I am teaching tonight (and preparing for the lecture today) so there will be very light blogging today, naked or not (tune in tomorrow).
I am also struggling with writing the cover letter for PLoS. I have never written (or even read) a cover letter before so I asked some friends for samples of theirs and it makes me really uncomfortable how self-advertising they are supposed to be: me, me, me. I have as big ego as anyone, but writing a couple of pages about how great I am just rubs me wrong. I'll keep trying...
I've discovered that when forced to write about myself, it helps if I have someone to run my draft document by. Often another person is more willing to brag about me than I am.
Whenever I'm on a search committee, the main thing I look for in a cover letter is not so much self-aggrandisement but a very to the point relating of the candidate's qualifications to the very specific requirements in the job ad, ie. relating the experiences outlined in the CV to the position. If I'm looking at dozens of applications, don't make me draw the lines, draw them for me.
Just like an abstract for a grant application, it's a matter of framing. ;-)
OK, done, written and sent. Hwoosh! And I don't even think it is too bad and too self-congratulatory in the end.
Could it be a cultural thing? Having problems going on and on about yourself and your amazing talents? Where I come from it's considered rather rude and pretentious to do that. In the US you will never get a job if you can't write that you are the most worthy candidate they have and that they'd be losing out big time if they didn't hire *the* utmost expert in the field: yourself. Ugh, I'll never get used to it. I'm glad you managed.
A basic curriculum vitae where it concerns the subject of the article, and a brief precis of the article itself. All you really need. Start the cover letter with something like, "Enclosed you shall find my article on ..." and go on from there. If you have any space left (you should) provide information on your studies, interests and hobbies, and your work. Let them know what fields you are interested in covering in future submissions.
Finally, go ahead and fret and fuss. You're going to anyway, so I might as well give you permission. :)