Well, I had planned to discuss more the ins-and-outs of the query, but recent comments on Miss Snark's blog about agents' lack of response to e-mail queries made me change my plans. I'm a huge fan of hers, but I truly do think she got this one wrong, probably because I'm one of those agents she was talking about.
From what I can gather, the perception is that not responding to e-mail queries is rude. I disagree. I give writers two options - mail or e-mail - but I warn beforehand that you won't get a guaranteed response unless you write by mail and include an SASE. What's complicated about that? And what's rude? I always thought rude was spitting in someone's soup, telling me I should try hair plugs, or only tipping ten percent (unless it's a cabbie, and then I think you should just round up the change).
I really prefer mail queries, but I will accept e-mail queries because it seems that it's the only way some authors communicate today. When you send a query by post and an agent passes with a form rejection that's usually the end of the conversation unless you want to spend another thirty-nine cents. In contrast, rejecting by e-mail creates a direct link for the writer to either chastise you for your decision or request a more detailed rejection, which robs the efficiency out of the form rejection process (i.e. less time for you to work with your clients). From previous experience I've learned that both can and do happen with frequency.
Well, delete these responses you say? Easier said than done. What if they are just writing back with a quick thank you? Well, that could be a nice thing. But how am I to know until I open it? And if a writer responds to a rejection with a request for more details, aren't they still going to think you're rude for not responding to their (second) e-mail? And let's say its not a request for more details, but instead someone wanting to tell me how stupid I am for passing on their work. Yes, this happens all the time. Now I'm pissed. Not raging Hulk pissed, but annoyed enough that I actually contemplate for a second writing this person back and telling them exactly why I passed on their wonderfully original mystery called The Michelangelo Cipher - the story of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the Holy Grail, and a conspiracy within the Roman Catholic Church. I usually restrain myself, but again, this is time that I could be spending with my clients.
Simple, straightforward. I promise to look at both types of queries, but if you want a guaranteed response - send it by mail. If you send it by e-mail and haven't heard back within two weeks, you can safely assume I've passed. There's nothing arrogant about this at all; two options are presented and you're free to choose either.