How to Write a Cover Letter

How to write a cover letter

One of the skills you must master as a writer is how to write a cover letter.

The easy truth? It’s not that hard.

The reality? Writers struggle with cover letters.

I have a few theories:

  1. They get their cover letter types confused. For the purposes of this lecture, we’re talking about a short fiction cover letter that’s included with a submission. Not a job interview cover letter or a novel query.
  2. A writer cannot resist the urge to embellish.
  3. Most writers have imposter syndrome and feel the need to qualify their story with more credentials than the story needs (the story speaks for itself).

In the slushpile, quite often I see atrocities calling themselves cover letters that are:

  1. Longer than the actual submission
  2. A list of everything the writer has written since first grade including yesterday’s grocery list
  3. So full of sycophantic brown-nosing that it becomes uncomfortable to read
  4. An invitation to visit their blog, buy their book, stop by their Instagram page, or some other link-clicking that the slushpile doesn’t allow time for.
  5. A synopsis of the story including a long meta description of plot, character arcs, setting, major themes, and their inspiration.
  6. Testimony about some major incident in their life that affected them in some way that I should care about as a human but the crush of the slushpile and the utter irrelevance to their writing ability makes me not give a flying fart.
  7. Some truth that will disqualify their story from being published like being in the original submissions pile and saying it’s been published six times before, or it’s a simultaneous submission (which we don’t accept), or they hope I enjoy slasher rape poetry which is against all of our guidelines.
  8. A rant against humanity.
  9. An entreaty to find this story worthy of publication that’s uncomfortable to read and sets one up for failure.
  10. Publication credits having nothing to do with fiction like a symphonic opus catalog kit.

I’m going to make this super easy for you. You can even copy and paste my exact words into your cover letters {just change out the parts in brackets}.

Here you go:

Dear Editor,

Please consider my previously published {Word Count} word story, “{Story Title}” for publication in {Publication Title}.

{OPTIONS: don’t copy/paste this part. Just pick the one that applies.}

My short fiction has appeared in {Professional or Semi-professional venues ONLY}.

I am currently unpublished.

{*ONLY if requested in the guidelines*} {YOUR NAME} is a writer living in X. Her short fiction has appeared in {Title}. She enjoys {hobby}. Follow her on {social media}.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Your Name

your.email@email.com

1 Street Ln

City, State, Zip

Country

Need help with your cover letter? Have a question? Head over to the forum.

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