Submissions Etiquette: Example Cover Letter for Submitting Short Stories or Poetry to Literary Magazines

As an editor of a lit mag, I get a lot of submissions that are introduced by pretty terrible cover letters. Here’s a secret: for many editors (myself included), when faced with the choice between two equally good submissions, the one with the better, politer cover letter always wins out.

Do:

  • Do read at least one issue of the magazine before you send them anything.
  • Do address the editor by name, either the editor in chief or a subeditor.
  • Do give your word count and subgenre.
  • Do keep your list of accolades short and sweet.

Don’t:

  • Start with “Dear Editors.” *cringe*
    • This sounds like you didn’t even take the time to figure out who’s at the helm of the ship you’re trying to board. Yikes.
  • Describe your story or poem. Let your work speak for itself.
  • Bloviate about your thousands of accolades. If you were that famous, wouldn’t the editors have heard of you?
  • Submit something that the lit mag doesn’t publish. No, they won’t make an exception for you.

 


Fill-in-the-Blank: Example Cover Letter

Please feel free to use these yourselves. Copy, paste, share: whatever.

Dear [ Mr. or Ms. Editor’s Surname],

 

Attached to this email, you will find my [fiction only, state your word count: X,XXX word] [poem/short story] entitled “[Your Title].”

 

My [poetry/fiction] has appear in [Review Name], [Review Name], and elsewhere.

 

Thank you for your time.

 

Sincerely,

[Writer’s First and Last Name]


Variation:

Dear [ Mr. or Ms. Editor’s Surname],

 

Attached to this email, you will find my [fiction only, state your word count: X,XXX word] [poem/short story] entitled “[Your Title].”

 

[A short biographical snippet: Include something interesting about yourself, where you have studied your genre, and a few accolades.]

 

Thank you for your time.

 

Sincerely,

[Writer’s First and Last Name]

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