Sample Cover Letters for Poetry Submissions

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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://www.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://www.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://www.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.