Agent Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Submissions

In the wake of the holiday, Agent Manners is feeling thankful for turkey gravy, grandma’s stuffing recipe, mom’s apple pie, and home-made-from-scratch brownies via the extended in-law family.

However…. she does not feel thankful for staples. And she wants to know what’s up with this? More than half the queries that arrived last week (prior to the holiday) were stapled. Staples are nasty. They garner pulls on clothing and catch on fingers. The best ones, of course, are those queries with the SASE stapled to the sample pages, which requires removal of said staple in order to reply. Agent Manners has not quite seen this level of stapling — usually there are a couple and most people use paperclips, binder clips, rubberbands, or leave the pages loose in the envelope. Is someone somewhere advocating the use of staples? If so, please take Agent Manners advice and desist.

And in the wake of that rant, Agent Manners offers this entry to receive questions regarding submissions etiquette. Post them in the comments with the usual “Dear Agent Manners:” and imaginative signatures (e.g. “rejected in Seattle”) and we shall go to work. Questions will be accepted between now and end of business EST tomorrow.

Hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend.

24 responses to “Agent Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Submissions

  1. Dear Agent Manners:
    In light of your recent thoughts on staples, what is your stand on paper clips?
    Twisted in Tennessee
    (Heeheehee… couldn’t resisit!)

    • Dear Twisted:
      I adore paperclips. I have thousands. In many sizes and colors. I don’t think I will run out until after the sun has gone dark.
      Signed,
      Agent Manners

  2. Glad that you had a good holiday, with much good food.
    Sorry about the staples.

  3. Dear Agent Manners,
    Would a box of staples come across better? Or the cliche box of chocolates?
    signed,
    recommended by editor, rejected by your co-worker

  4. Dear Agent Manners,
    When sending a full MS, or indeed, anything that’s too large for a tidy 9X12 inch or 10X13 inch clasp envelope, what is the preferred enveloping method? Should we be scavenging appropriate sized boxes, or would a Jiffy envelope do? Help me, Agent Manners, you’re my only hope.
    Signed,
    You’d Never Know My Dayjob Included Being the Shipping Manager, Would You? in Michigan

  5. Dear Agent Manners,
    Why is it that agents and editors warrant such gracious treatment and everyone else who handles written material must cope with staples? I am a lawyer in solo practice, with no staff. I get dozens of stapled documents that must be taken apart for photocopying. They aren’t THAT bad.

  6. Agent communication
    Dear Agent Manners,
    What should one do if they aren’t clear on the submission guidelines? I know that too much communication is annoying to agents who receive so much on a daily basis. I’m especially confused when people ask for a synopsis, but don’t specify length – or if it should be brief or detailed. There seems to be quite a range of what’s acceptable. I don’t want to send the wrong thing to any of these agents, but also don’t want to commite query-cide by asking too many questions.
    Yours truly,
    Paralyzed in Seattle

  7. Chumplet says…
    Dear Miss Manners,
    In light of your ill regard for staples on the corners of queries, what do you think of staples in the middle? All you have to do is lift each corner in order to read the whole document. No pesky staple to catch on your fingers if you carefully handle the said query by its edges.
    Or, if you prefer, the aspiring author can enclose a convenient staple remover, personalized just for you. It will be attached to the query by a handy chain, just in case if falls out of the envelope when you open it.
    Clueless in Canada

  8. Contents of query letter
    Dear Agent Manners:
    Many of the sample query letters I’ve seen start straight in with the hook. Do you prefer this, leaving even title, genre, and word count until a later paragraph?
    If a novel isn’t part of a series, but I have plans for future science fiction novels, how much should I say about this? I want to concentrate on the novel I’m pitching, but I was just reading Donald Maass’s explanantion about how success might not become real until novels twenty five or twenty six, so I feel I should say something.
    I understand that a novel has a much greater chance of success if the author is working hard to promote it. It seems like an agent would be more interested in a novel if the author is already thinking hard about how to promote it – but none of the recommended sample query letters I’ve seen talk about that. Is there any circumstance you would want to hear about an unpublished author’s plans for book signings, readings, and online promotions?
    Hopeful in Long Island New York (If you have a window facing south east you might see me.)

  9. Chumplet is really clueless
    I gave Agent Manners the wrong name in my salutation. A Cardinal Querying Sin. Please forgive me, Agent Manners!

  10. Dear Agent Manners:
    Hi. I’m glad you’re soliciting questions, because I have one-a-couple.
    1. When you get submissions from overseas, what’s the SASE situation?
    1A. Would it be rude of me to ask for a reply by email if an agent has requested a SASE, given the circumstances?
    To explain:
    I’m in France and I want to send query letters to U.S.-based agents. But, I can’t affix a French stamp to the SASE. Also, La Poste leaves much to be desired in terms of… well, every facet of their service, and I don’t want to obsess over whether or not an agent received my submission and/or actually sent a reply. And I have read how much agents HATE submissions they have to sign for.
    Right now I am contemplating a convoluted, labyrinthine scheme involving my parents in New Jersey acting as glorified secretaries, but frankly, they don’t deserve that. Also, the thought of not only receiving a rejection letter, but having it read to me by my parents over the phone, makes me want to purchase therapy sessions in bulk.
    I appreciate anything you can tell me about how other writers have achieved this feat.
    Cannes-fused

    • The current postage for a single sheet to the UK is 90c, and I believe that holds true for the rest of Europe.
      Here’s the good news: you have to jump through a few hoops, but if you have a credit card, you can buy your stamps from the USPS site, *and they will process the order promptly and send them out within the week.*
      No more coupons. No more excuses.
      I have a shiny stamp with ‘s name on it…

      • I will definitely check that out – who knew the USPS was so slick?
        It all comes down to having faith in La Poste – four missing Amazon boxes and two returned care packages have got me beat down.

    • Once upon a time, we had these lovely International Reply Coupons. Do such things still exist? It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a post office.
      I believe that some agencies and/or publishing houses allow the inclusion of a postcard, already addressed and stamped to you, upon which you have written “Package has been received on ___ date” and some other useful identifying information (great for figuring out *which* publisher received *what* manuscript). If am I am remembering correctly, this is what Harlequin suggests for anxious authors who want to be sure their precious packages have arrived, and it gives others a date from which to measure those months-long reading times.
      I dare not speak for Agent Manners on this one, of course, but an international posted package might warrant the postcard treatment, even if she will get back to you a lot sooner.

  11. Dear Agent Manners,
    Aside from remembering to send you a paperclip worthy of your attention, I would like to know another preference you might have regarding submissions.
    If someone were to send you an SASE with a small reply slip in it with ‘liked, but not for us’, ‘not interested’, or ‘liked, please send sample pages’ choices, would this be considered a faux pas?
    Some query information says to use a reply card for agent-needed expediency. Other information says the agency might have a form rejection letter and will need the SASE. Is it wrong to provide both the envelope and a small paper for the agent to use at her discretion, provided the reply slip is mentioned in the query as a courtesy offering?
    Sincerely,
    Not Wishing to Offend in Texas

  12. Dear Agent Manners:
    several of your esteemed colleagues have been asking for a biography to be submitted with the query. What (and how much) ought an unpublished writer with a typical writer’s CV (assistant gardener, multimedia designer, alphabetical sorter of index cards etc) write to satisfy agental curiosity?
    Signed,
    Respectably employed across the pond

  13. In my line of work I handle lots of correspondence. Staples are the bane of my existence.

  14. Dear Agent Manners:
    When corresponding with an agent one has queried, it is incorrect (or annoying; is there a difference?) to reply a “thanks for the info!” to reply from said agent. A for-instance would be, did you in fact get my partial you requested, to which the agent says, sure did, just behind, and would be author writes back, thanks. Or is it better to keep the inbox less cluttered and feel rude by failing to thank them for responding?
    That sounded cluttered right there. Sure hope my novel is better.
    Sincerely,
    Partially Polite

  15. Dear Agent Manners:
    What is the protocol for a writer who is in the enviable position of having sold a story to a publisher and is looking for representation prior to signing the contract?
    Yours,
    Cautiously Optimistic

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