Cover Yourself

3d copyWorking as a founding editor for The Citron Review can be very rewarding, but it can also be an exercise in frustration. The frustration comes in filtering through the dearth of submissions from writers who have clearly not taken the time to read what we publish. They send us things that don’t fit our style. And, of course, because of their generic cover letters, we have no way of telling what we’re in for. This stems from mass submissions.

As a writer, I understand the need for mass-submissions. The theory behind it is this: if I submit to 100 journals, one of them is bound to love what I’ve written. The problem is, how many of these 100 journals have you actually read? Have you bothered to read the guidelines? Many of our submitters skip over that crucial step.

I give you all that background to say this: I came across one of the greatest cover letter’s I’ve ever read today. Loved it. I want to run this guy’s piece now, just on the merit of the cover letter. Here’s what he says, with my comments following important parts.

Dear Probably Intern, (Though TCR doesn’t have interns, I understand that this submitter understands how most literary journals work. Plus, it made me chuckle, which puts me in a good mood already.) My name is (I’ll keep his name out of it for now, since I don’t have his express permission to use it in my blog) and I’m an undergraduate English major at (a major university which I won’t name on the basis of protecting anonymity) with no credentials (I now know that he’s a beginning writer looking for his first publication, and as an editor, I’m inclined to read these carefully. We take special pleasure at TCR in publishing new writers). I work at (the local university literary review) and know how much fun reading Submittable (our submission program) for hours can be (more humor! I like this guy!), so I kept to a short-short (yeah! A courteous submitter!) that avoids the breakup-in-a-bar narrative apparently plaguing the nation’s MFA programs (yes, he’s exactly right! More humor, and he understands the current state of “literature”.) Thanks guys (an informal closing to an informal, but amusing letter. Already, I want to accept his work without even reading it.)

Lastly, I wanted to mention that his work demonstrates a similar informality and humor. It was well written.

Long story short, your cover letter should be personal, specific to whichever journal you’re submitting to, and respectful. If humor isn’t your thing, don’t try to be funny. Just be you. Your cover letter is your opportunity for editors to see you as you are. Make sure the "U” in “you” comes through clearly.

13 thoughts on “Cover Yourself”

  • Hoo boy, cover letters. A beast I will likely conquer in the future, but I must first get more experience under my belt before doing anything. The publishing world is a strange and savage place, and someone like me wouldn’t last long…But one day, I will face this challenge.
    Write well, write often.

  • In all honesty… I don’t know if I’ll ever need to write a cover letter but if I do, it’s nice to know how to 🙂

  • I havn’t writen one yet but this is nice to know as I am sure that one will be needed in my future. One question though, does this concept apply to a cover letter for any job? I know I must stick to the requirements but this seems like a very succesful method.

  • @Shania: Good question. I guess I didn’t make it clear (as I should have) that this is an example of a cover letter for a submission for a short story for publication. Cover letters for jobs are a completely different thing.

  • Ive never had to write a cover letter and i cant think of a time that i will need to, but im sure that if i ever do need to that i will have the right strategies. thanks bro :)<3

  • I have never wrote a cover letter, but it is good to know how to if I want to get anything published. Maybe sometime in the future I will need to do a cover letter and I will know how to do one now.

  • I don’t think i’ll ever need a cover letter. it is nice to know how but i don’t ever submit my work to anything unless it is an assignment

  • So baisically, a cover letter gives editors a sense of who you are as a person and as a writer, and it gets their attention. I like the idea of using respectfully simple humor to lighten the mood of yet another formality in the publication process. Writing is a very enjoyable thing, so why not make each step toward success a good time? 🙂

  • I am to insecure about my writing(at this point in time), I really need to improve on alot of things mainly my dialouge(puting action along with the spoken words) and tightining up my laungauge before I even think on submitting any of my storys. When the time comes, which I hope it will this post will be very helpfull.

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