AN ODE TO THE COVER LETTER
By Carolyn Zimatore, Director, Talent Management at HarperCollins Publishers
My five-year anniversary with HarperCollins has come and gone. On top of that I celebrated my ten-year anniversary in book publishing this past March, and I still have to pinch myself sometimes because every day I get to work with such intelligent, creative, and passionate people. Book publishing is a very special industry—you get into it because you love books, you care about them, you love talking about them, you love how they feel,you love how they make you feel. That’s why to me, whose primary job function is to hire people into book publishing, the cover letter is so very important.
Here are some great reasons why you should submit a well-written, well-thought-out cover letter each and every time you apply for a job in publishing.
We want to know the “why”
Why do you want to work at HarperCollins? Why are you interested in working on, let’s say, romance novels, if that’s the job you are applying for? Why do you want to be an editor? I don’t like to think of publishing as just a job. It’s a career, and it’s full of people who LOVE books. We want to know that you love books, too.
This is especially important if you have no publishing experience, or you are looking to switch industries. Prove to me that you aren’t just going to indeed.com and applying to every opening that has the word “marketing” in the title. It’s fine if that’s how you found the job opening, but we want to know you are excited about the prospect of marketing books.
It is also great if you write about why you are interested in the imprint or genre the job works with. It helps if you already have a love of informative, beautifully designed books if you are applying to a job with HarperDesign, for example.
I am not sure which is worse: a generic cover letter that says “I would like the open position at your company” without any mention of what the company is or what the job is or why you want the job, or no cover letter at all.
Interested in multiple job openings?
That’s great! You should apply for them—but there has to be a reason why, let’s say, you like subsidiary rights and design. What aspects of those jobs, based on your knowledge of them or on what you read in the job ad, do you think you would like?
And you should be submitting a separate cover letter for EACH. Why? Because they are different jobs! In the second paragraph of your cover letter, I should know why you are qualified for the job. Do you have experience doing some of the things that you would be doing in the role? Address it! Even if it is not spot-on but a transferrable skill—explain it.
Address any holes in your resume.
Don’t live in the area? We tend to fill jobs very quickly, so if you are planning on taking a month or more to move to the NYC area AFTER you get a job offer, it is going to take you a long time and a lot of applications before you find something. But perhaps you have a friend who already lives in the area and he or she said you can crash at their place for a few weeks while you find your own apartment—note that in the cover letter! You can say “while I currently reside in ___, I have a place to stay and I would be able to start within two weeks of an accepted offer.”
Look, I know applying to jobs is incredibly stressful, and doing it right can be very time-consuming. That being said, putting extra effort into your cover letter—at least when it comes to applying for jobs in publishing—will really pay off.
The resume does not tell your whole story—you see what I did there?—use your cover letter to show your interest the job and why you are qualified for it.
Good luck, and I hope to read your cover letter in the future!