A cover letter is your chance to create a positive first impression for the editors and readers who are reviewing your work. An unprofessional (or even a long-winded) cover letter can warrant unenthusiastic consideration of your work.
However, a concise and well-written cover letter encourages editors to begin reading the submitted poem, manuscript, or short story proper. As Michelle Richmond, publisher of Fiction Attic Press, writes, “It might surprise you to know that the most forgettable cover letters are often the best.” And if you’re submitting to Adroit, it might be a good idea to review our cover letter guidelines here.
Here’s an example of an efficient and entirely fictitious cover letter that works, with footnotes to explain what to incorporate into your cover letters. A caveat: Different publications may have different requirements for their cover letters. Don’t assume that our template will work everywhere. That being said, this is a solid starting point.
Dear Peter LaBerge, Garrett Biggs, Heidi Seaborn, and Adroit readers,1
Please consider my poem, “No Regrets.”2 I’ve been a long-time fan of Adroit, and I particularly enjoyed Jennifer Tseng’s “First Son” from Issue 27.3
This is a simultaneous submission. If “No Regrets” is accepted elsewhere, I will withdraw it immediately.4
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.5
Peter Rabbit is a senior majoring in statistics and comparative literature at the University of Vermont. Their work has previously been published in Winter Tangerine and Vagabond City. Some of their other work can be found online at peterrabbit.wordpress.com.6
1 Referencing editors’ names shows that you’ve done your research and adds a personal touch to what may be a copy-and-pasted cover letter. For your convenience, I’ve linked the Adroit masthead here. If you truly can’t find information about the editor, consider using “Dear Editors,” “Dear Readers,” “To whom it may concern:” or “Dear [Journal].”
2 Short and simple. Your first sentence should convey why you are writing this cover letter. If you’re submitting a short story, editors will often want to know the word count. Also include the category or genre of the piece.
3 Referencing a piece or two previously published by a literary journal shows editors that you’ve done your research. Editors can assume that you’re familiar with what kind of work they publish, and that will set their mind at ease. Of course, don’t fake it. If you have a truly personal connection with the editor, feel free to add it. But make sure it’s not as inane as “I noticed that we both have a dog! I love dogs.”
4 Simultaneous submissions are submitted to multiple journals at the same time. It’s a common practice accepted at many journals, but individual journals might have different requirements. Always include information on simultaneous submissions as a matter of professional courtesy.
5 Simple, courteous, and a good lead to the actual content.
6 Many journals, like Adroit, will ask for a short bio. Include some general details about your current occupation, your training or education, and some of your most recent publications. It’s important to emphasize that editors will keep reading even if you haven’t had any publications or if you aren’t formally pursuing a creative writing degree (whether graduate or undergraduate), so don’t feel like you’ve got to conjure up some accolades or fluff. You probably want to leave out superfluous details like your job as a babysitter in sixth grade or your last sandwich order.
There you have it. A quick but professional way to open your submission to a literary journal, magazine, and publication. You seem human, but you are first and foremost a writer. And writers want their work to be read and published. Good luck!