Thursday, 11 June 2015

Covering Letters

I just read something about an editor criticising the way poets write covering letters when submitting poems. It was mainly about how email allows for less scrupulous poets to fire off copy and pasted subs with no individual attention paid to the editor to whom they're sending. I remember getting one when I briefly edited, addressed to a completely different magazine. But, like Joni Mitchell, I've been on both sides now. We make mistakes. This got me thinking about the pitfalls of sending in a series of questions...

1. Am I being too familiar?
2. Am I being too distant?
3. Should I be more familiar?
4. Should I be more distant?
5. Does it matter that I have children?
6. Does the year in which I was born matter for a biography?
7. Should I be business-like?
8. Would it be nicer if it were handwritten?
9. My printer is playing up. If I hand-wrote the letter would they think I was deranged? (Especially with my handwriting).
10. If I list off the magazines I've been published in would they think I was going on too much?
11. Would it be radical if I just didn't include a biography?
12. FONT!! What font should I use?
13. Is Times New Roman too dull? I am a Garamond sort of poet? Don't get me started on font size...
14. I read one of the editor's poems and I genuinely liked it but would I sound like a sucker-upper if I mentioned it even though I may never meet this person and they might like to know that their hours spent writing poems met with some approval?
15. They've been nominated for some prize or other so they probably do know?
16. Or they don't?
17. Should I just let the letter and the whole sub 'rest' for a few more days before sending, even though I said that last week?
18. Would one of those 'funny biographies' where the author drinks tea, has a liking for chocolate digestives and 'can be found writing poems in Ashby-de-la-Zouch bus station' stick in their mind?
19. Are chocolate digestives too middle of the road? Should I go for Maple Pecan Danish pastries?
20. Would it drive them up the wall?
21. I don't even know if Ashby de la Zouch has a bus station or not? I'm guessing perhaps-maybe not. Next time I'll look.
22. ...should I just sound more business like?

And finally...

I have posted the bloody thing and having stressed over the above forgot to say 'thank you.' Always say thank you....


  1. This made me laugh (the ring of truth). Thanks for posting, Maria!

  2. Thanks, Jayne. Good of you to comment!