Cover Letter for Short Story Submissions
Authors who are newer to submitting short stories often wonder about what to say and what not to say in a cover letter. Because I've been getting a lot of these questions lately in regard to WonderBird Press anthologies, I'm including a template that anyone can use for WBP and any other submissions they see fit.
The story itself is the most important piece. A great cover letter doesn't help a story that isn't a fit for that editor.
There is no "one right way" to write a cover letter. There might be a most preferred format for any given editor, which is unfortunately not always consistent or predictable. If a submission call makes a specific request, make sure to include that.
Don't lie often goes without saying, but also, don't try to round up or inflate your credentials. If you don't have any prior publications or associated life experience, that's okay.
Those items out of the way, here is the cover letter template I like to use:
Dear [Editor's Name or [Title] Selection Team],
Thank you for considering my work for publication in [Title]. My [genre] short story, "[Short Story Title]," is [X] words, and it is not a simultaneous submission*.
[In the next paragraph, you might talk about one or more of the following:]
- If possible, list 3ish previous or pending publications/awards, prioritizing recognizable names, recent publications, or close genre associations to the current submission. If not, don't mention it.]
[If applicable, give at most one sentence about your personal or professional expertise related to the topic of your story--e.g. if you're an urban dragon breeder writing a story about urban dragon reader's, say so. If not, don't mention it.]
[If desired, mention 1 to 2 workshops, fellowships, intensives, groups, etc. that feel relevant and are not redundant--e.g. if you are a previous Writers of the Future winner, you don't need to list both the publication and the workshop. If not, don't mention it. For Murderbugs, please include "I am an active member of [group where you heard about the submission]".]
I look forward to hearing from you.**
*Some submissions will require in their guidelines that your story is not a simultaneous submission or not written by AI or something like that. This sentence is an opportunity to quickly indicate that you've read and acknowledge the guidelines.
**Some submissions will require that you also attach a brief bio or a synopsis in addition to attaching your story. You can say "As per your directions, I have also included..." prior to this sentence.
***Unless a submission asks for a synopsis or teaser for the story, it's usually advised to skip that part.