Three Cover Letter Templates to Journal Editors
Each cover letter is unique, and those addressed to journal editors by scientists and academics when they submit their writing for publication are no exception. As an opportunity to present original research in the best possible light, a cover letter is indispensible for persuading a busy editor that a manuscript is worthy of peer review. A letter can only achieve this goal, however, if it is well written, contains everything the particular journal’s author instructions request for cover letters and offers specific and detailed information about why the research reported and the paper itself are perfect for the journal and of special interest to its readers. The originality that should characterise an excellent cover letter therefore prevents the wholesale use of a universal template without significant alterations, but the three sample letters that appear below may prove helpful for scholars who are planning, formatting and drafting a professional cover letter to a journal editor.
The content of the three sample letters is entirely fictional, with the dates, names, titles and situations invented. The specifics pertinent to your own research, your manuscript and the journal you are targeting will give you the raw material to emulate these templates. The format of a traditional business letter has been observed, so contact information for the authors and editors has been provided as complete mailing addresses. This formality may not be strictly necessary when communicating with a journal editor via email, where such details are often truncated, but the complete forms are always acceptable, and proper names and titles are a necessity. If possible, the official letterhead of the university, department or other research body with which you are affiliated should be used along with your name, phone number and professional email address.
Descriptions of the research and manuscript in each of the three examples have been kept simple so that the meaning will be clear to readers of all specialisations, but there are certainly successful cover letters that delve into a good deal more detail. Letter 2 below, for instance, might productively say more about the specific lights used and tomato plants grown and provide numbers and percentages as well. Do keep in mind, however, that the clarity and accessibility offered by a short and simple approach is also valuable, particularly when writing to an editor who may not share your precise specialisation.
Letter 1 adopts the perspective of a doctoral candidate who has rewritten the literature review chapter of his thesis as a bibliographical study and is seeking publication for the first time. Letter 2 introduces a research paper written by several authors and demonstrates how to act as the corresponding author when submitting a multi-author manuscript. Letter 3 posits that the author met the journal editor at a recent conference where an earlier version of the paper now being submitted for a theme issue of the journal was presented.
Letter 1: A Doctoral Candidate Seeking His First Publication
Department of English
University of the Western Shore
San Francisco, CA, USA 98765
Dr. Brian Editing
Journal of Analytical Middle English Bibliography
New York, NY, USA 12345
November 8, 2017
Dear Dr. Editing,
I am writing to submit my article entitled ‘A Bibliography of Hoccleve Studies from the Fifteenth Century to 2017: Patterns of Readership and Response’ for publication in the Journal of Analytical Middle English Bibliography. This manuscript is based on a chapter of my doctoral thesis, supervised by Dr Hoccleve Specialist, and has not been published or submitted elsewhere for consideration.
I believe this manuscript is appropriate for the Journal of Analytical Middle English Bibliography because it combines a complete list and critical summary of previous studies with an in-depth analysis of not only individual contributions, but also the larger patterns of scholarship and their possible significance through the centuries. As I argue in the paper, the autobiographical nature of Hoccleve’s writing and the bouts of madness he claims to have experienced are topics upon which perspectives and approaches swing on a particularly long pendulum. Shifts in opinion regarding the literary quality of Hoccleve’s poetry are similarly striking. Current trends and the annotated Hoccleve bibliography will likely prove of special interest to many of your readers, enabling future research and encouraging scholarly self-awareness.
If you decide to consider the manuscript for publication, I suggest the following two experts as qualified reviewers:
Dr. Medieval Scholarship
Professor of English, Southern University
Dr. Manuscript Expert
Director of Medieval Studies, Northern University
Many thanks for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.
Ph.D. Candidate and Teaching Assistant
Department of English
University of the Western Shore
Letter 2: A Corresponding Author Submitting an Article Written by Several Researchers
Private Plant Research Institute
9201 Pink Greenhouse Place
Coquitlam, BC, Canada, V0V 1A1
Dr Samuel Botanist
Growing Our Greenhouse: A Journal of Current Research
2020 Glass Hill
Colorado Springs, CO, USA, 59678
November 22, 2017
Dear Dr Botanist,
I am delighted to submit an original research article entitled ‘LED Lights Increase Vitamin C Content in Greenhouse Cherry Tomatoes’ for publication in Growing Our Greenhouse: A Journal of Current Research. My colleagues and I at the Private Plant Research Institute in Coquitlam conducted the research and coauthored the manuscript; a full list of the names and affiliations of all ten coauthors is attached. We have all approved the manuscript for submission to Growing Our Greenhouse, and I have been chosen as the corresponding author.
The article is particularly appropriate for the journal’s section dedicated to the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. It is, in fact, a continuation of the research presented in our article ‘Can LED Lights Really Replace the Sun for Tomatoes?’ which was published in that section of Growing Our Greenhouse two years ago. Then we were analysing the results of our first two seasons of growing tomatoes under LED lights. One of the unexpected discoveries we made as we determined which plants and lights produced the best results was that vitamin C content appeared to increase when the ripening fruit was exposed to LED light.
The research reported in the manuscript I am submitting today was designed to investigate further the apparent increases in vitamin C. Its methodology is similar to that of our earlier study, but we used only those cherry tomato plants that we had already shown could thrive under LED lights. We also established a larger number of experimental groups to explore the effects of variables such as light colour, light intensity, hours of exposure, ambient temperature and presence or absence of sunlight. Our findings were convincing to say the least, with vitamin C content doubling and sometimes trebling in fruit exposed to additional LED light. Even fruit given only LED lighting and deprived of all natural sunlight far exceeded the vitamin C content of those tomatoes exposed to natural sunlight alone.
We trust that your readers will find our hands-on empirical method as effective as they have in the past and benefit from our practices and discoveries as they grow and experiment in their own greenhouses.
Thank you for your continuing interest and consideration.
Research Director, Private Plant Research Institute
Letter 3: A Conference Participant Submitting a Paper to the Journal Editor She Met
Chair, School of Business Management
2121 University Road
York, North Yorkshire, UK, YO33 7EE
Dr Margaret Publisher
Journal of Innovative Business Studies
178B West Central Avenue
London, UK, EC9M 6BB
25 November 2017
Dear Dr Publisher,
It was a pleasure meeting you and discussing our similar interests at the Business Management conference in London a couple of weeks ago. As promised, I have revised my presentation and am submitting it for your consideration for the upcoming issue of the Journal of Innovative Business Studies dedicated to management innovations. The new title of the manuscript is ‘Empathy as a Management Strategy Yields Significant Increases in Efficiency and Productivity.’
You might recall that we discussed the challenges of reshaping my presentation, which was designed to generate in conference attendees the emotional responses it discusses, to conform to the structural requirements of the Journal of Innovative Business Studies. The journal’s author instructions were actually very helpful, and I believe the overall argument of the paper is now clearer as a result of the rearrangement. I also took a look at the recent Journal of Innovative Business Studies articles by Sally Scholar and John Researcher that you recommended. The former was particularly helpful and I have cited it more than once in my closing discussion. That discussion has benefited significantly from our long talk at the conference and I hope you do not object to my acknowledgement of your insight.
As you know, the research presented in the manuscript is original and has not been published or submitted elsewhere. My methods comply with the journal’s ethical standards, I have no conflicts of interest to disclose and I have removed all traces of my identity in preparation for blind review. I would respectfully request that Stephen Harsh not review the manuscript, however. His knowledge in this area is extensive, but you may remember from his comments at the conference that he does not share my approach to management or view my recent research with a positive eye. I believe the following two experts would serve as more appropriate reviewers of my paper:
CEO, Management Innovations UK Inc.
Chair, Department of Business Management
University of the Wolds
I look forward to seeing you at the upcoming conference in Leeds. In the meantime, let me take this opportunity to thank you for your interest and consideration.
Chair, School of Business Management
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Writing a compelling cover letter to submit with your manuscript is more important than most authors realize. After all, publishing, at its core, is still a business built on relationships. Tailoring your cover letter to the interests of the acquisition editor makes a good first impression. This is especially important if you have not had the opportunity to meet the editor at a conference or in some other venue.
Ironically, part of the power of a brief cover letter also relates to its short length. In this age of information overload, short pieces of writing have an impact disproportionate to their size. Their very brevity makes it more likely they will be read. To get the most out of this potentially powerful little document, consider the following tips shared by Amy Benson Brown, a writing coach with Academic Coaching & Writing and contributor to the ACW Academic Writing Blog.
Don’t Neglect the Basics
Review the instructions to authors on the website of the journal or press to which you are submitting your work. Follow their guidelines on how to format the submission, including the cover letter.
Use the letterhead paper of your institution, if the publisher requests a paper submission. If the submission is electronic, either attach a digital copy of the formal cover letter or write an email with the same level of formality, including your full title and contact information.
Address the letter to the appropriate editor by name. If you’re not sure who that is, review the descriptions of the editorial staff and their areas of interest on the publisher’s website to determine who is most appropriate.
In the opening paragraph, ask the editor to consider the manuscript for publication. Believe it or not, many authors overlook this seemingly obvious step.
Assure the editor that this manuscript is not being considered for publication elsewhere. Simultaneous submissions can cause big problems for authors, reviewers, and editors. So, it’s generally best to only submit your manuscript to one place at a time. If you have good reason, however, to send your manuscript to multiple editors, honesty is often the best policy.
Keep the cover letter’s length to a page (or page and a half at the most). This typically translates into three to five paragraphs.
Provide the title of your paper, and the names, titles, and addresses of all authors, if you have co-authors.
Make Your Case
Though a good title communicates much about a manuscript, don’t rely on the title alone. In your letter, describe the main idea of your work in a sentence or two that underscores why it matters and the audience to which it is likely to appeal. Carefully select a few additional points about your work to help the editor see why it is a good fit with this particular journal or press. For instance:
Is there new information presented?
Is this topic especially timely for some reason?
Does the content respond to changing curriculum trends or needs in college teaching?
Is there any contextual information that the editor may be interested in or need to know to see the significance of the work?
Does your manuscript have special relevance for this journal or press? For example, if you’re submitting an article, does it respond to previous articles published in that journal? Similarly, if you’re submitting a book, does its topic relate to other books that press has recently published?
Does the design of your piece, if you’re submitting an article, fit a particular ongoing forum within this journal? For example, some journals publish opinion articles on trends or controversies in the field, as well as research articles, and reviews.
Are there any ethical issues, such as a potential conflict of interest, that you need to bring to the editor’s attention? Though it’s only human nature to shy away from mentioning negative issues, the cover letter is actually a great place to head off any concerns. Whatever the nature of the potential conflict of interest, you want to be able to assure the editor that your work complies with the ethical guidelines of your field, whether you are in the sciences, social sciences, or humanities. For more information on ethical guidelines related to publishing, consult the website of your discipline’s primary professional society.
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