Cover letters are an important part of the submission process, but we'd like to set the story straight about the usefulness of cover letters to IR.
A detailed bio is a crucial part of the cover letter. Myth! Of course you want to brag when you have a boatload of publications, and rightly so--you earned them. But a bio isn't required at all in your cover letter, and the contents of any biographical information have absolutely no bearing on how your work is read. We don't care if you've published ten books or never had anything published at all--we give every submission a full, fair shot.
A cover letter isn't really necessary, since your work is what's important. Myth! (Sort of.) While it's true that your work is what's most important, having easy access to your contact information and the title of the work (or works) you've submitted makes things much easier on us. And if we have good news for you, you want us to be able to get in touch with you, right?
I need to pitch my work in my cover letter. Myth! A cover letter for Indiana Review doesn't need a pitch--we're going to read your work. So let it speak for itself. It's hard to sum up a story in just a few sentences (and even harder to talk about poems), so just let your work doing the talking. We're looking at the quality of your work itself, not how engaging you can make the summary.
We hope these few tips help you, and keep sending us your work!