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This post is adapted from a series of tweets I wrote today whilst sorting through my submissions email back log.

Cover letters for fiction submissions are not hard. They really aren’t. Editors, or whomever is sorting through the submissions mail, just want to get all the information about your submission as quickly as possible to discern whether or not it conforms to the guidelines and, if it does conform, how it fits into the stack. If it doesn’t, yay they can send out an instant rejection. Submissions calls get lots of responses. And these days, fast turnarounds are expected. (Note: I am wayyyy behind on my responses right now. Life. It gets in the way.) A well written cover letter will give your submission a professional feel and make the editor’s job of sorting through the mail easy. And it’s really really not that hard to write.

1. Unless you know that the system is automated, *always* include a cover letter. It’s a real person opening the email, don’t be rude. And by “cover letter”, I mean write in the body of the email. Even if for some reason the submission call asks you to attach a cover letter along with your submission, *write* in the email. You can even simply write “Dear X, Please find attached … yours Your Name.”

2. Address the cover letter to the person you think will be reading the email i.e. the editor. Name them if you know their name. Otherwise, address it to “The editor(s)”. Noone gets annoyed being correctly referred to as the editor of their book.
“Dear Sir/Madam” and “To Whom it May Concern” are also perfectly fine.

3. Never ever ever assume that the press, the editor or the reader owes you something. They don’t.

4. Usually all the information that you need to include in your letter will be specifically listed or at least implied in the submissions call. Make sure you include your name and how the editor can get in contact with you even though you’ve emailed therefore they have your address, your submission and email might get separated. For good measure, include your contact details at the top of your manuscript document.

5. Give a couple of examples of your previous work to show that you have some writing and publishing experience, even if it’s a competition you placed in or a local market that you don’t think anyone will have heard of. If this is your first submission, or you are yet to be published, that’s okay too. It’s even fine to say so. Everyone starts somewhere.

6. Give the details of the work you are submitting – the title, the word count, the genre and a short paragraph synopsis.

7. Attach your manuscript to the email. It’s helpful to title your document in a way that easily identifies it. The reader/editor might read their submissions from their inbox or they might collate all the submissions elsewhere to be read. Make sure your details are attached to the document by naming it the story title and/or your name. And always always always save the document in the format requested in the guidelines. If there is no guideline, I would opt for .rtf in the first instance and then Word otherwise. Don’t save it as a PDF unless requested. If your work is accepted, the editor will want to be able to work directly with the file.

8. Get outta there.

You’re done.

Now I hear you quietly sobbing about the one paragraph synopsis but it’s okay. I bet you know what your story is about, right? So … it’s an orphan who goes on a dirt bike road trip and discovered he has  magical power and becomes a king. A lot like [this book by this well known author in your genre]. Or, it’s a work that explores what it’s like to be a woman on a desert island with trees that only bear desserts. You get the idea. No one expects you to include all the nuances of your story in that paragraph. We just want to know where to file it-  SF, zombies, epic fantasy etc.

And that’s it! Easy.



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