In my recent bout of enthusiasm brought on by my first residency of graduate school, I wrote and submitted a piece of flash fiction to a magazine for publication. Since I’m not particularly focused on flash fiction (and indeed, if you asked me, I’d tell you I couldn’t write it) this is the first time I’ve attempted this, and as always, I find myself a little daunted.
What am I supposed to be doing? Is this good enough for publication? Aren’t editors supposed to see this first or something? I’ve looked it over like a thousand times; is it good enough now? How can I tell? Oh hell with it, I’m just submitting it.
By the time I’d surfed my way back to the submission page and started filling out the forms, I’d convinced myself that I knew what I was doing, and that I wasn’t making a terrible mistake.
…Until they asked me for a cover letter.
Now, in the grander scheme of things, I know what a cover letter is, at the very least. I’ve gone job hunting – I do it now still – and I know that the point of a cover letter is to prove yourself beyond what your resumé shows.
…So what do I put on a cover letter for a flash fiction submission?
I was paralyzed. What the hell did this mean?! I hadn’t seen this on any of the submission requirement pages. No one had ever warned me about cover letters for fiction submissions. How did I further sell myself as an author, when it wasn’t a book I was trying to pitch? Just read it! It’s only two-and-a-half hundred words! What more can I say?! I was panicking. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea anymore.
I turned to a good author friend of mine, Lyn Thorne-Alder, and sent out a tweet into the aether, asking if she was around for troubleshooting. Lyn’s submitted online before. She’ll know what to do. And sure enough, she was there. When I posed the question to her, I got a startlingly logical reaction. I had asked, “What do they want in a cover letter?” Her response?
“To prove you’re not a bot.”
…Was it really that simple? And yet, it made perfect sense.
But how sad is that? In a world where technology can connect us in ways our ancestors would have viewed as nothing short of magic, I have to write a letter saying “Hi, my name is K Orion Fray and I’m submitting my flash fiction piece, [Name] standing roughly at [number count] words for your consideration. Thank you for your time” so that the people on the other end know I’m real. …Can bots add attachments? Have we gotten that far? (I hope not. I may be in trouble if the bots are submitting fiction; I’m sure they’re more concise than I am.)
So I managed to come up with an acceptable cover letter, and sent my submission into the void called the Internet. With luck, I have proven myself worthy and human enough to be considered…and maybe, just maybe, they’ll let me in.
But until then, I’ve still got one more workshop to close out this residency. And there’s still a lot more places looking for submissions. I’ve got my work cut out for me.