How To Write Cover Letters for Journal Submissions
There was a time when providing a cover letter was a necessary aspect of submitting scholarly writing for publication. With online submission forms the norm these days, cover letters are not always required anymore, but a cover letter can help an author navigate a great deal of difficult territory in an effective and efficient manner. Therefore, unless a cover letter is specifically prohibited by a journal or publisher, it is a very good idea to include one when submitting academic or scientific work.

Beyond mentioning that you are submitting the accompanying manuscript for publication, your cover letter can explain (briefly, with everything in a cover letter necessarily brief) why you believe your article or book appropriate for the journal or publisher you have chosen. Your discipline, subject, topic, level of specialisation, methodology, results, conclusions, implications and recommendations may all play a part here, but you will need to emphasise the most compelling points in relation to the publisher’s primary objectives because there will not be room for everything. A useful approach might be to relate your work to writing already published by the journal or publisher, particularly if your research, its methods or its results build in constructive ways upon a recently published article or book on a well-cited or fashionable topic.

While outlining how your submission advances previously published work, you will also have the opportunity to emphasise the innovative and original aspects of your research, which should be an essential part of your cover letter even if you are not directly relating your writing to work the journal or publisher has already published. The details you include should be clear and specific, concisely conveying your confidence and pride in the value of your research and writing, but they should not come across as arrogant or make exaggerated or unrealistic claims about your work. This is a tricky balance to achieve, and many scientists and academics tend to either undervalue or overvalue their work, so having a colleague or mentor who knows your subject area well (and preferably one who has successfully published his or her own scholarly writing) read your cover letter and give you feedback on both the particulars and the overall impression of the letter can be immensely helpful.

Keep in mind as you prepare your cover letter that it may very well be the first piece of your prose read by the editor, so it will act as a sample of your writing as well as a testimony to your understanding of its value and contribution to knowledge in your area. A cover letter should therefore always be proofread, edited and polished to perfection before it is sent, and it is wise to treat all correspondence you exchange with editors with the same care and precision.