Sometimes people ask me questions about writing query or cover letters. I remember struggling over this myself early on. Through the process of selling over a hundred short stories, I have made quite a few mistakes along the way. I have addressed cover letters to the wrong person, included information an editor specifically asked not to have included, and even submitted a cover letter that didn’t match the name of the story.
Mistakes made from not getting enough sleep aside, I’ve also just learned through the process of submitting and reading guidelines for what to include. There are differences from a cover letter I submit for a novel versus a short story.
Below are some hints to keep in mind when submitting a cover letter and short story to a magazine.
Keep it short.
You aren’t submitting a novel, so it doesn’t need to be a page long.
Include the basics.
Include genre, word count, a one or two sentence synopsis, writing credits and closing.
Use the editors name if you know it.
You need to address the letter to the editor. If you don’t know the editor’s name or names, just address it: To the editor.
Include only relevant information.
This is meant to be a short letter of introduction when you submit a short story to be considered. It is a great place to list credentials, if you have any. If you don’t have any stories published, don’t bring attention to this and mention it. Typically, editors don’t want to read a long list, especially not a long list of information that doesn’t relate to the story. If you submit a story about astronauts and you mention you are an astronaut, that goes a lot farther than mentioning you submitted a story about astronauts and you are a waiter.
Read the guidelines and make sure to tailor the cover letter to what the magazine or anthology is requesting. Some do not want a bio, some do, but only in third person. Some don’t want a summary of the story while others do.
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