Cover letters. What’s your first reaction when you come across the phrase? Joy? Excitement? Hardly, right? Cover letters are almost invariably a headache unless you’re writing them professionally for other people, I guess. I only started submitting stories last summer, so I have yet to get used to coming up with the best possible ones. Below, however, is the cover letter I wish I could send with every single story I submit but I never will because I follow guidelines strictly. Spoiler: It’s all about feedback.
Please find attached my 4,000-word story “Uprising” for consideration for your “Anthology” anthology.
“Uprising” tells the tale of a piece of limestone and a turkey bone that plot to take the world back from humanity by unleashing a deadline disease. It causes fatal bouts of laughter in every human, from infants to centennials on their deathbeds. The limestone and the bone have no idea that they may be waking up something much more dangerous than humans.
Now, dear Insert-Name-Here, before I move on to my 50-100-word bio, let me take a moment to tell you how deeply and sincerely I appreciate your taking the time to read my email. I also hope that you will find the time to take a look at the story and find something in it that resonates with you, however small this something may be.
I will also greatly, massively, and enormously appreciate a tiny little bit of personal feedback. I say this with complete awareness of how wrong the overuse of adverbs is. I also realize that your time is precious and that reading hundreds of stories, most of them probably not up to scratch, is not exactly a picnic.
You see, Insert-Name-Here, I understand that choosing which stories to publish and which to reject is difficult. I know literature is perhaps the most subjective of all arts. I also understand that you are as human as I am and that having 500 stories to choose from takes its toll and it is impossible to give each and every one of them special attention is impossible.
The thing is, dear Insert-Name-Here, that just a couple of words with the standard rejection form could make all the difference for the author. I know you know this and I know that the majority of people who write fiction should just stop and find something else to do. But you can’t tell us that, can you? Then there are those who might be worth encouraging to keep writing but there’s no time to tell them that.
The only way for anyone–writers included–to become better at something is to learn from their mistakes. Yet most rejection emails don’t say what was wrong with the story for it to get rejected and this is so frustrating. Again, you know this as well because you, too, were some time ago a beginner.
I really hope my tone is not offensive in any way. What would writers do without editors? But if you happen to have a spare minute around the time you prepare to send the next rejection email, Insert-Name-Here, please give me a little hint about why my story was rejected. This kind of feedback is precious. Any kind of feedback beyond “Sorry but your story doesn’t work for us” is precious, even if it’s blunt. Blunt is good, actually. Blunt is honest. Blunt answer that horrible “Why?” that haunts us after every rejection.
Thank you again, Insert-Name-Here, if you read this to the end. It means a lot to me that you took the time to do so.
Bio: Irina writes about oil, gas, mining, demons, dragons, and disturbed people. She writes, that is all.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my story.
Author’s Note: I can only imagine how difficult it is to pick and choose stories. The vision is not a nice one. I would rather translate EU directives than edit fiction, and this means a lot because translating EU directives is a form of torture created by the Evil God of Bureaucracy to teach humans humility.
I did this “cover letter” to reassure any authors that may be reading this blog that they’re not alone, to share the pain, in a way. It’s also for readers, of course. Some fun from the recesses– or fringes, rather–of the publishing world.
Editorial feedback really matters and I’ve been relatively happy, I guess, getting equal amounts of standard rejection and standard rejection plus some personal words of encouragement. These words make all the difference. They tell me that my writing is not the total crap I feel it is every time I get the standard email. This is important.