Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Query Part Two

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.


Patrick Dean said...

This is a great blog. I wish more agents had one and thanks for the advice. I'm not much of a fan of e-mail when it comes to hiring an agent either. A bit too informal.

savagebeauty said...

This is very helpful, especially hearing about the two-week timelinefore e-queries.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

This is such a great blog, I've added you to my blog reads. On the email query subject, you could always have a standard rejection ready to copy paste in your reply to speed things up for yourself. As far as the authors reply, you may want to include something in the way of letting them know that replys to the form letter are automatically deleted. It wouldn't stop everyone from replying, but it might cut it down.

Jonathan Lyons said...

It's amazing what is and isn't a hot button topic for agents. This is definitely a conversation that's making the rounds, and a number of agent friends do respond to e-mail queries in the way you describe.

I'm not sold on this yet, because of the reasons I described in the original post, but I admit I'm thinking about it.

In the meantime, the two week timeline is accurate - I look at these immediately and can dismiss 90% right off the bat as not right for me. The other 10% I usually make a decision on within a week (I give myself two weeks just to be safe).

selene said...

The reason I personally think it's annoying when agents don't reply to e-mail queries is that you can never be quite sure the query arrived, what with spam filters and what not. I'd be perfectly happy with not getting a response unless the agent is interested _if_ they would send out an auto-confirmation that the query actually arrived and that they will look at it as soon as they're able.


Scott Davis said...

Hi Jonathan,

I love your blog. It is really helping me get over some of my insecurities (and misconceptions) about agents.

In this post you say that you prefer regular mail queries, but on your Agency's website it says that you "strongly prefer" electronic queries, and that you only accept queries sent through your site's submission form.

I would like to send you a query, but which of the two delivery methods should I use?



Scott Davis said...

Never mind, I continued reading and got my answer regarding your preference for electronic submissions. To make up for wasting your time I'll stick the link here for anyone else who has the same question:

Take care,


inkstar said...

I'm new to your blog (and going back to the beginning to see what I've missed) but I just wanted to add that I think anonymous and selene made good points. So I'm glad that you're considering replying to emails, even in a canned fashion.

(By now you may have reached a verdict already...)