Today’s post is focusing on cover letters, specifically for submissions intended for literature magazines. I want to emphasize that while editors do not put much weight on a cover letter, a poorly written one WILL make it more difficult for your story to be accepted.
To demonstrate, here’s the cover letter I submitted for a story that was recently accepted:
Dear [Magazine Name Redacted] Editors,
Please consider my previously unpublished flash fiction 815-word story “[Name Redacted]” for publication.
I have already received an acceptance from you to publish my story “The Drowned Prince” in your upcoming July Issue and am happy to submit more of my work.
[Phone # Redacted]
Tip 1: Keep it SHORT
As you can see, this is a snappy and brief cover letter. I didn’t talk about the story or even say what genre it should be placed in. I’m aware what this magazine publishes and I felt it would be a good fit.
Tip 2: Address Your Letter Correctly
Generally it’s safe to address your letter to simply “[Magazine’s] Editors.” There are usually multiple people who will be reading your story, so it’s considered polite. Some even go so far as to address all the possible readers of the magazine who might be going through the slush for the editors (Source).
If you prefer to address your letter to the main editor, which is perfectly acceptable and shows you did your research, I suggest using their full name or Mr./Mrs./Ms. — just make sure you use the correct honorific and spell his or her name correctly! Whatever you do, don’t simply use their first name and keep in mind that this is a professional letter.
Tip 3: Include Only Relevant Information
Information to be included in your cover letter:
- Story word count
- Story title
- Bio, if relevant (up to 3 previous publications is generally acceptable) Note: If you don’t have any publication credits, don’t stress! Just leave it blank. In the event a magazine specifically asks for bio information, simply say “I am an unpublished writer.” There is nothing wrong with that and the editors will appreciate honesty rather than a paragraph of how well you wrote poems in third grade.
- Contact information (They’re going to be sending you money if they want your story, so you should be comfortable providing your email and phone number)
- Blog is acceptable to include if it supports your writing credentials and is discreetly tucked into your signature on the last line (don’t mention it in the body of your letter)
Information that should NOT be included in your cover letter:
- A blurb of your story. Let it speak for itself! Also, some editors don’t read the cover letter until after they’ve already read the story, so reading your blurb might just be redundant information.
- Genre or story-specific information (unless otherwise specified in the submission requirements).
- Personal information: This is debatable. Personally, I don’t believe you should inform the editor where you grew up, where you live, what you do for fun or even your profession unless it’s directly relatable to your writing credentials. A post from Writer’s Digest suggests that some of this okay as long as you keep the letter extremely short. I still think it’s just not relevant, but you can go with your gut when writing your letter.
If you’d like a template for how to write your cover letter, feel free to use my format by inserting the correct information in the italicized portions. Happy submitting!
A.J. Literature Magazine Cover Letter Format
Dear [Name of Editor –or– Name of Magazine + Editors],
Please consider my previously unpublished [Word Count]-word story “[Story Name]” for publication in [Magazine’s Name].
[Optional Bio Paragraph:] My work has previously appeared in [Awesome Magazine 1], [Awesome Magazine 2], and [Awesome Magazine 3].
Thank you for your time and consideration.