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The Basics

How to Write a Cover Letter

A good cover letter plays a crucial role in making a good impression and helping ensure that your manuscript is even read. The good news is, a fine cover letter is fairly simple to construct.

Put your name, full address, phone number, and e-mail at the top of your letter—don’t be difficult to contact.

Begin your letter with the salutation. Do not write simply, “Dear Editor(s).” Find the name of the editor you want—look on the publication’s website or the masthead of a recent issue for the most up-to-date information—and address your cover letter to him or her. Also, be respectful in your tone of address (i.e., Dear Mr./Mrs.), and save humor for another time.

Keep the body of your cover letter simple—brevity and accuracy are the most important attributes of a good cover letter. Name your piece and name the journal you’re addressing. It never hurts to show that you’ve done your research—write something you like about the journal or the editor, and if you have any connections, highlight them.

Summarize your piece in a short engaging way—two to three sentences should be enough. You aren’t trying to explain your piece—you shouldn’t have to. Be humble, but not self-deprecating; simply relay the facts in a way that fits the tone of the publication.

Conclude with acknowledgement of your inclusion of a self-addressed, stamped envelope for reply.

Don’t forget to proofread! If you are mailing a hard copy of the letter, print it on plain white 8.5”x11” paper; if you are using electronic submission, just copy and paste into the body of your e-mail, or the appropriate text box on an e-form.


A sample cover letter might look something like this:

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Your Name
Your Address
City/State/Postal Code
Your Telephone Number
Your E-Mail Address

Date

Editor’s Name
Title of Publication
Address
City/State/Postal Code

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. [Editor’s Name]:

Please consider my 2,000-word, previously unpublished manuscript, “[Story Title],” for publication at [Title of Publication]. I have read some of the stories published in your magazine—I especially enjoyed [“Story Title” by Author]—and I feel like my own story, about a young woman who befriends a neighbor while trying to work out her relationship with her father, will be a good fit. A self-addressed, stamped envelope is enclosed for your reply.

(OR: Please consider the following poems—“Title A,” “Title B,” and “Title C”—for publication at [Title of Publication]. I have read and enjoyed several poems from your publication—I particularly liked the work of [Poet X]—and I think my poetry will be a good fit. A self-addressed, stamped envelope is enclosed for your reply.)

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Your Name

***

Sources for this article include Professor John Timmerman, an excerpt from C. Michael Curtis’ essay, “Publishers and Publishing,” and an article in the March/April 2009 issue of Writer’s Digest, “9 Steps to Standing Out” by Susan Shapiro.