Hello writers! I hope you are all having a great week and are looking forward to starting a new month very soon.
Last week I wrote about rejections and the week before I gave you all a list of publishing tips. This week I’d like to talk about fine tuning your publication submissions with cover letters and author biographies.
This element of the publishing process can be a little one sided. You tell the editor about your work and then they send you an acceptance or a rejection notice. While sometimes it might not be necessary to include an introductory or personal statement with your work, cover letters and introductory statements help show that you are interested in the entity you are sending your work to and can make your submission more friendly. Example, which would you prefer: someone who throws a sheaf of poems in your face and walks off or someone who walks up to you and says “hi, do you want these?”
Not all literary magazines will necessarily want a cover letter from you, but from my research I have found that most literary agents and publishing houses will. So it’s good practice to include at least a few sentences of “correspondence” with your perspective editor(s).
If you are submitting your work to a literary magazine that does not request a cover letter, you can include a short statement explaining why you want to submit your work to that particular magazine. The best thing to include, in my opinion, is a clear and concise explanation of your work.
Tip 1: When you are addressing an editor via email or within a submission manager and write a cover letter or introductory statement, be sure to use the editor’s name. Most magazine websites have a “masthead” or “about” page that lists the editorial staff. Using an editor’s name shows them that you took the time to look up who they are and also insures that your submission goes to the right person. You wouldn’t want your poetry manuscript going to the fiction editor.
Tip 2: Whenever you write a cover letter, include the name of the magazine and the title(s) of your work. This shows the editors, again, that you are familiar with the magazine and, more importantly, will help you keep your submissions organized. (If I send out more that one submission at a time I am always paranoid I’d mix them up and send the wrong thing to the wrong person.)
Here is an example of what I use:
Dear (insert editor’s name here, if the editor’s name is not listed just use Dear Editor),
Hello, my name is (your name here) and I would like to submit # poems for your consideration in (name of magazine here). My poem titles are (list titles). These poems (give a one sentence summary of your work here, list the themes your work presents, give the genre if applicable, explain the form or how you came to write the piece. It is important to keep this part short and to the point. Think of it as a teaser that would peak a reader’s interest). I feel my work would be a good fit for your magazine because (insert personal details here about what you like about something that the magazine has already published).
I have less experience about writing page long cover letters to publishing houses or literary agents but the principles I’ve gone over can all apply. Most publishing houses and literary agencies will have cover letter outlines on their submission guidelines.
Here are a few sites that talk about writing cover letters for these agencies:
If a literary magazine requests an author biography, take that request as an opportunity to share something fun about yourself. I find the most natural and entertaining author biographies have a mix of personal and professional details. Some authors use biographies to list their previous publications or any awards they’ve won over the course of their writing careers. Bios can also include academic and/or professional accomplishments.
If you want to write a bio for yourself and are stumped about what information to include, look up your favorite authors and read their bios, see what information they present and use their bios as templates.
Some literary magazines don’t want long biographies and may ask you to trim yours down. I have two versions of my author bio, a “full” version and then a 75-word version. Most submission guidelines will include instructions for how they want you to present your bio.
Your Week 4 entries are due August 1 at 11:45 p.m. EDT. Submit your entry here.
Check out the final portion of the interview with poet Robert Okaji here.
Play around with haiku here.
Go vote for your favorite Week 3 entry here, polls will close tomorrow, July 30, at 11:45 p.m. EDT.
Thanks for reading and #gowrite