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How do you write a Cover Letter for a short story?


I'm about to submit a short story to a magazine, but then I'm hit with the dread cover letter box.

I don't know how to work out a cover letter, nor what should go into one.

Help, please! D:


Article Team
I'd keep it short and to the point.


My name is <name>. I'm currently <insert current occupation> and I'm writing <insert when you're writing>.
In the past I've done <work/study>. I've written <genre> for <x> years and I have been published <y> times. [if you haven't been published, write that instead].
When I'm not writing or working I like to <interests>.
My dream/ambition with my writing is <secret world domination plan>.


Something like the above may work as a start. Include who you are, what you do, what you've written and any previous success you might have had.


Felis amatus
The last story I sold was something like "Attached is my short story X for your consideration. I look forward to your reply." That was it. If you don't have publishing credits from good, paying markets, I would be silent on that issue.


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
I wouldn't expect it's important for a short story. With a novel, the publisher is making a mid-to-long range commitment to you and has expectations of you which go beyond the novel. With a short story, you're pretty much just selling them a few words. They don't really have much of a reason to care who you are.


Gee, that came off pretty strong. I just meant, there's no need to "sell yourself," like you need to with a novel, so as everyone else is saying, you can just keep it to a few polite words.
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Very simple is the best.

Make sure you send it to the proper individual within the magazine.

Tell them the basics: The title of the story, genre, number of words. Some might argue about a brief teaser/statement about the story's contents. Others think with short fiction, the editor will figure it out fast enough.

If you have any relevant publications, list those. Relevant means, if you're submitting to The Magazine of Fantasy and Sciene Fiction, and have had something published in another similar market (paying is better, and pro rate when dealing with pro rate) is better. But in the end this doesn't matter. The story will either sell itself or it won't. Like Steerpike said, nothing wrong with being silent on the issue.
I concur with others here - make it short and to the point. A good "blurb" that is no more than 4 - 5 sentences that "encapsulates the story...is...in my opinion...a good idea.


Having a cover letter is a bit like saying hello to someone before trying to sell them something. Occasionally, a publication will have guidelines that state not to send one or a submission system that makes it awkward to send one. Otherwise, I include a cover letter for the sake of courtesy. I don't expect it to sell the story. That's not what it's for.

When you know the name of the appropriate editor, use that. You can usually find the right editor's name in the masthead/about us/contact us section. When it's not listed, stick with a generic title. If you've been published several times, list about three publication credits. (Don't be vague or tell them how many times you've been published. List actual publications.) If it's a sim sub and the editors at this magazine ask to be notified of sim subs, just include the sentence "This is a simultaneous submission."

You can also include relevant awards and recognition you've received. I'd stick to things that can be googled because editors and slush readers occasionally do that. If there's a particular reason you think the story would be a good fit for the publication, it wouldn't hurt to mention it, especially when it shows that you've read the magazine.

You can add a second paragraph that mentions your job, a detail about yourself, something about where you live, etc, but keep it short.

I usually use this format for poems, but I'll adapt it to short stories for this thread:

Dear Fiction Editor,

I'm submitting my story "The Stranger" for consideration. The word count is 2500 words. I am unpublished, so I appreciate the opportunity to be considered for Fancy Magazine.

Thank you for your time.

Jane Smith

You don't need to mention being unpublished. I do it because some publications pride themselves on finding new talent. :cool:

Here's a different version for someone who has more to say, and it still comes in at less than 100 words:

Dear Wendel Greene,

I'm submitting my story, "The Stranger," for consideration. The word count is 2500 words. I thought my story could be a good fit for Fancy Magazine after reading "Men with Small Hats" by John Doe in the October issue.

My stories have been published in Galactic Hat, Bluebeard's, and Mirror Mirror Journal. I'm a ventriloquist born and raised in Logan, Utah, and I have a BFA in balloon animal husbandry from Sad Clown University.

This is a simultaneous submission.

Thank you for your time.

Jane Smith

Don't explain the story or apologize for submitting. Be brief, specific, and courteous. That's my advice, anyway.
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Don't explain the story or apologize for submitting. Be brief, specific, and courteous. That's my advice, anyway.

I would add, Avoid hyperbole. You'd think that this isn't an issue, but I have seen sooooo many cover letters/query letters that are full of ridiculous statements like 'My fiction novel is sure to be a best seller, it is better than anything else on the market.' (When I see such hyperbole, I think of that scene in The Muppets Take Masnhattan where Kermit is trying to sell his musical to a producer... 'It's totally today yet terrifically timeless. Boffo, Lenny! Socko, Lenny!' It's only funny there because it's parody. Don't be that guy.)