Cover Letter for Magazines


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  1. #1
    Member Tomkat's Avatar
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    Cover Letter for Magazines

    Hey there, fellows of the craft,

    would you help me understand how to write a cover letter for Online Magazines?

    I have no publishing records, nor I have that huge academic background to boast when I submit my short stories to these platforms.

    I usually started out friendly:
    "Hey there, name's Tom.
    I live here, I do that.
    I got no previous publications; I'm looking for a place where to start.
    I've found out about your magazine thanks to this or that friend or website.
    The story was inspired by whatever, plus general and quick info on the submitted work.
    Thank you!"

    Of course, I make sure to respect the magazine's guidelines and that my file is in a proper manuscript format. Also, I read random stuff from previous issues.

    So far I sent out like 10 submissions; I don't have experience nor I expect to get any "luck" before at least reaching the 100th submission, but if you guys have any experience, advice and bits of tips, it would certainly help me understanding how to write a more effective cover letter.

    Thank you

  2. #2
    If you have a blog it helps. Start by saying your name. What the story's genre is. Indicate the word count and the story title. If you followed their guidelines you could write what the story did that the guidelines mentioned. For example this is a positive story on science fiction called the "The robot that governed the city". It is approximately under 2000 words. I think you will like this story since it is literary with a positive message about the future.

    A biography needs to be included in many cases. Insert here.

    Dear editors of "Asimov Magazine":

    My name is Timmy Bailey (real name or pen). . For example this is a positive story on science fiction called the "The robot that governed the city". It is approximately under 2000 words or has 1910 (rounded to the nearest ten). I think you will like this story since it has a literary bent with a positive message about the future. I based my research on the following journal in this weblink. I hope readers like it.

    Biography: was born in (insert here), and was educated here. I currently work for a charity (if noteworthy mention something like this). Insert blog page here or website.

    Thanks for your serious consideration.

    Yours Truly,

    Timmy Bailey

    Read the submission guidelines especially if an email submission to know what else is required. It varies by magazine and webzine. Likely the manuscript as well. William Shunn format is the most popular. But every magazine has different preferences.

    That is how I have written it. It is more or less like this. Some don't require cover letters. But it helps I think. That's an opinion for a different thread. Also, if you are different they like to hear it in the cover letter. I am neurodiverse and whatever else you want to mention say it in the biography. They may take you more seriously if you include this. Especially if the manuscript has a relevant experience such as a dissertation or you are neurodiverse.

    Also, worth a note: if you write for a publication for free they will take you more seriously or if you receive a token payment. I published 2 free stories and eventually got paid for one story for an anthology (that's really 3 publications I have for including in a cover letter).

    This website gives you free hosting space for a blog.

    https://thinkerbeat.com/
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; December 16th, 2019 at 06:52 PM.
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  3. #3
    Global Moderator J.T. Chris's Avatar
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    Dear Editors: (Better to know the appropriate editor's name)

    Please consider "Story" (Sci-Fi, 2000 words) for inclusion in Market.

    My previous work has appeared in Market and Market.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,

    Writer.
    Or

    Dear Joe Editor:

    Please consider "Story" (Sci-Fi, 2000 words).

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,

    Writer
    Here's a helpful link: How to Write a Proper Short Story Cover Letter
    Last edited by J.T. Chris; December 17th, 2019 at 03:47 AM.
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  4. #4
    Cover letters are short and sweet. Bios are frequently included in the cover letter. Here's an example:


    Dear (Editor's name, "Ms. Smith." Or, if that info. is not available or there's a team of editors listed, "Dear Story Magazine Editors"):

    Attached/enclosed is a short story, "Your Story Title," 2,000 words.

    Here's my bio: Tomkat is a bartender in Las Vegas. He enjoys surfing, crocheting and, of course, writing stories. This is his first published story (or list your website/blog).

    Thanks for your consideration.

    Regards,

    TomKat
    email/phone number

    ---------------------------
    That's it. Don't explain the story or tell them about yourself outside of the included bio. They mainly just want the story.

    Limit the bio to about three sentences and just include a couple of things that readers might enjoy knowing about you, if your story gets published.

    If/when you get publishing credits, they're commonly listed in the bio but if you don't have any yet, no problem.

    Also, bios are usually written in the third person, as shown above.

    If you want to post a cover letter here, we can weigh in on it for you. Good luck!
    Last edited by Ma'am; December 17th, 2019 at 07:20 PM. Reason: for clarity

  5. #5
    I have found cover letters can get seriously overblown and formulaic. Also boring.

    Usually the submission guidelines state what they want (bio, publishing history, etc) and reading those can suggest the level of detail. If there is no cover letter mentioned, I try to keep it short and sweet and stick to what sets my story apart rather than checking boxes.

    Some other things to include references to:

    - An understanding of the magazine's general content, target readership, history, etc. Consider subscribing to the magazine or otherwise accessing the content so you can refer to what you have read of theirs. Of course you probably don't have the finances to pay for back issues of every magazine's work, but at least look at the website for things you can reference that establish a relationship. Are you familiar with one of their prior-published readers? Have you heard about them from somewhere/somebody? Don't make it sound like you just dead ass googled them and decided to submit in ten seconds because they happened to be open for reading. Try to personify your cover letter to some degree.

    - Make your work sound interesting. This sounds obvious, but there's nothing more boring than just "hey this is my story".

    Here's an example of one of my (successful) submission emails:

    Dear Editor,

    This story, THE OUTPOST, is 7100 words long. It is set in the middle-distant future and is about a young astronaut named Katia whose first mission is to Psamanthe, a moon of Neptune, to set up an Outpost for future exploration. Accompanied by a seasoned space-pilot, Sergil, she journeys to land on Psamanthe only to suffer an accident that results in a crash landing on another world. An uncharted world in which a mysterious horror thrives.

    I am sending this to you because I have been a long-term reader of [magazine] and feel it is a perfect home for my work. This story was actually partially inspired by Damian Allman's Dark World, which I read in Issue #8 of [magazine and still enjoy reading today. Moreover, I feel this story explores several important themes I see prevalent in stories featured by your magazine, such as futurism and the human drive toward survival and unending hope in a hostile, alien world.

    I am a new author who began writing earlier this year and have since had several stories published in anthologies by Hellbound Books Publishing, LLC; Battle Goddess Productions, LLC; Alternative History Magazine #9; Stormy Island Publishing; Bonekeeper Books LTD (UK); and Suspense Magazine. For more information about me and my work, check out[website] I appreciate your time.

    Sincerely,
    ^The above might sound a little more involved than the typical color-by-numbers sub and may not be right for every magazine (this was a pro-level publication with a rich and extensive history -- not everywhere is like that) but the idea is to try to make the submission stand out.

    The story is more important to the editor than the author, so unless you have some outstanding credentials or personal connection that is relevant to the plot, I would minimize the level of bio and instead use up the precious couple of paragraphs (long cover letters are a NO NO) to really underscore (1) The gist of the story (2) Its connection(s) to the magazine's content, (3) Your motivations for submitting -- why you think its a good fit and (4) Who you are and where you are in your career WITHOUT coming across as amateurish or desperate.

    Number 4 is where I think a lot of people come unstruck. It's hard to balance being honest with sounding professional and serious. What I really dislike about your cover letter was this line "I got no previous publications; I'm looking for a place where to start."

    Think about how that comes across. Every editor thinks of their magazine/anthology as professional and they all want pros, even if they aren't paying crap. The problem with that line in particular is it sounds desperate. It sounds like you are just literally throwing your work around and hoping somebody will take it. Well, why would they?

    Rather than say "I got no previous publications" (by the way, that's poor grammar -- should be I have no previous publications, and poor grammar in a cover letter is usually an instant 'no' and understandably so), try to frame this as a plus. "I am a new voice" means the same thing and sounds better.

    "I am a new voice hoping to reach your readers, who I believe will enjoy this story" turns this from a negative to a positive and one that serves the magazine's interest, with potential commercial appeal. Even if it doesn't talk them into saying yes (and it wont) it will certainly overcome the possible issue of you having no published work.

    My last tip is to advise you to look for publishing opportunities that match your skill level and developmental point. My first publishing credit was with Every Day Fiction. Since then, I have been working up through the trenches to semi-pro anthologies and am now -- and only now -- dipping my toe in with the pro publications. I'm not saying not to be confident, but I have found having this steady output of a new story being published every month or two has really helped me to develop by allowing me small successes. These days I am a little more discerning when it comes to where I am submitting but I still try to match the quality of the story with the quality of the magazine / anthology. There's nothing worse than wasting time on dead ends.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

    “Remember this: Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”

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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    I have found cover letters can get seriously overblown and formulaic. Also boring.
    This.
    For poetry submissions it is not much different. It's boring almost to the point of copy-paste a prefab cover letter/statement and use it for every submission.

    So far I have only found one magazine, Rattle, that asks for a more personal approach. Instead of the usual 3d person, they ask for a short statement in 1st person. With more personal info like: why this magazine for this poem? Tell us about the poem, why the title, what does it mean to you? Things like that.
    It's inviting, but also dangerous, because how much do you wish to reveal? When does to-the-point info start to become rambling?
    Last edited by Darren White; December 17th, 2019 at 10:48 AM.

  7. #7
    If you don't have any qualifications you can list, then try opening with a hook.

    A hook is that elevator-pitch description of your article/story that makes people say "Hmmm, interesting, tell me more..."
    There is no law that says you have to write a classic query letter.
    Write a solid hook, put that at the very top of your email, and follow it with a tantalizing description (not an essay description.)

    THEN tell them how unqualified you are...after you have hooked them.

  8. #8
    Global Moderator J.T. Chris's Avatar
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    So interestingly enough, I was looking through my emails for some old stories I submitted when I was completely green and I found a deservedly-rejected cover story with an abysmal cover letter. I submitted this ten years ago. Do not, under any circumstances, do this:


    Mr. Editor

    I am submitting my overtly pretentious story, ANOTHER VAMPIRE TALE, in the hopes that such groundbreaking fiction will find the home that it deserves. Though you've already formed a negative pretense about vampire fiction, I'm sure that such a unique tale--about a sparkling vampire who is sentenced to a year in high school--will change your mind and help you to appreciate the genre that you so despise.

    First off, a little about me. I took a literature class one time, so I think I know everything there is to know about crafting literature with a Joyceian fervor. After nine years of college, and finally with an Associate's Degree in liberal arts, I can dedicate myself to writing part-time after my shift at the car wash ends. I'm hoping that your illustrious magazine will provide me with the break I need. We will discuss movie and subsidiary rights one day--I promise you this.

    Thanks for considering ANOTHER VAMPIRE TALE for publication. You won't regret it

    Sincerely,

    Joseph T. Christopher
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by J.T. Chris View Post
    So interestingly enough, I was looking through my emails for some old stories I submitted when I was completely green and I found a deservedly-rejected cover story with an abysmal cover letter. I submitted this ten years ago. Do not, under any circumstances, do this:

    They rejected you as soon as they saw the word Vampire.
    In writers' guide you see a lot of notices to not send them ANY vampire stories, they have had their fill.
    After Breaking Wind...or whatever it was called, editors and agents just did not want anymore.

  10. #10
    Global Moderator J.T. Chris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    They rejected you as soon as they saw the word Vampire.
    In writers' guide you see a lot of notices to not send them ANY vampire stories, they have had their fill.
    After Breaking Wind...or whatever it was called, editors and agents just did not want anymore.
    If I recall, this was back when Twilight first came out.
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