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October 13, 2020, by aeyaebr

Publishing in Practice: Writing a Cover Letter

By Annie Brown, MA Creative Writing student blogger

Writing a cover letter to a publisher can be tricky. Recently, I had to submit a short story to a publishing house and was stumped about what to write in my cover letter.

I knew I needed to sell myself and my story, but I also wanted to make sure I stood out. Using what I learned, here are my top tips on how to be professional in your cover letter and demonstrate that you understand the publishing industry.

Read the requirements

Different agents and publishing houses will require work formatted and submitted in different ways. The best thing to do is to read and follow their given guidelines closely. Usually, you can find their submission guidelines on their website and social media accounts.

My cover letter required me to be brief in my overview of myself and my work, and they also wanted a little information on where I’m from. If they request a brief summary, and you write a very long cover letter, they might not read all of it and it may hinder your application.

Be polite

The tone of your cover letter is essential. Using a polite and professional tone will help establish that you’re serious and want to succeed. Politeness is also a definite boost that is likely to encourage publishers and agents to want to work with you.

I retained a polite tone throughout. In response, I received an email that thanked me for my application and said they were excited to read my piece. It’s definitely beneficial to build a good reputation this way.


You may not have a lengthy forum to explain yourself, so being able to succinctly summarise is important. Your summary should also attract the reader to want to explore your story. Focus on the key elements of your work; genre, themes and what makes it unique.

I broke my short story down to the core elements to summarise. I explained the genre, which is a subversive and contemporary take on the traditional Gothic, and summarised my plot in one sentence.

Promote yourself

Agents and publishers will be considering you just as much as your work. Are you polite and easy to correspond with? Do you show potential as a writer for other works? Presenting yourself in a professional manner is key to success.

The publisher I applied to wanted to know where I was from, so I mentioned I’m from a similar place to the location of my story. I also described how I had studied the Pendle Witches (a focal point of my story) during my undergraduate degree. Include facts about yourself that will showcase your potential.

Writing a cover letter should be seen as an additional step to showcase your potential and make publishers and agents excited to work with you. By keeping these steps in mind, you increase your chances of success.

Find out more about careers in publishing and writing cover letters.

Posted in Applying For JobsCareers AdviceChoosing Your Career