How to Write Cover Letters for Short Stories

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How to Write Cover Letters for Short Stories

Writing a cover letter to submit with your short story to magazines or ezines is different from writing a query letter for a full length novel, but some rules do apply to both.

In the cover letter you don’t want to boast about yourself or your writing. If you make it seem like you think you’re “the next best thing,” editors will assume you’re a cocky newbie. And editors don’t want to work with cocky newbies. ;)


Don’t say:
  1. “Everyone who’s read this story loves it.”
  2. “I’m the next (insert famous author).”
  3. “My story is so much better than everything else out there.”

On the opposite side of things, you don’t want to bash yourself or come across as having low confidence. If they see low confidence in you, it will influence them to have low confidence in your writing.


Don’t say:
  1. “I’ve never been published before.”
  2. “I’ve been rejected by xx publishers before.”
  3. “I know this story could use some work, but that’s what you’re for, right?”

You also don’t want to overload them with personal information. They’re not interviewing you right now, they’re looking at your story.


Don’t say:
  1. “I’ve been writing since…”
  2. “I’m xx years old.”
  3. “I work as a…” (unless your profession is related to the story you wrote and your inside knowledge makes it stronger.)

You want to address the cover letter by name if you can. Go to the website of the magazine or ezine you are submitting to and see if they have a list of who works in what position.

If you can’t figure out who exactly you’re submitting to, you can always just address your letter “Dear Editor” or “Dear Editors.”

Short stories are short. It doesn’t take long to read them, and it won’t take long for an editor to know all they need to about it. So unlike a full length novel’s query letter there’s usually no need for a synopsis or “back cover copy.” Unless it’s specifically requested in their submission guidelines.

All of this comes down to keeping your cover letting very brief. Most of the time there’s no need for it to be any more than 50 to 60 words long.

Because of this, cover letters for short stories often seem emotionless. They’re just the bare facts that an editor needs.


Finally, you always want to make sure you follow each magazine’s submission guidelines exactly.


We writers may not like to hear it, but if you were an acquisitions editor going through dozens or hundreds of submissions looking for the few you would choose, and you saw one that didn’t follow your specific guidelines, you would assume that since the writer didn’t care enough to check your guidelines before submitting, they wouldn’t care enough to write a good story or even edit it before they sent it to you.

And honestly, for acquisitions editors that’s a very good reason to reject a short story before even reading it.


Now on to some formats!


For a general cover letter, if you don’t see specific guidelines on their website, you can format it similar to this:

(Your Name)


(Email Address)

(Telephone Number)


Dear Editor,

Please consider my X,XXX word short story titled (story title) for (magazine name). The story is attached as a word document titled (document title).

Thank you for your time and consideration.



(your name)

Make sure you check their guidelines to see if they want the story sent as an attachment or in the body of the email, and modify your cover letter accordingly!


But sometimes submission guidelines are different from this format.


Here are two examples from short stories that I wrote and submitted to magazines (both were acquired, so they worked!).

For this magazine they wanted your personal contact information in the story’s separate document. In the cover letter they wanted:

Your first and last name, and your pen name if you wrote under one.

Your author website if you had one.

The name of the attached file that contained your story.


This was my cover letter:

Dear Editor,


My name is Jordan (last name), but I write under the pen name Just B. Jordan.

Attachment: (last name)—Howl

Author website:

I enjoy reading Splickety’s magazines and am hopeful that you’ll find “Howl” to be a good fit.

Thank you for your time and consideration.




As you can see that was very short and to the point, no access information. It was 51 words long.


This second example is very similar to the one above, but this issue had a theme of literary re-imaginings. They wanted classic stories reinvented with a magical twist.


My cover letter:



My name is Jordan (last name), but I write under the pen name Just B. Jordan.

The attached file is named (last name)—Covet, and the original classic story is Robin Hood.

Author website:

Thank you for your time and consideration.




And that’s it! Cover or query letters for short stories are very…short. ;)

Stick to the point and the information they require, omit anything else, and you’ll be good to go!


Good luck on submitting those short stories!


Just B. Jordan is a high fantasy author. She graduated high school a year early and received her first publishing contract at the age of 18. Never To Live is her first novel. Find it here.

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