Friday, January 14, 2011

Don’t SASE Me, Bro!

Two weeks ago, I sent out an advanced scout team of three queries to gauge the enemy’s the very kind and overwork agents’ responses before I really went to town with querying.  I got one automated response suggesting that if I don’t hear back in eight weeks, I should not expect to hear back at all.  One query, sadly, didn’t make it, shot down by the dreaded Form Rejection.  The third, well, is MIA.  I sent it to a highly regarded agent with a strong reputation of not only replying to all queries, good or bad, but in doing so very quickly (Like, within two or three days).  It’s possible she’s just extra swamped coming out of the holidays.  I’m going to assume it’s there and she’ll get to it when she can until six or eight weeks go by and I haven’t heard anything.  In that event, I might query her again, or I might leave her as a contingency down the road when all other avenues are exhausted.  Despite my military analogy, I don’t really have a well-thought out, well-rehearsed battle plan.  I’m just sort of making it up as go.  Oddly, that’s usually what works best for me.

Anyway, all I can do now is wait and keep readying more queries.  As you all know, email is fast becoming the delivery route of choice for querying.  Many agents now only accept emails, and many accept emails along with traditional mail.  Still, there are those that don’t accept emails at all, more than you’d think, and many of them fit my target query audience to a tee.  But I’m not going to query them.

This isn’t out of spite or because I think they’re wrong.  In fact, they’ve been doing what they do a heck of a lot longer than I’ve been doing this, and they know way more about it than I know, so who am I to tell them what they should do?  No, the decision has everything to do with me. 

Anyone will tell you if you want to be published, you do what you have to do, no matter what.  If you need to spend thousands of dollars on printing costs and stamps, then you do it.  If you need to spend hours a day licking stamps, addressing envelopes, and running to Kinko’s, then you do it.  That’s a great attitude in theory, but most of those Anyone’s either make their entire living as a writer or aren’t the primary source of income in there household.  They have either the time, the money, or both to really do whatever it takes.  And that’s great.  The more people who can commit all they have to getting published, the more likely that next great novel will make see the light of day instead of disappearing in a slush pile somewhere.

Unfortunately, that’s not me.  I work twelve hour shifts five or six days a week.  That’s not a complaint, either; I could never express how grateful I am to not only have a job, but to have one that allows for a great deal of overtime.  The fact is, though, I don’t have an unlimited amount of time, and I have to be as efficient as possible with the time I do have.

The other reason I opt for email is that it’s more likely to get there.  I don’t know what happened to the third query, but I do know what didn’t happen.  It didn’t get mislabeled and sent to the wrong place.*  It didn’t accidently slide into the crevice between the assistant’s desk and the wall.  It didn’t get tossed into a dumpster along with bags worth of other mail by a disgruntled postal worker (yes, that’s happened before).  I don’t mean to sound like I’m dumping on the post office; I’m sure 99% of the time the mail gets to where it’s supposed to without any problems.  But I don’t want that potential Golden Query – or worse, my partial or full MS – to be part of the other 1%.

What do you think?  Am I wrong?  How do you feel about traditional mail?

* I grew up in Valparaiso, Indiana.  Once, my dad ordered a book from a magazine or mail order catalog or something.  It took almost a year for him to receive it.  The reason?  It had been sent to Valparaiso, Chile, instead.


  1. I found the best practice (for me) is to rank the agents in groups of ten agents. 'Dream Agents', 'Agents that sound perfect but don't know much about 'em', 'Agents that cover my genre'. I would start querying the third list first. Send out ten querries and wait a month. If no one resonds, retweek your letter. Then send out to ten more, etc...

  2. Hi Dan: Just read your comment over at Patricia's blog and came over to see what you've got going on here. Nice blog. I'm Ivy. Nice to meet you. I'm a new Reader to your world. Happy Writing.

  3. I send out batches of queries that have half dream agents, and half less so. I don't want to blow through all my dream agents and find out I need a major query or manuscript rehaul.
    Nice to meet you and your blog. Good luck on the querying!

  4. I'm a harried rare blood courier -- which means, like you my hours are long and pay is short. But it is a needed profession. And like yours, involves more than the surface label might suggest.

    I send to email agents only for your reasons. And I also don't have the free time to tramp out to the post office, wait in long lines, and then mail only to receive a form rejection.

    I try to individualize each query, from past interviews and their blogs or web sites. That limits the number drastically of those I send out at a time. But I think I would prefer that from a writer were I an agent. You have a great blog. Roland

  5. I'm with you on emailing's much quicker to send and get responses to, doesn't get lost nearly as often:D, and I honestly think a mail rejection would sting more (not sure why though).

    Hang in there with the querying!! It's a terrifying process for sure, but you never know when the right person just might pick it up:D