How to Write a Poetry Submission Cover Letter

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how to write a perfect cover letter for a poetry submission

The best publishing option for a collection of poems is to submit it to literary magazines or poetry publishing houses.

But getting your poetry collection accepted by a reputable poetry publication isn’t a slide; you have to write awesome poetry and have to abide by the submission guidelines.

Major poetry publications have specific submission processes that are a bit similar and, in most cases, the cover letter is going to be addressed to the publisher’s poetry editor. You need a good cover letter that will impress the editor and increase the chances of your poetry being published.

You need to know what you’re doing and understand that you don’t need an insanely creative, impressive cover letter. What you need is a brief letter that sets up the editor for the submission. Cover letters on their own won’t get your poems accepted; however, they can easily get them rejected.

So, how can you write a perfect cover letter for a poetry submission? Read on to find out how.

What is a Cover Letter for Submitting a Poem?

When you submit your poems to a publishing house, literary magazine, or poetry contest, you’re required to submit your poetry with a cover letter that comes with some details about the poems submitted and the author (that’s you!).

The publishers often have varying formats, but basically, cover letters have a format that includes an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

As I already stated, the cover letter is brief but it is very important because the editorial team does make decisions (including whether to publish your poetry or not) based on that small piece of writing. If it weren’t that important, it wouldn’t be the document that editors always read first before going into your poems.

a publisher carefully reading a cover letter.
A publisher carefully reads a cover letter.

Why Do They Need It?

There are lots of things that a cover letter contains that may aid the decision-making process of the editor or contest organizer.

If it’s a submission from a non-native English speaker, a cover letter may reveal this and the editor can take into consideration the difficulties that such a writer may face writing in a foreign language. The submission might come from a child and that may require the editor to engage the writer’s parents or legal guardian to co-sign the publishing contract.

A cover letter contains more information than those two, and such information makes it easier for an editor to do their job.

What a Good Cover Letter Should Have

what a good cover letter should have

A Concise Introduction

The whole cover has to be concise and gets to the point as quickly as possible. This is one of the secrets of writing a good cover lever for a poetry submission; you put a huge stamp in a very brief letter.

That’s hard and easy, at the same time. The editor will probably have to read hundreds of poetry submissions, so you must craft a cover letter that shows respect for the editor’s time and editorial duties.

A Courteous Tone

A good cover addresses the editors/publication by name and has a nice tone. You don’t want to leave a bad first impression by sending a cover letter that comes off as a copied and pasted letter.

Right Context

When writing a cover letter, you have to consider the context. You have to remember that it’s a poetry submission, so you have to mention your credentials that have something to do with writing and nothing else (unless requested by the publication/editor). The guidelines also provide some sort of context; you have to follow them to the letter when writing your cover letter.

What Most Submissions Want In a Cover Letter for a Poetry Submission

Although the contents of a cover letter may vary between submissions, your personal information is required in almost all submissions.

Editors go back to look at your cover letter and bio after reading your poems to match them. Here are some of the requirements for different cases:

Poetry Publication

Poetry Retreats, Residencies, and Fellowships:

  • A list of the submitted poems’ titles
  • A short bio (below 100 words)
  • 3-5 places where you’ve been published, or say you haven’t been published yet
  • Aesthetics statement (your artistic influences and some context for your poems)
  • A few words about your bio (what you do, where you work, and any work you do in the art community).

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Poetry Submission

how to write a cover letter for a poetry submission

1. Research and Follow Guidelines

Before writing your cover letter (and, sometimes, before writing your poems), the first thing to do is research your target publication, contest, fellowship, etcetera. Every one of these institutions or organizers has specific guidelines, and submissions that fail to satisfy them are instantly thrown out.

2. Address the Organizers/Publishers by name

Addressing the Organizers/Publishers by name shows your professionalism and due courtesy.  Covers letters that achieve this are bound to face warm reception and that is a good start for your submission.

3. Link to your past work

If it’s your first submission, don’t worry, your work will speak for you. However, if you have a couple of published works to your name, link to your published work if the organizers allow or provide means of doing so.

Some organizers or publishers provide somewhere else for such links. Submitting using email is even better. You can attach copies of your published work along with the current poem submission.

4. Stay On Topic

I talked about respecting context when writing a cover letter, and this also touches on that. The cover has to contain the necessary info (publications, writing credentials, etc.), but it shouldn’t stray out of context and mention unrelated academic and personal referrals. It might be a good thing to tell the editor what you’ve learned, but it’s unwarranted in this case.

5. Skip Unnecessary Pleasantries

Addressing the editors directly is encouraged but don’t drop a ‘newbie alert’ on them by trying to be too nice.

They’re not your buddies and don’t waste their time—go straight to the matter at hand.

6. Provide Contact Information

Your submission should include contact information (i.e., your full name, email, phone number, et cetera) that may help the organizers to get in touch with you.

Poetry Cover Letter Example

Here’s an example of a brief but effective cover letter for a poetry submission. There are countless ways of writing and the form that a cover letter depends, to an appreciable extent, on the publisher’s preferences and guidelines.

This is just a sample, not a template that you can use for all your poetry submissions. But it’s a very good reference, in case you decide to use some parts of this sample.

Dear Editor,

Please consider my three poems for publication in your journal, Poetry Mountain.

The first poem ‘Milk way Love’ is a free verse that talks of one man’s undying love for a selfish woman. The other two, ‘Morning Dance’ and ‘Happy Horses’ are inspiring sonnets based on my auntie’s life story.

I am a poet based in New York. I began writing poetry when I was 7 and have 30 published poems to my name. My poetry (none of which is among these 3 submissions) has previously been published in the Otter Voice, Talking Hills review, and the Mustard Poetry Journal.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely Yours,

Dennis Bergman

In this template, I briefly talked about the poems and slotted them in my succinct bio. You could write a longer cover letter but be economical with your words. If you add anything to a template like this one, it should be something requested by the publisher or something you’re convinced enhances the cover letter’s intentions.

A video about tips for writing a poetry cover letter.

Write A Great Cover Letter, Submit Delicious Poetry

The cover won’t get your poems accepted and published—the quality of your poems will.

If you want to write poems about beauty, you have to ensure that your writing is evocative and thought-provoking. So before writing your cover letter, you have to ensure that your poetry is ‘on point.’

Some well-established editors give the cover letters to their assistants while they savor your poems. In this case, you have to write poems that match the quality of your cover letter.

In most cases though, editors look at your cover letter before reading your poems, you cannot mess up. You have to satisfy the publisher’s guidelines before you start thinking about how creative you’re going to be with your cover letter.

In most cases though, editors look at your cover letter before reading your poems, you cannot mess up. You have to satisfy the publisher’s guidelines before you start thinking about how creative you’re going to be with your cover letter.

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.