Finding love for the cover letter

Marlon Brando and his little friend are gaining clarity before they type up their cover letter.

Marlon Brando and his little friend are gaining clarity before they type up their cover letter.

Let’s talk cover letter. Now, hold on just a second — I know it's not the sexiest topic in the world, but I think you should really stick around for this. Why? Because I don’t care what level you’re at in your career; this is a skill that is necessary for any artist who wants to do business effectively. The biggest issues that I’ve seen artists have with writing cover letters are that they don’t know WHO they are writing to and they don’t know exactly WHY they are writing the letter. If you can get clear on both of these, then the actual writing of the letter will be a piece of cake. The first step in creating a successful cover letter is not the actual writing of the letter, but the preparation for writing it. In other words, this first step is about gaining clarity.

Take a moment right now and think about someone you can practice writing a cover letter to; try to pinpoint someone who excites you. Maybe it’s someone you’ve wanted to introduce yourself to in your market or someone you’ve wanted to re-connect or follow up with. In the examples below, I’ll imagine that I’m writing to a talent manager here in New York. When you’re ready to start this process, write or type the name and contact info (company, etc.) of the person you’re writing to at the top of a blank page.

Once you know exactly who you’re writing to, it’s time to get clear about why you’re writing to him or her. You’ll do this by asking yourself some questions that will help you gain clarity about why you’re going to move forward with writing this letter or not. Here are the questions:

1) I have chosen to write to this person because I want __________.
Simply put, what do you want to come as the result of this person reading your letter? Why did you choose to write to him or her over everyone else? Example: “I want to meet her.” Keep this answer simple, and don’t over-think it.

2) One question I have for this person is __________.
It may seem similar, but this is a little different from the first sentence. Get curious here and think about what this person knows that you don’t. Imagine that you’re stuck in an elevator with him or her and can ask any question you want. Example: “How many clients do you represent, and do you have a lot of L.A. industry contacts?” Okay, that’s technically two questions, but you get the idea.

3) One way I might be able to help this person is __________.
This tends to be the trickiest one to answer. It’s time to think outside of the box and really consider who this person is. Use whatever knowledge you may have about them and what they do. This is not necessarily going into the letter; it’s for your clarification only. Example: “I could help with filing or I could be a reader.” Stretch your mind here — think about the services you do for other people or resources you have. Maybe you know they have a dog and you have a good friend who is a dog walker in the area.

Try not to limit yourself here. It’s easy to say, “I don’t know” to this sentence, but it’s important that you to try to come up with something. And it might require researching this person some more and seeing what else you can learn about them. Take your time with this if you need to.

4) When I think about this person on my team, I feel __________.
Take a moment and really imagine this person saying yes to whatever it is that you want, and then imagine this person becoming a fan of you. How would you feel knowing that this person believes in you and supports you? Try to avoid using words like “good,” “fine,” and “okay" — these aren’t real feelings; I want some juicy words. Example: “When I think of this person on my team, I feel like a professional.” Some other example: “in the game,” “proud,” or “honored.” You get the idea.

Covers letters are hard to write?? Don't make Brando laugh.

Covers letters are hard to write?? Don't make Brando laugh.

Now that you’ve completed all these sentences, you should have a little more clarity about why you’re writing to this person. If you had trouble coming up with your answers, you can always go back and do more research on your recipient to help you with questions 2 and 3. However, if you’re still having trouble completing these sentences after that, then I highly recommend that you not waste your time reaching out to this person and instead choose someone else who you feel more prepared to write to. Without this clarity, the letter will be a difficult one to write; trust me. But, if you find that you're writing to the right person, your cover letter will be all the better for having done this work. If you need some additional help, I go through the entire cover letter process (including the actual writing of the letter) in the Artists In Action Marketing & Networking Package. Check it out. But if you feel like this is a solid start for you, go ahead and give it a try. Good luck with those letters!