Tag Archives: cover letters

Literary Journal Submissions: Don’ts

Yesterday Mots Justes shared some tips on how to put together a submission that will endear you to the editors and staff of a literary journal. Here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t use fancy letterhead. Readers are interested only in the content of the cover letter and especially the submission. And don’t package your submission in an elaborate folder system—your submission will just get separated from it unceremoniously and the folder co-opted for office supplies.
  • Don’t submit handwritten material, and don’t send correspondence on scraps of paper. Even typewritten submissions feel unprofessional these days.
  • Don’t address your cover letter to another literary journal. I’m not picky about correct editor names or spelling—there are too many opportunities for error in my name to be touchy about it—but at least get the title right.
  • Don’t tell us in the cover letter what the story is about. Let us discover that for ourselves. Doing so is especially detrimental if the story doesn’t deliver on the cover letter’s promise.
  • Don’t lie. You never know who is processing or reading your submission, and Google makes it easy to verify or debunk claims.
  • Don’t tell us you’re a long-time reader if you’re not. At our publication, I ship the books to subscribers myself, and I know what stores they’re sold in. In other words, you’ll be found out, and false flattery will get you nowhere.
  • Don’t send cash in lieu of postage. This is a pain for the staff to deal with and may delay response time.
  • Don’t let stray material slip into your submission envelope. SCR once received a form thank-you for donating $8 to a Lutheran organization.
  • Don’t take it personally if a literary journal sends your cover letter back to you. If you’re submitting several poems or stories to several titles, this is our way of letting you know what submission we’re passing on.
  • Don’t hesitate to share any additional advice on submitting to literary journals.
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Literary Journal Submissions: Do’s

One of the advantages of working on a literary journal is that you learn pretty quickly how to submit your own work. Having just processed two contests at Southern California Review, I can attest how a simple thing like a SASE with correct postage makes the job of journal editors and staff so much easier. Besides, it just shows that you are a pro.

Here are some simple things you can do to endear your submission to literary journal readers:

  • Do follow all instructions. I know it’s a pain to tailor each submission to the demands of every literary journal, but it really makes the job easier on our end.
  • Do include any previous publications, your educational background, and legitimate recommendations in your cover letter. The quality of your work is the most important part of your submission, but we do enjoy learning a little about the author.
  • Do fill out your SASE correctly, right side up, with the address, return address, and stamp all in the correct places. (Yes, in my experience, this does need to be pointed out.)
  • Do use business-size envelopes. Please avoid smaller envelopes or card envelopes or envelopes with address windows—it slows down our processing.
  • Do include correct postage. Because some journals may take several months to get back to you about your submission, try to anticipate postage rate hikes that may take place during their reading period. (If they take longer than their posted response time, though, any difference in postage rates is on their dime.) Better yet, use Forever stamps. Oh, and this means you should be including postage on your SASE in the first place.
  • Do fill in the return address on your SASE with either the literary journal’s or your own.
  • Do use your return address label to address your SASE to yourself, but make sure you put it in the right place—i.e., don’t put an address label in the upper-left-hand corner of the envelope and then leave the address blank.
  • Do write a note to yourself on your SASE so that if you receive a form rejection letter, you’ll know what poem or story it is for. I ran across one SASE that had this information penciled on the inside of the envelope and thought it very clever.
  • Do share with Mots Justes any additional tips on literary journal submissions.

On tomorrow’s agenda: what not to do when submitting your writing to literary journals.

Caught in the ’Net

Time reports on the recent Twitter-inspired trend in micro-writing. Relatedly, check out text-message poetry.

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