Here are a few tips and examples of how to write a cover letter. In the old days, really not that long ago, it was customary to send a cover letter with your short story or poetry submission. For 100s of years it was customary to send a cover letter, but writers are following tradition less and less. Not sending a cover letter can seem a little arrogant on the part of the writer. It’s not that your work doesn’t speak for itself, it’s just that editors are still people. Editors like hellos and goodbyes as much as anyone. Simply, it’s a good idea to include a cover letter with our work.
On the other side, editors do not want long-winded letters that tell them your life history. Writing a cover letter is very easy and very quick if you follow a simple formula. For the last 30 years, before writers abandoned the cover letter, the form was pretty simple. It was as follows:
II. Words about the magazine
III. Words about the work
IV. Words about you
It was customary at one time to find the name of the editor and address the letter to that person, but in today’s world that’s a long shot. So at least start the letter “Dear Editor,” if you do not know the editor’s name. If you know the editor’s name, by all means use it, and use the last name only.
Dear Dr. Green
If you know a specific title use that too. Here is an example of a quick cover letter.
I have been a fan of the Awesome Review for the last 3 issues. I am a devout reader, and I feel that my work is much like the works you publish. I have read your submissions guidelines.
I am sending 3 poems that grew out of an experience I had last summer in Russia. They all deal with metaphors of sunshine and change.
I hope that you enjoy my work.
It’s just that simple. It’s so nice as an editor to read something where the person took 2 mins to say hello and goodbye. It’s nice to feel like I’m a person and not a poetry processing machine. Here is another example:
I recently found your publication online. I believe my work would fit well with other stories that I have seen published in the Awesome Review. I have read your guidelines, and I have kept my word length under your requested limits (500 words).
My story is based on an event that took place in Russia in the summer of 1977. It is really about the change that a person goes through when they are forced to live in a far away land.
My work has appeared in other publications such as The Big Time Review, OMG Daily, WordsWordsWords and more. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Really writing a cover letter is very easy. Being that you are sending the same work over and over, you can create a form letter and just change the first paragraph. It will take you minimal time.
As an editor, I like it when I get a little note from the writer. As a matter of fact those with cover letters get first consideration around here. If your work is sent by email, the cover letter is the start of the email, it is not attached. Please don’t send me another attachment on top of the 4 attachments you are sending. My life is about attachments anyway. I mean I dream of that little paperclip symbol sometimes, and the dream isn’t pleasant. So start the email with the cover letter. Remember, editors are people. Think of it this way, if you were stopping by the office to drop off your work would you simply through a floppy disc at the editor and then leave or would you stop and have a few words with him?
If you have built up resentment directed at editors, please don’t take it out on me. Buy a stress ball. Do something else, but be nice to your editors.
Just some friendly advice.