So you’ve bought a copy of the magazine and you think that you are ready to submit your stories or poems. You’ve read our submission guidelines and are pretty sure you know on which side of the envelope the address goes. The only thing that stands between your work and our editorial team is the cover letter; the first thing we will see when opening and filing your submission.
So what should go into that letter?
We’ve received a few rum letters recently: some with pages of author biography and press clippings, others with wildly self-congratulatory descriptions of the attached material, and perhaps even a few containing veiled threats. Editorial paranoia there, probably. Here’s a quick reminder of what we’re looking for…
27 October 2012
Ms Duncania Poetryface
Honestly, just having those three details on a piece of A4 paper is close to perfect. With this cover letter we can get in touch with you, and if we somehow manage to misfile it then we’ll know how profuse our apologies ought to be when we find it.
Your home address would be great too. We prefer email for correspondence as it’s faster, but if you’d rather communicate by post that’s fine.
We’d like it to be the same size (ie A4) as the rest of the submission. We sort the submissions pile into individual monthly bundles, and smaller attached leaves are more likely to fall away from their manuscripts.
Oh, and make the email address legible. This is something that doesn’t always happen.
Things that help
Please find enclosed three stories I am submitting for publication in Ambit:
- ‘Horses I have loved’ (3000 words)
- ‘The day I ate a clock’ (1400 words)
- ‘Aha the turnip’ (600 words)
Things that make no difference one way or the other
Duncania has won the pistachio prize for hidden poetics and has a phd in literature at somewhere brutally prestigious.
Ambit is put together entirely from unsolicited submissions, and we pride ourselves that we read every manuscript carefully. You don’t need to dazzle us with awards. The exception to this would be if your bio is either legitimately fascinating or has a strong bearing on the piece. A story set in Tunisia during the uprising written by a participant of the actual event whets the editorial appetite more than a similar story written by an MA student in Cardiff. The story from Cardiff could very well be brilliant too. Don’t shy away from writing about Tunisia, Welsh friends.
Duncania has had work previously published in The New Yorker, and has a book forthcoming from Faber & Faber.
Again, this doesn’t hurt, but we try to go into every submission without fear of favour.
Things that might get us off on the wrong foot
As we’ve stated, we read every submission carefully and once the submission is filed we try to ignore what is written on the cover letter. Certain things can irk an editor a little, and are probably best avoided.
‘Aha the turnip’ is a picaresque story with a dark heart that subtly evokes a post-Mamet world.
We will decide what you’re subtly evoking, thanks. If the process by which your work is created is an important part of the piece (a cutup or found poetry, for example, or if you’ve machine-translated a Shakespeare sonnet into ancient Venetian then back into English) then by all means mention it. But if you find yourself adding complimentary adjectives then you might be overstepping the boundaries of good cover letter etiquette.
Let us know when you sent it, and how to get in touch with you. And include some brilliant stories or poetry. Simple.