Writing a Cover Letter
by C. M. Clifton
As a novice writer, I had no idea that cover letters existed until I attempted to submit my first short story manuscript, and the submission guidelines mentioned that a cover letter should accompany my manuscript. Once aware of cover letters, I found myself confused, so I conducted a bit of research. If you are just embarking on the writer's journey and seeking to submit your first short story manuscript, hopefully this article will assist you as some guidelines on cover letters have helped me.
Grab your magnifying glass and come along with me to take a closer look at this type of letter.
Cover letters are brief business letters usually included with short story manuscripts. Normally a letter containing one to three short paragraphs, the cover letter is most often paper-clipped in front of your manuscript's first page when you are mailing your submission. If you are submitting your manuscript through email, then your cover letter comes before your story as the main body of your email, and still serves as your introduction. Whether you are submitting through postal mail or email, your cover letter should be single-spaced, written in standard block or semi-block format, and double-spaced between paragraphs. If you are mailing your manuscript, then you should consider typing your cover letter on plain white 8 ½" by 11" paper.
As stated, the number of paragraphs in a cover letter can vary. But, regardless of how many paragraphs there are, some information that is usually listed in cover letters includes your story's title and your story's word count. If you are submitting your manuscript through mail, as opposed to email, you might also want to state that a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) is enclosed, and that there is no need to return the manuscript.
Here is a sample cover letter:
Your City, State/Country Postal Code
Your Telephone Number
Your Email Address
Title of Publication
City, State/Country Postal Code
Dear Editor's Name:
Please consider my 2,500-word, previously unpublished manuscript, "Your Story's Title," for publication at Any Title Magazine. A self-addressed, stamped envelope is enclosed for your reply. There is no need to return the manuscript should my story not interest you.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
What you should not include in your cover letter is an in-depth description of your story. I have also recently noticed some submission guidelines where the editors stressed for writers not to include photographs of themselves along with their submissions. Be sure to always read a publication's most current guidelines, and only send what the editors require you to send. Disobeying submission guidelines can sometimes mean an automatic rejection of your short story.
Not every editor will require you to send cover letters with your short story manuscripts, but when a cover letter is required, try to think of your cover letter as more of a courteous, introductory tool, rather than a sales pitch. Let your cover letter introduce you, and let your story speak for itself. Here's to more acceptances and less rejections.
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