Cover letters are basically quick blips of information about you, your publishing history, and your contact information. That’s it. Nothing about your hobbies, your cat, your grandmother, or your grandmother’s cat. The publisher doesn’t care about your life or why you’ve started writing. What they care about is what you’ve written.
Below is a basic example of a cover letter.
I. A. Writer
daytime phone number
E-mail: IAWriter @ gmail.com
August 7, 2011
Dear Mr./Ms./Editor (Look this up–it will be on the submission guidelines on the publisher’s website, and shows you’ve done your homework):
Attached is a manuscript of 80,525 words, Fishing for Love, for your consideration.
I know you publish Joan Author, and I believe my book would reach a similar readership which is why I am sending my manuscript to you. I have previously published two thousand short stories and seventy-five hundred articles on fishing in the Alps.
Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.
I. A. Writer
That’s it. Yes, really. It needs to be that simple.
Do not: say how great your book is, that it’s the best thing ever written. (Let them decide that for themselves. You saying it is like saying your kid is the best looking one alive–you’re the parent, of course you think your ugly brat is attractive).
Do not: tell them when you expect a response, how much you want to be paid or that they are foolish if they don’t accept your manuscript. All of those make you look like a narcissistic, uneducated and amateurish idiot, and no one wants to work with one of those. Doing something like the things above can get your manuscript declined without so much as a glance.
Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Keep it on the book, not you.