Yes, well, I'm not surprised that it happened again, although at one point I had my hopes up that this time, the input would be less contradictory.
You see, as of draft #5 of the cover letter to DAW, two beta readers think it's fine, one thinks I should go back to draft #4, and the fourth reader pretty much wants me to scrap it and start over.
Last time I worked on this letter, a major revision of last year's letter to Tor, pretty much the same thing happened. The more I revised it based on my friends' suggestions (and my own judgment and insecurities), the more my friends complained it was getting farther away from acceptability. Unable to reconcile the contradictory advice, I got discouraged, and completely lost confidence in the letter. So I put it away for two months.
That does nobody any good at all.
So this time, I'm not going to let that happen. After giving due consideration to the latest round of suggestions, I'm mostly going to ignore them. Oh, I may change the letterhead from color to black, and I've taken the tag line off the bottom, but that's the end of it.
I don't believe there is anything in the cover letter at this point that will actually prevent a first reader from proceeding to the manuscript itself. It doesn't have spelling, grammar or punctuation errors, it doesn't say anything stupid (either self-deprecating or self-aggrandizing), and it follows the publisher's guidelines, such as they are, as well as the standard advice about cover letters. And happily for me, DAW takes the whole manuscript, so it's a clean, one-step submission process. If the first reader gets to page 11 or so, they'll probably keep going from there. And I think the first ten pages are intriguing enough to make that happen. If they aren't, the cover letter won't make a difference, either way.
The next step is to go through the entire manuscript of Heirs of Mâvarin one more time, proofreading and tightening and tweaking, and updating the word count document accordingly. Tonight I cut about 30 words from Chapter One. I was partway through Chapter Two when my computer decided to only show me a blank page where my Word documents ought to be. So I rebooted (which takes about 15 minutes because of Norton and backups and such), and redid as many of my Chapter Two revisions and I could find and remember.
And when all that's done, the printing begins. We're right are the 16-month mark since I mailed three chapters to Tor. It's definitely time to try again.