from the mixed up files of Agent Manners – to SASE or not to SASE, that is the question

I am working on getting my first book published. I’ve recieved about 15 rejections that have been very brief, offering no useful information on how to fix my manuscript. I was considering forgoing the SASE, thinking that if the agent liked my work s/he would email me and ask for it. Is this going to cause me trouble?

Dear Anonymous:

Unfortunately, Agent Manners must point out that you did not follow instructions in submitting your question. Nonetheless an answer will be provided. However, it appears that it may take the form of an admonition to follow instructions.

If an agent asks for queries by mail, then, yes, do include an SASE, or it is entirely likely that you will not receive a reply at all. Regardless of how backwards that may seem in this day and age, it’s a policy many agencies subscribe to. On the other hand, you can send a submission by email instead, but only if the agency in question actually states in their guidelines that they are open to electronic submissions. Just by checking submission guidelines and following them, your query will stand out. So very many seem to not do one jot of homework in this regard.

Unfortunately, most rejections will be brief and rarely helpful in any specific way. This is regretfully due to the volume of submissions received.

11 responses to “from the mixed up files of Agent Manners – to SASE or not to SASE, that is the question

  1. Another point: I’ve gotten two requests in my SASEs, over my long querying career. (Yeah, and lots of rejections.) So don’t assume an SASE is bad news: it isn’t always.

  2. From the editorial side of things, when we go through the slush pile, anything without an SASE is tossed. Usually without even being read. There’s so much garbage in the slush that it’s generally assumed that if a person can’t even follow basic instructions like “include an SASE” then it’s likely that (a)their work isn’t that good and (b)even if it is, I don’t want to work with them.
    The only exception (for me, some of the other editorial staff aren’t as nice as me) is children. I always respond to kid submissions, often with a copy of our submissions guidlines highlighted in all the relevant places.

    • Suppose, theoretically, that a person put together a packet and accidentally left the SASE on the counter. After drinking heavily and smacking herself for being a moron, she wrote a follow-up letter advising of her mistake, assuring that she does know how to read, and sent the SASE with it. Odds on getting a response?

      • Pretty good, here, so long as they re-include the original query as well.

      • I have received this kind of letter before, with only an SASE enclosed—or even better, a letter from a lady who remembered the SA part, but forgot to affix the stamp, so sends a separate letter with the stamp.
        The thing you have to understand is that the slush is a really big pile. And maybe we should, but we don’t track slush—once we respond to it (or toss it) it’s gone from our memory forever (unless we requested a partial.) If you send me a separate letter explaining your error, apologizing and enclosing an SASE, I think you’re an idiot all over again.
        What you can do in this case is just resubmit all over again. If you’re afraid that I’ll remember your query from the previous, un-SASE-ed submission, you can mention in your letter that you are only resubmitting because you accidentally forgot to enclose an SASE in your earlier submission. We’re all human. We all make stupid mistakes. It happens. No big deal.
        Just please, for the love of god, include your submission in the second letter. I can’t do anything with an apologetic letter with an SASE.

    • I attended a lecture a few months ago from a recently published author on the topic of What to Do After ‘The End’.
      He said the one thing he would have done differently when querying was to not bother including the SASE, as they are only used for rejections and he would have rather not known.
      But the compulsive directions-follower in me didn’t feel able to follow his advice for fear of what you describe.
      Good to know that planning to part with postage isn’t paranoia or leftover Catholic schoolgirl obsequiousness on my part. 😉

    • The only exception (for me, some of the other editorial staff aren’t as nice as me) is children. I always respond to kid submissions, often with a copy of our submissions guidlines highlighted in all the relevant places.
      That’s really sweet of you, and sort of brightens my day by proxy. Thank you.

      • When I sort the mail (and toss the slush into the slush pile) I try to separate out any mail from kids and respond to it immediately. I don’t expect a nine-year-old to know the rules, and I remembered distinctly being that nine-year-old with dreams of publication.
        Besides, kid letters always brighten up my day. It seems only fair :).

  3. But isn’t a form rejection just a polite way of saying “I really wasn’t tempted to read this”? And isn’t that in itself good information to have?

  4. Honestly, after 15 generic rejections, you may want to take another look at your manuscript. Agents and publishers aren’t there to critique your writing. They’re there to sell it.
    Most manuscripts aren’t sellable. They don’t come up to snuff in any one of a whole bunch of areas. Check out Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages to help you look at your manuscript with fresh eyes. And hunt up a critique group that does more than pat you on the back. Get some honest feedback.
    Everyone talks about how sometimes stories just need to find the right person and reference Gone with the Wind and all that. No one seems to know if the author revised between submissions, or remember that that was then, and this is now, or even realize that she was the exception, not the rule. Far, far more manuscripts languish, even after a huge amount of submissions, than ever succeed, much less go on to become bestsellers.

  5. Since this brought up several responses of the form-R.
    Are the use of form-a/b (c?) rejection letters still common practice? Bottom line it’s a form-R; but my understanding is that different form letters might be more clueful?

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