On this Valentine’s Day weekend, I’m spending some time going through Wild Violet submissions before a night out with my husband. Predictably, the majority of them are not right for our journal, which makes the ones that do work shine all the brighter.
While many magazines do request (or even require) cover letters, let me give it to you straight: the cover letter will not get you published. No matter how many publishing credits you have, or degrees (with honors!), or awards and accolades, unless your writing works for the publication in question, you’re heading for a letter that begins, “Thank you for sending your work…”
In fact, I must admit, I don’t even read cover letters until after I’ve made a determination on the submission. I do this for two reasons: my overflowing mailbox takes enough time to sort through without reading anything extra; unless I’ve accepted a work, the biography doesn’t really matter. For this reason, Wild Violet has published both new writers and ones with impressive pedigrees. Some cover letters include explanations about the work and the process behind it. While that might be interesting to include on a bio page later, the work has to stand on its own.
That said, amateurish or rude cover letters will irk me when I finally read them and can sway me if I’m on the fence. Ultimately, though, for me, it’s always the work that matters.
Editors: How much do cover letters matter to you?
Writers: What do you typically include in your cover letters and why?