Colorado State University Center for Literary Publishing

The Dreaded Cover Letter: A Colorado Review Primer

Oct 26, 2012

By Abby Hill, Editorial Assistant

 

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to write a cover letter when submitting to a literary journal. Some journals will be specific about the information they want, and some will simply just ask for a cover letter. Whether you’re submitting online or through the mail to Colorado Review, here are some things you don’t need in your cover letter:

Personal information. It isn’t necessary to include charming details about yourself and the place in which you reside and write. Telling us about how you’ve loved writing since the age of ten and currently live in Camden, Maine, with your spouse and three terriers or enjoy taking long walks along the coast on Sunday mornings isn’t going to do anything for your manuscript.

Long lists of prior publications. If you’ve been published in seventeen different journals, you don’t need to list every single one. Choose three or four of your most recent publications. Keep the list small or don’t include it at all—your manuscript will be chosen based on whether or not we want to publish it, not how many times you’ve been published before. Similarly, it isn’t necessary to include vague statements such as “I have been published in hundreds of small journals across the country” or “I have been published several times in a variety of journals.”

Fear of no prior publications. No need to worry if you’ve never been published before; Colorado Review publishes both new and established writers. We love discovering the work of writers at the beginning of their careers. If you have no prior publications, you don’t need to mention this in your cover letter.

Summaries, excerpts, or other creative “sells.” If you’ve read advice about cover letters, it’s likely that it was talking about them in relation to novels, which require summaries or excerpts and creative, eye-catching prose that will help the novel stand out from the “slush” pile. This isn’t the case with literary journal submissions. Nothing you write in your cover letter is going to get your manuscript read faster or passed on to our editors—although, lengthy, creative cover letters might get you a few eye-rolls from the readers.

 

So what is Colorado Review looking for in your cover letter?

Keep it simple. We don’t read your cover letter until after we have read your manuscript, so your letter won’t help us decide whether to publish it. Here’s an example of a perfectly acceptable, simple cover letter:

Dear Editor,

Enclosed is my [fiction/nonfiction/poetry] submission “Title of Manuscript.” Thank you for considering it for publication in Colorado Review.

[*If submitting via mail] I’ve included an SASE for [response only/the return of my manuscript].

Your Name
Full Contact Info

 One thing to consider when sending in paper submissions is the SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). We use the SASE to send you a reply accepting or declining your work, but if you’d like us to return your manuscript to you, we ask that you provide an appropriate-sized envelope with adequate postage and tell us in your cover letter that you would like it returned to you. If you’d like us to recycle your manuscript, you may indicate that in your cover letter as well.

Regarding simultaneous submissions: Since Colorado Review accepts them, it’s not necessary to indicate in your cover letter that your manuscript is a simultaneous submission. We don’t prioritize simultaneous submissions—we read all manuscripts in the order in which we receive them. We ask, of course, that you let us know immediately if your manuscript is accepted elsewhere.

Ultimately, though, we don’t want you to fret over the cover letter you send to Colorado Review. Since we don’t look at it until after we’ve read your manuscript, there’s no way for the letter to help or hurt your chances of being published in our journal. We welcome your submissions and look forward to reading your work.

 

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