The cover letter gives you the opportunity to present an overview of your manuscript to the editor.
Your cover letter should include
- The objective and approach of your research
- Any novel contributions reported
- Why your manuscript should be published in this journal
- Any special considerations about your submission
- Related papers by you and/or your fellow authors (published or under consideration)
- Previous reviews of your submission
- Previous submissions of your manuscript to that journal
- Previous communication you’ve had with journal staff
You’re encouraged to submit previous communications as they can help expedite the review process. If you have any of the following, you can submit them as ‘Supplementary file for editors only’:
- Copies of related papers
- Previous editors’ comments and your responses
- Previous reviewers’ comments and your responses
If you or any of your co-authors are NIH employees, you will have to submit a completed and signed NIH Publishing Agreement and Manuscript Cover Sheet according to NIH’s Employee Procedures.
Singh et al. offer excellent advice on how best to select a journal for a paper and how to format the paper and hence that it is most likely to be accepted.
However, the paper misses a number of important points when putting together a paper. First, putative authors should give adequate time to writing their abstract. The abstract is generally short in the context of the entire article and yet it is the part that is most likely to be read. Certainly, it is most likely to be read first by the editor who will be deciding whether or not to publish the article. In fact, some editors screen papers by reading the abstract and don’t actually read the paper if they are not sufficiently impressed by the abstract. However, authors typically leave writing their abstract to the last minute when they are often exhausted and short of time. This practice should be turned on its head. Authors should spend a significant amount of time writing the abstract and ensuring that it is of high quality and in the correct format for the journal.
Second, there is the issue of the cover letter. Most journals give authors the opportunity to write a cover letter explaining why their article is important and/or topical and/or significant. The cover letter should not just reproduce the abstract-rather it should address the editor directly and explain why the article is right for the journal and its readership. Authors should beware exaggerating the importance of their paper; however, some authors leave the cover letter section blank, and this is to miss out on a great opportunity.
Third and finally, there is the issue of the title. Singh et al. are correct to suggest that titles should be both attractive and accurate. However, authors should also give some consideration as to the format of titles that the journal typically publishes. Authors should ask themselves whether titles are in the form of a question, or are descriptive, or are more journalistic in style. Authors should then format their title in the way that the journal typically publishes. In publishing as in life, first impressions count and the best way to make a good first impression in medical publishing is to pay adequate attention to the title, abstract and cover letter.
1. Singh A, Singh S, Mercy P, Singh AK, Singh D, Singh M, et al. Art of publication and selection of journal. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2014;5:4–6.[PMC free article][PubMed]