You’ve been working hard at learning how to write poems, and now you think you might be ready to submit some of them to a journal.
This is an exciting step, but make sure that you don’t get so excited that you neglect to read the guidelines for how to submit.
One of the things you will probably need to include is a cover letter.
But how do you go about writing a cover letter for a poetry submission? What kinds of things should you include?
We’ll help you figure out how to write this letter below.
Check the guidelines before writing your cover letter for a poetry submission
Your very first step should be to check the guidelines of the market you are submitting to.
Don’t assume that you know what the requirements for a cover letter are just because you have looked at another market’s requirements.
Some markets may request that you do not include a cover letter at all.
Others may ask that you include or exclude specific things in the cover letter.
The instructions in any publication’s guidelines should override what you read here, so modify your cover letter as needed based on that.
However, most guidelines will just say something like “submit up to 10 poems and a cover letter” without any other information about what the cover letter should contain.
The purpose of a cover letter for a poetry submission
Understanding the purpose of a cover letter can help you understand what you should put in it.
For example, if you are writing a cover letter for an event manager job, you are trying to highlight some of your main accomplishments to the hiring manager and make your resume stand out from other applicants.
The purpose of a cover letter for a poetry submission is to introduce yourself to the editor and briefly provide information about prior publications.
You will also mention the poems that you are sending, usually their titles and perhaps their length.
You should include any recent or prestigious credits, awards or other career-related information in your cover letter.
A cover letter also signals something about you to the editor. When done correctly, it lets the editor know that you are professional and that you can follow directions.
Starting a cover letter for a poetry submission
You might submit your poems by email, by regular mail or by uploading them to a database.
The publication will have information on the ways to submit.
If you are submitting by email, you will put your cover letter in the body of the email and attach your poems unless the publication requests that you do otherwise.
You do not need to include a header on your email with your address or anything else.
You can just start the letter.
By regular mail, you need to have a header that includes your contact information, the address of the publication and the date.
If you are uploading your submissions and a cover letter is requested, it will probably actually be more like one you would write for regular mail than an email.
Essentially, it should be in the same format, with contact information and the date.
It is always best to begin by addressing the editor by name.
Be sure that you spell their name correctly. Make sure as well that it is the current editor.
If you aren’t sure who the editor is, you can simply write “Dear Editor,” “Dear Poetry Editor” or “To Whom It May Concern.”
The body of your cover letter for a poetry submission
This part of your letter should only be a few sentences long.
You should say what you are submitting: “Attached please find three poems for the New Voices contest: ‘Strawberry Spring,’ ‘The End’ and ‘With the Lilies.'”
You should also include some credits, awards or other professional information if you have any.
Do not include every single place you’ve been published unless it is just a handful of places! Choose the most recent or prestigious publications or related information to highlight.
Unpublished writers often suffer a lot of angst when it comes to writing cover letters because they think they will be overlooked if they cannot share any credits.
The truth is that every editor dreams of discovering a talented new voice.
If you don’t have any publications to include, it’s fine to just name the poems you are sending and thank the editor for their time.
Editors are busy and your work needs to speak for itself, so don’t fall into the temptation of trying to explain your poems or talk about your background.
The one exception is if something in your background is relevant to the work itself, and even then, it should be brief.
For example, if you are a surgeon and your poems about the human body are directly inspired by your work in the operating room, you might include that information in a single sentence in the letter.
How to write the closing of a cover letter for a poetry submission
The closing should be similar to what you would write for any other type of cover letter, such as a cover letter for a video editor job.
Thank the editor for their time, and say that you look forward to hearing from them.
Use a standard professional closing such as “Sincerely” or “Best” at the end.
Sample of an email cover letter with some credits for a poetry submission
In the example below, note that while based on the prestige of the publications listed and her teaching job, this writer probably has a lot more credits, she has just chosen a few of the best to highlight.
Attached please find two of my poems, “Sundown” and “Traffic.”I have been writing poetry for about ten years, and I have been published in a number of journals, including The Georgia
Review, Tin House and The Sun. I also teach poetry writing at Graceville Community College.
Thank you for taking a look at these. I hope they work for you, and I look forward to hearing back from you.
Sample of a regular mail cover letter without credits for a poetry submission
Note that with no professional credits to share, this letter is very short.
It’s okay to write a cover letter that is this short! In fact, if you don’t have anything to add, it’s much better to keep it this brief than to bog the editor down in unnecessary information about you or the poems you’re submitting.
123 Pinedale Avenue
Anytown, California 12345
Longshore Literary Journal
456 Easy Street
Everytown, Missouri 78910
July 3, 2020
Dear Ms. Patel:
Enclosed are three of my poems for your consideration, “Shining,” “Twigs” and “The Ocean Blue.”
Thank you for taking the time to read them. I hope you enjoy them enough for publication in the Longshore Literary Journal.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.