Cover Letter Basics

Day 3: 

Cover letters – don’t we dread writing them? When so many magazines have an automated submission process, what is the purpose?

Why do a Cover Letter?Cover Letter

It’s a way to introduce yourself to the editor, and where I come from, an introduction is a polite thing to do.

It tells the editor the basics about your submission – title, word count, and is a good opportunity to indicate your familiarity with the magazine.

Things Not to do:

  1. Don’t screw with the guidelines. Read and follow them to the tee. Taking a gamble won’t win you any points but a straight up rejection.
  2. If you’ve developed a template, make sure you’ve updated the date, editor, magazine, story, and word count. Don’t be careless. It’s not only bad form but bad manners to call someone by another’s name.
  3. Don’t get long-winded. Editors are busy people. One to two paragraphs works fine. Remember this is a cover letter, not a query.
  4. Don’t address the letter, “To Whom it may concern.” It signals the editor that you’re unfamiliar with their magazine.
  5. Don’t wax sentimental about your personal life. It’s a distraction, pegs you as an amateur, and will likely land your submission on the slush pile.

The Basic Things to Do:

  1. Follow the guidelines.
  2. Keep the cover letter to a single page.
  3. Make it simple and succinct.
  4. Limit your bio to no more than a paragraph.
  5. Address the editor by full name and title.
  6. Be mindful of grammar. It matters even in the cover letter.
  7. Include your name, address, email, and phone number as on any business letter.
  8. Include the title of your story, genre, and word count.
  9. Indicate whether it’s a simultaneous submission.
  10. Stick to the format and font outlined in the guidelines; every magazine has their preference.
  11. Keep a copy for your file and link it to the manuscript you submitted.
  12. Update your submission log, including the expected date to hear back/or contest deadline.

What do you think about cover letters? Do they make a difference? Ready to find out, check out my list of Call for Submissions in the sidebar and good luck.

I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilagood, and Contently.

21 thoughts on “Cover Letter Basics

  1. Excellent tips, especially the one about updating a template. When I worked as a prosecutor we ran into a problem with this many times. Our support staff didn’t check the template and ultimately it was on the lawyers (we really should have proofed the letters before just signing our names to them, but far too often we didn’t). I can’t tell you how many times, we inadvertently sent a victim letter to someone that had the wrong name and and we told them how sorry we were that they had been the victim of the wrong crime. Needless to say, you only need a handful of complaining victims before something is done to change the current system. Your template tip reminded me of the grossly negligent mistake we made. Thanks for sharing the tips. All of them will prove useful the next time I write a cover letter. I will never use a template again.

    Melissa Sugar

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel you pain. Several years ago I did the exact same thing – needless to say my submission received a quick rejection. I haven’t made that mistake again. LOL. Thanks for stopping by and taking part in the conversation.


  2. Great advice! Read “B” toady too — both are very good articles. Will also check out the “Friday Fictioneer’s Prompts” … bookmarking you so I can come back … had no idea what subject I would find here when I clicked on your blog in the A-to-Z list; just was intrigued by the title 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m thrilled you were intrigued. If you get the chance read my about page to find out more about where the title came from. Had I done more research when I started, I might have thought more about the name, but as you will see – it holds a great deal of I significance to me. I hope you will check out more of my posts and let me know what you think. I love feedback and will definitely check out your recommendations. Thanks again for stopping by the Cow Pasture.


  3. I am looking into submitting short stories and illustrations to children’s magazines right now, so this was perfect timing to read about cover letters! I’ve written them before when submitting my work to agents/publishers for middle grade fiction as well. They aren’t always asked for, but they are good to have on hand if the agent/publisher does request them. Following their guidelines to a tee, as you said, is a definite must. Each publishing house and agent wants something a bit different. It is a quick way to get rejected when you don’t follow the rules. Great post again!

    Liked by 1 person

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