Tag Archives: Cover Letter

It was EXACTLY what I wanted to know.

Several days ago, I got the first full-text reviewed/edited copy of Woman’s Best Friend back from a Hatrack reviewer.

It was beautiful.

To fully understand my satisfaction with having my own work ripped to shreds, you must first consider the palpable frustration of a rejection letter.

The whole aggravation of a rejected work isn’t that it simply wasn’t purchased; we’ve all had dates declined, interviews we didn’t get hired, a request denied. But in most of these circumstances, it is possible to determine why. In social circumstances, you can even ask:

Why didn’t you want to go on a date with me?

The immature lady will simply not return this call. The mature gal will admit, “Because you’re creepy, clingy, needy, you have no job, and you smell funny.” This may be painful, but it gives the guy (if he is mature) the opportunity to become less creepy and needy, get a job, and bathe more before asking the next girl.

When I get a rejection letter, my brain screams at the editor:

WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?

Based on the number of podcasts and books-on-writing I’ve devoured, I wonder:

Was my cover letter too short? Too long? Too dry? Too arrogant? Too humble? Did I misspell the editor’s name? Did the story remind them of a worse one they read in gradeschool? A better one? Did they just buy a story like this? Did they discover a misprint? Not like the title? Were they annoyed at the shade of white I printed on? Was there a smudge on the manuscript? Did they Google me and disagree with my politics? Religion? Choice of video games?

Did I give too little description? Too much? Did they not care about the characters? Did they find an element cliche? Did they finish the first page? The second? Was the ending trite? Was there a problem with the plot? The grammar? The style? Did I use too many echoes? Was my characterization thin? Or too heavy-handed? Were my hooks too trendy? Were my paragraphs too long? Too short? Was my dialog too vague? Too precise? Too true to life to be interesting? Not true enough?

…and on and on.

The frustration is not just that the work didn’t sell; even successful writers sometimes have that happen. The frustration is that to fix it, I don’t even know where to start.

Enter the anonymous critic, willing to read the whole story and pull no punches with his opinions.

I wish I could reproduce the full text including his comments for you here, but then I would have used my First North American publication rights to the story.

Suffice to say that the first total stranger to read Woman’s Best Friend found a whole host of echoes I never noticed in myriad readings. Nor did anyone else. He found whole paragraphs which could be cut, their whole meaning still evident in the sentence preceding them.

I am now working on a 5th draft of Woman’s Best Friend, which will be much tighter and more streamlined. Then if that one isn’t good enough, a 6th, and so forth.

That’s how you become perfect.

Competing with peasants, competing with giants.

horror_normalLast entry, I vented some of the frustrations of more-amateur-than-amateur writers adding to the slushpiles where I also submit work.

There’s a certain sense of impending doom when one considers competing with the masses. When there’s enough competition, the fastest, cleverest, or brightest dog doesn’t necessarily emerge victorious. Sometimes he doesn’t emerge at all.

But that sense of overwhelming odds has its evil opposite. (Yes, in this case BOTH twins are evil.)

Any reader who receives my story is looking for the first reason to reject it so that s/he can move on to the next manuscript in the pile. That’s a given.

But if Stephen King approached the same editor with a story, s/he would drop everything to read it. Said editor’s attitude would be the polar opposite of what it is for new writers. For King, they’d be deliberately forgiving flaws while actively looking for positives. Same for Dean Koontz, or Chuck Palahnuik, or Orson Scott Card, etc.

This would be true even if my story was better than King’s. I’m an unknown, he’s a national bestseller.

How does one compete with such giants and remain sane? Some publishers/magazines advise you to compare your work to something similar so that they have an idea of your audience. But how pretentious is it to put on a cover letter, “This is similar to Dean Kootnz.” I can only picture the recipient rolling his eyes.

Not only has everything been done, it’s been done bigger, stronger, better, faster, and with an immediate readership. That’s the competition I face. Thousands of Davids, and dozens of Goliaths. And I have to beat them ALL.

That’s why less than 1% of novelists ever turn a profit.