Beginning writers are always afraid of the cover letter. And, for good reason, it's the point of entry where you expose yourself to the editors and ask for acknowledgement and acceptance. It can be a scary task. My advice is to keep it simple. In my opinion most editors don't hunker over cover letters with a magnifying glass determined to find fault - they don't have the time! Let your writing you submitted do the work.
That said, cover letters are a necessary piece to have with almost all submissions. Remember to always follow the publication's guidelines. Honestly, my cover letters change all the time. Below is my most current one, but there have been many variations over the years. I've inserted throughout the letter several comments and advice for those new to the submission process. Hope this helps your pieces find their own homes.
Kim Drew Wright
October 13, 2014
Dear JOURNAL Editors (There is debate on whether to address your submission to a specific editor. Lately, I tend to stick "Fiction Editors" or "Poetry Editors" or the journal's name. If their guidelines state to send it to a specific person then it's easy to plug their name in, or if their masthead only lists a few people as staff with specific titles. However, most of the time other readers are receiving these submissions and they may never reach a top editor. I figure if the publication is very uptight about this formality then they should list the name in the guidelines. So there.),
Please review the attached short story, “The Restorer,” for possible inclusion in JOURNAL (Get straight to the point.). I’ve noticed several writers I admire in your journal and I would love for my work to be published, as well, with you (I usually don't include this statement. However, in this case I had gotten the journal name from another writer's list of publications - which is a great place to pick up ideas of where to send your own work. If you have another connection with this journal, this is a good place to insert it.). This is a simultaneous submission (ALWAYS state in your cover letter if you are sending your story to other journals for consideration. If it gets accepted elsewhere, you must notify all the other journals you sent it to). “The Restorer” is part of a linked short story collection I hope to publish.
I have poetry and fiction with Ascent Aspirations online and print anthology, What We Carry Home, The Voices Project, Circa, The Milo Review, Artvilla, and The Pinch. I graduated from UNC – Chapel Hill. I am a member of James River Writers and active in the Poetry Society of Virginia (I post their Facebook and Twitter feeds among other duties). (This paragraph is a good spot to list any publications you've achieved. If you have yet to publish, place here any other things that make you qualified as a writer. You want them to know you are serious. Keep it short and simple.)
Thank you for your time. I appreciate your consideration. You can visit my author website at http://kimdrewwright.wix.com/kimdrewwright for more details. (ALWAYS thank them for considering your work. And, if you have an author website, direct them to it.)
Bio: Kim Drew Wright has fiction and poetry in several literary journals, including, The Pinch, Ascent Aspirations, and The Milo Review. She graduated from the University of North Carolina and had an advertising career. While currently residing in Richmond, Virginia, she has lived in seven states in the Midwest, South, and East Coast. Three children, two crazy Westies, one mini pig, and a husband occupy Kim's time when she is not scribbling furiously at her desk or paddleboarding the James River. A book of linked short stories, Signals, and a poetry collection, Lady Sawed In Half, are in progress. Keep connected with Kim at kimdrewwright.wix.com/kimdrewwright. (I've started automatically adding a brief bio because it seems the majority of journals ask for it and it saves me time. Bios are another daunting task! Add any relevant writing information and throw in a couple of personal facts that others might find interesting. Watch the word count, sometimes it is listed in the guidelines.)