Editor Blues: The Cover Letter

I am looking at the writing world from the other side of the desk this year. Having recently joined the staff of Stories for Children Magazine, I thought I would share a few posts from the editor’s point of view. Today’s topic is the cover letter.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The cover letter seems to be a lost art in the world of electronic submissions. Some writers evidently cannot take the time in today’s fast-paced world of ‘click and send’ to write one. I am sure they feel that their work will ‘speak’ for itself. What is the point of taking the time to write a cover letter for an email submission?xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Maybe I am old fashioned, but when I open a submission and read –‘Attached a story.’ —I am not thrilled. Think of it this way. If you met an editor at a conference, would you say ‘here’ and shove your manuscript into their hand? I doubt any of us would be so forward or rude. Yet the impersonal world of electronic submissions encourages us to do just that.xx

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The cover letter is your introduction. Do your best to make a good first impression. If you have never submitted to a particular editor, keep it formal and business like. Do use an editor’s name. Did you ever have a teacher in school that gave you ten points for just putting your name on a test paper? I will give you ten points for addressing your submission to me and getting my name right. Why? It is not because I have an inflated ego. It is because it tells me you took the time to do your homework. You looked at our website and consciously chose to submit a story to me.x

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The cover letter is my first look at your writing ability. If you leave out or misspell words, it does not give me a good feeling about reading your manuscript. But, you will say, I worked very hard on the manuscript. I proof read it ten times and went over it with my critique group for months before sending it out. And I will ask, if you spent that much time working on your story, why not spend fifteen minutes to write and proof read your cover letter? You invest so much effort in your story and then wrap it in garbage to send out.xxx

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A good cover letter accomplishes two things. It introduces you and your story to editors and it gives them their first look at your writing skills. If you take the time to write a decent one, it tells editors that you are serious about your work. It makes them want to spend their time reading your story and working with you on it.

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About roxanne werner

Mild mannered mom by day, free time lost in my imagination. My journey started with Santa. Every year I raced to the Christmas tree and searched until I found the special present, the heavy one, signed 'love Santa'--a book. I would curl up and start reading, often not coming up for air until the story was done. As an adult I still look for the one special present under my tree, signed from Santa. It's the heavy one I open first--a new book, a new world to explore. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey but reading let me travel through space and time. I visited the future with H.G. Wells, Middle Earth with J.R.R.Tolkien. I had the best of companions, characters who made me laugh, cry, and catch my breath. My sixth grade teacher opened up another world for me. Each week we were assigned to write a story. I had made up stories in my head before, but never attempted to write them down. It was the best homework I ever had. I couldn't wait to put down my ideas and create characters of my own. I was hooked on writing. Time passed and though I remained an avid reader, writing was put aside. I had a family to raise and a full time job. Now that my son is going to be sixteen, I'm getting ready to retire my 'mom hat.' Two years ago I decided to pursue writing as more than a hobby. I packed up my imagination, a pen, my PC, mustered up my courage, and began a new journey. It's been filled with ups and downs, but I won't ever go back. Like Frodo, I've learned there's a big wide world out there. Once you take one step out of your door, you are swept up and taken for an adventure. It's scary and wonderful. I've made great friends and learned so much. If I'm brave and don't give up, one day a child will pick up a heavy present under their tree and open it to find one of my stories.
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3 Responses to Editor Blues: The Cover Letter

  1. anna says:

    Its so useful to hear about this from ‘the other side of the table’. I wonder if cover letters have gone the way of thank you letters? They seem to me to be as much about courtesy as about good salespersonship!

  2. I always still put my cover letter directly in to the body of the email, but I’m wondering if folks just don’t know the correct cyber submission rules of etiquette. I still think it would be awkward not to introduce yourself.

  3. Gayle says:

    Here! Here!

    I suffer over the perfection of my cover letters from the date down to my signature and everything in between. I can’t imagine just sending a manuscript with no introduction.

    Great post, Rox. 🙂

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