No.2: Let’s talk about you
In my experience the part of the covering letter that varies the most is the section that falls under our umbrella request to ‘include a bit about you’.
I have received covering letters that range between several full A4 pages worth of biography to new writers who forget to include their own name. Somewhere between these two there is a happy medium.
Personally, I find that the most effective covering letter often has one or two concise paragraphs concerning the writer, though of course it is not an exact science.
The best advice I can give you is to look at this as a writing exercise. How much relevant information can you get about yourself into one paragraph?
One of the lovely people who were kind enough to comment on Top Ten Tips for Writing a Tip Top Covering Letter last week said that she would ‘create a character who represents me’ in her covering letter. I really liked this idea. Be yourself, of course, but is there a way that you can use your powers of characterisation to introduce yourself in the most concise and engaging style? Test yourself.
Though, do make sure that you include all the relevant information as well. If you have ever been published or signed to any other agencies you need to let us know. If you have a particularly relevant degree or you have attended any writing courses we would love to hear about it. Similarly, if you are part of any writing groups or have done well in any writing competitions please do share. Have you had any praise from anyone in the industry perhaps? Any experience in journalism or editing maybe?
Be sure to lead with your most impressive feature, as well. If a published author has praised your work definitely open with that. If you have a master’s degree in creative writing with fifteen years of journalistic experience specialising in novel reviews and have won several prizes with your multiple bestselling published novels maybe tell us about that before you let us know that you live in Shropshire with two dogs and one bad tempered goldfish. Don’t bury the stuff that is going to make us go ‘oh’.
But if you can’t think of anything writing-specific that will make us go ‘oh’ don’t worry. Just use lots of scrumptious words like ‘undiscovered’ and maybe work really hard on using your concise paragraph about you to show off your writing skills.
The most important thing is that we get an idea of you and your style of writing. Remember that when writing a covering letter you are not only selling your work to us but yourself as well. Make sure that we know what a great person you would be to work with.
Other than that we just need your contact information. We suggest including your address, phone number and email address just to be on the safe side. Oh, and your name. Please don’t forget to tell us your name. You’d be surprised how often that happens.
By Vicki Le Feuvre