more on queries – a work in progress

I’m still getting a lot of questions on the post last week for queries, so I’m thinking I need a FAQ or something because I can’t tell everyone individually the fate of their query and lots of these comments are coming in anonymous which means I don’t know who you are or the title of your book, even if it was a query that stood out from the rest.

It certainly would be nice for authors if agents could track each query, but the volume simply makes that an implausible and inefficient use of time. I only track requested partials and manuscripts. When I post dates on my blog for queries that I’ve read, they are as of receipt on my desk (not just in the office). If you see the date and think you should have gotten a reply according to that date, then either the internet or the post office ate it. In which case, I invite you to resubmit the query.

In any case, here’s as much as I can think of about queries and responding via both snailmail and email — and please feel free to comment so I can try to make this as exhaustive as possible. Also, please note that this only applies to me specifically. Though it’s possible other agents might generally be close to my own process, it’s not necessarily so.

What your Query Should Include
According to the guidelines on maassagency.com — query letter, one-page synopsis, first five pages. (No headshots. No disks/CDs.)
Note: I recently said a 2-5 page synopsis is acceptable because I full realize a one-page synopsis is an ideal dream for agents.
Note: I emphasize first five pages. Not random pages.

Snail-mail
Send an SASE (not a postcard). If you don’t send an SASE, you may not get a response.
(as per the Official Sidekick’s suggestion: SASE stands for self-addressed STAMPED envelope)
If you live in a foreign country, don’t forget to allow for more transit time.

E-mail to info [at] maassagency.com
No attachments. Period. (If I want them, I’ll ask for them.)
I also will not click on embedded links.
If you can, please use plain text. HTML is right out. I don’t like having to struggle to decipher the text.
Note: the DMLA official website says we will only respond if interested. I attempt to respond to them regardless myself.

Response Time
As per our official agency guidelines at http://www.maassagency.com/submissions.html our usual response time on a query is two to three weeks (occasionally faster). That’s probably a safe estimate (but it is only an estimate). Due to the volume, I find that electronic queries can often take the same amount of time.

18 responses to “more on queries – a work in progress

  1. Suggestions: Do you prefer snailmail or e-mail?
    What’s your response time for snailmail and e-mail? I didn’t know if you wanted to include that or not, but I thought it would be helpful since that is the first question I see on most writer’s boards. :*)
    ~Tyhitia
    http://obfuscationofreality.blogspot.com/

    • I used to have a preference for snailmail queries because there are things (like attachments and strange fonts) that can be a real problem, but I’ve since decided that I don’t have a real preference either way.
      On our official guidelines ( http://www.maassagency.com/submissions.html ) it says it will take two to three weeks to answer your query. That’s probably a reasonable benchmark. Sometimes I do better. The only reason it tends to take longer is if there is a delay in the query arriving. I don’t find my email queries to be that much quicker because of the sheer volume of them.

  2. Nailing down the genre
    Ms Jackson,
    A question of taste for you: do you prefer writers solidly nail down the genre of their novel (i.e. A Post-Apocalyptic Dark Urban Fantasy) or is painting with a broad stroke (and letting the agent and editors decide) preferred?

  3. Do you share queries with other agents in your office or do they share with you?

  4. offers
    If I sent you a query that you haven’t gotten to yet and I get an offer from another agent, should I let you know through the info address? I know that if you were reading a partial or full, it would be the polite thing to do, and I don’t expect any agent who hasn’t even gotten to the query yet to jump in with “send me the full…give me time” or anything, but it seems polite so you can skip over my query. Or is this type of email just cluttering up your inbox? And uh..yeah…there is one in the info inbox sent today telling you I got an offer…so I hope that I don’t come across like a pest. Of course, I guess it doesn’t really matter now as I already did it, but others might want to know.

  5. Perhaps you should emphasize the “stamped” part of SASE, given the rather surprising number of people who seem to ignore that requirement.

  6. Thank you Thank you Thank you
    I was putting together my snailmail query to you and was wondering the best way to put it together.
    I can’t thank you enough for this post. My wife says thank you to for the simple reason that she got to laugh while I danced like a girl with joy.

  7. This may be a slightly dumb question, but do you want the synopsis to be included in email queries along with snail-mail ones?

  8. “Though it’s possible other agents might generally be close to my own process, it’s not necessarily so.”
    I think it’s important to stress this sentence. And if you’re querying widely, take the time to research each individual agent’s guidelines because they do vary.

  9. A couple questions regarding manuscript format.
    Do you use the centered # for all changes of scene, or just perspective? I have spots where a character does something, a little time passes, then that same character does something else. Do you have to use the centered # there as well, or just a blank double space?
    Also I’ve heard the chapter title should be somewhere around row 40, in the middle of the page. Correct?

    • Since I’m not the person who sets it to type, I’m really not the right person to answer this question. In terms of submissions for me, if it has the basics – 1 inch margins, double-spaced, one side of the page, readable font in reasonable point size, I’m pretty much okay with it. Oh, and page numbers – you wouldn’t believe how many people leave those out.

  10. Headshots
    I’ve heard that if you have a pro headshot and it looks good, you should put it on your bio page.
    Is this a mistake, or not?

  11. Thank you for the note about plain-text! (I’ve already collected my extremely nice rejection from you, before I found this, alas…) Could you suggest what to do if one has, for instance, internal thoughts written in italics? Should one put in “raw” HTML in angle-brackets or regular brackets (i.e., [i]italics[/i])? Should one indicate italics with *stars* or /slashes/ or _underscores_?
    Or should one grit one’s teeth and send it in what’s going to wind up being HTML text? (At least it will be Courier 12-point when I send it, and not Ariel micropoint…)
    I wish that all agents who accept email queries would make note of their plain text/HTML/rich text preferences. *sigh* (In my niche RPG editor job, I loathe and despise HTML email. I don’t mind any of the usual text conventions for getting
    around it, and can actually read/write simple “raw” HTML (bold, italics, etc.) just fine. It’s when it gets put into a font that I can’t read, can’t easily change… Ugh.)
    Thank you for your time, now and in the past, and for this post.

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