Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Email Queries

Agh. The Rejecter is recovering from the same cold everyone in NYC had last week. The Rejecter is behind. The Rejecter is wondering why she is talking about herself in the third person.

I would be interested to know what your agency's stance is on email, whether you accept email queries or not. Many agent's emails are listed on agents.query even when they don't accept email submissions. I've heard writers having success contacting those agents anyway.

It seems to me that if an agency is really serious about new writers, they ought to be accepting emails rather than snail mail exclusively. I'm disappointed but I think it's great when a well-known agent emails back & says, no thanks. I'd take a quick no over a 3 months of not hearing any day.

Then's there is the question of pasting in a couple pages or a chapter at the bottom of an email query. Some agents request this, others don't. I know etiquette says don't do it if not requested. But if the agent/assistant is on the fence, then the sample may tickle their fancy. If they were going to reject you anyway, they won't bother reading....

The answer to your initial question varies widely from agency to agency. Four or five years ago, when an agent said they weren't taking email queries, it didn't mean they didn't own a computer. It just meant they didn't use it for work and didn't want to. Now most agents do use computers for work - to contact other agents, clients, editors, and whoever. More and more publishing houses are talking to agents through email. More and more revisions of a manuscript are being sent as an email attachment. In a year or two, it will basically become essential for an agent to have a computer in their office and use it for work.

Queries are a different manner. Initially, agents were against them. Sometimes we feel like it's removing that one last barrier between us and unwanted submissions by idiots who haven't thought out their material and haven't researched how to present it. I mean, if you have to print out a letter and pay 39 cents to mail it, you'll probably put some effort into the letter. You also probably won't just query every agency in existence because it costs money, so you'll look into which agents are in which markets and narrow it down to people who are actually interested in your genre.

Most of the queries we get over email (my boss does accept them, and some unscrupulous sites list agents' emails anyway, so every agent gets them) do not stick to form to the point where it becomes obvious that the author has put absolutely no thought into the email and has just summed the book in a paragraph rife with spelling errors like the agent was a casual acquaintance. Plus, we get tons and tons of queries with attachments, which is just fucking annoying, even though every single agent website has "DO NOT USE ATTACHMENTS" like flashing or in bold or in bold and flashing in a floating macro that follows your mouse. Attachments take time to open, because they require a matching program, and we have to scan them for viruses, and for G-d's sakes, just put the text in your email.

The general rule is: If you can find the agent's email address on a major website (like AgentQuery.com), it's safe to send an email query, but be professional about it. And yes, you can put the first couple pages below the text if you want; that's no skin off our backs.

7 comments:

Linda Adams said...

Some interesting points about equeries. I actually prefer to send letters, though my research has turned up a number of agents who are taking only equeries now.

Pretty much everything says to treat it as a professional business letter (easy enough if you have a snail mail one written). But what kind of information would be expected in the subject line?

writtenwyrdd said...

Interesting info, and thanks, Rejecter. I don't know that I'd want to enfuriate an agent by enclosing unrequested material, even if it is in the body of the email. I think I would prefer to have them see I can follow the directions.

When I worked in personnel and was a recruiter for my firm, it was the folks who didn't follow directions in just such a manner (because they assumed they were special) who were immediately identifiable as problem children should they happen to get hired. Most of those same individuals were let go for cause not too far down the line, or they quit after having used the company as a means of paying for the move across country before they went on to jobs they liked better.

I really don't want to be perceived as one of the Special Ones who are not so very special, after all!

Mark said...

I email queries almost exclusively. Query: [title] in the subject line seems to be the order of the day for most agencies and some will even ask for an attached partial or full when the time comes. Mostly I embed the text in the email. For a proposal this convenient, but I sure wouldn't want it with 300 pages.

Attachments aren't that big a thing if sent rtf. All email programs scan attachments automatically so I don't see the problem. Printing a whole manuscript is expensive and problematic to send. All that said, I do what I'm told in this equation.

Anonymous said...

Aren't agents' inboxes constantly overflowing?

To the questioner. A lot of agents read outside the office (and thus away from their computer). Printing it yourself means you have a better chance to get your work read. Why assume the agent will spent money on paper to print your query if they can use that same paper to send a query through to a few editors?

Anonymous said...

So lemme get this straight: we can't call you. We can't send e-mail queries. Sometimes we can't send snail-mail queries either.

I'm getting the idea that unless my name is Britney Spears or Terrell Owens, I shouldn't waste an agent's time querying at all.

Chumplet said...

Anonymous 4:52:
You're giving up before you even start. Send according to the individual agents' requirements.

Anonymous said...

Chumplet: I query publishers constantly. Not agents...yet, though I'm planning to seek one once a deal in the works comes through.

See, from pubs I've had form letters, helpful letters, "you've gotta be kidding, we don't KNOW you so your stuff sucks" letters, "send me something else" letters, and acceptances (all so far via e-mail). When I check on some of the web sites, they maybe take e-queries, but then again, maybe they don't. I'm currently querying one that says to send a synopsis but they don't say what they want as far as length, etc., and they SURE don't mention they want 5 pages, or 10, or three chapters, or the like.

That means, many times I end up guessing, and probably honking off someone in Ms. Rejector's position.