The cover letter is not just an annoying submission requirement.
“Please consider our submission. The paper hasn’t been submitted or published elsewhere. Thanks.”
This lackluster text doesn’t do a single thing to convince anyone of the merits of your paper. And that’s a big opportunity lost.
Think of the cover letter as a sales pitch, similar to a cover letter you’d write to accompany a job application. Don’t just announce your paper; persuade the journal editor to consider your manuscript for publication by answering a few key questions in the first paragraph:
- What is unique about your paper?
- What is important about your paper?/How does it advance the field?
- Why does it merit publication?
Providing this information right up front gives the reviewing editor essential information that can mean the difference between the paper moving along to peer review or being tossed onto the rejection pile.
Just as important as the sales pitch, however, is ensuring that your letter complies in every way with the requirements stated in the target journal’s author instructions. We’ve harped on author instructions before: why you should read them and comply with them. Journals have specific reasons for everything you’re asked to do. Don’t ignore or skip the requirements.
Treat your cover letter as a critical piece of your submission. Use it to promote your paper. Follow instructions.