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Writing Short Stories/Formatting for a short story - cover letter and first page



I’ve read several articles and while most are similar, they vary slightly.  Since you have submitted short stories and have been published, I’m assuming your ‘methods’ for submission hold true.

Therefore, could you please advise your thoughts on formatting the first page of a short story (what info to include and where) and what to include in a cover letter, as some articles say “no need to submit a cover letter.” And I’m assuming they say this because my personal info is on the first page of the story.  I would guess a cover letter is important.  

I’m guessing there are many ways to do the above, as long as many of the ‘key’ ingredients are included.


ANSWER: Hi, Michael!

What I've had success with in formatting the first page of a manuscript is to start at about 1˝" from the top, then single spaced against the left margin, type:

My First Name and Last Name
My Mailing Address
My City, State and Zip
My Daytime phone number
My email address

Oh, and if you're publishing with a pseudonym, put "Writing As: My Pseudonym" between
"My First and Last Name" and "My Mailing Address". Any publishing agreement will be with you and any check will come to you, but a pen name should be stated up front. :)

Then double space and center the title of the story. Drop down two more lines and start in on the story. The story should be double spaced with 1" margins all around. The top of the second and subsequent pages should have a header with this information: Mylastname/Mystorytitle/Page2 (or 3, etc.) That way, if the pages get separated on someone's desk they can be put back together.

The jury is still out on whether to staple the story or leave it loose. Most of the editors I've since talked to prefer them loose or bound with a spring clip.

As for a cover letter, I guess it depends on whether you're subbing to a magazine that only does one type of story (like Cemetery Dance, which only does horror, or Realms of Fantasy that only does SF/F) or if you're subbing to a magazine that does multiple genres (The New Yorker) or to an anthology.

If the instructions say "don't", then don't. It's just more paper to shred for them and it might be a test to see if you can follow instructions. But if their rules are absent any preference, I do tend to send a cover. It makes it easier for ME to track when I sent it so I can follow up later. It's also useful to send a copy of the original letter in any follow-up, so they can see about when the submission should have been received.

Does that help? Let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck!


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thanks again.  I “kinda” like what you say about a cover letter in that to me it also seems more professional, and from what I’ve read, it looks like you just make it concise.  Put your contact info, the info of the person you are directing the short story manuscript towards, simply stating what you have written, and (if any) relevant information about self.  Does that seem about right to you?

What are your thoughts about putting the word count in the top right corner on page 1?  

Again, thank you.

Hi, again, Michael.

Sure, you can put word count in the top corner of the story, but I'd put it on the left side, below your contact information and limit it to just the first page. If the market you're selling to is specific to a certain size, it can help.

On the other hand, it can work against you if you're slightly over what the editor would *normally* purchase, because they might not read it at all. I write long, so it's worked against me. I've had better luck with sending it as is, with no mention of the word count (provided it's close to the size required) and let the editor see whether they like it first.

Does that make sense?  Good luck!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of getting short stories published in magazines, ezines and anthologies I can help with writing a cover letter to an editor and editing the story to suit a request for revisions. I can explain publishing terminology, acronyms and manuscript formatting. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of magazines, ezines and anthology publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011. I've also published short stories in multiple anthologies, plus regional and national magazines.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Books/Anthologies: Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing; Short Stories: BenBella Books, Running Press, Prairie Times, California Fish & Game, Freya's Bower, Wild Child Publishing, OxCart Press. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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