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Old 01-18-2011, 06:46 PM View Post #1 (Link) Guide: Cover Letters for Magazine Submissions
Shaun (Offline)
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Cover letters are one of the easiest things you can write when submitting to magazines or anthologies. This is because, with rare exception, the format for the cover letter is standard, which means you can create one version and simply change small pieces of information for each submission. The only major shifts that you will be required to think about are between electronic and hard copy submission, and any eccentricities demanded by the publisher.

I've divided this post into four sections:
  1. What to Include/Exclude
  2. Cover Letter for Hard Copy Submission
  3. Cover Letter or Electronic Submission
  4. Other Bits

What to Include/Exclude

First, there are a number of things that you should include in practically every cover letter. These include:
  • The title and word count of your story (or the # of lines in your poem)
  • Any publications or awards you have won that are relevant to your submission (only include your recent and most important publications/awards)
  • If your manuscript is disposable (if you don't want them to send it back, then you need to say so in your cover letter AND mark it in your manuscript's header)
  • Your name (duh!)

Other things may be useful to mention, such as graduating from workshops or college programs, but these aren't necessarily required. If you do not have any relevant credentials, then don't worry about it. Seriously. Everyone starts somewhere. The reality is that most editors don't read the cover letter. The cover letter is a kind of formality left over from an older era. Some editors want them and some do not. Unless the guidelines say "do not provide a cover letter" or indicate that a cover letter isn't necessary, play it safe and provide a cover letter.

There are some things you should never do in a cover letter unless otherwise prompted:
  • Do not provide a synopsis of your work
  • Do not brag or list excessive numbers of publications, etc. If your "credits" list is longer than three lines, then you've gone too far.
  • Do not provide personal stories
  • Do not wax lyrical about your work, etc.

In otherwords: the cover letter should be a very brief, very concise explanation of what is inside the package/email, your relevant credentials in writing, and very little else.

Now to the individual letters:

Cover Letter for Hard Copy Submission


Person McPeople
1234 People Road
Peoplestown, MI 55555
(555) 555-5551
mcpeoplethepimp@peoples.com

Dear Mr. (or Mrs.) Editor God,
Enclosed is my 5,000-word short story entitled "The Really Awesome Story You're Going to Buy or Something Bad Will Happen to Your Puppy" for consideration in The Magazine For Peoples.

My fiction has appeared in The Peoples Anthology and The Other Peoples Anthology, and I am the recipient of the Peoples Who Write Award in 2011.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Person McPeople

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Notice that the hard copy cover letter includes your address and contact information, a brief explanation of what you are submitting and to what, and an equally brief explanation of the person's credentials. Some of this will change with the digital submission.

Cover Letter for Digital Submission


Dear Mr. (or Mrs.) Editor God,
Attached as a .rtf is my 5,000-word short story entitled "The Really Awesome Story You're Going to Buy or Something Bad Will Happen to Your Puppy" for consideration in The Magazine For Peoples.

My fiction has appeared in The Peoples Anthology and The Other Peoples Anthology, and I am the recipient of the Peoples Who Write Award in 2011.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Person McPeople

----------------------------------------------------------------------

In this version, there is no address line and so on. Why? Because you're likely using email to submit to the editor. If not, then you're likely using an online form which will ask for your email anyway. They will contact you via that email. If you want to provide a phone number in your email, then you can do so by placing it at the bottom.

Other Bits
  • Remember to always check the guidelines for the magazine/anthology you are submitting to. There may be specifics there that are not covered in this general guide. While poor formatting for the cover letter might not influence whether your story or poem gets published, it will reflect on you as a "professional.
  • If you are submitting a poem, change the word count to line count (and obviously the words "short story" to "poem").

Note: I will add stuff to this guide as needed. Feel free to ask any questions you might have below.
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						Last edited by Shaun; 01-21-2011 at 01:54 AM.
					
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