Monday, November 19, 2007

Stuck in the Stone Age

Question of the week: Why do some agents insist sending queries by snail mail with a SASE? It seems so old fashioned not to mention wasteful in a few different ways. I recently sent a query letter, synopsis, 75 pages of my story, SASE etc. only to have it ultimately rejected. A trip to the post office, the cost of postage, not to mention printing out all those pages could easily have been avoided if I could simply send it all via email. So...what's up? In an age where we all are trying to conserve (gas, ink, paper, time, stamps) this practice seems archaic and old school.

Just a quick update to last week's post: I am officially in like with Facebook, much more so than MySpace. For promotional purposes, MySpace definitely wins - I'm "friends" with hundreds of people whom I really don't know, and I can blast out a note to all of them if need be. But on a more personal level, I'm really enjoying Facebook - I've found friends from high school and life whom I'm happy to be back in touch with, and what I like most about the site is how it alerts you to all of their updates - when they've added new pictures, when they've connected with someone new (and who that person is) - so I'm always kept in the loop about their pages and yes, their lives. I dunno. I think it's pretty cool. It doesn't serve a promotional purpose for me at all, but hey, so what?

Anyhoo, on to the above question. You know, I don't have the foggiest idea why agents still insist on the SASE or why, quite frankly, anyone would insist on receiving snail mail queries. Actually, that's not true: I'm sure that for some agents, it's much easier to read these queries while on the train or the bus or whatever, and why should they have to go through the trouble of sifting through their already clogged inbox and then printing any queries that grab their attention? I do, I suppose, understand the practicality of it.

But that said, yes, it seems completely archaic and outdated, and for me, at least, it was also a criteria with which I eliminated agents while in my agent hunt. I wanted someone efficient, on the cutting edge, and who used email just as often as I did (which, um, is always and for everything), so whether it seems reasonable or not, I didn't submit (with one exception) to any agents who refused email queries and required that dreaded SASE. (I do realize, of course, that just because someone requires snail mail queries doesn't mean that he or she isn't hyperly-efficient, but I think you get my idea. I'm just saying that I wanted someone who I felt would be most compatible with me and my working style...I hope that makes sense.) Before you jump up and down and say, "But everyone says that they don't accept email queries," let me interject that yes, I know that agents say this, but for the most part, they say this because they don't want to be inundated with queries, not because they won't accept them. Yes, it might annoy a few, but the vast majority of those who list "no email queries" on Agent Query or wherever will, indeed, take 'em.

Which means that you can kiss that pesky SASE goodbye.

(Btw, please do realize that everything I post on this blog is my opinion and mine alone. Well, okay, I do have some writer friends who usually agree with me, but what I mean to say is that you are welcome to disagree and discard my advice. I know that at times, I'd read Miss Snark and completely disagree with her, and hey, that's cool. It didn't take away from what she was trying to do and how she was trying to help people. I hope blog readers here understand this and feel the same.)

Anyway, so...did you guys query with SASEs? And why do you think that agents still insist on using snail mail?


Anonymous said...

I have a friend in the throes of querying agents right now. She has only heard back (positive or negative) from those she snail-mailed. Not one email query garnered a response, and the agent letter/query is the same - and she follows all guidelines etc.

Her experience gave me the impression that snail mail gets more and better attention than email for agents who accept both or prefer snail mail.

Just my .02!

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Amy-That's so interesting! Usually, I hear the reverse: that people never hear back from snail and have better luck with email. See, you just never know! I'm curious to hear what others post here too...

bob said...

I have heard that some agencies only stick with snail as a way to cut down on the overzealous queries that are maybe fired off in haste.

Meaning that those who take the time to do snail might be more serious about it?

I don't agree with that and am turned off by those who do not have current websites or don't use email at all.

Just like when they view our blogs or websites I want to know they are sort of "with it" to just like they expect us the writers to be in this day of self promotion.

Patti said...

i am in the hunt as well, and my experience has been better with the sase. i have heard back from all the old fashioned mail queries, but not from some email queries.

it is frustrating to make sure that an email query is just as professional as the hardcopy, and then not to receive a response.

Carleen Brice said...

I specifically targeted agents that accept e-queries (and my agent ONLY accepts e-queries), and it worked for me. One tip for e-queries is keep them very, very short. Mine was 5 sentences.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

I sent out snail in the beginning but then got tired of it. Eventually, I started sending a short email to agents saying I'm interested in querying and wonder if they would accept an e-query. I think almost everyone agreed to receiving my query via email! Even my agent received my complete ms via email and she and I have never exchanged a real live sheet of paper throughout our relationship.

Email and equeries are the way to go!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Many have already said it: A SASE invites a reply. E-mail doesn't, and many agents don't beat around the bush and come right out and say, "We'll only respond if interested."

In the meantime, you don't know if they're truly not interested, or if the e-mail never got through.

Alison Ashley Formento said...

I have to agree with what's been said. I've gotten more response, either postive or negative, when I've sent an SASE. I've targeted several "e-query" agents and I believe only one responded. I'd rather have a rejection SASE than no word at all, but I believe and hope e-query will become the norm for the business.

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for your great site!

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Thanks everyone! This is exactly what makes this blog so useful: I certainly don't hold all of the answers. E-queries worked for me, but it sounds like they're not the answer for everyone.

The Messy Baker said...

Why snail mail? Archaic as it sounds, it makes a lot of sense to me. First, it weeds out the wannabes. Only serious writers (serious does not necessarily mean good) spend their time and money pursuing an agent. Agents who accept e-queries are likely inundated with a lot more crap than those who insist on snail mail.

Secondly, would you want to spend your own paper and ink budget printing out 75 pages of a manuscript you might reject? Do this dozens of times and the agent would go broke. Sure, they could read it on screen, but we all know that reading on paper is easier.

If you take the time to find an agent who understands your target audience, then you're more likely to get a response than if you send queries to everyone on a list.

Great topic, Allison.