sly : marketing

Writing the manuscript cover letter

I’m excited. I’m very excited. I’m about to burst.

It’s hard to explain how it feels when something I’ve been working on for a long time is about to enter a brand new level. And it’s especially hard to explain when this new level is the level where the awesome stuff happens.

I’m finished writing the novel, although I could (and maybe I should) still keep editing it. It seems that every single time I look at it, I find things that I want to adjust.

But, I’ve decided that it’s time to stop. I want an editor to take a look at it, and give me some feedback.

It’s hard to keep editing without knowing if I actually should be editing at all, and if I’m editing the right parts of the story.

Three people have read it

I decided a while ago that when I felt comfortable to share the story, I wanted to let a few people read it. I wanted the feedback from people I know, and trust.

I’ve received the feedback, and it was amazing. I didn’t know what to expect. This is my first novel, and I didn’t have a clue if I could write a story of fiction.

The reason I wanted three of my friends to read it, was because I didn’t want people to share anything before I had the proper feedback.

I guess I still don’t know about the quality before I get some feedback from a publisher, an editor or an agent, or at least someone in the publishing industry. But, I’ve received the feedback from my first three readers, and all three told me that they really enjoyed reading the story. The feedback felt amazing, and it still does.

Marketing the novel

I have thought a lot about marketing the novel, and a while ago I decided that I wanted to do things like:

And then some.

But, after reading the guidelines on the websites of the top publishers in Norway, I realized that they didn’t want any of this.

All they want, according to their websites, are plain text on paper. So, that’s what I’m going to do. I don’t want to upset the people I’m not depending on. I’m not sure, but I believe that first impressions are everything in this business.

Writing the cover letter

I’m writing the novel in Norwegian, but I’m not the only one writing a novel in Norwegian – by far. There are so many people writing, that publishing houses are probably receiving thousands of unsolicited manuscript inquiries per year. And I really want them to read mine.

I need to write a letter that will get their attention and hook their interest. The letter becomes the reason why they should read my novel. Actually, it sort of feels like I’m applying for a job.

I’ve started writing. I’ve stopped. And I’ve started again. All from scratch.

Writing a cover letter to a publisher is hard. I want it to be brief, and I want them to discover the story while reading the novel. I don’t want to explain it to them – but I sort of have to.

So far, I’ve discovered three things I need to add to the cover letter:

About me

I want to be as brief as possible when it comes to writing about who I am. I’m just going to write the facts, and I believe I’ll end the part by adding a sentence about why I wrote the story (although I’m not quite sure why I did).

Presenting the story

To me, presenting the novel is the most important part of the cover letter. I need to write an irresistible introduction. This is really what the cover letter is all about. It’s especially important since I haven’t written any other novels and I don’t have anything other than this novel to impress the publisher with.

I’m planning to get people hooked on the story by adding three things: setting, protagonist and problem. I’m only going to focus on conflict and originality.

Thoughts about the future

I haven’t told you this, but I have actually already started plotting the sequel. I’m going to write a second novel, starring the same people and I’m going to continue the story where the first novel ends. I love writing, and I have a lot more things to say about this story.

I’m not sure if I’m going to add anything about the sequel in the cover letter. But I’m sure going to add that I’ll do anything to get the novel published, LOL.

I have read a lot about how to write a novel, probably 10 different books, and many blogs. But the process is about writing, and writing a lot, it’s not about reading, although it’s helpful.

What’s next?

I have no idea what will happen next, but I’ll continue writing no matter what. I hope that it helps that I’m excited.

… because I’m very excited, about every part of writing and publishing a novel.

33 responses to “Writing the manuscript cover letter”

  1. Lori Gosselin says:

    Hey Jens,
    Congratulations on stopping the editing and taking the next step! I know what it’s like when you see something to tweak each time you read it – it’s happened to me until recently. Last month, I sat down on my Saturday to work on my manuscript and I just knew I would be doing MY last edits that weekend! I worked all day, added form and shaping and organization [HOW could I have NOT seen these additions before then!?!] and the next morning moved just one paragraph and voila!
    Next I too research the publishing process. Yikes! Next Saturday. I’ll be watching your progress – good luck!

    • jens says:

      Hi Lori,

      That’s awesome, congratulations to you too 🙂

      It’s really hard to stop editing, especially since I find new things to edit all the time. And lately I’ve been really unsure about a lot of things with my story. The more I read, the more unsure I get. That’s when I decided to say that enough is enough.

      I’m not sure how the publishing business is in Norway compared to the US or any other country. But I’ve read about agents, and it seems that there are almost no agents in Norway. So, I am doing my best to write a cover letter and contacting the publishers on my own 🙂

      Thanks a lot for your awesome comment Lori.

      – Jens

  2. Michael Girard says:

    You have written a really great blog on what publishers are looking for when authors submit their work. I particularly liked your initial idea of going through all the new media steps, ie: creating a project specific blog, book trailer, and using social media generally to promote your work. In the end, however, as you note, an editor only wants to see your black words on white paper.

    My guess is that publishing companies will look to see what kind of a social media presence you have, and if they aren’t doing that now, by the time you write your next book, they will be looking.

    But what will they be looking for?

    A professional social media profile, exactly like what you have developed, which is a personal blog where you contribute your knowledge of writing and the publishing industry to the social media sphere, shared through various social media platforms. Increasing your profile in the social sphere is a great way to promote yourself as an author and give back to the passion and profession you obviously love.

    Michael Girard

    Community Engagement, Radian6

    • jens says:

      Hi Michael,

      That’s very interesting. I haven’t thought about the part where a professional social media profile becomes important for an (unpublished) author.

      But it’s probably important to be promoting me, not just the stories I am going to write. I should create relations with my readers, and connect with them on a professional level in a way that they’ll get interested in reading the novels I write. If publishers understands that I already have this relationship, they might be more likely to publish my novel?

      Thanks a lot for your brilliant comment Michael. Much appreciated.

      – Jens

      • Michael Girard says:

        Hey Jens,

        No problem, I’m always happy to talk about social media and social media monitoring. Just an example of authors who are using social media to promote themselves would be Neil Gaiman. He was already an established author before social media emerged (he was the author of the hugely popular Sandman graphic novels published by DC Comics in the 1990s) but he’s taken to Twitter to share his thoughts, his successes, his failures, and the insights he’s learned about the publishing industry along the way!

        • jens says:

          Hey Michael,

          I’ve read American Gods by Neil Gaiman. It was amazing. I didn’t know about his social media experience. I’ll definitively take a closer look at what he’s doing.

          Since this is my first novel, I’m looking for all the help I can get.

          Thanks again for another brilliant comment.

          – Jens

  3. Carolyn says:

    Hi Jens, I am so excited for you! If your novel is as successful as your blog, you are destined to be a best-selling author!

    I agree with Michael, I believe it’s important to let the publishers know about this blog. For you to have this experience writing and your online presence, demonstrates that you are a success, someone whom they will want to partner with.

    Be sure to reference this website in your cover letter. Perhaps include a QR code to one of your favorite posts? Just an idea…

    Please keep us posted!

    • jens says:

      Hi Carolyn,

      Thanks a lot for the awesome feedback. I actually didn’t think about mentioning my blog in the cover letter. I didn’t think it was relevant, well, until now 🙂

      I’m going to write the cover letter tomorrow, and I am going to try to add the blog, and see if it fits 🙂

      Thanks again for the awesome comment.

      • Carolyn says:

        Maybe the QR code is overkill, but perhaps you could just put your website below your name in the signature line?

        • jens says:

          That’s great advice. I was thinking that I should write a few sentences about my blogging, but instead I could just add it to the signature. That’s brilliant.


  4. Dino Dogan says:


    There are three entities that you need to have a crystal clear understanding of.

    1. The audience for the novel. Every publisher wants to understand exactly who the audience is for this novel.

    2. The publisher of the novel. You need to specifically target someone who is the perfect acquisition agent for your specific novel.

    3. Platform. Every publisher wants to know how many eye balls are on you already. This blog is a perfect platform to demonstrate that.

    ..and if you think the quality of the novel is important, just keep in mind that Paris Hilton has a book out. Why? Because she was able to answer these questions to a T.

    Anyways…good luck…keep us posted 🙂

    • jens says:

      Hi Dino,

      You make the cover letter sound even more difficult that I thought it was 🙂

      I have been thinking a lot about if I should mention my blog in the cover letter or not. And I’m still not quite sure. It’s a great way to show that I have readers, and something to say, but there are so many bad (old) posts, and it’s like a completely different topic than a suspense novel…

      You make a great point about Paris Hilton 🙂

      Thanks a lot for your support Dino.

      – Jens

  5. Great Jens. I like the marketing strategy that you have created. Also, you are right in stopping the editing and waiting for the feedback of an editor. I think is the right thing to do, I know how the editing and re-editing can be. I do the same with blog posts, I’m sure with a novel should be even worst. By the way, if you need any help or have any questions with the blog or advertising, let me know. I’ll be more than happy to help you.

    • jens says:

      Hi Ric,

      Thanks a lot. It was very hard to stop editing. I am still not sure if I made the right decision, but I felt I just had to stop. I believe that an editor will understand if my story (and the way I am writing) is good enough to be published, and that I don’t have to spend days or even weeks editing to prove it.

      The problem with a novel vs blog posts is that my novel is 125,000 words, and it’s hard to know when I’m editing one part what type of impact it will have on the rest of the story 🙂

      Thanks a lot for offering your help. I’ll let you know as soon as I’m ready.

      – Jens

  6. Jack says:

    One day I plan on writing a novel so this post hit home with me. I wish you much luck and success.

    • jens says:

      Hi Jack,

      That’s awesome. I was thinking like you, one day… and then I just said to myself, now is the time. And I started doing it. I had no idea what to write about, I just started, and here I am 8 months later and a “finished” manuscript 🙂

      Thanks a lot for your awesome comment and support. I hope you’ll start writing on your novel soon.

      – Jens

  7. Brittany G. Lavoie says:

    Congratulations! I hope your novel becomes a best seller,and thank you for your tips and making this article as close to a new writer like me. I just hope you will update us on what will happen next.I am quite excited 🙂

    • jens says:

      Hi Brittany,

      Thanks a lot. I have almost no idea what will happen next, since this is my first novel and I don’t know any other authors (at least not well enough to learn anything from their experiences).

      I have almost finished writing the cover letter, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to send the manuscript tomorrow or on saturday. I just need someone to read it and tell me that they think I’ve done a brilliant job 🙂

      I’ll be updating this blog about my progress. Thanks a lot for your support.

      – Jens

  8. Chris Adams says:

    Social media + authors makes A LOT of sense, but building up those profiles is nowhere near overnight. Most people and businesses spend 6-24 months building up those profiles, so it’s a wise move for an author to get started early and use the social platforms to drop off teasers, hold contests, and run polls.

    • jens says:

      Hi Chris,

      I have actually never thought about social media and authors before, but as you are saying, it makes a lot of sense.

      I read somewhere that one of the most successful authors in Norway (suspense), is also a famous singer. He didn’t want the fact that he’s already famous to have anything to do with his first novel, so he sent it to the publishers under a pseudonym. He knew that he would probably get the book published just because he was already famous.

      I guess that’s how it is with social media as well. If you already have a following, you’ll have a better chance in the market as an author.

      Thanks a lot for your comment Chris.

      – Jens

  9. Adrienne says:

    I know what you mean Jens, stop with the editing already. I’m doing the same thing with an interview I’m doing for someone. I’ve written my answers and every time I reread them I’m changing it. Just walk away and let them look at it and they’ll let you know what needs improving and what doesn’t.

    I’m so proud of you and I can hear the excitement bursting from each word. I would be like a little kid myself being so proud to just get this far. Now the hard part starts. Sure wish I could give you some advice but this is not an area I’m familiar with. I do know someone though that does self publishing if you ever need some advice. He’s based here in the US but if you decide to go that route, I’ll give you his information.

    Can’t wait to hear how things go from here. I’m so thrilled for you. Congratulations on making it this far!


    • jens says:

      Hi Adrienne,

      I have learned a lot from writing the novel, especially when it comes to editing. But also about the process. I started out without any story at all, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to write about. I just had a goal that I was going to finish a novel, and to enjoy the process.

      The story took me places I never thought I would go. It was amazing just to be able to start thinking like an author and being creative, and the thoughts were all mine and I didn’t share any of them until a few days ago 🙂

      I’ll probably self publish the novel if I can’t get any of the publishers interested. I’m not quitting no matter what. I will start selling the novel, no matter what happens 🙂

      Thanks a lot for your support Adrienne.

      – Jens

      • Adrienne says:

        Are you kidding me! You had no story before you started, you just knew you wanted to write a novel! From the outline you shared with us I could tell that it was going to be a great read. I’m really impressed now Jens.

        You WILL get your book published and it WILL be a hit. I’m sure plenty of people will be sitting on the edge of their seats wondering what’s happening next.


  10. kirk forney says:

    Very interesting and unique website. Will tell my friends.

  11. jens says:


    Thanks. It’s hard, but it’s not as hard as I thought. On the other hand, I haven’t published it yet, so it might actually end up being harder than I think 🙂

    – Jens

  12. jens says:


    Thanks a lot for dropping by, and thanks a lot for the awesome feedback 🙂

    – Jens

  13. Wim says:

    First of all congrats for finishing your novel, Jens. I’ve written (a short) one myself, so I know how it feels to finally deliver your baby 🙂

    I wish you the best of luck and keep us posted on how it goes. Hope you’ll land that book deal, the synopsis looks promising!

    Kind regards,

    • jens says:

      Hey Wim,

      I am probably sending the manuscript to the publishers tomorrow 🙂

      Thanks a lot for the awesome comment.

      – Jens

  14. Ricardo Nuñez says:

    I am so excited for you man. I can’t wait to hear some big news about the book. Publishing companies receive ton of books every year, but I think doing things well like you are doing and all the effort you are putting will eventually pay off.

    • jens says:

      Hi Ric,

      I’m really pumped as well, and can hardly wait to get feedback from the publishers.

      Thanks a lot for your support Ric, it means a lot to me.


  15. steve griffiths says:

    hi jens
    after just finishing my first novel and going through the mind blowing task of writing the synopsis i am currently scratching my head over the cover letter. i have had massively good feedback from my test readers aged 11 to 83 so am hopeful of at least the storyline. now it is the unenviable job of seeing if the powers that be like it as much. a pretty daunting task it seems, i think i need all the help i can get lol

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