notice she’s seems to have squillions.)
But you and I, dear
Year after year
Will be making millions and millions.

Mark said...

I heard you coated yourself in chocolate and para-glided through the window of the agent humming 'Ride of the Valkyries' with the manuscript clenched between your bum cheeks.

JO said...

You wrote on smelly pink paper, and enclosed sparkly bits that fell out all over the agent's desk?

dandeliongirl said...

You personally delivered the submission as a singing telegram. Maybe the accompanying tap dancing routine was a little over the top, but full marks for enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

You put some Sushi in the envelope to accompany the Haiku? Mmmm.

Tardis_Tim

David Griffin said...

You sent them chocolates?

:-)

Jacqueline Pye said...

Surely it couldn't be, but did you forget to include your name and address?

Jacqueline Pye said...

Sorry, forgot it was something tacky.

You enclosed a recording of yourself singing: You're simply the best, better than all the rest."

Patsy said...

I reckon you printed it out in pretty colours! (That's not really an entry though as I'm already getting a copy of the book for my feet story - looking forward to reading it!)

catdownunder said...

No, it was tacky therefore it was toffee! :-)

angelkarina said...

Did you include character references, including celebrity endorsement from The Krankies who described you as 'Fan-dabi-dozi'?

Miriam Drori said...

You coloured it.

Penwright said...

You enclosed one of those musical cards that played "Congratulations" - for being the selected recipient of your work of genius...

Kittie Howard said...

You enclosed a photo of yourself.

Hard to believe a writer would pen "You and me" or "Me and you" as subjects, duh, nominative case rules.

Claire Dawn said...

You ended with "I'll have my people call your people."

Catriona said...

You wrote each letter of each word in a different colour, using thick felt tip pens.

Penwright said...

You used that curly fake-handwriting font - and decorated it with pictures of some wading bird or other, perhaps a heron...?

Juliet Boyd said...

You gave a full cast list of who would play each of the characters in a film version, including yourself in the lead role.

aw said...

Surely you didn't use green ink or some such awful colour? Having marked homework in both purple and emerald green variations I can only sympathise with the recipient if this was the case.

womagwriter said...

You delivered the covering letter in person, dressed in a tarty French maid's outfit with a rose tucked in your cleavage. Then found the 'Dear Sir' you'd addressed the letter to was actually a woman two years off retirement age who reminded you of your primary school headteacher. She was not amused.

Barb said...

Topped the envelope up with glitter for that blast of sparkly freshness!

Steve Bilton said...

You also included a selection of tastefully shot semi-naked poses for the certain-to-be-forthcoming Crabbit At Work Calendar.

Anonymous said...

Dotted the "i" in Nicola with a heart and added a lipstick kiss? :)
-- @glamsmitten

Sally Zigmond said...

It has to be chocolate. You slipped a bar of something sweet and sophisticated in with your letter?

Or it could be shoes but I don't think you'd give those away.

DanielB said...

It didn't involve pink paper, floral borders or glitter. Tell me it didn't.

jtwebster books said...

It just had to be chocolate!!

Tamlyn said...

You wrote each word in a different colour, matching them up so they were most appropriate (ummm... such as writing 'stop' in red and the like).

Then possibly included scent for any words like flower or bread. (Though what either of those words would be doing in your rhyme, I don't know. Unless it was a fictionalised account of the day the bread chased you through the garden. As opposed to the real story. Babbling now.)

Ebony McKenna. said...

I think perhaps chocolate, or toffee, or chocolate covered toffee.

Or a photo of you wearing nothing but a new pair of teal-coloured suede boots!

. . . and in the photo you were eating toffee???

catdownunder said...

I prowled back through the COB's posts to 18th March 2009 looking for a clue. That is the post in which ma-am admits to sending a submission letter in rhyme. Do you realise that she makes this admission in no less than seven different colours and two different sizes of font. It makes me wonder whether these sins extended to her covering letter at that time?

Katherine Langrish said...

I don't know and can't guess, but I will add for everyone's amusement that one agent I was recently chatting with told me that he'd had an ms hand-delivered to his office door by the author dressed up in a full bio-hazard suit.

The agent nearly had a heart-attack when he opened the door, and the ms went unread into the bin.

So that's one to avoid, too.

Mike Jarman said...

And you'll also find enclosed a picture of my speciality handstand. No, really - I'm well know for them. If you accept my MS I can send you more...

Helen said...

You thought they were toffees as you put them in the envelope but it was early in the morning and someone had left the toffees next to a box of dog biscuits...?

Ebony McKenna. said...

Blogger was down and it ate my response, but I said something incredibly witty like:

But I think it was toffee.

Or a picture of your good self wearing a pair of teal coloured suede boots . . . eating toffee.

catdownunder said...

The Blogger fail ate my clever comment but, should you care to search the archives of this blog, you will discover that when M/s Crabbit advised us about her covering letter in rhyme she wrote it in (wait for it) no less than seven different colours and two different font sizes. Is this a clue as to what she did at the time or not?

Mike Jarman said...

Oops original comment dissapeared down the Blog hole.I can't remember what I put now, but went something like this:
You will also find enclosed a photo of me performing a handstand. No, really, I'm known for them. If you accept my MS, I can send you more!

LizM said...

You sent toffees.

LizM said...

You quoted Ernie Wise and stated, "this is the book what I wrote."

Steve Bilton said...

You also enclosed some tastefully shot semi-naked poses for the certain-to-be-forthcoming 'Crabbit at Work' calendar.

Helen said...

You included a selection of discount vouchers: a couple for a unisex beauty salon specialising in the removal of nose hair and the treatment of fungal nails; a free session with a relationship therapist cum dog whisperer and
50p off Paul McKenna's I Can Make You Thin.

Penwright said...

You wrote the letter in that fake curly-wurly handwriting font, and you decorated it with pictures of wading birds, let's say herons...

Mark Anderson said...

You typed the letter in a wierd font that looked a bit like handwriting.

Beth Kemp said...

You included a note from a child (maybe your own; not sure of the timing here!) stating how brilyant your book was.

womagwriter said...

Oh bum, mine (which was undoubtedly the winning entry) seems to have vanished in a puff of ether. It was something like this:

You delivered the covering letter personally, dressed as a tarty French maid with a rose tucked into your cleavage. The 'Dear Sir' you'd addressed the letter to turned out to be a woman two years off retirement age who reminded you of your primary school headmistress. She was not amused.

1000th.monkey said...

"My mom says it's the best thing she's ever read!"

"It's the next Harry Potter/Twilight/Davinci Code and you'd be crazy not to jump on the chance to represent me."

"87 other agents have turned me down..."

"You better accept 'cause if I get one more rejection letter, I'l commit suicide and my death will be on your head."

Debra said...

You wrote, “Well, here is my magnum opus at last! *smiley face*
Sorry to keep you ‘in stitches’ this way but just to make your day…

You wanna make a LOT of money?
Well, wait no more; my masterpiece is at your door!
~ Enjoy!!! ~
(Eat your heart out Stephen King). *smiley face*

Tamlyn said...

My answer got eaten, but it was 102% correct and absolutely hilarious as well.


Honest.

Wendus said...

You said either:

'You know it makes sense'

or

'This time next year we'll be millionaires!'

Nicola Morgan said...

Stunning entries - how I'm going to decide, I have no idea. As well as the hilariously creative entries, and a small number of actually correct ones, there's one person who has either guessed an added detail spectacularly correctly or who knows something that I don't think anyone in the world knows... Very spooky. i will reveal all later. (Not in that sense.)

womagwriter said...

You used a different colour for each line of the letter.

Catriona said...

My comment has disappeared too. I think it said that you wrote the letter of each word in a different colour, using felt tip pens.

Jennifer Lee Young said...

Your cover letter was printed with a back round of a ghosted headshot of yourself with brief bio stating, "My ultimate goal was to be published by Harper Collins, but since I was not able to get in I would like to have a chance at Snowbooks Limited."

And you included a mock book cover done in clipart.

Helen said...

My cope of Write to Be Published has just arrived (thank you!) so I now know the answer but I'm imagining a covering letter explaining that the book has been written according to Dave Pratfeature's 'Only Nine Plots in Literature? Here's The Tenth, Bozos' system and only agents who 'get it' need apply.

Clemence said...

You submitted a photocopy of the hand-written letter you've sent to all 100 previous publishers. However, your photocopying machine ran out of ink so you took one of the covering letters that got rejected and sent back to you, and used whiteout to cover up the previous publisher's name. Unfortunately you sort of ran out of whiteout too... but you sent the letter anyway.

Marina Drummond said...

There were colours: lettering and backdrop; hearts dotted about the paper. Wafts of perfume exuded from the lovely purple envelope, sealed in wax. The words stood out in stunning medieval calligraphy, with a few curls to add character. A photograph was glued to the centre of the page, tailored into a heart-shaped frame. Sparkles and gold stars adorned the masterpiece and fell out onto the grey table in the agent's office so as to remind him of the marvels of childhood. Flowers, patterns, hope, poetry: just before posting it, sending it off into the great unknown, there was a pause and a small pink lipstick kiss. The envelope looked beautiful, almost as if it was whispering back to you, 'And so, with a kiss, I die' - and you knew it was a good omen.

Akiko said...

Why you said we cannot use "dear Sir/Madam"?
(I'm Italian, I have no idea about that, here it's just polite to head a letter like this).

Katalin Havasi said...

You said that you enclosed a ready-made acceptance letter for their convenience.

Nicola Morgan said...

Love your entries!! Such a laugh.

Akiko - ah, this is because if you say "Dear Sir/Madam" it indicates that you don't know who you are writing to. And when approaching an agent or publisher, you *must* know, because otherwise it is obvious you haven't researched what sort of things the agent or publisher deals with. Is that OK? Every approach must be personal.

Akiko said...

Aaah, ok, so the matter isn't whether to say Dear Sir/Madam or not, but it's not saying the name!! I understood now! Thank you very much!

Chiara

Steve Bilton said...

Glad I made home in time to have another attempt at this before it closes.

Because I'm pretty sure that you included a signed copy of your family tree which on close inspection included: Margaret Atwood, Norman Tebbit, Pol Pot, and Clyde from Any Which Way But Loose.

Steve Bilton said...

Glad I made it home in time to have another go at this before it closes.

Because I remember now that you included a signed copy of your family tree which they found on close inspection included; Margaret Atwood, Fay Weldon, Norman Tebbit, Pol Pot and Clyde from Any Which Way But Loose.