While the exact steps for submitting work will vary with each place you try to get work published, there are a few things common to most venues. Most important, aside from the work that you are submitting, is the way you introduce that work in a cover letter
. In the case of online venues, your cover letter will likely be a cover e-mail, but it still needs to contain succinct information, and should be, for the most part, a relatively formal document. (That is, no "Hey, howís it going?óJust thought Iíd send this your way.") A cover letter should be short and to the point. The longer it is, the less likely it is to be read by an editor. Some journal editors simply do not have time to read long letters due to the volume of submitted work they receive.
Your cover letter should include
- your name and full contact information (even if you are dealing with an Internet venue, it helps to provide your street address and telephone number)
- the name (in full and spelled correctly) and full address of the venue to which you are submitting work
- the name of the specific editor to whom your work is going (note that many journals will have different editors for opinion pieces, essays, reviews, and so on.)
- the full and correct title of the work you are submitting
This is all your cover letter really needs. The temptation, of course, is to start describing your work or yourself in great detail. Unless the venue clearly asks for such information in a cover letter, do not provide it. At most, you might offer a one or two sentence blurb summarizing the focus of your work. But don't summarize your work to the point of making it look too simple or straightforward. And on the other hand, you donít want to go into such great detail that you end up rewriting whatever it is you are submitting.
You might mention that you are a student at such-and-such a university or college, or you can mention any recent publications you might have had (though again, you donít want to go into too much detail unless itís asked for specifically). Be sure not to launch into a lengthy personal history about how you came to be a writer, or came to have written the work you are submitting, or about how many friends have told you what a great piece they think it is.
The best advice when it comes to cover letters is always to follow the directions provided by the publication venue as closely as possible. If these directions arenít to be found, then keep your cover letter short, to the point, and relatively formal. Remember that you want an editor to spend time reading your work
, not wading through a dense cover letter.