I'm astonished how many people include summaries of their short stories in their cover letter — universally to the detriment of the submission sent. It seems like many more folks are doing it now than they were the last time I had a fiction slushpile (three years ago.) I know Writer's Digest has erroneously been advising people to do this for years, but usually it doesn't take long for a writer to learn otherwise. So where is this trend coming from?
I didn't know you weren't suppose to include summaries when submitting short stories; I suppose I thought it was like sending out queries for novels and something you just do. (I wouldn't know anything about the process since I don't write short stories or novels.)
Hee! In your case, perfectly excusable.
It's a bad idea for two reasons:
1) It doesn't matter what you say about your story in your cover letter, because the editor is going to look at your story anyway and decided whether to read further based on your opening paragraphs.
2) Ten times out of ten the summaries are poorly written and make the stories sound dumb.
I remember slushing for FM and I skipped right to the sentence where they listed their credits. Never read another damned thing. Didn't seem relevant, and even then, I mostly read the credit line to see if they had a big three hit or multiples in the same "tier" as FM, which would have meant that I had to send it to the editor no matter what.
It varies from forum to forum, but some communities are really stringent about summaries and warnings, etc. I personally can't stand them because they're so hard to write and if someone wants to know what my story is about they should, you know, read it.
I knew it came from the lower echelon 'online writers forum/groups' as we used to see it a lot at DOD.Its been around a LONG time, apparently taught as a way to get an 'edge' over other writers. They often cited which groups told them to do what as if it was a good thing.The pink scented paper or self illustrated ones always stood out,and ALWAYS came with the dread synopsis.
I think the practice evolved from the blurb or elevator pitch for a novel. Either way its an utterly horrible practice. When I see it I know there's a 50% chance I'll be chucking it by page 5 (I have a greater tolerance for abysmal writing then Mike.)
Frankly it either has nothing to do with whats about to follow OR it makes it sound so bad I want to burn it before reading. So I skip the self aggrandizing and synopsis and just read. Because sometimes a newbie with bad 'pitching' information can write a good story.Rare,but possible.
My favorite letters are the ones that make fun of the format, with hilarious fake publications and credentials or the ones that just say 'Dear Editor 'SuckupSuckupSuckup read my story, SuckupSuckupSuckup' thank you for your consideration...
Seriously though, its cut dry and easy.
My name is >>> I have been Published in ... ( 3 or so of the best places)
Here's my story... ****wordcount. Which I hope fits your publications needs.
SASA included or reply by...
All we need, all else is superfluous.
Anyway, that's my 2 cents.I gotta dredge slush tomorrow anyway.
Agree: I think it's the way people have been latching onto the idea that all it takes to get published (in novels) is a good query letter. As though a good query letter will make them a bajillionaire or break them for life.
Dunno. I never read the cover letter until after I've made up my mind about the story. Tired of getting crappy stories from authors who've been published already and talking myself into thinking it's better than it is, guilting myself into passing things on.
LOL, I'm laughing at this thread. There've been times where I've started writing things like this (not in story submissions, but in comments on posts), and usually when I get to the "so I don't know what I can bring" part (or its equivalent), I sit up and say to myself, "Wait a minute. If this is really true, maybe I should... just not comment." And then I don't comment. So if the submitter really feels he doesn't have anything to bring to the anthology, maybe he shouldn't submit! ... But then again, we're always told not to pre-reject our own stories. Okay. But in that case ... don't damn yourself by explaining how wrong you're likely to be!
Yeah, it strikes me as a rather stream-of-consciousness approach to query writing--maybe those thoughts were going through his head... but he can always **edit them out** before sending the query letter. (And truly, I speak as someone sympathetic to stream-of-conscious writing. It's just that editing really can be your friend. Really.)
I'm afraid I'm very strict on what counts as a reprint. If you've publicly posted it online, you've published it.
(If it's in some sort of locked post, though, that only friends or group members can access, I have no issue.)
Edited at 2012-12-10 10:23 pm (UTC)