I was the editor of a small press that published genre anthologies and short story collections for about 13 years, and I’ve been writing, submitting, and selling my fiction for about 25 years. So, I’ve been on both sides of the editorial desk, at least in a small way. I now teach fantasy fiction writing at Columbia College — Chicago.
One of the questions that comes up every semester is, “What should I put in my cover letter?” Students, and many new writers, are afraid of cover letters.
What they don’t know is, that many editors are afraid of cover letters, too.
Way too many writers torpedo their chances at making a sale by saying ridiculous things in their cover letters – things so out of bounds that the editor has no choice but to reject the story without even reading it, or risk losing all self-respect if they don’t. Getting ready in the morning is hard enough without having to avoid meeting your own eyes in the mirror.
The small press that I ran was tied to Twilight Tales: a weekly reading series in Chicago. We also ran the reading track or open mics at many local and national genre conventions, and published national and international authors monthly on our website. The point of that was to make it possible for authors out of Chicago to participate in a Twilight Tales event. To submit to our anthologies, you had to have taken part in at least one of those activities. In the 17 years that the show ran, through those combined projects, we estimated that we dealt with more than 1,000 authors, from pretty close to all 50 states, seven countries, and across the full spectrum of genres.