letters from the query wars – holiday edition

# of queries read this week: 108
# of partials requested: 1
genre of partial requested: urban fantasy

Dear Authors:

I wasn’t really sure what to write today. I fear my thoughts may have already moved on to the holiday weekend (indeed, much of publishing seems to have taken a 4 day weekend), which may possibly be free of query-reading, though I might still end up taking a look at a manuscript or two. But I was thinking earlier (before my thoughts had flown) about how much easier it is to send an electronic query as opposed to a snailmail one — no visits to the post office (though now one can print stamps from online), no stamps, no SASE, no paper required. But sometimes I wonder if it’s made it *too* easy. The number of queries I get that are completely inappropriate for me (e.g. how-to-books, self-help books, etc.) is much higher than it ever used to be when we only had paper submissions to review. Every week I get queries that haven’t even been spell-checked. Or are addressed to the wrong person (the one I just read today was emailed to me but the opening of the letter included another agent at another agency, address and all — oops). Sure, all these things used to happen with snailmail too, but never so frequently, at least in my experience. I don’t tend to hold that sort of thing against a person, but I may be more forgiving than some agents on those fronts, so please, slow down — it really won’t take all that long to check the guidelines, proof your query, and make sure all is in order. You never know when even something that small may have an effect. The devil’s in the details, as they say.

Happy 4th of July to those of you who celebrate it. I hope you enjoy the company of friends and/or family, and the weather allows for a cook-out or three. To those who aren’t celebrating this holiday, i hope you have a good weekend too.

13 responses to “letters from the query wars – holiday edition

  1. Happy 4th!
    You know, reading this brought to mind worries I heard about in the distant past when word processors were taking writing away from typewriters.
    If things are TOO easy, people get lazy.

  2. There are advantages to being easy, but it also means you’ll get a ton more the easier it is. The barrier of entry gets to the point that people are sending you things just in case.
    I can’t imagine getting the wrong address. Well, I can, but I obsessively check the envelope for a query letter about thirty times between my house and the post office (I work next to one), and will even do a final double-check right before handing it to the postal worker.
    I’m terrified of something simple getting me rejected and I never want to repeat the (send it, reject, reject) I got when I had wrong postage. 😦

  3. Wait. Isn’t this Kristin Nelson’s blog? 😀

  4. I’d be happy with wrong spelling, wrong addresses, wrong genre, whatever, if only they’d send what the guidelines actually ask for. Whenever a query comes into the inbox with only the letter, which feels like 50% of the time some days, I groan. Most of the time, I guilt myself into emailing them to ask if they’ll send the first five pages, like our guidelines say. And THEN they thank me for showing interest. That just kills me; I feel frustrated and guilty that they got their hopes up. I get enough of those in one day, and I just stop asking for the five pages and do an auto-reject.
    Every writer should have this pasted on their wal.l

  5. letters from the query wars – holiday edition
    I have to echo will_couvillier’s sentiment. People said technology would make us lazy and in a lot of ways it has. It’s just too easy to hit the ‘send’ button/icon without really taking the time to consider whether spelling and grammar are correct. And that doesn’t even begin to address the issue of content.
    dmoonfire commented on barrier of entry. Ease and quantity are surely accompanied by aggravation and frustration on the part of agents, raising barriers artificially for those attempting to practice a diligent and disciplined sort of professionalism.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if arcaedia and other agents occasionally get frustrated and annoyed to a point where they simply reject just to empty the mail box. It would be completely understandable.

  6. submitting a story via email
    I agree, it’s way too easy now. The signal-to-noise ratio is atrocious when it comes to submissions. Okay, it was never very good, I understand that, but now it’s plain awful, imo, and as many have pointed out it cuts into editor/agent/writer/publisher time.
    It’s a pity, but I honestly don’t see it getting better.

  7. equery?
    Worse, it makes it easier for a disgruntled wannabe to shoot back a “how-dare-you-reject-me” reply, or demand to know why you rejected them so they can argue with you, and show you the “error of your ways.” Jeesh!
    I’m all for saving the trees, but if I were an agent, it would be nothing but snail mail/paper queries for me.

  8. I never can understand how some people can’t double or triple check their submissions before clicking “send”. If it is so important to them, as it is to me, I just can’t fathom it! But then again, I too am an overly obsessive detail checker and I’d have the worst day (or more) EVER if I realized I made a mistake as bad as putting the wrong name and contact information down. I’d feel like such an idiot!
    It’s only common sense (to me) to put just as much effort in your query than what you put in your project. The query, in essence, is what gets one foot in the door.

  9. Jennifer,
    Does the 108 you’ve been through mean you’ve cleared the waiting list?

    • I wish it did, but regretfully there is quite a bit of backlog. I can tell you that the oldest email query received but not replied to is dated 6/24/08.

      • Thanks for that. Made me look back at my outbox address for a query I submitted in mid-June and found a strange one: klsbooks.com. I have no idea where that came from! It’s been resent to the info@ address.

  10. Online seems more convenient than snail mail these days. But as you said, because online is so convenient, many writers aren’t checking the guidelines.
    Out of curiosity, which would you prefer? Snail mail, with more of the hassle but less mistakes, or online, less hassle but more mistakes?

    • Can I take a third choice? Which is simply that I’d have no preference of snailmail vs email if everyone would simply slow down and take as much care in submissions as they do in the writing endeavor in the first place (because, truly — the “hassle” between the two formats is fairly equal on this side of the desk).

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