Thursday, September 22, 2011

What NOT to include in your submission/cover letter

I'm sorry I haven't posted lately, but -- so much has been happening! I joined Fencing club; I got a part in Iolanthe; I joined Campus Comments (the school newspaper); I've been running to and fro from class...

...and I'm the poetry editor of Outrageous Fortune. It's the first nationwide, online college literary magazine of only undergraduate work. I'm pleased to say that we've already received many submissions for our Fall/Winter edition! I encourage you to submit your poetry, photography, artwork, essays, one-act plays, short stories, novel excerpts, etc.

I also encourage you to read the submission guidelines carefully. And perhaps look up "how to write a cover letter" on

Now, I'm a nice person and I won't judge you too much if you don't follow the guidelines. I'll just send a polite note pointing out that you attached your poems in PowerPoint instead of Word or that we only accept previously unpublished poems or whatever the issue happens to be, and ask you to resend it according to guidelines. Just because we're a college magazine doesn't mean you shouldn't take us seriously -- and intentional or not, that's the impression you give when you don't pay follow the guidelines.

Some things you can do to make my job a little easier are:
  1. Follow the guidelines, of course, but more specifically: attach your submission in a Word document. While I'll still open and read 5 documents, it takes a lot less time and effort to open, read, and print or save just one. That way, I also have all your work in one place.
  2. Do not copy/paste your submission in the body of the email. Formatting doesn't always transfer. If you can't attach your submission in a document for whatever reason, tell me that in the cover letter and then type your submission into the email. This avoids the formatting problems.
  3. Don't send more than 5 works. You can, however, send 5 works each in different genres. Send a separate email for each genre, please.
  4. Put the genre in the subject line. Again, a simple case of following instructions.
  5. Read previous issues of the magazine. I can't emphasize this enough. Since this one is free and available online, doing so is not cost-prohibitive. You might be jumping up and down to submit your work, but it really helps to take the time and look through the magazine archives. That should give you an idea of the character of the magazine and the works that have been accepted. Then look at your own work. Would it benefit from revision? You do have until late October to submit.
Finally, the cover letter. It should be simple, professional, and to the point. I don't need your thesis on the meaning of life; nor do I want something like "Here's my stuff. Kthanxbai." Strive for a happy medium. For example:

Attn. Outrageous Fortune:

My name is [name] and I am a [class year] at [name of college]. I would like to submit the following poems for consideration for your Fall/Winter edition of the literary magazine:
  1. Rainbows and Kittens
  2. Frolicking Unicorns
I am a [subject] major and [subject] minor, and I [love writing/dabble in photography/write sonnets to daffodils/began painting a year ago/insert bio-tidbit here]. [Elaborate (but not too much)].

Thank you for your time and consideration!

[Your name]

Please, please, PLEASE do not say anything along the lines of "my work sucks" or "I'm not a very good writer." Then why bother submitting? Unless you think OF is a pushover, which sends the vibe of "rude." Plus it just makes me sad to see people say they suck. Believe in yourself! *sings* From the ashes of rejection grow the roses of success!

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