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.

Submit or Not to Submit

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In the last several days, three friends have recommended writing contests to me. Intrigued I began the process of reviewing  each site,  contests details, and the guidelines. Hour’s later after reading back issues and making a list of deadlines, I’m exhausted. Submitting is hard and time-consuming work.

But life has taught me, the best things come with hard work and perseverance.

Even if your story or essay isn’t accepted, submitting on a regular basis, provides advantages.

What’s in it for you?

  1. Themed contests are like prompts, spurring imagination and the desire to write.
  2. Deadlines help you prioritize time.
  3.  Reading the works of others, introduce you to other writers and genres.
  4.  Many magazines offer feedback and/or a written critique from the judges (a favorite perk of mine.) Who wouldn’t want to receive information which will improve your skill as a writer and likewise, increase your chance of acceptance?
  5.  Practice makes perfect. You gain experience and knowledge with every submission and in the end, you might achieve your goal.
  6.  Provides a venue for others to discover your work.

As you well know, if you follow Duotrope, statistics on acceptance rates for many are dismal. However, when you receive that acceptance letter or email, it’s magic and well worth the time and effort.

A note of Caution When Submitting:

  1. Read and follow the guidelines. A lack of compliance is a frequent complaint from many editors.
  2. Check and double-check spelling and grammar. Read aloud, listen to it on your Kindle, or ask a respected friend for feedback.
  3. Stay within the designated word count. Sounds easy enough, however, sometimes the title counts, sometimes it doesn’t. Knowing which will determine whether your story lands in the consideration or rejection pile.
  4.  Know the basics of the contest. Is there a theme, particular genre, or is the contest open?
  5.  Know whether it’s a blind submission or requires author identification.
  6.  Format according to submission guidelines. The guidelines differ for each magazine or contest.

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So, take the leap. Review the Call for Submissions in the sidebar; check out Duotrope,  Every Writer’s Resource, and The Write Life for their list of current contests.

Remember, no risk, no gain.

Happy writing, submitting, and best of luck!