When We Write Letters, Part II: Cover Letters to Magazines

Courtesy of http://ja-nae.net/blog/the-power-of-letter-writing/how-to-write-a-letter.

I read today story collections are almost extinct.

Few people read stories.

An agent would be a fool to represent it.

I am one of the only writers at a writing group that puts some focus into story composition; not just a novel.

Yet, many literary magazines, ezines and blogs fight to keep this art alive. In the fight and competition there exists promising new writers and emerging authors.

Before you send your story, you must come face-to-face with another almost vanished art. You need to send a cover letter.

It sounds corporate. A cover letter sounds too business-ish. Some of you feel the tie squeeze your neck, or those closed toe shoes suffocate your toes.

The reality is a cover letter helps show off who you are. While some magazines place less importance on a letter than others, most publications like a cover letter.

A cover letter hows:

  1. Shows You Care.

    Mention something about the magazines. Publications prefer you to read back issues and stories on their website. If you cannot afford a subscription for whatever reason, at least research a magazine’s website. Read about the editors and their assistants.

    You’ll find answers to these questions:

    What is the page or word limit?

    Is the publication mostly student run?

    Do they like satire, children’s stories or do they despise stories about dogs, etc.?

    Think of looking at a website as getting to know the magazine.

  2. Introduces You: Do not worry if you’re an unpublished writer. All I had going for me in the beginning was the fact I worked as a staff writer at a small community newspaper in the middle of North Carolina. It was a start.

Mention your experience. If you’re a cop, be proud you’re a cop. Tell what kind of cop you are, unless you’re a top-secret investigator or undercover officer.

A cover letter need only be a half-page to one page. Make sure you address the specific magazine or editor. If you’re story is nonfiction, you don’t want to send the story to the fiction editor.

Unlike a query letter in which you focus most of your attention on your concept, a cover letter to a magazine offers you more page room to introduce your experience and what you know about the magazine. It also doesn’t hurt to mention your word count.

Every letter is different.

Every writer takes on a different vision.

You’re polished story is most important, but once again go old-school and draft a letter.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

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3 thoughts on “When We Write Letters, Part II: Cover Letters to Magazines

  1. I think often this one page causes more trouble and strife than the rest of the novel! I’m leaving my cover letter until I’ve finished the next draft of my book. Then it’ll get my full attention. 🙂

    1. I understand that feeling. Usually with the letter, it helps to know your full story, and sometimes as the writer you don’t fully understand your story until you’ve edited it one or two times. I know. I’ve written three or four different summaries of my novel, Sons of the Edisto, for query letters. Which strikes at the heart of the book? It’s tough.

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