We have returned for another installment in our series Submitting Your Work to Literary Magazines. We have covered several steps in this process so far. If you have missed anything, please check out our How To category. Previous steps have included research, submission guidelines, and last week, simultaneous submissions. This week, we are moving right along in this series to shed some light on the cover letter for a literary magazine submission.
Submitting work to literary magazines requires a certain amount of professionalism. This is the point when the cover letter to a literary magazine has significance. Though the cover letter for a literary magazine submission differs from the cover letter that accompanies a resume, the cover letter for a literary magazine essentially serves the same purpose: to introduce yourself.
A cover letter for a literary magazine submission includes some of the same basic information as one would include in a cover letter for a job: name, address, phone, email, website (if relevant), and title(s) of the pieces being submitted. Providing these details is a basic first step in the composition of a cover letter to a literary magazine. The next steps are the ones that tend to complicate things.
- Letter Format – Since this letter is professional rather than personal, it is important that it is formatted appropriately. An example can be found here.
- Salutations and address – Perhaps initially, this aspect of the cover letter does not provoke anxiety, but then uncertainty suddenly appears and now you are not so sure what to say and who to say it to. This is where the submission guidelines can be very handy. Some magazines will specify who to send your submission to and the kind of submission that person will read. Editors of small run publications are busy, indeed, however; if you are uncertain about who to address in your cover letter, send an email to the magazine and ask. Usually, something like Dear [editor name] is fine. Double check the spelling of a name to ensure it is correct.
- The First Paragraph – Cover letters to literary magazines are intended to be short. They are simply meant to introduce your work and you as a writer in as few words as possible, so brevity and clarity are essential. In the first paragraph, this is where the bulk of the important details belong. Include here the title of your submission and a note if you are submitting your work elsewhere.
- The Second Paragraph or Body – The body is the perfect place for a couple of sentences about yourself. This is where you can include where you live and what you do. You can also note if you have been published before and where. If you are unpublished, that is okay. Some writers are comfortable with supplying their educational credentials, but there is a caveat: some editors do not want to read this information. Every editor is different, so, go with your instinct. If you feel your MFA is relevant, add it in, but the most important piece of information is if you have been published and where.
- Closing – As with any professional letter, you will want to close your letter to a literary magazine editor politely. A simply “sincerely” or “best regards” will do. Then, sign your name if you are printing it or hit the “return” key a few times and type your name.
- Additional Information:
– If you are mailing your submission and you want it back, do include a SASE ( self-addressed stamped envelope).
– If you were invited to resubmit your work after a previous rejection, remind the editor who you are and that you were asked to resend your work.
– Since you have read the publication you are submitting to, mention that you enjoy the magazine and you think your work has a place in it. This can go in a brief third paragraph of the cover letter.
– Read the biographies of authors published in the magazine you are submitting to. Doing this will help you to format your own bio.
The cover letter for a literary magazine is merely a few lines. It is not meant to provide information a lot of information, but to simply provide context for the editor, or editors, who will be considering your work. Sometimes it seems as if providing more content will lead to clarification and better understanding, which is a valid inclination, but in this area, short and sweet is best.
Next week, we will be wrapping up our first series “Submitting Your Work to Literary Magazines.”