As the editor of a magazine, I have seen it all. From handwritten manuscripts to phone calls at 3:00 a.m. And just for your information, 3:00 a.m. phone calls are not the way to impress an editor–any editor.
To get your foot in the door and for an editor to notice you, there are a few rules you must follow. Most of you have heard it all before, but the same mistakes continue to show up, over and over.
The goal is to fine-tune your cover letter so it will enable you to get noticed. And after all, isn’t that all writers ask? To have someone read what they’ve written?
Editors do not look for reasons to reject a manuscript, but when they are handed to them on a silver platter more or less, they don’t have much choice.
Sit up and pay attention and maybe the next correspondence you receive from an editor will be an acceptance instead of a rejection.
The Cover Letter
When you write a cover letter, keep in mind that the editor has three stacks in front of them. One stack is for submissions that have no cover letters or handwritten cover letters. The second stack belongs to those who do not follow guidelines, i.e. manuscripts are too long for the magazine, single-spaced and filled with both misspellings and grammatical errors or simply isn’t right for the magazine. The third stack, the one all writers want to be in, are the ones who present a professional face. They have nicely typed cover letters, guidelines have been followed and the manuscript is as perfect as you can make it. Strive for that third stack and you will get their full attention.
Your cover letter will do one of two things. It will either pique their interest–or it won’t. Once that letter is in their hands, it can’t be taken back, so make sure it’s as good as you can get it the first time. Put some enthusiasm in the letter, let them know you are serious about your work and it is interesting. A dull cover letter promises a dull manuscript. Now let’s talk about what a cover letter consists of:
It consists of three paragraphs. No more no less. The first paragraph introduces the story in a concise manner, no frills or hoopla. Just tell what the story is about.
The second paragraph tells a little about the writer, but under no circumstances should you ever tell that editor that you are a new writer. They’ll get it when you have no publishing credits listed.
The third paragraph simply says, “Thank you for your time.”