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Thread: Question I probably should know the answer to

  1. #1
    Not responsible for bitten fingers Shadow_Ferret's Avatar
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    Question I probably should know the answer to

    OK. When I email a submission, I include a short few paragraphs stating: "here's my story for mag. It's so many words. Hope you like it. Blah blah."

    But that's the nature of sending something through email. You need to put SOMETHING there or they just get this blank email with an attachment.

    Now I'm doing some snail mail submissions and it's been YEARS (let's not say how many) since I did it this way.

    In the olden days, a cover letter was sort of just good manners. Same nonsense, "Hi. Here's my story. It's so many words. Hope you like it."

    But then in the olden days, in the Submission Guidelines they required a cover letter in most cases.

    I'm noticing no one says anything about a cover letter (at least the ones I'm sending it to). Should I just send the story with no introduction or is a cover letter still good manners?

    Thanks.
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  2. #2
    Mushroom Polenth's Avatar
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    I always send a cover letter with paper submissions. For the sake of one sheet of paper, I don't see it hurts.
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  3. #3
    The moving hand, having writ... AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    I still enclose a very short cover letter unless they specifically say not to. (Not many do.)

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    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    I include a cover letter. An attachment with no text in the email body looks like a virus.
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  5. #5
    Writing Anarchist DeleyanLee's Avatar
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    It's still good manners.
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  6. #6
    for the love of love Lydia Sharp's Avatar
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    I always include a cover letter whether it's a snail mail sub or an e-sub. Seems like the professional thing to do.

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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW
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    You want that cover letter to convince them you're a professional who knows what they're doing, that way the editor might keep reading just a little bit further if they aren't impressed with that first page.

  8. #8
    resident curmudgeon
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    The only thing a cover letter accomplishes is letting an editor know whether you have something to say. Namely, credits. A cover letter either says you have credits, in which case it means the editor is going to start reading the story with a better attitude, or it says blah, blah, blah, which tells the editor you have no credits.

    No cover letter tells an editor exactly the same thing, but it means he doesn't have to read a blah, blah, blah paragraph or two before getting to the story.

    If you have credits, a cover letter is a must. If you have no credits, it really doesn't matter in the least. Credits are why editors ask for a cover letter. They know you'll mention any you have, and no mention means you have none.

    But no editor ever bought a story because of a cover letter, or rejected one because of lack of a cover letter.

  9. #9
    Science, for the sake of...science! Dungeon Geek's Avatar
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    Yo, I wouldn't leave a totally blank e-mail. Say something like: Here's my 3000 word story "Werewolf Poodle Versus Vampire Shitsu" for your consideration. If you publish me I'll buy you a beer. And thanks for your time.

    *Note: Leave the beer part out. I was trying to be funny.

  10. #10
    Doing the Space Operatic AW Moderator Izz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    But no editor ever bought a story because of a cover letter, or rejected one because of lack of a cover letter.
    Unless their guidelines specifically state that a cover letter must be included. Those guidelines are rare, but i have seen them. Usually they're if the magazine wants a brief bio, or a short description of the story (i've only seen that once and it put me off subbing there), or something else specific.
    Last edited by Izz; 04-06-2010 at 12:16 PM.

  11. #11
    In Time-Out For My Sins
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    ... always include one myself. I keep them short. Here's my story. And then at the bottom, below the signature, I write 'bio:' and give a brief (2 sentence) overview of my publishing credits. Since my stories are of a humorous nature, one other thing I do is stick a humorous aside somewhere in the letter. Lately, I've come up with a generic one that I've been including with all my subs. Will keep using it till it goes stale. Just about has. G'luck.

  12. #12
    Banned moblues's Avatar
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    Yes. Always send a cover letter. The most important reason is this:

    Research which agents or publishers accept submissions for your genre. You want to address your submission to these persons. It shows you did your research. That you know what the agent or firm does. This means a lot more than you may imagine.

    Good luck.




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    Last edited by moblues; 04-07-2010 at 09:44 AM.

  13. #13
    Seanachie johnnysannie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post

    But no editor ever bought a story because of a cover letter, or rejected one because of lack of a cover letter.
    That's most likely quite true but -

    the cover letter can also interest that editor to read more. Long before I had short fiction credits to name, I listed what was pertinent. If you work in broadcast media - as I did when I first began freelancing - it's worth a mention. It says "hey, I'm a professional and maybe I know just a little more than the average joe sending you a story". When my non-fiction credits were more impressive than my short fiction credits, I sometimes listed a couple of the big, national level ones for the same reason.

    Now I have way too many fiction credits to list so I select some of the more respected and/or well known ones.
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  14. #14
    Not responsible for bitten fingers Shadow_Ferret's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dungeon Geek View Post
    Yo, I wouldn't leave a totally blank e-mail.
    I would NEVER leave an email blank. Maybe I stated it badly, but I DO include a cover letter for EMAILS.

    I was wondering protocol for SNAILMAIL.

    Thanks everyone.
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  15. #15
    Science, for the sake of...science! Dungeon Geek's Avatar
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    For snail mail, if you have no published credits, definitely just send the manuscript with your contact info on page 1. Trust me--the edtitor probably doesn't want to hear about what you like to do in your spare time or what influenced you to write the story. That's just a useless page distracting them from the manuscript.They can ask for that info later--in the forth of a biography--if they like the story. And unlike an e-mail, a physical piece of paper is an annoying obstacle when you see dozens of manuscripts per day, something that the editor might feel obligated to look at and thus it better damn sure be worth his while.
    Last edited by Dungeon Geek; 04-07-2010 at 08:04 PM.

  16. #16
    New kid, be gentle! Calypso's Avatar
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    I always send a short cover letter, even when a journal's guidelines say it's not necessary. (If they specifically say DON'T include one, then obviously I wouldn't, but I don't think I've ever seen this for a snail mail submission.)

    I am well aware that the editors care about my actual story more than my cover letter, but I still include one. It feels polite and, yes, it's a way to list my credits so they know I have at least some history of success.

  17. #17
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    Do...

    include a cover letter unless the guidelines specifically say not to. It's polite and can be useful.

    It's nice to be able to include a writer's CV but often the editors just ask for 'some information about yourself'.

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