from the mixed up files of Agent Manners

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.



Dear Cannes-fused (loved that one!):

As others have pointed out, there are alternatives. The coupon has its flaws — it’s expensive, it requires the agent to make a trip to the post office (and the postal employee to figure out where they are in the convoluted menu system), many countries are no longer offering them. Agent Manners advocates ordering stamps from the USPS if possible or having a friend in the US buy and mail them (seems silly but may be the only route available to some). Your idea of using your parents as a home-base has also been done (regardless of the resulting angst). Actually, in your case, it may be best to simply have your parents buy you stamps and send them over. Agent Manners hears they make a lovely gift in holiday cards.

Email queries can be complicated. Some agencies don’t accept them. DMLA does but the official agency policy doesn’t require a reply unless interested (I always reply, but sometimes I get bounced or spam-filtered). And it is possible that requesting it in a snailmail query that lacks an SASE may be overlooked. Agent Manners doesn’t consider it rude to ask, but it may be ambitious to expect it to always work.

Postcards to confirm receipt (as mentioned by feyandstrange) may reduce the amount of anxiety involved. They still require postage, though. And Agent Manners most seriously recommends preprinting your postcards as they have a tendency to get eaten by printers and one never knows if the agent in question has sufficiently practiced their penmanship.

11 responses to “from the mixed up files of Agent Manners

  1. this one stumped me too. likewise, asking my post office got me lots of blink-blink responses.
    I have an American friend now who handles snail mail subs when I need to, and makes out the SASE addressed to me. Bit of a schlepp, but thank God for the internet after all, would never have met her if not for that.

  2. With so many agents out there who do, in fact, request (and prefer) e-queries, why even bother with the ones who only want snail mail queries?

    • I would have to say that if you’re willing to eliminate perfectly good agents based on what kind of query you send, you must have a very large pool of perfectly good agents who work with your sort of material available. I recommend picking out an agent you think you’d like first, and not worrying about submission methods until you’ve eliminated all the agents and agencies which aren’t otherwise right for your needs.
      There’s an older post on this journal about why this particular agent prefers non-email queries. It has a lot to do with the fact that people will send an email with a lot less thought and effort than an envelope, and that people who haven’t really thought through these things or read submission guidelines are also likely to be submitting writing which betrays this thoughtlessness.

    • Because I am totally in love with this one agency and want want want them to be MINE.

  3. Oh goodness, did I forget to say that said postcard should be pre-stamped? Oops.
    Pre-printing, or if it’s cheaper, a large rubber stamp with nice clear letters is an excellent solution for the postcards. My solution (as my printer can’t handle postcards) is to print the relevant info on a large sticky label (I believe they’re two or three times the size of an address label, blank white), then slap said label on the back of a postcard. Then add postage likewise, and bless the Post Office for making sticker-style stamps.
    I suppose it should also be obvious that the postcard picture should not be offensive or obscene in any way. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with blank white, although I tend to pick up a handful of local touristy cards instead.
    On International Reply Coupons: member countries are required to honor them, but not to actually stock them. However, your local post office should permit you to *order* them, and not charge you until they are in stock. According to the USPS as of April, US rates are $2.00 per coupon.
    If by chance you happen to have ham radio enthusiast friends, they may also be able to tell you lots of useful tips for IRCs, as they are beloved of ham radio people as well.

    • I queried a top agent in London (who also has offices in the U.S.) and explained on the SASE that I didn’t know how to handle the situation. A few weeks later, I received her very nice rejection with a British metered “stamp” on it. I had researched all about her and knew she was a nice person, then she proved it.

  4. Thank you! I’ll take this under advisement. I’m trying to limit my query list to email-friendly agencies. I think Mom and Dad are going to have to get in the act for the rest.
    Love, Cannes-fused

  5. Thanks for the answers. I’ve been in publishing for a long time and I’m always fascinated to learn new writers views about these always changing times.

  6. Jeez, I wake up to hear Sarkozy is trying to abolish the 35-hour work week – which means that no one will get their mail EVER because everyone will be on strike until the end of time. Looks like the ol’ parents are gonna have to get their printer hooked up after all.
    Maybe I should write in each of my query letters that my parents will be reading their replies to me over the phone, so make them nice? LOL

  7. Cannes-fused.
    I feel your pain, as I also live outside the US. But it is really easy to order US postage over the internet. A little harder to dig through the USPS website to find out the appropriate postage amount… But also not that hard. My mantra when agent hunting was always, “Make it easy for the agent.”

  8. I think most snail-mail-preferring agents would be happy to contact you via email IF they’re interested in your material.

    So: If you’re sending a query letter, get US stamps from your parents and affix them to the SASE you send with the query. That way, the agents who choose to reject your query are not being inconvenienced.

    If you’re sending a partial or full manuscript, however, then tell the agent in your cover letter that you’re submitting internationally. Ask them to reply via email (although you can still send them a small SASE for their convenience) and let them know the submission itself is recyclable. (It just costs too much in stamps to have them send a big stack of paper back to you. It’s cheaper to reprint the manuscript for the next agent who requests it.)

    This is how I handle it submitting from Canada. I realize it’s an order of magnitude more difficult submitting from another continent. Best of luck!

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