Your Cover Letter: A Basic Template

Cat Rambo reports for duty!I’ve seen a lot of cover letters in my time. Some ramble, some describe the story, others list thirty small publications, some are misaddressed or rife with typos.

So here’s a cover letter. It’s really all you need to say. Fill in the blanks yourself (and doublecheck to make sure you got the details right.) Italics indicate commentary and should not be included. And always, always – the market guidelines trump anything I say. Read AND follow them. Note: this cover letter is intended to be used when submitting short stories to magazines. You want a different one when submitting to an agent or sending a book to a publisher.

Dear {Editor}: (do make sure you’ve got the right name if you’re addressing them by name)

Attached/enclosed* is my story, “{title}”, ({wordcount}). (“Attached” if it’s e-mail; “Enclosed” if you’re sending by snailmail. Round wordcount up to the nearest 100.)

(The following paragraph is optional if you don’t have publications.)
My work has appeared in {market1 name}, {market2 name}, and {market3 name}. (List your three biggest or most prestigious publications.) In {year}, I attended {workshop name}. (Don’t list stuff if you don’t have it. If you’ve got contest wins that are significant, like Writers of the Future, list that here as well. Again, all of this is optional. This paragraph is intended to make the slush reader pass the work up to the editor by listing reasons you stand out of the herd.)

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your reply. (If you’re sending by snailmail and include a SASE, mention that here.)

Sincerely, (or the tag of your choice, just make sure it sounds professional. “Peace out,” while charming, may not sound as professional as it could.)

{Your name}

That’s it — that’s all you need. No accolades, no summaries, no previews. The facts and just the facts. Good luck!

Enjoy this writing advice and want more content like it? Check out the classes Cat gives via the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, which offers both on-demand and live online writing classes for fantasy and science fiction writers from Cat and other authors, including Ann Leckie, Seanan McGuire, Fran Wilde and other talents! All classes include three free slots.

Prefer to opt for weekly interaction, advice, opportunities to ask questions, and access to the Chez Rambo Discord community and critique group? Check out Cat’s Patreon. Or sample her writing here.

Facebook Twitter Email

Related Posts:

About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
This entry was posted in career and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.