I’m feeling pretty confident right now! I know where I’m sending my work, when I’m sending my work, and I’ve got detailed instructions on how to get the manuscript from Point A to Point B.
Now all I have to do is figure out what I’m going to say to each publisher when I query my short story.
Wait… what am I going to say to those publishers?
Is querying for short fiction more difficult than querying for novels? Or agents? I know how things used to work back in the day, but have they changed in 2020?
Well, after a week’s worth of research, I came up with a few answers.
Internet Tip #1: You don’t query for short stories. You write a cover letter.
Trying to Google “query short stories” will get you two types of results. The Were you trying to look for ‘querying short story collections’? results, and the Why you should never query short fiction! results.
Long story short, querying isn’t really a thing that happens for short stories.
For novels, you have to put down a bunch of information up front to encourage the publisher or agent to invest their time and money in you. Creating a query helps you organize all that information into a professional package.
Short stories are way less of an investment. Hell, certain short stories are going to be shorter than a query letter. So just skip it altogether.
Internet Tip #2: Your cover letter should only give the slightest hint of what the story is going to be about.
Again, your cover letter should not be querying the work. So you don’t have to explain every beat in your short story and how it’s going to affect sales.
Just mention what you’ve got, then take a step back so they can take 10 minutes to read it and decide if they want it.
Internet Tip #3: Feel free to brag about anything that shows you’re an expert.
As a writer, you’ve probably held a number of jobs throughout your life. Sometimes it’s good to mention these jobs in your cover letter. Especially if doing so makes you look like an expert. But don’t go nuts.
If your story is a set in a cabin on Isle Royale, you might want to talk about your time teaching English in remote areas or doing volunteer work in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Talking about the time you did tax documents for a dog shelter isn’t really going to help your cred here.
Internet Tip #4: Be brief.
You are only one of hundreds of people who are breaking down this publisher’s door today. Write a cover letter that honors their time while getting them curious about what you wrote.
Internet Tip #5: Check out different types of successful short story cover letters before writing one of your own.
Just like there are a million ways for you to be a great writer, there are a million ways for you to mess up writing a cover letter.
Even thought I’ve outlined the basics here, every publisher is different, and every online short story cover letter guide has different tools you can use.
So check out a few guides, like the ones linked below, before you actually start writing your cover letter:
Taking all this into account, I’m going to start writing the cover letter for my submission to The Rag.
And next week, I’ll let you know how that actually went.