I'm emailing a few agents about a novel I wrote. Typical query letter, attaching a summary and the first three chapters, as they request.

I happen to have commissioned a book cover for the novel, which I think looks great. Would it be a good idea to also attach this to the email?

I can think of some upsides: might make it feel more "real" to the agent; might help convey the tone of the novel; might help show commitment. But I can also think of some downsides, primarily that it's not usual practice, or might come across as arrogant.

What are your thoughts? Is this ever done? If you were or are an agent, how would you react to this?

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    I think the usual procedure in traditional publishing is that the publisher will get their in-house team to design the cover - I've heard that authors often don't get much say. So I'm not sure this would be helpful, and I don't think I've ever heard of anyone trying it. But I'm not an agent, nor in any way an expert in this area, so I may be wrong. Jan 9, 2021 at 11:59
  • I agree with your points, @DM_with_secrets, and I wouldn't commission a cover specifically for this if I didn't have it already. My thinking is more along the lines of "I already have it, I might as well use it for this".
    – ggambetta
    Jan 9, 2021 at 12:22
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    I'm not sure in principle that having a cover is SO bad, per se, but it's art, and would need to be sent as an attachment. Most agents nowadays reject ANYTHING with an attachment out of hand. If they nibble at your book, you can tell them you already have a cover concept, offer to send it. Don't be upset if they reject the idea.
    – DWKraus
    Jan 9, 2021 at 17:39

1 Answer 1


I think that is a definite marketing mistake on your side by trying to sell your book that way. Nobody else does it so you would look more like an amateur.

I was an agent briefly, and would take it as 'amateur' or 'beginner'. I would scan your text submission, but it would need to be really good to get me to read it enough to make a decision. Other agents might feel differently, but overall I suspect it makes it harder to sell your manuscript.

Publishers create their own covers, and just because you like the cover you commissioned, does not mean they will. The same goes for pictures for childrens' books: they don't want yours, as they have their own artists and their own preferences for what they would want in the book.

Now, if you are trying for an agent to submit to a very small publisher, then it might be useful. What you should do in that case is check the agent/publisher's web site and do exactly what they say they want done with a submission. Any deviation will likely hurt more than help.

I would suggest that you spend no more money except on editing and then self-publish your book using your cover. Use that experience to learn all about how the publishing business works so that your next novel, which should be a lot better than the first one, will be easier to sell to an agent.

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    You start by saying don't send the cover, and then jump straight to self-publishing. Why not continue to try submitting to agents, just without including the cover? Jan 9, 2021 at 14:51
  • My novel is, in fact, self-published; that's why I have a cover :) But I'm looking for an agent/publisher anyway, for a variety of reasons. As a side question, should I call out that a version of it is self-published? I can emphasize it, not mention it, or actively hide it (e.g. unpublish it). I'm afraid they'll ask "why didn't it become a bestseller", where the honest answer is "I suck at marketing" :(
    – ggambetta
    Jan 9, 2021 at 18:09
  • @ggambett -- if you self published then you will need to show good sales to get another publisher to even look at it. publishers expect you to market your books unless your name is Rowling or Patterson. Most will want to know what social media following you have and what else you can do to help sell your book. If you can't sell your SP version then you will be in an even worse position trying to get an agent and trad publisher now. Better to write a brand new 2nd novel and then try to get an agent on this hopefully better book. Pls tell us how much you paid for that cover. Jan 9, 2021 at 19:48
  • @DM_with_secrets -- I said to SP because he does have a cover already and he will have to market the book no matter who published it. If you have to do all the real work then why not make all the money yourself. Since he did SP already his problem has changed to not having a best seller nor a big media following that helped him sell his book. Jan 9, 2021 at 19:50
  • @DWKraus had a good point about not opening attachments so the OPer would have a problem sending a cover if it was not via US Snail. Not sure if it would help nor hurt to say you could provide a cover if they wanted to see it, but I would (barely) lean to mentioning it that way as such a comment I would tend to overlook as an agent and evaluate the rest of the sales material sent with the sample chapters. But in the off chance it might help it should be done by mentioning it only and not elaborating on it. No descriptions of it !! Jan 9, 2021 at 19:57

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