Manuscript Impressions ~ The Cover Letter

Although we’ve detoured into novel formatting in this series of posts, now we’re going back to talk about short story submissions. In most cases, it’s a good idea to include a cover letter with your submission. Remember, we’re talking cover letter here, not query letter. That’s a whole other post (or series of posts!).

In writing a short story cover letter, keep the KISS principle in mind. Keep it Simple, Submitter!

1. The simplicity should begin with your paper. Don’t use fancy, overblown letterhead, paper with images of books or other writerly symbols, parchment-look paper, or anything other than plain white bond. If you have a simple letterhead, just something with your contact information, like this:

Sherry D. Ramsey
123 Street Street, Sometown, Someplace, Country, Code
Phone, Email, Website

…go ahead and use it, but remember, keep it simple! Otherwise follow standard business letter format.

2. Use a plain, easily-readable font. We’ve discussed fonts previously, and the same rules apply–don’t make the editor struggle to read your letter. The letter is brief, so if you want to move a little outside the box of Times New Roman and Courier, it’s probably okay, but stay simple and professional. Using something like Old English or Jokerman is not going to make you stand out from the crowd–at least not in a desirable way.

3. Know the proper name and address of the editor you’re contacting. These things change, so check for the most recent information you can get.

4. First paragraph: Tell them what you’re sending.

Please find enclosed my story, “This One’s A Winner,” which I would appreciate your considering for publication in Your Awesome Magazine. This piece runs approximately 5000 words.

If you want to call it “my science fiction story” or “my steampunk story” etc., that’s okay, but sometimes it’s better not to pigeonhole your work–let the editor decide what it is. If you’ve done your market homework, you’re sending the right type of story to the right market anyway, so you shouldn’t have to mention it. Right?

4. Second paragraph: Tell them who you are. By this, I mean; mention any previous publications in the same general genre as the story you’re submitting. If you have quite a number of credits, don’t list them all; just the few (three or four) most recent or most prestigious (however you define that). If you have no previous publication credits, don’t sweat it, and don’t try to stick in a bunch of other stuff instead. You may, if you wish, mention fiction for which you’ve won an award, but only if it’s relevant.

5. Third paragraph: Thank them in advance for considering your story, and tell them you look forward to hearing from them. Finish with a standard business closing.

That’s it. Short and simple.

Now, for those of you who think I must have forgotten something, here are some things you do NOT want to include or try to do:

1. Don’t include a summary or synopsis of your story. Your story is going to speak for itself, and that’s what the editor wants to read.

2. Don’t try to be cute, clever, funny, threatening, or anything other than straightforward and professional. This is only a short story you’re trying to sell, and the editor will know if it’s right for the publication upon reading it. Anything else is irrelevant.

3. Don’t tell the editor how many times this story has been rejected, that they will love it, or anything else about it.

4. In short, don’t do anything that isn’t listed above. CAVEAT: Always read the guidelines (have I mentioned this before?) and if they request anything else, then of course include that. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

More questions? Anything I haven’t covered yet? I can’t think of anything just now, but of course I reserve the right to post more on this subject at any time. :)

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One Comment

  1. Very efficiently written article. Very informative to anyone who uses it, including myself. Keep up the nice work! Iwill be back to take a look at your posts again soon.

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