I should have known better.
This rejection letter comes from 2001. By then, I was twenty-nine and I really should have known that cute little tricks won’t get you published. But I couldn’t resist.
The “Eureka” referenced in the title is not the current cable TV show. It’s the Eureka Literary Magazine, published by the folks at Eureka College. They rejected my short story, yes, but that’s not the point of this TWiR!
See, for a while there in the nineties (and even into the new millennium, it appears), I had such anxiety about cover letters that I finally resorted to what I thought was a clever gimmick. In my cover letter, I basically said, “Hey, there, Editor! Don’t you just hate pointless cover letters? Well, never fear — I’m not going to go crazy with mine. I’m going to let my work speak for itself.”
My thinking? Not sure any more, but the general idea was this: Some editor would see my cover letter and decide that letting my work speak for itself was a bold move, and then proceed to read my story with impressed eyes. I guess I thought that so many of my fellow wannabes were sending out long, insane cover letters that I would stand out.
There’s so much wrong with this theory that I’m embarrassed even to bring it up. Cover letters are something that new writers stress over. I’ve said this before and i’ll say it again: Keep it simple. Don’t try to be clever or cute. Get in and get out. The goal of the cover letter, really, is just to say, “Hey, here’s a story!”
(You can find my advice on cover letters in my Writing Advice series. And now you know that I earned that advice…)
Needless to say, this approach never worked. One editor even — ever-so-slightly-officiously — called me on this particular bit of bullshit. Did I deserve to be called on it? Eh. Maybe. I generally believe in calling people on their BS, but this was a tiny, harmless bit, so I don’t see the necessity.
Anyway… Here’s Eureka‘s response:
At least I got a personal response!