Cover letters

After preparing your manuscript and illustration files for electronic submission, you should next focus on developing your cover letter

The cover letter may need to be uploaded as a separate file from your manuscript, or copied and pasted into the designated area on the submission page. This process will be explained to you when you begin the submission process. 

Always provide a cover letter with your submission, even if author guidelines do not ask for one. Editors rely on cover letters to find the best articles. They are extremely busy people. They do not have the time to read every manuscript submitted to their journal. They are looking for articles that are interesting and are best suited to their journal’s aims and scope. 

Avoiding ‘desk rejection’

If editors think that the science described in your manuscript is of poor quality or does not match journal requirements, they will reject the work outright. 

For instance, Nature receives around 10,000 submitted manuscripts every year. They reject about 60% of manuscripts without even sending them to peer reviewers. This is known as ‘desk rejection’. 

Competition for publication space is fierce, so a well-written cover letter will help make your manuscript stand out from the rest. 

What is the purpose of a cover letter? 

  • It is a way for you to “sell” your work by communicating directly with the journal editor.
  • It can highlight your most important findings, which may be overlooked in a quick read-through by a busy editor.
  • It is an opportunity for you to make a good first impression on the journal editor.

Think of the cover letter as your manuscript’s business card or job application letter. It should be clear and concise; make it no longer than one page. Your cover letter should appeal to a prospective ‘employer’ (in our case, the journal editor). It should also include full contact details for the corresponding author.

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