How To Write The Best Cover Letter To Submit With Personal Essays For Publication In Literary Journals

Writer’s Relief
Jun 27 · 5 min read

Want to get your personal essays published in literary journals? Then your first step — after polishing your creative nonfiction to perfection, of course — is to write a great cover letter. Writing the best cover letter for your personal essays and other creative nonfiction is not as complicated as you might think!

HELPFUL HINT: Short nonfiction pieces submitted to literary journals are referred to as personal essays, not memoirs. A memoir is a book-length work of creative nonfiction.

Why Do Literary Magazine Editors Ask For Cover Letters?

Most editors at literary journals require cover letters from writers who are submitting creative nonfiction for publication. When done right, cover letters offer editors information that helps them with…

· keeping submissions organized;

· getting to know the writer who is making the submission;

· publishing an author bio if a personal essay is accepted for publication.

That said, some literary magazine staffers rely on submission managers (online forms) to organize manuscripts. Writers can be prompted to upload a file containing a cover letter for their personal essay, or the submission manager might be built with fields that essentially require the same information that appears in a cover letter — you just cut and paste the appropriate parts of your cover letter into the corresponding fields.

Occasionally, writers discover editors who don’t want to see any kind of cover letter, with no information beyond contact information. But this is rare.

What’s The Difference Between Submitting A Cover Letter To A Traditional Magazine Vs. Submitting To A Literary Magazine?

Articles that appear in glossy commercial magazines and on large corporate websites must often be pitched to editors — as opposed to simply being sent over in their entirety with a cover letter. An editor at a large magazine or news website usually won’t read an unsolicited personal essay. Writers who want to pitch an essay to a publication like Time Magazine need to create a pre-pitch email that’s intriguing, memorable, and attention-grabbing.

Most literary magazines — whose core intentions are usually more artsy than commercial — do not require writers to pitch submissions via cover letters. In other words, writers don’t need to tempt editors to look at a personal essay: Editors carefully consider every submission that lands in their inboxes. Therefore, the cover letter serves a different purpose.

Cover letters sent to literary journals should not contain any kind of summary of the work that’s being submitted — no teasing cliffhanger synopses, no descriptions of authorial concerns or themes. In fact, it is often considered poor etiquette to describe a personal essay in a cover letter that is being submitted to literary magazine editors.

Since most conscientious literary magazine editors plan to give respectful consideration to all submissions, it can be considered offensive when an author feels he or she must try to tempt editors to do something they believe is their ethical and professional duty.

Better to stick with the traditional formula for a cover letter — which we’ll get to right now!

What Are The Main Parts Of A Cover Letter For Submitting Personal Essays And Creative Nonfiction To Literary Magazines?

Contact information. While contact information in the old days might have been limited to an author’s name, address, and phone number, modern contact info can also include an author website URL and social media details.

Salutation. The salutation of your personal essay cover letter should include the editor’s first and last name. There’s no need to write “Mr./Mrs./Ms.” unless the editor has self-identified using the honorific in the submission guidelines. Avoid the gender issue altogether — simply write: “Dear First Name Last Name.” Spend some time doing research to try to find the full name of the specific editor who reads nonfiction and personal essays; “Dear Editor” is a last resort.

First line. The first line of the cover letter for your personal essay or nonfiction submission should stick to the facts: It should include the genre and name of the work you’re submitting, and the literary magazine you’re submitting it to. Resist the urge to “explain” any more than that: Editors prefer writers do not summarize, clarify, or detail the themes and concerns of the piece that’s being submitted.

Author bio. The author bio section of your cover letter for nonfiction submissions to literary magazines should offer some straightforward details about your professional history, your publishing efforts, and a hint of personal information. If you’re hoping to publish under a pen name, you may want to note that in the author bio section of your cover letter.

Closing line. In the last line of your cover letter for your personal essay, be sure to genuinely thank the literary journal editor for his or her time spent reading your nonfiction submission.

Example Of A Cover Letter For Creative Nonfiction (Personal Essay) Submissions To Literary Magazines

Name
Address
Phone
Author Website URL
Any other URLs

Dear First Name Last Name,

Please consider my personal essay “This Is The Title” for publication in Name of Literary Magazine.

My creative nonfiction has been published in Name Of This Literary Magazine, Name Of That Magazine, and One Other Literary Journal. I’m currently a candidate for my MFA in fiction at University Name. When I’m not writing, you can find me at my day job as a high school English teacher or volunteering at the local animal shelter. I invite you to learn more about me at my website: www.itgoeshere.com. I publish under the pen name Penny Name.

Thank you so much for considering my submission; I welcome your feedback.

Sincerely,

Writer Name

Example Of A Cover Letter For A Personal Essay By A New Or Unpublished Writer

Name
Address
Phone
Author Website URL
Any other URLs

Dear First Name Last Name,

Please consider my personal essay “This Is The Title” for publication in Name of Literary Magazine.

I am an English teacher at a local high school, where I also volunteer as the drama coach and lead an after-school creative writing group and oversee the school’s annual literary magazine. I hold a bachelor’s in literature from Name of School and a master’s in education from Name of Other School. When I’m not working or writing, you can find me taking flying lessons or jumping out of airplanes. You can check out some of my writing online at [URL here]. I publish under the pen name Penny Name.

Thank you so much for considering my submission; I welcome your feedback.

Sincerely,

Writer Name

Writer’s Relief

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Author’s Submission Service Est. 1994. We help authors reach their publishing goals with targeted submissions to literary agents and editors.

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