1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Queries/Submissions Having short story query letter problems

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by peachalulu, Jan 16, 2013.

    This is my second query ever. And I'm not sure if I'm doing it right.
    I read somewhere that the query letter should include a sample
    of the story writing - should that be in itallics?

    I'm also not sure as how to start the letter. Every tip suggests
    buttering up the publisher but the truth is - I haven't read their
    magazine in ages. It would only be a lie. I thought I'd
    plunge in discussing the plot of my story with my name and
    email at the end.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Is this something that's in the journal's guidelines? Because submitting short stories usually doesn't require queries. Just a cover letter will do.
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes, they wanted a cover letter. I thought they were the same as a query? Mine is short - less than a page
    is that okay?
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    A cover letter is different from a query letter. A cover letter usually just states what you're including, the word count, previous relevant publications, and a biography (if requested). You can find many examples of cover letters online and use them as a guide.
     
  5. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    You should google "how to write a cover letter for a short story." Do not look up "how to write a query letter" -- though there are similarities, they are not the same thing.

    Sometimes people will include a sample of the story in a query, but it's not always a good idea and it's certainly not necessary. And it definitely wouldn't be necessary in a cover letter. When writing a query it's a good idea to let the agent know why you chose them, but I don't think you need to in a cover letter.

    ETA for a cover letter a sample of the short story is not only unnecessary, it's actually not a good idea.
     
  6. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    Here is the basic cover letter I sent for the last short story I had accepted for publication in a literary magazine:

    My Name,
    My address,
    My phone number,
    My email address

    Dear Whoever,

    Danse Macabre is a short work of dark fantasy fiction consisting of approximately 5000 words. It tells the story of the world's ugliest street hooker so desperate for beauty, she is willing to do anything to get it, even if that includes murdering a beautiful debutante and wearing her skin as a suit. It sounds quite gruesome, but I can assure you that it is more silly than gory. You asked for humour with a slight sexual twist, and I believe that is exactly what you will find in Danse Macabre.

    My other published work includes (list off your other published work, if you have any). Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,
    Kat Hawthorne

    Magazines want to know that you are familiar with their content. I cannot stress enough that you really should do your homework, and read some back issues before you submit. If you can include in your letter why your story would be a perfect fit in their magazine, be sure to include that - it is magical information. This particular magazine was very specific on what it wanted, and I was able to tell them that my story had what they were looking for.

    Also - be sure to include everything in your letter EXACTLY as they requested it. Some publications are fussy on font type and size, margin width, and line spacing (yes, even for magazine shorts). Adhere to their rules, even if it irks you. If you don't, you can count on a rejection.

    Best of luck!
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Thanks everyone!
    Kat thanks for the example! - I guess I'll have to read a couple of stories in their magazine. Time for a trip to Chapters.

    Oh, this magazine allows an online submission - Do I still need to include my address? and phone number?
     
  8. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    Yes, you should. Include everything - you want them to be able to contact you regardless of how they choose to do it. Use your personal stuff as letterhead, because it not only gives the info you want them to have, it looks professional.

    I'm sure there are other publications that want things laid out differently, but of the six I have published with, this is the format they asked for.

    Hope it helps!
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good point, kat!

    i always advise my mentees to put their contact info in a professional-looking letterhead...

    i have to wonder though, why your sample has your contact info in a standard business letter block, not in a letterhead arrangement... and why there's no address block for who you're submitting to...
     
  10. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    Hi Mamma, thank you for your question.

    Apart from the difficulties of actually setting up a proper letter in this public forum (I've no idea even how to indent here), Peachalulu mentioned that she would be submitting online. If this cover letter where to be sent in the mail, perhaps my choices would have been different, but addressing the letter formally for the physical location of the publishing house is not necessary for an online submission.

    Dang, I once had access the greatest "how-to" essay ever, that broke down every aspect of a short story cover letter submission, but I can't freaking find it. It even talked about the white space - how your "letter head" should be at the very top (they said to keep it left aligned), but your actual letter should not begin until one third of the way down your page, and so on.

    One thing I also forgot to mention in the little "sample" I quickly ripped off for demonstration purposes, is the use of a "Header" in your submission. It is never a bad idea to put a header at the top of each page (excluding the cover letter, of course) that looks something like this: Hawthorne/Danse Macabre/Page 3. The reason for that is so whoever is reading your work will have quick reference to your name, your story's title, and (if they happen to get it all messed up), what page they are on.

    I hope this helps, and if I can find that essay I will pass it along.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, i missed the reference to it being an email submission... that said, it still doesn't hurt any to format your 'cover letter' as a standard business letter... that said, you should always go by what their submission guidelines specify...

    a header is more than a good idea, it's a standard ms format 'must'...
     
  12. cabbage
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    cabbage Member

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    I’ve never heard that before and I’ve read a couple of books on the subject.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    some self-appointed query letter gurus and aspiring writers seem to think that's a good idea... i don't...
     
  14. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't understand what you mean by "letterhead". If you are an individual submitting a short story, it is unlikely that you are connected to any place of business as a writer. A letterhead is your business address and logo. Do you just mean you should write your contact address and phone number? But surely that's standard practice in any formal letter anyway?
     

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