Thursday, 30 August 2012

DEAR CRABBIT: question about covering letters

As this blog winds down, I have a final question for Dear Crabbit:
Dear Crabbit
I've just finished reading Dear Agent, and I wish there had been such a straight forward, helpful book around when I first started submitting my writing to publishers and agents!

I hope you don't mind but I have a query about the 'cook paragraph'. I don't have many writing credits - 2 e-published short stories (via [name redacted]). One is erotic horror and therefore relevant in regard to my supernatural suspense novel. The other is gay fiction - again it's supernatural suspense, so relevant - but there is a stronger erotic element (however, it is not erotic romance). I am simply not sure whether to include this information in my covering letter... or how to include it, exactly.

I know there are other writers who are gaining publishing contracts with e-publishers writing romance/erotic romance, whilst still pursuing traditional publishing deals in mainstream genres. So, we are gaining experience in writing and marketing but wonder if the subject we are writing about could put publishers off.

(Because I wasn't sure whether the questioner was planning to seek publication through "traditional publishing", I checked, and she is.) 

So, essentially this is about whether the fact that you've written two e-published short stories with an erotic element (erotic horror and gay fiction, in varying combinations of suspense/horror) is likely to be something you should or should not mention.

If the novel that you are submitting is for adults (by which I simply mean not aimed specifically at children/YA), I see no problem with the content. However, since they are not the same type of writing and since they are e-publications, there is little value in making too much of a deal of it. How much of a deal you might make of it depends on how relevant the writing and how prestigious the publication. I'd say something fairly vague, such as, "I have had two short stories published via ***." You might, if you wish, add that their genre was different. And I'd only mention the name of the e-press if it is reputable and selects the stories based on merit. 

Your book will be accepted or not based on your book, not the other things you've written, within reason. In your cook paragraph, while credits are useful, it's your attitude to your work, your commitment to writing and how you are able to show that you are very clued up about the industry that will affect the agent more. The only reasons I can see for an agent or publisher being put off by the content of anything else you've written are a) if your writing is poor, (though that hasn't stopped... No, I'll refrain!) or b) if you're pitching a book for children, because it would imply that you think that erotic horror is a relevant thing to mention when pitching a children's book.

I hope that helps. I'd welcome comments from others.

Lots more details in Dear Agent!, which is, I'm delighted to say, gaining terrific praise from agents and writers. Including substantially published writers, who still sometimes need to pitch their book to a new publisher or agent. Hooray!


Nicola Morgan said...

I just deleted a comment which I *think* was spam. I apologise if it was genuine but I will put the message here, just in case it wasn't spam and just in case someone has already read it and accepted the advice:

The comment simply said: "While preparing your Promotion Letter Discuss how long you've been in your current job." (And then there was a link, which I did not click.)

Please do not do follow this advice! A publisher or agent absolutely does not need to know how long you've been in your job, or even if you have one.

Nicola Morgan said...

Oh, there goes another piece of spam!