Sunday, March 10, 2013

Writing Cover Letters for Literary Journals

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In the modern era of self-publishing, the notion of writing a cover letter may be a foreign one to you. Most literary journals and magazines that allow submissions expect you to submit a cover letter along with your short story, poem, or essay. The cover letter serves as an introduction of your work as well as your identity as a writer. It can bridge the gap between publication and rejection. Writing a cover letter is one of the most important things you can learn to do correctly. Here's a handy guide to insure your next cover letter receives the attention your hard work deserves.

I've prepared a sample cover letter to give you an idea of the finished product:

Kelly Wright
Fiction Editor
Feature Story Magazine
123 Lane Street
Anytown, State, Zip

Dear Kelly Wright,

Please find enclosed my short story “Glue.”

I live in suburban Georgia, where I work as a student and a freelance writer.

I enjoy reading Feature Story Magazine and am hopeful that you’ll find my story to be a good fit.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Briana Morgan

We can break this letter down into several different points for emulation.

  • Find out the editor's full name, and use it in your salutation

  • Your cover letter doesn't need to grab the editor's attention. Your work should be strong enough to speak for itself

  • Pay attention to spelling and grammar rules--the way you handle punctuation says a lot about your writing chops

  • A cover letter isn't the same as a query, so you shouldn't summarize your work

  • When submitting fiction or poetry, you don't need to connect the work to your personal experience

  • There's no reason to mention whether you've been published or not

  • It's okay to add some information about yourself, but keep it short and avoid trying to prove how interesting you are

To write a great cover letter, check your spelling and grammar, do your research, and trim the fat wherever possible. Follow the example. You can do it, I promise. Remember these rules, take some risks, and don't give up. Good luck!

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