As an editor, I’ve seen hundreds of cover letters. I do mean “seen”. I have not read hundreds of cover letters. Why? Let me answer your question with another question:
How long do you spend admiring the wrapping paper on a gift?
Sure, if the wrapping paper is woven out of OH MY GOD WHOSE HAIR IS THIS and the card says “To: A Miserable Fuck. From: The Booger Goblin”, you might. But then, you might be concerned about—or judge the person for—what you’re about to find inside.
Cover letters get read for two reasons:
“Dafaq?” things: Your cover letter is absurdly long; has a weird and/or colorful format; doesn’t include the information asked for; includes a picture of your grandchild and/or local deity; egregiously misspells the name of the magazine/editor.
There’s a theme here. You get it:
A forgettable cover letter is the best cover letter.
Or, as Laura Garrison, the editor for Jersey Devil Press put it in our interview with her:
“Basic politeness and brevity are the safest approaches. I'm not eager to work with writers who come across as unhinged in their cover letters.”
There are a lot of conspiracy theories about cover letters. So, let’s wrap this up by putting those to rest.
Editors are not looking to see:
No. They want:
Pleasure consider/Thank you for considering
Title. Genre. Word Count.
One line about loving their mag/a recent story (optional)
Bio (if asked for [usually is])
The best example I’ve found is in this full cover letter breakdown by Alex Shvartsman.
Did we miss something? Comment below with your advice and we’ll add it in (if we agree).