10 steps to a successful manuscript cover letter

“What goes in the cover letter then?”

Something a little snappier this week.

I was approached by a colleague the other day for advice on writing a cover letter for a manuscript. Here are my quick tried and tested, waffle free tips:

  1. Address it to a named editor – but make 100% sure you have the correct name
  2. Meticulously follow all requirements laid out in the instructions for authors, they often request specific conflict of interest or authorship wording for the cover letter
  3. Keep it under one page
  4. Explicitly ask to be considered for publication in the first paragraph
  5. Cite one or two previously published papers if relevant, especially if high impact and/or yours. This is a great way to introduce the why
  6. We show that…be brief, honest and jargon free.  Don’t copy from the manuscript
  7. …This is important because…as per 6
  8. …This has implications for…as per 6 and tailor to the interests of the journal
  9. State how your manuscript would appeal to the readership of x journal in the final paragraph
  10. Name drop; discreetly.  There are exceptions to this but generally I advise to sign the letter from the senior author, the editor is more likely to know or have heard of them

There you have it, my not so secret recipe. I think after a while we all develop our own style and templates for these kinds of thing, what are your winning tips and/or experiences with manuscript cover letters?

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