Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Writing Cover Letters when Submitting Short Stories

Cover Letter Guidelines from Three Sources (adapted by Cathy Eaton)

From Catherine Tudish (Fiction Writer and professor at Bread Loaf School of English & Dartmouth College): adapted from Cathy Eaton’s lecture notes
1. Cover Letter
a. Be brief
b. Address editor by first and last name
c. Start with something like “I am enclosing [name of story] for your consideration.”
d. Give no information about story.
e. Include 1-2 sentences about self.
f. Include publishing credits of fiction you have
g. Thank them for reading work
h. If doing simultaneous submission, say so in the PS
i. Include envelop with SASE (self-addressed stamped envelop) so that they will send you acceptance or rejection.
j. If you don’t want them to return manuscript, include SASE for reply only. Some journals prefer to recycle (toss) manuscripts they don’t use


How to Write Cover Letters for Short Story Submissions
May 24, 2007 (adapted from article by Roselyn James)
Cover letters
1. Purpose
a. Cover Letters are essential for short story submissions, regardless of whether you're submitting through email or snail mail.
b. Literary magazines like to know whose work they're reading and they like to know the writer did at least minimal research before sending the submission.
2. Research the expectations of each magazine.
a. Each magazine is different. Some want specific things addressed. For instance, Flashquake states that if a writer doesn't want feedback, a statement to that effect must be included in the cover letter.
b. Others may request that you leave out certain information. Menda City Review, for example, prefers not to have a bio included in the submission.
3. Basic Format:
a. The same basic format can be used for any short story submission.
b. Be sure to read the magazine's guidelines carefully and make the appropriate changes.
4. Salutation
a. The first thing you need to do is check the masthead. The masthead lists the magazine's editors and staff. If there is no specific section for this, check the About Us or Contact Us sections. (Note: Use first and last name of editor.
b. Always address your cover letter to the fiction editor. If there is no fiction editor, then address it to the main editor or the editor-in-chief. "Dear Editor" should only be used when the magazine does not list its staff.

5. Introductory paragraph
a. The best advice I ever received regarding submissions came from a poet who was lecturing at a seminar. She said her cover letters simply state, "Here's my poem." The point is that you want the editor to spend time reading your story, not your cover letter.
b. Keep it as simple as possible. Let your story speak for itself. Don't explain the theme or where you got the idea for the story. Just say: "Enclosed is my fiction submission, 'title', for your consideration."
c. You can, of course, change that line to suit your tastes. You can add the word count of your story, the name of the magazine you're submitting to, and anything else you want as long as you keep it simple and the paragraph doesn't have more than a couple sentences.
6. The bio is the About the Author section.
a. It should be kept under 100 words and it should tell something about you.
b. Mention publishing credits. If you don't have any publishing credits, just don't mention it. Since most literary magazines are open to new writers, it's no big deal.
c. Editors like the bios to fit the tone of the magazine. That means some prefer serious bios, while others prefer off-the-wall, humorous bios. If you're unsure, take a look at the author bios published in the magazine and follow their example. I like to include my email address in case any readers want to contact me. I've also had editors of other magazines contact me this way.
7. Closing
a. This one's easy. Thank the editors for their time. Be sure to sign your name (or, in the case of an email submission, type your name).

8. Information to include
9. Include your name, snail mail address, phone number, and email address in your cover letter. If you're sending it snail mail, your information should be at the top of the letter. For email, it can be at the top or the bottom of the letter.


Cover Letter Information (http://www.essortment.com/all/coverlettersho_rtwv.htm)

What happens when you finish that masterpiece of a short story and you are ready to send it off into the world to be published? You need a cover letter. A good cover letter will not get you published, but a bad cover letter will hinder your already slim chances of an editor choosing your story to see print. The first few steps listed here are needed in order to prepare for writing a cover letter, and the later tips show you how to avoid common pitfalls when submitting a short story for publication.

1. Write a well-crafted story. Remember first and foremost you have to have engaging fiction. Without a solid short story, you should not bother sending anything to an editor.

2. Know your market. After you have a polished story, you need a place to send that story. Learn what magazines publish the type of fiction you write. Is it a genre story: horror, science fiction/fantasy, romance, mystery? Is it a literary story? Look at the magazines in book stores, libraries, and on the Internet. For literary magazines, check the ones listed in the back of The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Award anthologies. Actually read the magazine to see what they publish and how it compares to your own story.

3. Read the magazine's guidelines. You can receive guidelines by sending an SASE (Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope) to the magazine with a request, or more conveniently, you can now find many magazines' guidelines on their web-sites. Guidelines give you another good sense of what the magazine will publish, how much they will pay, how fast they respond, and when they read. It is especially important to find out the reading period of literary magazines because they most often do not read during the summer and will send your story back.

4. Use the magazine's current address and a current editor's name. You can find this information on the inside cover of the magazine, the magazine's web-site, or their guidelines. I would suggest looking in these places over Writer's Digest because you can more easily find the current editor's name. Always send to a particular person (the fiction editor if possible). Nothing sends a story to the slush pile faster than addressing it to the generic: "Dear Fiction Editor."

5. Be succinct. This is a business and calls for business writing, not creative writing. Say what you need to say in the shortest time possible. Remember that editors are busy and appreciate concise cover letters (some suggest sending no cover letter at all, but I advise against this because it suggests you have no experience as a writer).

6. State intention. In one clear sentence, preferably at the beginning or near the beginning, tell the editor what you want. Example, "I would like to submit my story ‘Short Story Title' to the LUCKY REVIEW." Of course, you would substitute the short story title with your own and the magazine title with the one you are submitting to.

7. Give credentials. Be careful here. Too many beginning writers try to over load editors with every writing credit they can imagine: "I wrote for my middle school newspaper and then for my high school newspaper and now for my Sunday School newsletter and I've had a letter to the editor published in the Hobbock Chronicle and my cousin Larry hung one of my stories up his garage's waiting room." You want to give any genuine writing experience you have in a concise way: "Most recently, my short stories
have appeared in The Big River Review, Apple Pie Tonight, and How About That." List only your publication record as a general rule. If you have not published anything yet, give the impression that you are serious about being a writer: "I am a working writer living in New Orleans." Again, be brief and let your record and story stand for themselves.

8. Offer cooperation. By way of ending the body of your letter, have a sentence that lets the editor know that you can reformat your story for the magazine's purposes. Example: "This story is available on disk upon request."

9. Follow the right form. Make sure that the rest of the letter follows standard business form. At the top have your contact information, then the current editor's name and the mailing address of the magazine, followed by the salutation, "Dear Mr./Ms. editor's last name." And again do not be creative with the close; stick to "Thank you," or "Sincerely."

Remember a good cover letter's form is invisible to the reader. All you want the letter to do is to tell the editor you have submitted a story for the magazine's consideration, give a brief overview of your writing background, and show your willingness to accommodate the technical needs of the magazine

No comments:

Post a Comment