How to Write a Cover Letter for Creative Writers
Writing your short story or poem is only half the battle. For the ambitious writer, getting published is the next step. The publishing process doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, it’s just another art form that should be treated with the same amount of diligence with which you treated your piece of work. After finding a potential publisher to submit your work to, it is time to compose your cover letter. Note that not all publishers require a cover letter, but many of the bigger-name journals and magazines do. If it is not specified whether or not one’s required, send one anyway.
Cover letters should be kept to four short sections. The reason you do not want to be lengthy is because editors have many letters to read – they want to be able to quickly go through each one. Sections are indicated by spaces in between instead of by indentations.
The first section, the greeting, should have: “Dear Editor” with either a colon or a comma following. Only use the word “editor” if you cannot find the name of the editor anywhere in the publication or on their website. Most of the time, you will find the name. Directly addressing the editor shows that you are eager to publish with him or her. Substituting “editor” without searching shows laziness. Publishers want dedication.
The next section is a brief introduction. Telling them that you are submitting your story, poem, etc. is sufficient. Thanking them for considering your work is a good touch, and if you don’t include it here, do so at the end. It shows that you are polite. Don’t go into detail about your piece. The editor will learn everything he or she needs to know about it simply by reading it. (For longer works, like novels, you would discuss the story, but that is done in a query letter, not a cover letter.) You may wish to or be required to include word count. Also, if you are submitting the same piece elsewhere (this is called a simultaneous submission), inform the editor here.
The third section is a short, third-person biography of you as a writer. This is basically a list of previous publications or awards. You can include any experience you’ve had as a writer (for example, working as an editor, a reporter, a writing tutor). If you haven’t published yet, it’s not the end of the world. Quite a few magazines and journals accept new writers. Even if you haven’t been published in a long time, include it. Anything helps. Keep this paragraph to roughly only 50-100 words. A good idea is to look through the particular publication and find writer bios to get a better feel for the style and format for your own.
The final section, the closing, includes: your name, your pen name (only if you have one, but you must indicate that it is a pen name), email address, mailing address and phone number. These should all be on separate lines.
The publisher usually gives submission guidelines for you to follow. They may want more or less than what is listed here, but make sure that you include the exact information they want. No one will hunt you down to get missing information. More than likely, you will get rejected.
You can have a basic format that you use for each submission, but tailoring it to fit each publisher is important. But remember, the most important things are: have a good, well-written piece to back up your letter, and familiarize yourself with the publication that you are wishing to work with.
Sample cover letter:
Dear John Doe,
Thank you for considering my submission “My Story” for inclusion in your publication Your Journal. Below is a brief biography of my writing history.
Jane Doe’s writing and publishing history. Awards won. Experiences gained.
Town, State, Zip code