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Breaking the Proverbial Ice : Tips and Advice • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Breaking the Proverbial Ice

Here's the place to share a writing or marketing tip you've used successfully and want to pass along.
Swansong1979
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Breaking the Proverbial Ice

Postby Swansong1979 » Tue Feb 14, 2006 9:12 pm


Swansong1979
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Breaking the Proverbial Ice

Postby Swansong1979 » Tue Feb 14, 2006 9:12 pm

Ok - So for all the writers out there that have actually been (hush, ooh, ahh) published - how did you start? Where is a good place to go - magazines? contests? local resources?

And what, by golly, do you put in the "first" cover letter that doesn't sound like "I'm new, but I swear I'm good!" (which is invariably followed by the "thanks but no thanks" letter)? I've read the books and the "sample" cover letters always seem to have that Writing Experience section. How do you say "no published experience" without saying "no publishable talent"? You'd think a writer would be good with wordsmithing this, but I'm not sure what editors are expecting and I'm pretty sure begging and pleading is out of the question! ;)

I'm really new at the publishing game, but it's been my dream since high school to be an author, even on a small scale. Any input the experienced authors have on "breaking in" would be fantastic!

I'm sure this has been posted somewhere else in the forum, but, being unable to locate it, I thought I would just ask. Thanks everyone for your input!!

Camille
 

RE: Breaking the Proverbial Ice

Postby Camille » Wed Feb 15, 2006 2:32 am

I'm trying to publish a novel now.  Writer's Digest has helped me and so has this forum.  I'd like to take some classes at a college for a refresher - been out of school awhile.

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Georganna
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RE: Breaking the Proverbial Ice

Postby Georganna » Wed Feb 15, 2006 3:50 pm

It looks like you have two questions: 

How to get started as a writer, and what to say in a cover letter. A cover letter is sent with a submission to those few publications that still accept unsolicited mss.  In it you describe your submission and yourself, why you're qualified to write the piece or whatever is applicable. If you haven't been published, then you'll have no clippings to enclose, but your ms. can double for a writing sample.

How to get started depends a lot on what kind of writing you want to do.  My first published piece was a poem in an anthology of college writing. I think it was a competition.  A few years later I conceived the bright idea of switching to nonfiction.  My first assignments were nonpaying ones as a correspondent for a south Florida women's lib paper and the Florida correspondent for the UU World, a national church monthly.  Then I started writing for expenses (and experience) for the Broward Bulletin, a monthly paper serving the African American community in Ft. Lauderdale.  While I gained clippings for my portfolio, I submitted short articles to several national magazines, and soon I was on my way.  As you get higher "quality" clippings, you rotate them into the mix you send to subsequent publications and eventually the ones you wrote for free are retired. It is easier to get started working locally.

Through the years I've written a few more poems that won contests and were published.  It's my understanding that getting started in short fiction is much more difficult.  Enter contests that will be worthwhile in the entry fee to critique ratio, if you enjoy competition, or just keep submitting to publications, primarily print ones.  Clippings are much less important for fiction.

Good luck!


Swansong1979
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RE: Breaking the Proverbial Ice

Postby Swansong1979 » Wed Feb 15, 2006 5:59 pm

Good point! I should have specified - I deal primarily in short fiction. Some genre fiction and some "literary" fiction, as you might call it. Any ideas in those markets specifically? I am finding it so hard to break through and wonder half the time if the editors even read the cover letter or just toss a name they do not recognize.

Jamesaritchie
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RE: Breaking the Proverbial Ice

Postby Jamesaritchie » Thu Feb 16, 2006 6:50 am


Swansong1979
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RE: Breaking the Proverbial Ice

Postby Swansong1979 » Thu Feb 16, 2006 10:08 am

WOW. That was just what I needed. Everywhere I have read, the cover letter was not an optional element in the submission, and I always felt inferior because I could not match the standard cover letter template. This approach of course puts more pressure on my first paragraph, but, like you said, if it's not good to begin with - what difference does the letter make.

THANK YOU!!!!!!! :)

abqwriter
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RE: Breaking the Proverbial Ice

Postby abqwriter » Thu Feb 16, 2006 1:26 pm

If the submission requires a cover letter, I would keep it short and sweet.  You may make brownie points for making them read less!  :)

Date, Name of contact, name of publisher or company, address, then Dear "contact's name".

Please consider the following 243-word short story for your publication, Stories for the Short.

For any follow up questions, please contact me at:

Address, Email, etc.

Sincerely,

Swansong


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Georganna
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RE: Breaking the Proverbial Ice

Postby Georganna » Thu Feb 16, 2006 4:46 pm

There you go.  You seem to already know what to do.  There's only one aspect left:  persistence.  Without it, you won't succeed.  With it, you might.

Good luck!


Swansong1979
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RE: Breaking the Proverbial Ice

Postby Swansong1979 » Fri Feb 17, 2006 9:51 am

One more question. If no cover letter, should I put a cover sheet with my contact information or shall I put this on the first page before the story? Or is just the SASE enough?

Thanks again!

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