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After taking part in last night's webinar after all, I realise it might not be possible to achieve an individual reply to any queries in the future, because of the numbers competing for advice.  It can't be helped - so it would be interesting and helpful to hear from fellow members on certain aspects of the all-important cover letter.

For instance, what can you do to excite an agent's or publisher's interest if you have no history of being published, or competition success to quote?  Many agents do ask for some personal information too, even a C.V.,, and I do believe it's a good idea to give them a sense of you, the person they might have to deal with later.  What do you think is the best way to do this?  (I mean, apart from mentioning any creative writing courses or group memberships. That's a given.  At least I've got Jericho Writers now.)

Also, how can you convey that you're not a novice, whilst avoiding giving the impression that you've been writing unsuccessfully for a long time (especially if that's true!)?  I've used "I am not new to writing" but they probably saw that for what it was.  Does it matter?

I'd be interested to have your comments.

  • Based on experience, what excite an agent's or publisher's interest on a cover letter is an exciting pitch/exciting book idea. The cover letter is about the book, not about the writer. If you have writing credentials great, but the most important is still the book itself.

    If you want to show that you are not a novice you can mention any writing course or writing groups you are part of, but at the end of the it doesn't really matter.

    Personally, I haven't come across an agent asking for a CV, was it from a big agency or a smaller one? Most agents ask for a line or two biography/writing credentials, but that only cover 5% of the letter. Still all about the book.

    The only thing that varied in my letter to agent from one to the other was the reason why I submitted to them in particular.

    Hope this helps.

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    • Hello everyone. I left the webinar yesterday feeling very demoralised. All these people talking about getting book deals! I am an ex[perienced writer with a certain amount of success but can I get an agent? I've said it before; u unless you are writing to certain genres you don't stand a chance.

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      • Submissions can feel disheartening. I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what kind of genre do you feel don’t stand a chance with agents? 

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        • Hi Jennifer, I felt this way a couple of years ago. I'd written a book which two published writers read and told me to send off, it got nowhere. I have accepted that the chance of getting a deal/agent is very small - they simply get so many submissions. Since then I have written another book (better) and joined Jericho. I know a lot more about the industry now and I would simply work through all of the material on here, especially Harry's videos. All the writers on the webinar were part of Jericho and to be honest I think they represent quite a wide range of styles and genres.  My big turning point was the self edit course. I now have much more confidence and belief in my book and am going to do the usual thing, send it out to 10-12 agents and if it doesn't get anywhere, save up for a MS critique and get on with another story. What kind of genre are you writing in? 

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        • Well it seems to me that unless you are LGBT or from a minority group you don't stand a chance. Middle aged white straight women writers have become invisible unless they were established some time ago.

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          • Agree to disagree on that one. I think looking at the announcements on The Bookseller, Book Brunch or Publisher's Weekly show that lots of women and men in general are getting published and had debuts this year or have debuts coming up in 2021, and 2022.

            Minority group and LGBT are under-represented so it's great that they are finally getting some recognition and publishers are realising that there are a much bigger market than they thought for books from under-represented groups. The key word being under-represented they still only represent a fraction of the overall publishing market.

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            • L makes a brilliant point here. Perhaps it seems that writers from minority groups are the only ones getting deals just now, but it's probably more the point that they're the ones in the spotlight. The media searches for these kinds of stories and the publishers and agents want to flag the fact they're supporting minority writers. And if you saw some of the back lash agencies and publishers get on social media for not flagging their support of minorities or for saying inappropriate things, you'd understand why. People have lost their reputations and jobs over Twitter posts in recent months.

              I still think (hope) the writing is key and publishers still want to sell books, people still want to read great stories.

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            • Thank you for your comments.  Just to clarify, especially to L. I haven't been directly asked for a C.V. but this is occasionally specified in submission requirements on websites or in the Yearbook.

              Others are making valid references to genre and this is certainly an important consideration.  There is a never-ending stream of detective fiction, for example, so you stand a good chance with that, assuming everything else is all right.   Thrillers, too.  My problem has always been to know what category my writing falls into.  I can think of only two novels where I could, as I say, "stick a label on it".  This poses  a problem when  writing the cover letter, although, only today, I went through Harry's short video on what to do when you've finished your book, which covers this point.  It does seen to help.

              I haven't noticed a preference for certain types of writer - except academics and journalists.  This shows up in agents' client lists and details of competition winners, even where fiction is the issue.

              I've decided not to worry about conveying that I'm not a novice.

              I wish I could believe that just writing a good book is all that matters but it isn't.  

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              • It’s good writing, a lot of perseverance and a little luck (about your submission landing on the right desk, of the right agent at the right time). 

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              • If there is something that any of us can do to get an agent or a publisher, I feel sure a lot of the information and help is on here (I'm not related to anyone on JW by the way!).  I say that after having listened to a lot of the tutorials and some webinars, also having seen the Townhouse comments and help offered when someone asks for it.  I am a novice but I think the more you know about something, the more you realise there is to know.  In the end that's good I hope.  Confession:  I haven't actually sent off my novel yet but when I'm ready, I will be asking some of you good people here to comment before I do.  I know the standard of many of the writers on here is so very high. Good luck in your aims everyone.

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