Sunday, September 24, 2006

Coverlettering my Butt

When I send a cover letter with a submission, I keep to the point and avoid being funny, fawning, arrogant, etc. I don’t know who’s going to be on the other end. My cover letters run pretty much: 1) this is a submission; 2) my poems are X-Y-Z; 3) I’ve been published in A,B & C (sometimes I omit this); and 4) thanks for your time.

If the guidelines ask for something like a bio, I include that. If they accept simultaneous subs but want to know right off, I tell them.

That’s about it. I have, on occasion, mentioned something I enjoyed about the journal, whether a particular poem, or layout, or column or whatever. But I feel inhibited saying “I loved your last issue,” or “You’re one of my favorite publications.” Isn’t that brown-nosing? I mean, even if it is one of my sincere cross-my-heart-hope-to-die favorites?

So I was reading juked today for the first time after Arlene mentioned she’d have a poem there. The guidelines go:

Warning: If it's obvious you're just mailing out something you wrote to every single publication without actually knowing who the hell you're writing to, i.e., you don't know what we put up, nor do you care, you simply want someone, anyone, to publish that precious story you wrote in a stroke of alcohol-induced genius about rotting zombies hijacking convertibles for joyrides, we'll know, we'll cackle gleefully and forward your e-mail address on to our resident juju doctor, who'll know best what to do with it. We will, and we love to cackle.”

I really liked juked. The latest poems there are by Lisa Zaran and Jack Conway, two poets I like. I certainly can imagine submitting, but I’m just curious if there are other poets out there who mention in cover letters why they’re submitting to a particular place, in general. Obviously at juked, you need to say something, um, about why you love them so much. smile.

7 comments:

lorguru said...

pretty funny. I'll have to check it out.
-lauren

Shelley said...

When I applied for my current job, it was the first time I'd been "on the hunt" in about, oh, 10 years.

I finished my resume and thought, "This doesn't really get at the real me."

So I added a second page, where I talked about the real me... poetry, singing, juggling, storytelling, etc. etc.

First thing the headmaster asked me in the interview was if I could help him w/ his juggling. Got the job.

So the short answer is, don't suck up for the sake of sucking up... but do bring your whole self to the letter when you are so moved.

'Cause your whole self rocks.

Rob Mackenzie said...

Each editor is different. I think most appreciate it when writers don't blab on and on, but I met the editor of a major UK publication recently and she told me that while she likes a short submission letter, she likes to feel that it's come from a human being, and not from a robot. She likes to sense a trace of personality.

I guess you just need to get a feel for a publication and then guess at what kind of submission letter to send, if it isn't made clear in the guidelines.

I guess that the juked editors want people to read the zine rather than just send to it, and that's why they operate such submission guidelines. It is at least possible that some poets don't read anything in zines that publish them other than their own poems.

SarahJane said...

Hi Shelley,
I thought of that parallel, too, but when hiring someone for a job you're looking at a piece of paper weighing whether you can have a (working) relationship with the person behind it. And that can be more important than job experience/expertise.
But editors want the poems first, right?
I know where you're coming from, and certainly all editors have their tastes and quirks. So I hope I send my I-love-m&ms poems to an editor who loves m&ms, but I don't have a way to know that in advance.
cheers

SarahJane said...

Rob,
If I were an editor, I would also probably like a little trace of personality in a letter. At the same time, personally, I fear coming off like I could blab on and on, or like I'm trying to "get in."

anyway, because of "juked," I submitted some poems today (to a different pub) and mentioned that I do pick up the journal when I visit the states once a year.

I know it must be annoying to get submissions from poets who obviously have absolutely no idea what the journal is like. but in this age, even if you don't purchase a copy, usually you can get a taste for the pub on the internet.
thx for chiming in

Jessy said...

Hi Sarah, I don't think juked is saying they need you to show that you know them well, they just don't want you to accidentally show that you know nothing about them and are blitz-submitting. When I've guest-edited Snakeskin (www.snakeskin.org.uk) I've always been perfectly happy with simple letters such as you describe, though I don't mind hearing if someone found out about the magazine from their friend so-and-so or by googling for a particular poet. That's fine, but not necessary. What annoys me is getting random poems from somebody who hasn't bothered to read the guidelines and doesn't know I'm doing a theme issue on such-and-such.

SarahJane said...

hi jessy,
i think what is probably most annoying is getting absolute shit poems. and after that, absolutely inappropriate poems. And if i were the editor at juked and opened an email that inside said "dear Snakeskin editor," I'm sure I'd cackle, too.

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