The cover letter that sold Blackwing

While I was going through some old files, I happened across the cover letter that I sent when I was submitting Blackwing. I thought that it be interesting to people to see it, so, here it is. It’s nothing flashy or that doesn’t go outside the kind of guidelines that you’d usually see, but well worth noting that I provided exactly what was asked for.

Dear Mr Drury,
The Howling of the Sky is a fast paced, fatalistic epic fantasy that leaves the reader questioning whether they ever knew who to support in the first place.
                      
The republic might be facing annihilation, but Ryhalt Galharrow’s ambitions have long since been abandoned at the bottom of a brandy bottle.  When a raven tattoo rips itself out of his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and his disturbed childhood sweetheart are forced together to unravel a long dead wizard’s mathematical paradox.  Princes, corrupt flesh-shapers and the ghosts of the tortured wastelands all seek to destroy them, but if the paradox cannot be unravelled then the republic will be lost.
 
The Howling of the Sky is an epic fantasy novel of 135,000 words and would find a principal audience among fans of ‘grimdark’ fiction such as Daniel Polansky’s Low Town series, Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora or Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy.
 
I currently work as an academic and critical writing lecturer at a London university but I have been writing fantasy novels for my own entertainment since I could first pick up a wooden sword.  I am also a practitioner of historic European martial arts and hold a couple of history degrees, and hope that my enthusiasm for historical accuracy shows through the book’s setting. 
 
The first three chapters and a brief synopsis are enclosed for your kind attention. The completed manuscript and an expanded synopsis are available upon request.
 
Thank you for taking the time to consider my work, and I look forward to your response.
 
Kind regards,
Ed McDonald

Published by EdMcDonald

Ed McDonald is the author of The Raven's Mark series of novels. He currently lives in the UK. Find me at www.edmcdonaldwriting.com

14 thoughts on “The cover letter that sold Blackwing

    1. I put a lot of thought and effort into getting it right, but really, I just followed the guidelines that I’d read online about what to include. I wanted to come across as professional, competent, confident but without sounding presumptuous or egotistical. I also tried to keep it fairly brief. It was one of the first that I sent out, but I only sent ten in total.

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  1. You had me at “a long dead wizard’s mathematical paradox.”

    Do you think the comparison to the other book titles helped you be more marketable? Is it necessary for every cover letter to include something like that?

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    1. I think that drawing some kind of comparison to whose fans you might appeal to is useful for an agent, because it immediately shows them that you’re a) genre aware, b) can suggest what the market for it is likely to be. I felt that it was important to phrase it around fans though, not to say that my writing was like any of those others (for instance, it’s not like Scott Lynch’s writing, but I expect someone who enjoyed LOLL would like BW too). I also deliberately didn’t mention Mark Lawrence, who Ian represents, and included Daniel Polansky because he’s less well known and it shows that you haven’t only read the top three big sellers. I felt that agents probably want to work with somebody who’s marketable, will understand the industry, and can see where they’d fit in.

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  2. Out of curiosity, how did the change in the book’s title come about (versus “The Howling of the Sky”? Did you decide on your own to change, a friend’s suggestion, discussion with the agent or an editor, or a publisher’s insistence? I believe the “Blackwing” title is superior in being shorter and intriguing, especially combined with the examples of cover art above.

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    1. Agent didn’t like the title, so he asked me to come up with other ideas. I gave him a list of about 15 possible titles and he picked the one that he thought was best. I agree, Blackwing is a much better title!

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  3. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve taken detailed notes on your format to apply to my own query.
    Mayhaps my next query process will be more enjoyable than knocking out my own teeth with a hammer! Doubtful.

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