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
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
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
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.