Cover Letters & Query Letters (part 1)

If you are new to these two, please take notes.This is something you’re going to be seeing a lot of, if you’re writing a novel, short story, a memoir–basically anything that has to do with publishing you will need how to write this and how to get it out there. Because you know you want to get published.

Cover letters are used to quickly introduce your work, yourself, and express your interest in the magazine to an editor. A cover letter is your first impression, so to speak. So it’s really important that you have absolutely no grammatical errors.

Here’s an example of one I wrote:

[Personal Address]
[Date]

[Actual Name of Editor]
[Title/position they hold, usually ‘Editor’]
[“Name of” Literary Magazine]

Dear [Editor’s Name],

I have attached my previously unpublished story [Title here] to be considered as a submission for your new issue.

I found your magazine through New Pages and after seeing your latest issue, I thought it’d be a good fit. I also thought it very kind of you to offer commentary on our submissions, if not accepted. I would very much like to hear any commentary you have on my submission if it is not accepted.

I am a MFA student at [***]College and I have never published a work of fiction before.

Thank you so much for your time and considering my submission. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

D. Arlene

You want to tell them:

1. what you are submitting (if it is a simultaneous submission state that!)

2. who you are (publication credits are okay, if you’re a student, sure–though not necessary; if it’s your first time publishing, yes!)

3. thank them for taking the time to read it.

In my example, I was submitting to a magazine I had just recently researched and read a couple of their stories. I enjoyed them, and when they came out with a themed issue they said they’d give feedback if rejected. It’s rare for magazines to do that and I felt that even if I didn’t get accepted while I had confidence, it’d be a good opportunity to see what an editor thought of my work. They requested that we write whether or not we’d like to have that.

Essentially every letter will different based on what the editor/magazine wants from you. Anything else is really optional. If you want to mention that you like their magazine, do so– I think it shows an appreciation for what they do. It also shows that you did your research, and you’re not wasting their time. I’d highly recommend it. Also, make sure you use an actual name for the editor. No one appreciates a generic ‘Madam/Sir.’ These are people taking time out of their lives to read your work. Show some respect and research where you want to send your short stories.

Here’s one example, and another for more specific details.

Some people mix up query letters and cover letters, or try to combine the two. That’s not the job of a cover letter. A cover letter is quick, let’s them know a couple of things like whether or not you’re serious about this and then they get to reading. Query letters are different. They’re for a literary agent, not an editor of a magazine.

Keep that in mind when you’re writing.

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