It takes months, and then suddenly I have a finished short story that I want to submit for publication. Many journals ask for a cover letter and I’ve spent some time perfecting my own, which I want to share with you here. I continue to find ways to improve it, but here it is with brief explanations embedded.
Dear Mr. Jones, [it’s nice to acknowledge the editor or the judge. I’ve also been told that writing something along the lines of “Dear Missouri Review Reader,” is also good because usually stories are sifted through by lower-level readers before passed along to the editor.]
Enclosed please find the short story, “Drain Uncapped,” for your consideration. [indicate whether the piece is fiction, non-fiction, essay or poem]
I am the founder of Fresh Pond Writers (http://www.freshpondwriters.com/), a creative writing workshop, and work as an editor and journalist. My fiction has appeared in Luna Station Quarterly. My nonfiction has appeared in Slate, Fast Company, Discovery News, Scientific American, and others. [list your writing creds, but try to keep it short]
I completed one year of an MFA at Goddard College before choosing an alternative path, and write the creative writing blog Text Heavy, which can be found at www.tracystaedter.com. [mention your education or other writing-related activities, but keep it short]
This is a simultaneous submission and I will let you know immediately if it’s accepted elsewhere. [if you are submitting to multiple publications, let them know]
Thank you for reading my work. I look forward to hearing from you.
Readers of lit journals must confront crap on a daily basis, their patience is limited and if you catch them at the end of a long day, they just might be looking for any reason to toss your submission out. For this reason, never ever ever write a few sentences about what the story’s about. Your reader will determine the story’s meaning. And avoid including any personal information or being cute.
If you’ve never been published before, add a sentence along the lines of, “If accepted, this would be my first publication.”
And if you’ve received positive feedback from the journal on a previous submission, by all means, include that detail near the top of your letter.
I keep an updated version of my cover letter in a folder and reuse it every time I submit. Ultimately, it’s the quality of the piece of writing that will get you published, but a bad letter can get your masterpiece tossed onto the reject pile.
Credit: vinod velayudhan