Cover letters for Moving a Mountain written: 1
Now I need to: have a cup of tea, eat more of the Easter chocolate and recover my strength before tackling the rest of the synopsis.
I'm fairly pleased with the cover letter. I've realised that writing a synopsis and cover letter is rather like applying for a job on your novel's behalf. The poor novel is in the position of having to apply, on spec, to a company that might have some vacancies in the Published Novel department. What the cover letter and synopsis have to do is convince the publisher that your wonderful novel is exactly right to fill that slot.
Thus, whilst obviously having to be a true representation of the novel (like listing genuine work experience and qualifications on a CV/resume), it has to highlight its best features.
Be a true representation of the novel...
Now there's something to ponder. There has been much discussion about writing synopses recently on rec.arts.sf.composition and people have been posting examples and having them critiqued and improved. Writing good fiction and writing a good CV/synopsis are overlapping but not identical skills. So it is of course possible to have a wonderful novel and a crap synopsis. (This is like writing a poor CV that doesn't bring out the aspects of one's past experience that an employer will be looking for.)
However, a wonderful synopsis that bears little relation to the actual contents of the novel won't be much help either. Yes it might get your novel an interview (ie a request to see the whole thing), but if that then doesn't match up to the job specification required for Published Novel, you have just wasted everyone's time and your money.
So though it's good to think seriously about the cover letter and synopsis -- because you don't want to let your great novel down, do you? -- you have to be honest with yourself and be sure that the novel you are submitting really is the best that you can write. And if people are raising questions about what happens in the synopsis, questions about the actual story not just how you're presenting it, then you might need to re-think the novel. It's only going to get one chance with that publisher. Do you want to blow it?
Of course having said that, there are the nervous souls, the perfectionists, who will always be convinced that the novel isn't quite right and therefore needs another revision pass. In this case you have to grit your teeth, do the best synopsis you possibly can and get the thing off in the post.
Which of course raises the question of how one decides which category one falls into and it's not easy to be honest about one's writing. In fact it really can be impossible for the writer to tell. In my 20s I submitted a novel to a publisher that, when I found it last year at the bottom of the wardrobe during a decluttering binge, I thought so awful that I dumped it straight into the paper recycling1. But at the time I thought it was great. It really was the best I could write. So I know that making the decision whether to submit or not isn't easy.
But I'm sure by now you'll have realised that this writing lark isn't easy and if anyone claims it is, then they're probably missing most of the point.
Unless they just happen to be natural born geniuses. In which case we hatessss them, yesss we doesssss. *g*
1 And that was the only copy. It had been written on a typewriter.