Cover Letter Format

provided by The Fiction Forum

Your cover letter is the first impression any editor will have of your writing abilities. Therefore, the cover letter should be straightforward and concise. Treat your cover letter as a business letter–after all that is what it is.

You can read our basic guidelines below, but I can recommend the book “How to write the cover letter for your submission to a publisher“.


For a little over $1 on Amazon (that is NOT a typo), the author (An Editor) has been a commissioning editor for over twenty years at various publishing companies and has signed up over 2,000 books.

However, with a commissioning rate of less than 3% from the slush pile (a term used to describe all the unsolicited proposals and manuscripts sent to a publisher), it means An Editor has rejected thousands of submissions over the years, making them an expert on what makes an editor reject a submission in seconds and what makes an editor actually turn the page and start reading your work.

Check it out by clicking here


Below you will find some of our basic guidelines.

  • Limit your letter to one page.
  • Capture the editor’s attention right off.
  • Give the editor or agent a brief description of the story, article, or book. (Look at the back of a book and read the blurb. This is about the same length and structure you want your description to be.) Make your description appealing so that the editor feels he or she must read the book.
  • Provide some personal and or professional background information that relates to your skills or experience. Draw from your publishing history and any background that is special to this story (such as if you were a nurse and you wrote a book which takes place in a hospital).
  • Be sure to include the word length and genre of your book.
  • Use a proper business form letter as your guide. (Most word processors have letter templates) Single space the letter.
  • Be sure to include your contact information such as your name, address, phone number and email address.
  • Don’t forget the date.
  • When addressing your letter be sure to use the Editor’s name (or agent’s name is querying a book.) Use a Writer’s Market guide or similar resource for contact information. Many book publishers do not accept unagented books so you must check the publication’s guidelines before sending an unsolicited manuscript. However, this cover letter format is appropriate for querying an agent. Check the publication or agent’s web site or call to verify the name of editor or agent before sending your letter. Remember: editors are not permanent fixtures at publications.
  • When ending your letter be sure to thank the editor or agent for his or her time and consideration.
  • Type your closing, leave a few spaces and then type your name. Within the blank spaces you should sign your name.

Below you will find two generic sample cover letters. Using these as your basic format should get you off on the right foot. However you’ll want to adapt it to fit your style and work.

At the request of a few visitors, we’ve added a third option for those who are applying to submit stories online.



Author name

Editor’s name


Dear M. [Editor],

I have recently completed a romance novel titled: “My Novel.” I have enclosed the 50,000-word novel for publishing considerations.

“My Novel” is a story of true love … [include blurb here.]

I have published work with such publishers as…[your background here.]

I have enclosed a self-address, stamped envelope along with my manuscript. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


[Sign name here]

Jane Author



Author name

Editor’s name


Dear M. [Editor],

[Start your letter off with your blurb, draw the editor in right from the start.]

The above passage details the central conflict of my 50,000-word romance novel, “My Novel.” Like the heroine, I have a vast knowledge of the solar system as I was a high school science teacher. My writing has been featured in several magazines… [continue with background.]

I’m excited about “My Novel” and believe it’s appropriate for your Out Of This World Romance line. I have enclosed a copy of a synopsis and my manuscript for publishing consideration. This work is also available by email or on a 3.5 inch disk in Word or ASCII format. An SASE is enclosed for your convenience.

Thank you for your consideration.


[Sign your name here.]

Jane Author


SAMPLE 3 (for online submissions):

PO Box 333 [Physical Address]
New York, AZ 85333
602.555.3333 [Phone][email]

Jean Martin [Sponsor’s name (if known)]
Free Flash Fiction [Publisher (if known) or Website Title]
Physical Address (if known. Look at the bottom of the website home page)[Website address]
18 April, 2013 [Date of submission]

Dear M. Martin [Editor] (or, if unknown, Dear Free Flash Fiction [Website Title]),

(Provide a brief blurb of your story. If your story is short, your blurb could be as short as a single sentence.) Imagine a homemaker out for a typical day of shopping with his kids when he is accosted by street hooligans, demanding his wallet and diaper bag. Next, imagine that he was a kung fu child prodigy who now teaches conflict resolution techniques to fast food chains.

(Then provide the word count, genre, and responses to other submission requirements. Try to get them all into one or two sentences). This is the premise of my 923 word flash fiction entry in your Satire and Humor category.

(Provide a relevant history to justify your knowledge of the content and your writing ability.) A homemaker myself, I also studied martial arts extensively and hold three black belt degrees. I have also been published on your site before, and have won three competitions on a social writing site. (If your writing history is not extensive, provide less relevant personal history so that the editor can create an image of you in their mind while they read.) I am a retired sniper spotter for the Navy SEALS who has seen my share of conflict. I also have experience with stand up comedy because I am the designated Master of Ceremonies for all of my church gatherings. In addition, I’ve also got four children, who constantly ask for bizarre stories.

(Provide a sentence or two of gratitude for their willingness to consider your work and, if appropriate, provide you with feedback or compensation.) I am excited at the prospect of being published on your site again, and would like to thank you for the opportunity you provided for me to grow as a writer and see my efforts rewarded. I look forward to hearing back from you regarding my submission.

Joe Bloe


It is important to remember that in your cover letter you should be informative and never chatty. This is a business correspondence, not a letter to your dear old aunt. Good luck!

11 Responses to “Cover Letter Format”

  1. Jon says:

    I found your information very helpful. I have just finished writing a light romance book called ‘The Hidden Flower’ and though I had found help on writing the synopsis was a little unsure of the format for the covering letter.



  2. Russell Adams says:

    In response to “Cover Letter Format”, I was less than impressed by the wrong-word (or is it a spelling error?) in sample # 2 where you have:

    Dear M. [Editor],

    [Start your letter off with your blurb, drawer the editor in right from the start.]

    You, of course, mean:

    “draw[er] the editor in right from the start.”

    Or were you just trying to see if we’re paying attention?

    No harm done. I wasn’t really looking for anything is particular–just looking when I noticed that.


  3. James says:

    Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve corrected it.

    I’m sure it was a spelling error as it didn’t really make sense how it was 😀

  4. Sarah says:

    If I am writing under a penname, which name should I use in the header and signature?

  5. chris n says:

    these examples are far shorter than the ones I saw in the Writers Digest manuscript guide.

  6. Peter sunday says:

    Thnks but if u are sendin your cover letter by email, do u have to write the publisher’s address

  7. paulette says:

    I found the examples very helpful. This is my first time submiting to a publisher. I now have a better iea of what needs to be sent out with my manuscript(s).
    Thank you so much

  8. paulette says:

    Sorry …in my haste, I have spelled idea wrong….oops sorry

  9. Thato says:

    Can I write a cover letter then submit without the project being complete yet?
    I’m going through broad conceptualization for my book and will only begin writing over the next few months.
    I would like to know if that is appropriate or not..
    Thank you.

  10. Sam Nichols says:

    This is decent advice for novel submissions, but absolutely every literary journal I’ve submitted to for poetry of short fiction says they do not want you to describe your story or poem in the cover letter. To do so would show your lack of experience. Let your work speak for itself. That is, for short fiction and poetry.

  11. Gus Bus says:

    In response to Russ,
    I was less than impressed to see a mistake in a comment complaining about a mistake in the article. Oh the audacity of such claims. My word how my jimmy’s are rustled. Of course you must mean “in” and not “is” in your comment. For the latter makes absolutely no sense at all. We are all just humans mind you and mistakes must be made whilst the journey of life continues but come now, you’re better then that.
    A now light headed reader

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