EVENTS How to write the perfect cover letter

How do I write the perfect covering letter to an agent? It’s a question every writer has asked. Susan Sandercock shares some of the advice she picked up at a City Lit workshop in January 2020, run by editor Roisin Heycock.

The goal of signing with a dream agent and achieving a book deal is the reason most of us are in this game. But how do we bridge that gap between dream and reality?

A workshop with experienced editor Roisin Heycock answered all my covering letter woes. Roisin was publishing director at Hachette, set up the multi-award winning Quercus Children’s Books and has also commissioned for Faber & Faber, Macmillan Children’s Books and Oneworld.

Experienced editor Roisin Heycock.

She’s worked with numerous award-winning children’s authors, including Julia Donaldson, Cat Clarke and Louise O’Neill. So I knew I was in safe hands. Roisin started by saying how important it is to gather your ingredients before you even start your covering letter. Research your market to see where your book will fit.

Research agents representing similar titles so you pick a good fit. Really consider what is at the heart of your story and what makes it distinctive. Only when you’ve done this, when you’ve collected this important information, will you be able to cook a covering letter that will have a busy agent asking for your book.

As a long-term SCBWI member, and longer term writer, I found it really useful to receive current information about the submission process, and to develop an awareness of how the landscape is changing in terms of the specifics agents are looking for in their covering letters.

Roisin went through the specifics thoroughly, with detailed examples, so my knowledge was up to date, and I learned a lot of new information too. I really enjoyed seeing examples of covering letters from writers Roisin had worked with, who’ve gone on to build successful careers.

Research agents representing similar titles so you pick a good fit. Really consider what is at the heart of your story and what makes it distinctive

Presenting the heart of your story and its hook is the difference between being pushed aside and a full manuscript request, and we learned how to work within the confines of a few paragraphs to deliver descriptions of our books that would pique an agent’s interest. We learned how to describe ourselves, through examples of bios provided by Roisin of authors she had worked with.

Some were offbeat and quirky, some warm and homely, but all had that elusive unique selling point. We worked in groups to share our ideas, descriptions and elevator pitches, then presented our work to the class for feedback.

I’ve always enjoyed the critique aspect of SCBWI, and it was incredibly useful to receive feedback from Roisin and the rest of the class. I left the session feeling encouraged. Since the workshop, my latest novel has grown in length by several thousand words, thanks to the motivational boost.

I can’t wait to finish it, polish it up and try my luck with agents, knowing I have a better chance now I can crack a good covering letter.

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Susan Sandercock’s short story Sea Canaries is included in Tony Bradman’s acclaimed anthology, Under the Weather, she has been shortlisted in Undiscovered Voices and taken part in The Hook. She is a media lecturer in a sixth form college near Southend, which is a constant source of inspiration for her writing. Her other hobbies include baking; she once made 150 cupcakes in one week.
Find Susan on Twitter.


Fran Price is Events Editor for Words & Pictures, the online magazine of SCBWI-BI. Contact her at

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