what to put in a cover letter

In line with the workshop that will open for submissions very soon, a post about submitting short stories: what do you write in a cover letter.

At ASIM, we never look at cover letters, so they’re wasted on us. I’ve heard that at least a number of magazines are the same. Some magazines like to have a cover letter, and it’s probably polite to include one with your submission, regardless of whether or not the magazine reads it.

A basic cover letter for a short story submission:

Dear [editor *1],

Please find attached my story [story title] for consideration for [magazine]. *2

I have had stories published in [magazine/anthology] and [magazine/anthology]. *3

Thank you for looking at my material.

Me

email address
snail mail address
telephone number *4

That’s all! Seriously, you don’t need anything else.

Notes:

1. Do use the editor’s name if you can find out what it is. Some magazines, like ASIM, don’t list editors on their website, or have rotating editors. In that case ‘dear editor/s’ will do.
2. Sometimes a magazine also wants you to list word count and subgenre. Make sure you check the guidelines.
3. Only list your two or three best and most recent credits. If you don’t have any credits at semipro level or better, don’t list anything. Don’t waffle about your day job and how much your grandmother enjoyed the story. This only makes you look insecure.
4. It’s probably a good idea to give the editor alternative ways of contacting you.

Additional notes:
Don’t try to sell your story. The story has to speak for itself.
Don’t include parts of the story.
Attach the entire story, not a teaser or a query.
Make sure the magazine accepts stories of the word length and subgenre of your story.
Don’t diss other magazines or writers.
Check for typos.