1. solosilver
    Offline

    solosilver New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2011
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Houston

    Writing a cover letter?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by solosilver, Jan 3, 2011.

    I have several short stories that I feel are ready to be sent to literary magazines, and, hopefully, be published. However, I am really stuck about writing cover letters. I have read a lot of really conflicting things and was wondering if someone could clear things up for me.

    What are they supposed to contain? What are general rules of thumb? What are publishers looking for in cover letters? Are they supposed to be about the writer or about the writing?
     
  2. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,075
    Likes Received:
    5,272
    Location:
    California, US
    For short stories, I am very brief.

    Dear publisher, I have attached my XXXX word story, "<title>" for your review. My previous publications include "________________"

    Thank you for your time.

    Sincerely,

    XXXXXX


    And that's about it.
     
  3. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    Unless specifically asked, I'm even briefer, and often don't include anything extra. My stories have the appropriate heading, so they have my information. If my name is worth mentioning, they're recognize it and I won't need to mention it.

    Not saying this is 'right' (there is no right way), just how I do it.

    Thankfully, many journals these days have online submission forms, and will ask you what they want to know. If sending an email, I still include appropriate greetings and basically just state the obvious, as noted by Steerpike, but minus minus anything about me.

    This is the way I'm inclined to be, but was told it's better to err on this side than the full page cover letter side of things. Full cover letters rarely get read (unless the story is good, at which point they'll be contacting you anyway to find out information on 'you') and are often met with groans by editors (I've been told, take it for what it's worth).

    The worst, I've been told, are the people who try to convince the editors they're a great writer, citing how long they've 'loved' writing and their publication in unknown places, etc. Often, I've been told, slush-pile readers don't even bother reading these, much less passing them on to the busy editor to also read, and in worst case scenarios they get thrown away and the author didn't include their personal information on the manuscript either, so the manuscript gets scrapped to.

    Let the manuscript take as much focus and attention as possible, not you the writer (unless you're already famous or successful, at which point you don't need to ask what to do, as you get to do it however the heck you want).
     
  4. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,075
    Likes Received:
    5,272
    Location:
    California, US
    Yeah, there's truth to that. From what I understand, most editors really aren't impressed by non-professional sales, so listing a string of them doesn't accomplish much. If you have a string of professional sales to your credit, the editor may already know you. If you've only sold one or two professional pieces, but aren't well-known, it might be helpful to mention them so the editor knows that you can at least write to professional standards. But that's not going to help you if the story you submit isn't good or doesn't meet their guidelines.

    I've often skipped lengthy cover letters entirely when looking at submissions. I'm sure that happens a lot.

    I can't stress enough about reading guidelines. You'd be surprised how many stories are submitted where the author clearly never even glanced at the submission guidelines.
     
  5. Banzai
    Offline

    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2007
    Messages:
    12,871
    Likes Received:
    150
    Location:
    Reading, UK
    In addition to what has been suggested above (which is all good advice), check what the publisher actually asks for. Quite often, with short stories, they'll tell you what to include and what not to.
     
  6. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    steerpike's nailed it!

    banzai's addition is spot on, too...
     
  7. solosilver
    Offline

    solosilver New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2011
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Houston
    Alright, thank you. That makes things much easier.
     

Share This Page