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Sample Cover Letters for Poetry Submissions

Categories: Advice, Personal Updates, Poetry Publishing.

After more than 12 years of writing, I finally felt confident enough to start submitting my poetry around for publication in January of 2006. Since then, I’ve had around 20 poems published in print and online journals–quickly growing more as both a writer and a submitter of poems.

Writing the poems is the natural part of submitting. I love writing poems, and I’ve been teaching myself to be harder and harder on what is ready for submission and what is not. But the less natural, though technically easier, part is preparing the submission.

First off, you should always follow the submission guidelines of the journal or magazine to the T. If a publication states they only accept submissions by traditional mail, then only submit by traditional mail. If an editor says no attachments on email submissions, then don’t think you will be the one exception that doesn’t get deleted without being read.

Secondly, there is the cover letter. It used to intimidate me to no end. I felt I needed to crazy creative, impressive, and fun to be around–all in one brieft letter that accompanied my poems. Actually, all the cover letter really does is prep the editor for the submission. Cover letters do not get poems accepted, but they can get them rejected by knocking an editor off balance before reading them.

So I thought I’d share samples of my cover letters for the poets who don’t have much experience with them. Feel free to take what I’ve written and personalize it with your own information. Over time, as with writing poems, you will find that you develop your own style and voice with these simple little letters.

Traditional Mail Cover Letter Sample

Dear Poetry Editor.

Please consider the enclosed poems–“Watching the Ice Melt,” “My Father,” and “Relevant”–for possible inclusion in a future edition of Dayton Quarterly. After reading several sample poems online and the most recent print edition (especially work by emerging poet J. Alfred Prufrock), I feel like my work may be a fit with your publication. 

I’m the editor of Writer’s Market and co-founder/sole contributor to the Poetic Asides blog at http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides. My poems have been published in several print and online publications, including MEAT, Words Dance, Otoliths, and MiPOesias (Cafe Cafe Edition).

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Robert Lee Brewer

Email Cover Letter Without Attachments

Dear Poetry Editor.

Please consider the following poems (included within the the email message as requested in your guidelines)–“Watching the Ice Melt,” “My Father,” and “Relevant”–for possible inclusion in a future edition of Dayton Quarterly. After reading and enjoying several poems online (especially work by emerging poet J. Alfred Prufrock), I feel like my work may be a fit with your publication. 

I’m the editor of Writer’s Market and co-founder/sole contributor to the Poetic Asides blog at http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides. My poems have been published in several print and online publications, including MEAT, Words Dance, Otoliths, and MiPOesias (Cafe Cafe Edition).

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Robert Lee Brewer

Email Cover Letter With Attachment

Dear Poetry Editor.

Please consider the attached poems–“Watching the Ice Melt,” “My Father,” and “Relevant”–for possible inclusion in a future edition of Dayton Quarterly. After reading and enjoying several poems online (especially work by emerging poet J. Alfred Prufrock), I feel like my work may be a fit with your publication. 

I’m the editor of Writer’s Market and co-founder/sole contributor to the Poetic Asides blog at http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides. My poems have been published in several print and online publications, including MEAT, Words Dance, Otoliths, and MiPOesias (Cafe Cafe Edition).

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Robert Lee Brewer

*****

As you can see the basic language does not need to change drastically from one cover letter to the next. However, you do want to make sure you actually study each publication before submitting. It takes hard work, but just blasting out submissions without no thought is a waste of time, paper and postage (or digital space if you’re submitting online).

More publications are beginning to accept submissions only through online submission forms. The same rules of cover letter writing apply with these as well. And don’t worry about your bio paragraph: Just keep it honest and not overly long. For instance, I could’ve just as easily used this as my bio paragraph when I was in college:

I’m a full-time student and part-time ice cream scooper with a passion for reading poetry. Currently, my favorite poets are Bob Hicok, J.D. McClatchy, and Louise Gluck, though I’m also fond of Dr. Seuss.

Bios matter most to the poets who write them. Editors care about the poems. So just remember that when writing your cover letters, and you’ll be A-OK.

 

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About Robert Lee Brewer

Senior Content Editor, Writer's Digest Community.

12 Responses to Sample Cover Letters for Poetry Submissions

  1. Daniel James says:

    doing things without no thought is a waste of time

  2. A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. Most people hope and dream for a happy marriage/relationship, but these dreams are difficult to achieve.

  3. Nice information to get people to write,thank you. I write sample letters including cover letters for jobs. But I am not sure if they are good. Good post.

  4. Matthew says:

    Thanks, Robert. Very helpful info.

    And now I’m just sitting here envisioning the emerging poet J. Alfred Prufrock wringing his hands and asking himself, "Do I dare to disturb the universe by submitting my poems? Would it be worthwhile?"

  5. Essa Bostone says:

    Dear Poetic Asides Facilitator, Mentor, (and person I consider a good writing friend, even though you don’t know me from a hole in the wall)

    Just had to say I loved this article and all the comments that followed. I like especially your GENTLE and CARING approach for helping people write and get published. We get rocked enough on stormy seas by all the rejection slips and inadvertant intimidation of all those "professionals" filling the shelves of our beloved bookstores.

    I’ve finally matured to the point where a rejection slip won’t put me into therapy for a year, cause avoidance behaviors toward any writing utensil, and am almost ready to consider them just another stepping stone up the ladder of becoming a best selling author.

    Seriously though, thanks so much for thoughtful help, suggestions and encouragement. I appreciate them because I have been through the school of hard knocks with my love/hate relationship with writing. Although I would never consider divorce as a solution, sometimes we take a little separation to cool off :)

    Be well,
    Susan

  6. Tyger says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. And thanks to those of you who offered additional suggestions!

  7. Jason Mashak says:

    Robert, this is indeed useful info that I wish I’d seen about a decade ago – although trial & error is often as good a teacher. One thing I would add to your examples and the above comments… make your cover letter feel as if it was written by a human. It can be tempting to send a pre-formatted letter, but I don’t do it. I let the spark of inspiration guide my cover letters as much as it did my poems. Otherwise, why would any slushpile-from-hell-facing editor read it?

  8. Hi Robert
    Good post. I keep my letters very simple, too. All I really want to do is to tell them what I’m submitting, sometimes mention a familiarity with the journal if it seems relevant, and add a brief bio, just enough to let the editor know that I’ve published. I think these are the salient points and they can be scanned in very short order, then on to the poems. Many of the forms don’t allow a space for a cover letter. They just want brief bios and the poems, which tells me that’s the main thing they’re looking for. I’ve had good success with my approach, too.

    I do think this is good for newbies to read since there can be a tendency to try and make the submission letter a sales pitch and that’s just going to aggrevate a busy editor.

    Pris

  9. Robert Brewer says:

    No, no–those are all great points, Anne!

    And I think it’s these comments that help all of us improve (including myself, of course). :)

    Robert

  10. Robert Brewer says:

    Hmm… I think you may be correct, Amy.

    "Thank you for your consideration." says the same thing and without having "in advance" there as a distraction. I will correct in the actual post (and in my future submissions). :)

    Best,

    Robert

  11. Anne Haines says:

    I actually agree with Amy’s comment on "thanks in advance" — I usually say "thanks for your time" as they’ve already used some of their time to read that far in the cover letter! :)

    And I have to say I’m not crazy about "I feel like my work may be a fit with your publication" — something about the phrase "feel like" seems really vague and, I don’t know, tentative to me as well as being awfully casual. Maybe "I believe my work would fit well with your publication" or something like that. Something stronger. Actually, I leave this kind of thing out of my letters unless I have something *very* specific to say, like a particular poem I loved in a very recent issue.

    But those are fairly nit-picky comments, and I honestly don’t think most editors read cover letters that closely. In fact, I know a lot of editors who set the cover letter aside and don’t even look at it unless they like the poems well enough to consider them, in which case they might be curious about the bio.

    Another note: I always try to make my bio note something that would be usable as-is should the poems be accepted. So if a journal tends to use brief, factual bios I don’t include a cute comment about being a full-time chef and butler for my two demanding cats — but when submitting to a journal that often uses "fluffy" or humorous bios, I probably would include something besides just a boring list of publications. I figure if they can use the bio I’ve already submitted, it saves us both the additional step of submitting a bio after acceptance.

    Also also! If you know the editor’s name, for pete’s sake use it! Check the website for the most current information so you don’t embarrass yourself by addressing your letter to someone who hasn’t been there for ten years. Of course, if you don’t know the name, "Dear Poetry Editor" is far better than "Dear Sir" or "To whom it may concern"…

    (sorry for the long comment; I got carried away. Make your cover letters shorter than this comment! *grin*)

  12. Amy Barlow Liberatore says:

    Robert, thanks so much, as always, for your generosity.

    I used to be a copy editor as well as an administrative assistant. The administrative assistant position (which we lovingly referred to as "Ad Ass") required that I sift through applications for employment before recommending them to my boss.

    One thing I’ve learned: Never use the phrase "in advance" when thanking a possible employer, since it implies that a) you think you are entitled to the position; or b) that you assume someone will get back to you ASAP.

    Often, those letters got tossed, but was because the jobs were usually secretarial in nature.

    Does the same hold true for submissions for poetry? What are you thoughts on this?

    Thanks (in advance, ha ha) for your consideration!!

    Amy (poetmomskas)

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