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.