Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ask an Editor: Cover Letter Bio?

Margie asked: "Do I need to include a brief bio in my cover letter when submitting a story?"'

The simple answer is no, you do not.

Is it helpful?  Potentially, but not always.

I've seen all kinds of bios in cover letters.  From a single sentence to a full page to nothing at all.

Speaking as a working editor, I'd say I tend toward nothing at all over a full page for a bio.  Margie, being an astute writer, asked if she should include a 'brief' bio.  Brevity is the key word.  If you do decide to include one, keep it brief.  No more than three or four sentences.

But are you one of those writers who should include one at all?

Here are some questions to help you decide:

1.  Do I have any writing-related credits to include in my cover letter?  Writing credits would be recent and/or professionally paid publications.  You might also include recent publication in lesser markets if they're well-respected.  Also, if you have participated in professional writing workshops, have a degree in English or creative writing, other writing-related education or activities, you could include those.

Well, OK, just one question.  That's really all there is to it.

Don't include your life story, your sleeping habits, your favorite recreational activities, every place you've ever lived or exotic foreign clime you've visited.  Don't include the title of all 32 stories you've published in obscure publications over the course of 68 years.  I exaggerate, but you're smart enough to realize that.

But what if you don't have any writing-related credits?  Just a simple:

Dear Editor,

I respectfully submit my story "Title Here" for your consideration.


Your Name

Because I'm going to let you in on a little secret:

Editors don't always even read cover letters.  It's just one more thing to do in a long string of things that need to be done to get a story from the slushpile to the printed page.

At Flash Fiction Online, your story gets read first, because what's in your cover letter doesn't really matter.  What matters is the story.  After we've read, if we're interested, we'll read the cover letter to learn more about you.

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