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The Fundamentals Of A Cover Letter For Poems, Stories, And Personal Essays

Cover Letter

When you’re ready to submit your poems, short stories, or essays to literary journals for publication, you’ll need a cover letter.

Unlike the more complicated query letter you would send to a literary agent for a book project, a cover letter to a literary magazine contains only basic information about your writing submission and your author bio. It is not a sales pitch or a flashy bid for attention. Your cover letter should be professional, no more than one page, and show a knowledge of publishing industry etiquette.

Here are the essential parts of a cover letter:

1. Salutation. Whenever possible, use the editor’s full name. “Dear Sue Smith.” Never assume gender! “Pat” can be a “Patrick” or a “Patricia.” Read more: Savvy Salutations.

2. Introduction. State your intention clearly and include the title(s) of the work(s) you’re submitting: Please consider my poems, “Gray” and “To the Orioles,” for publication in Journal Name.

3. Don’t describe your submission. Don’t summarize your story or explain the themes in your poems. Trust us—it’s bad publishing industry etiquette. Editors may find it insulting if you presume that they can’t understand your work and need to have it explained to them. Plus, editors at literary journals pride themselves on how carefully they consider each submission. If you write a “teaser” into your cover letter, it will seem as if you suspect editors need to be tempted to do their jobs.

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4. Your author bio. Include a short bio that lists your writing credits. You may want to add some selective information about your personal interests as well, especially if the details reflect on your writing (but avoid TMI). If you want to publish under a pen name, note that here. Read more: Pseudonyms: Using A Pen Name In A Cover Or Query Letters To Agents Or Editors.

5. The closing. Be sure to sincerely thank the editor for his or her time.

6. Your signature (your real name).

7. Contact info. Since most submissions are now made electronically, the best place to include your contact information (mailing address, phone number, email address, and author website) is below your signature.

If you’re printing your cover letter to send a submission via standard postal service, then the letterhead and contact information should be at the top. And while your letterhead is the one place in your cover letter where you can show some individuality, be sure to choose a font that is clean and easy to read. You can tweak standard templates to reflect your personal taste—but avoid using images or too many colors.

And that’s it! You’re ready to send your cover letter and writing submission out to literary journals. To learn more about how to write an effective cover letter, check out our Most Popular Articles for cover and query letter writing.

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