Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why Snail Mail Is Sometimes Preferred

As you all should know by now, the BookEnds submission policy requires equeries first and the submission of proposals or manuscripts only at our request. Now I know a lot of agents accept everything via email—all manuscripts and proposals—but I’m still fairly old-fashioned and prefer that anything more than a query be sent via snail mail. Why is this? Primarily because I don’t do my reading in the office, and while I do have a laptop, I don’t find it comfortable to sit on the couch reading proposal after proposal from a computer screen. There is another reason, though, and that’s because there’s something different in the experience for me when I’m holding paper in my hand versus a computer. I can settle in and take the time to enjoy myself. I’m less distracted by incoming email or the Internet and I feel less of this feeling of getting through the piles. In other words, I can actually take the time to enjoy the book.

Despite that, there are definitely occasions when I will ask an author to email me the material. Some reasons for that could be she has an offer in hand, it’s exactly what I’m looking for, and I want to read it instantly, or she’s from another country and it’s not easy for her to snail mail the material. I know email is great. I love it, you love it, and I certainly know it makes the submission process easier for authors. However, there is a downside and I’m in the middle of it right now. A few months ago I got myself a spanking new MacBook. I love it! In making the transition from my old iMac, though, there was a problem with the Microsoft software and I lost a couple of days' worth of emails. Let me clarify here that his was not a problem with Apple, but entirely Microsoft. I’m not going to get into details, but I was annoyed.

Anyway, I had printed out the first 50 pages of an emailed manuscript I was excited to read. For some reason, though, my printer went wonky too and I only managed to get pages five through fifty. And now the email is gone. I have no contact information for this author, no way to reach her, and since I haven’t heard from her, no way to tell her what I think of these fifty pages. Worse yet, I have no way to read the rest of the material.

I don’t know if there’s anything I can do to find this author, but I do hope all of you can use this as a lesson. Put your name, title, page number, phone number, and email address in the header of every page of your manuscript. In addition, make sure the cover page of your manuscript, in addition to your query letter, contains your name, address, email, phone, web address, mother’s maiden name, first dog’s name, hospital where you were born . . . well, you get the picture. Pages get shifted and manuscripts dropped all the time. If an agent is loving your work, don’t make it difficult for her to find you.

Jessica

69 comments:

A.C. Douglas said...

Jessica wrote: Let me clarify here that [t]his was not a problem with Apple, but entirely Microsoft.

Not entirely. The fault, dear Jessica, is not in our software, but in ourselves. How could you even attempt such a major procedure without first backing up your entire hard drive (which should be backed up daily as a matter of course in any case).

On the main matter of your post, while I understand your reasoning, and have heard it before from other agents, I personally refuse to send either queries or partials via snail mail. It's expensive, slow, and there's no really legitimate reason that a writer should be required to do so. Full mss are a different matter as it's unreasonable to expect an agent to read an entire ms on-screen, or print it out to read. On a recent submission, I had to (gently) refuse four agents' requests for a partial (after an eMailed query) because each insisted that I snail mail it. Sounds like cutting off my nose to spite my face, I know, but there it is.

Regards,

ACD

Anonymous said...

Jessica - have you considered posting one or two details about the partial here on the blog? It's possible (especially with an e-query) that the sender reads your blog and would recognise their own work. :)

Julie Weathers said...

Jessica;

Thank you.

I suppose some people do well reading everything on a screen, but I'm not one of them. I want the paper in hand. The look of it in print triggers something in my brain that a screen doesn't. I can pick up on mistakes easier and things that might be technically correct, but just don't roll off the tongue right.

Yes, I know electronic is the politically correct way to operate, but I have never been accused of that in my life. I'm too old to worry about that now.

Julie

Maria Zannini said...

You might try Googling the title or some specific keywords from the mss.

Sometimes writers mention their works in progress on their blogs and it might be the one you're looking for...or you might raise the hopes of someone with a totally unrelated wip. :o)

Worth a shot if it was a good story.

**Authors: Always place a header on each page with your name, title and email regardless on whether it's paper or e-based.

BookEnds, LLC said...

A follow-up to this. I actually wrote this soon after the computer malfunction happened and yes AC I do regularly back up and have always done so. In this case the email and a few others were lost in spite of that. I'm not going to get into it further. The point is not that it was lost, but that authors should be aware that things happen in offices, emails get lost, manuscripts get dropped and it makes everyone's life easier if things are labeled and labeled again.

I would be hesitant to post any pieces of the material on the blog since not everyone reads the blog and I don't think it would be fair to the author. However, I have heard from the author and the matter has been solved. In this case it was an author who is good at following-up. Not everyone is.

And AC, I think it's a huge mistake to refuse to submit a partial via snail mail. I think the wiser course would be to ask the agent if it would be okay to send via email instead. We should all be working together on this and if an agent wants to read your work why not allow her to do so instead of simply refusing because you don't agree with her submission methods?

--jhf

Kristin said...

If an agent wants to read my book, I would send it however the agent preferred - snail mail, email, carrier pigeon.....

The one thing I have stopped doing is querying via snail mail. I maybe pick out 2 or 3 agents to try who only take snail mail, but by the time I hear back from them, I've usually heard back from every single one of my email queries and am well into the partial/full stage of the process.

Jodie W. said...

I'm so glad the author followed up with you and the issue was resolved. That's a great lesson for me and makes me feel better about doing follow-up phone calls.

As for printed pages, I agree with Julie. I find editing so much easier when I'm actually looking at a printed page. One author told me she wrote/edited/submitted/revised her entire book without printing any of it out. I was amazed! The tree-hugger in me applauds her (lol) but I just can't do it.

Hope everyone has a great day!!

Anonymous said...

Instead of a ridiculously long header on each page, why not just include your email address as opposed to the oft-recommended first, last name in the header?

IMHO, it's a little nuts to put all that stuff in the header.

Heidi the Hick said...

Yeah, it's a microsoft problem. I've been on Mac for a few years now and guess what? No problems. I only have problems if I have to get something from somebody else's (microsoft) computer. Microsoft sucks. I don't know dick about computers-- I am to computers as most women I know are to cars. I just wanna turn the key and have it work. I don't wanna reprogram the darn thing each day!

Whew. Sorry.

This was an excellent post. Contact info is so important and I know that was a mistake I made when I was first querying.

I still have a hard time trusting email though. I agree that I'm looking for agents who want an equery first because stamps get costly and I need to save paper.

I have to print out to edit though, sadly. I hate being a tree killer but there's nothing like having a piece of paper in your hands to catch mistakes.

Mark Terry said...

If you have the new Mac Leopard OSX, I highly recommend investing in a backup hard drive and utilizing Time Machine--it's excellent.

Now, as for this snailmail issue. I feel the paradigm is shifting. In my nonfiction, I don't have a single client that uses snailmail. Everything is PDFs and e-mail. My technical editing client, when we can, ahem, get on the same page, will even often set the security settings on the PDF files for the galleys so I can edit on-screen, which saves us all money on FedEx, not to mention transit time.

In terms of fiction, my current agent seems to be doing everything via e-mail now.

I also don't think the day is far off when the responsibility of the printout falls to the person--writer, editor, agent, producer--who insists on reading the manuscript on paper. I'm not entirely convinced that it's the responsibility of the writer to print out a copy of the manuscript and pay to have it shipped, when the agent or editor can receive a PDF almost instantaneously and either print it up on their own computer, thus saving postage, or drop a backup disk, flash drive (or even e-mail it) to your local Kinkos on your way to the next editor's lunch and have the hardcopy waiting for you afterwards.

It's a tax deductible expensive for either party, so I think it's something that can be worked out between the parties. I don't care to read an entire manuscript online and God knows I kill a lot of trees in the process of my writing career, but I do think everybody in the business should get with the 21st century on this for efficiency, if nothing else.

Anonymous said...

I've been having terrible time with microsoft too. Office 2007, when I save it in 2003-97 Doc format loses all my indents. I have to go through the entire document and add the indents again. It gets frustrating. I'm no neophyte when it comes to computers, too, so this just makes it even more annoying. Anyone else running into this problem?

A.C. Douglas said...

Jessica wrote: And AC, I think it's a huge mistake to refuse to submit a partial via snail mail. I think the wiser course would be to ask the agent if it would be okay to send via email instead.

Precisely the course I followed in all four cases, and in all four cases the agent insisted the partial be sent via snail mail, and so I had to respectfully decline.

Just between us chickens, I suspect (but it's merely a suspicion; I don't know these people at all) their insistence was a matter of establishing control and of ego, not a matter of business procedure.

ACD

A.C. Douglas said...

I've been having terrible time with microsoft too. Office 2007, when I save it in 2003-97 Doc format loses all my indents. [...] Anyone else running into this problem?

I use Office Word 2007, and regularly save the original in its "native" .docx format, then convert to the "old" .doc format for distribution. So far, I've never had an occasion where the conversion required any reformatting.

Do you regularly run Office Word 2007's Compatibility Checker on your .docx document when finishing a writing session? If not, you should. It will catch any conversion problems on the fly, so to speak, and permit you to correct it immediately at the source.

ACD

Anonymous said...

Sitting at the computer for too many hours is bad for your health. Carpel Tunnel? After working at a desk, in front of a computer all day, the last thing you need is to go home and work at the computer at night. I'm only 35, I've had CP for two years, and the doc says it's thanks to the computer and publishing.

And, it's not only agents who have varying procedures when it comes to partials and fulls being submitted either by e-mail or snail mail. Editors, with large publishing houses, still require partials and fulls through snail mail too. I'm a published, unagented writer and it's not unusual for me to send a requested full to someone through snail mail...actually it's still pretty common with editors as Kensington and Alyson.

Tina M. Russo said...

Excellent post. I am a business woman and as such will do whatever is required to make more business, be it emails, pdfs, snail mail..whatever.

The world functions at a fast pace, we don't have time for things that don't work, web pages, email addresses or failure to include contact information.

Aimless Writer said...

Sorry, AC- I have to disagree. Refuse to snail a partial???
Not if you really want the agent. Agents set guidelines, we follow them if we want to get published. Its the business part of writing. And I want the agent to be able to tuck my work into her pocket and read it on the train, at lunch or whenever. I think its part of being accessable. Unless you're Stephen King-refusing to follow these kind of simple requests is just crazy. (Unless your printer died or some other issues prevents you from doing so)Why query an agent if you're not going to follow their guidelines?
Jessica;I'm with Kristin here,if you want my full/partial or whatever I'd strap it to a carrier pigeon if that was your preference.
Re; computer probs. I'm a bit of a geek and my dh is an engineer so we're pretty good on computers-still, sh*t happens.

Dave F. said...

In my last job before I retired, I learned to work completely on computer and use no paper at all. It took three years to get to that point but I found that it was all a matter of organization. All electronic is not for everyone, though.

However, if an agent wants paper and snail mail, then she will get it. I understand when someone says, "I like the feel of paper in my hand."

Just_Me said...

ACD-

I'm the opposite, I'd rather have it paper based (recycled!) than deal with agents who don't respond to e-queries if they aren't interested or who aren't tech-lit enough to not lose something I send. Kristin isn't the only agent who has lost e-mails and computer files.

I love my computer and can't live without the internet, but I like things on hardcopy.

Sindee Sexton said...

I don't know about most of you but I'm able to better locate errors and typos on a printed hard copy than I do on a computer screen. For that reason alone, I'll go with a snail mail request. And personally, if the agent I really want requests a snail mail partial, I doubt I would be complaining.

Sindee

Cursing in Heels said...

Wow, that's a writer's worst nightmare! I have some friends who have sent partials off to agents, never heard back, and they don't follow up because they assume the agent isn't interested. I've never agreed with that approach. It just goes to show you should always follow up if you don't hear from the agent again. You're not crossing any lines by keeping track of your work. Plus, I need closure! If I never heard back from an agent that had my work, I'd live the rest of my life wondering if they actually read it or used it as kindling.

Kate Douglas said...

Sindee, I agree with you. I always print out my final manuscript before mailing it and read through--it's amazing how many typos, awkward sentences, etc. show up in print. I wonder if it's because we habitually skim email that the eye isn't trained to be as critical when reading online?

ana said...

Speaking of kindling...

I wonder if the day will come when we send partials and fulls in Kindle format. I think Amazon charges a dollar to convert a document into a Kindle-friendly form, which beats printing costs any day.

I must also say that I'm doing some serious forehead smacking right now. I deleted my email address from my manuscript because email wasn't part of the standardized header. I didn't want to look "amateur" by using the wrong format.

Grrr.

Anonymous said...

I live for the day my Dell dies and I can drop-kick Microsoft and its evil, annoying cousin Norton into oblivion and become a MAC user.

I detest this system and everything associated with it.

My kids tell me I'm too much of a moron to learn to use MAC - this despite having been a technical writer who wrote user guides and taught chemistry and physics for years.

How hard can it be?

BookEnds, LLC said...

Some of your comments made me wonder. How would an author react if her agent said, "I sent your book to Random House and Penguin, but not Simon & Schuster. They insist on hardcopy only and since I prefer to submit via email I refused to send to them?"

just a thought

--jhf

A.C. Douglas said...

Aimless Writer wrote: Sorry, AC- I have to disagree. [...] Why query an agent if you're not going to follow their guidelines?

My procedure is to first list agents interested in my genre. I then eliminate any agent on that list who doesn’t accept eMail queries. I then query the remaining agents via eMail. I don’t even look at the submission guidelines beyond the query, my reasoning being that if, after reading the query, an agent is interested enough to request a partial, she’ll also be interested enough to accept that partial via eMail if I request it. If not, then it’s a loss — for us both.

ACD

A.C. Douglas said...

Jessica wrote: Some of your comments made me wonder. How would an author react if her agent said, ... etc.

Non sequitur. You’re talking about submitting a full ms. Unless I missed it, no-one suggested insisting on submitting a full ms via eMail. I, for one, would never make such a request of an agent — or a publisher.

ACD

BookEnds, LLC said...

Not true AC. I sell a lot of books on partials and there are a lot of publishers or editors who request snail mail only. I also email out a lot of manuscripts on submission.

--jhf

Keri Ford said...

Some of your comments made me wonder. How would an author react if her agent said, "I sent your book to Random House and Penguin, but not Simon & Schuster. They insist on hardcopy only and since I prefer to submit via email I refused to send to them?"

Jessica, if I was you client and you told me that, then I wouldn't be likely a client of yours very much longer. :0)

To each their own, I suppose, but if I want to further my career in the direction I want it to go, then I'll also go to the pet store for a pidgeon if that's what the agent/editor requested.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post, Jessica.

I find it hard to see why anyone would have a problem with a snail mail submission when the whole reason is to get a published manuscript that is, even with the kindle, percentage-wise going to be read in hard copy. I also like to read off paper. I also find I catch those last nit-picky edits better off paper.

Anonymous said...

Let us know how that works out for you, A.C. Douglas.

Also, "eMail"? Really? Interesting choice.

A.C. Douglas said...

Not true AC. I sell a lot of books on partials and there are a lot of publishers or editors who request snail mail only. I also email out a lot of manuscripts on submission.

Ah! You wrote "book," so I assumed a full ms.

In any case, even given your above, your analogy is still flawed.

If a writer makes a decision for himself vis-a-vis eMail, that's one thing. An agent working in a writer's behalf making that same sort of decision to suit her own preferences is quite another, wouldn't you agree.

ACD

Anonymous said...

"Some of your comments made me wonder. How would an author react if her agent said, "I sent your book to Random House and Penguin, but not Simon & Schuster. They insist on hardcopy only and since I prefer to submit via email I refused to send to them?"

Here's my reaction:

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!

Diana said...

I am a huge fan of using e-mails for at least the query, but I do find comfort in being able to attach a delivery confirmation and a postcard for tracking purposes. Unfortunately, e-mail doesn't give me the option to attach a confirmation receipt so that I at least know it has made it to the agent without being gobbled by a spam filter.

A.C. Douglas said...

Unfortunately, e-mail doesn't give me the option to attach a confirmation receipt so that I at least know it has made it to the agent without being gobbled by a spam filter.

My eMail client (Outlook Express) gives me that option.

ACD

Anonymous said...

I think one or two sentences about the characters and what you know of the story posted on your blog might flush out your author. But I guess if you thought it was a fabulous story, you would have turned heaven and earth to find that writer.

I am heartened to hear that you make an exception to the email rule where OS authors are concerned.

I for one would be very willing to pay an appropriate fee to cover your time and material costs if it meant not having to send my ms over long distances.

Vicki said...

ACD, question for you. Do you want to see your book in print and on the shelf or in eBook format only?

Just wondering since you do not want to send them out to the agent or editor as hardcopy.

Anonymous said...

Query report:

I have sent out a total of 17 queries for my novel.

Results after 3 weeks:

3 requests for partials, 1 of which has already been rejected, 2 outstanding...8 queries still outstanding...6 query rejects.

So 3/17 requested partials.

Is this average, crappy, good? Thriller genre.

To tie in with this thread, 16/17 queries were e-mailed. Of the partials, 2/3 were e-mailed. I just do whichever the agent asks for, and if they say they have no preference, I go with e-mail/attachments.

Anonymous said...

Back when I was looking for an agent, I wouldn't submit to anyone that only accepted snail mail queries. I still don't understand that theory at all. Now, if they wanted the first 50 pages by way of a query, fine, but a query? That based on the law of averages, you're likely to reject anyway? Why? My agent's gone green, so the only snail mail we've ever exchanged was contracts.

That said, I still have issues with spam filters eating emails. My former address kept getting munched on by my editor's spam filter, and I ended up switching and haven't had problems since.

Re: followup. You mentioned some people don't follow-up. I think it's because it's thought that you don't bother the agent ever to check about your work and just assume they aren't interested.

A.C. Douglas said...

Vicki wrote: ACD, question for you. Do you want to see your book in print and on the shelf or in eBook format only? Just wondering since you do not want to send them out to the agent or editor as hardcopy.

As I’ve already said several times, I’m perfectly willing to send the full ms in hardcopy by snail mail if requested. What I refuse to do is send a partial by snail mail. In my view, there’s simply NO legitimate reason for insisting a writer do that.

ACD

Diana said...

My eMail client (Outlook Express) gives me that option.

ACD


My current e-mail provider does not provide a return receipt service; other ones that I have seen only provide receipts if sent to e-mail addresses with the same provider or participating providers.

Faye Hughes said...

Jessica,

Fascinating blog topic, as usual.

A.C.,

As an FYI, Outlook Express does NOT give you the option for email delivery confirmation. That can only be accomplished when you're using the same email client on the same domain, such as Novel GroupWise at the ABC Publishing Company, for example.

What Outlook Express does is attach a notice to the email that the receiver must then click to acknowledge receipt. Unfortunately, a lot of people just delete those notices because they find them annoying.

Faye

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic. My question for Jessica would be this: How many times have you had to read all 50 pages of a partial before you realized you weren't interested?

My guess is by page 5, you have a good idea whether or not you want to request a full. If you do, you keep reading and those 45 extra pages mean something to you. But if not, those 45 pages get thrown in the trash.

Why waste the paper when you could ask for the first 10 pages of a work to be pasted into the body of the query e-mail? Wouldn't that streamline the process and help you reject/accept much faster?

A.C. Douglas said...

Faye: Yes, quite right that the receiver of the eMail must then click an automatic pop-up to acknowledge receipt, but it's not required that the receiver be on the same domain (it can be any domain whatsoever). I personally never request a receipt, so can't make informed comment concerning how receivers view those requests for receipt. I'll take you at your word that lots find them annoying, and mostly don't go to the trouble of clicking the acknowledgment request.

ACD

A.C. Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A.C. Douglas said...

My guess is by page 5, you have a good idea whether or not you want to request a full.

Word! Or by page 10-15 at the extreme outside. That's been made clear to me by any number of agents who really know their business.

Makes perfect sense to me.

ACD

Kim said...

Anon 6:15 --

I can't speak for Jessica, but it still goes back to the experience of reading the submission on paper. Frankly, I hate reading submissions on the computer screen. On the rare occassions that I ask someone to e-mail a partial, I end up printing out the pages anyway. But, if I agreed to do that for every partial I requested, I'd spend my whole day printing out submissions.

I basically judge the submissions I read based on how connected I feel to the writing. I find it very hard to connect to anything I read on the computer screen. So, I honestly don't think I'd judge the works fairly if I tried to read them all that way.

Kim Lionetti said...

Sorry, forgot to include my last name on my comment.

Anonymous said...

"Why waste the paper when you could ask for the first 10 pages of a work to be pasted into the body of the query e-mail? Wouldn't that streamline the process and help you reject/accept much faster?"

Some agents do this. A recent partial requested of me was after I queried an agent with CH 1 pasted into the query, which is the standard query process for that agency.

And some agencies give you a choice: CH 1-3 or 50 pp...Oddly enough, when given a choice, I prefer to submit smaller rather than larger partials, because that way if it gets rejected I can guage where the problem lies. The main point is to get them to want to read the full ms., so I make sure to leave the partial at a tantalizing break point, even if it means submitting less pages than I could.

Faye Hughes said...

A.C.,

Sorry, guess I didn't word that correctly. You're right, of course - the "click to acknowledge receipt" feature can be used by anyone, regardless of domains. What I meant is that automatic delivery confirmations *are* restricted. Those are the ones that tell you the date and time the email was delivered, opened, deleted, etc.

Faye

Julie Weathers said...

*Some of your comments made me wonder. How would an author react if her agent said, "I sent your book to Random House and Penguin, but not Simon & Schuster. They insist on hardcopy only and since I prefer to submit via email I refused to send to them?"

just a thought

--jhf*

I would politely thank the agent for their time and hardwork and ask to terminate our relationship.

I love trees and mountains and all things natural, but I also love paychecks. My success should not be dependent upon an agent's political and personal convictions. It should depend on my writing ability and their professionalism.

Aside from that, if they are that adamant about not using paper, they are probably also lobbying to have cattle ranching banned since cows emit methane gas.

Moderation in all things.

Julie

Michele Dunaway said...

Submitting a partial is a business expense. If you want to do business, you play by the rules of the agency. Would you turn down trying to apply for a job if they want things snail mailed? Can you afford to be that picky?

I sent Jessica 100 pages--a partial. Cost of paper for 500 sheets: $4.25. Cost of ink: I get 5000-10,000 sheets to a $89 cartridge (you do the math). Cost of postage (media mail) less than $2.00. Jessica sold 6 books for me last year. Well worth the risk I took when I queried her and then put my package in the mail.

Why is the agent supposed to be printing--at her expense, which comes out of the 15 percent she earns from her clients--your book? Yes, it's her business expense, but frankly, you aren't paying her. We are. She's taking time away from me, and her other clients, to read your work on the hopes that she's found something. When an agent requests a partial, she's not being nice. She wants to find someone else who she can sell, and who will make her money.

You can choose not to send something because of your principles, but that's just shortchanging yourself. The agent isn't stressing about your manuscript or that you've declined to send it to her. She has 100+ others to sift through. The only one you are hurting is yourself.

It's a hard enough business. Once you are an agent's client, then you can email everything like I do. But the key rule is that, like resumes and job hunting, you do it the way the company wants. If not, they don't care. They know they can find someone else.

Michele Dunaway said...

I forgot this part.

It's unethical for agents to charge reading fees.

Until the person is a client, the responsibility of the submission costs belong to the author.

I don't think it's a control issue or ego thing at all, but rather a time and expense issue.

I would think the amount of requests for material would go down, hurting everyone's overall chances, if agents and editors had to take on this cost for people who are not clients.

Also, there are agencies (and some are very big houses) that are notorious for requesting partials via email, reading one page, and deleting your email. You'll never hear from them again. It's not that they didn't get your work, but that since it was email without an SASE, they won't even give you a response. Simply not worth their time.

Anonymous said...

Why is the agent supposed to be printing--at her expense, which comes out of the 15 percent she earns from her clients--your book? Yes, it's her business expense, but frankly, you aren't paying her. We are. She's taking time away from me, and her other clients, to read your work on the hopes that she's found something.

Is it just me, or is this the selfish ranting of an author who's forgotten what it's like to walk the long, hard road to publishing?

As much as I'd hate to see it happen, perhaps Jessica should stop blogging so she can spend more time working for Michele.

I can only hope when I'm published, I don't think so highly of myself to whine about paying my agent to read other writers query letters.

After all, Michele, did you ever consider that before she offered you representation, someone else was paying her to read YOUR query letter?

Anonymous said...

An addendum to the above post: Query letter or partial, either way Jessica spends the time you "pay" her for, reading them.

Lauren Hawkeye said...

I agree with the carrier pigeon comments... particularly with Bookends, since they are my dream agency. I would prefer Harry Potter owls, however ;) But if they insist on pigeons, pigeons it is :P
When I'm Nora Roberts, then I will question it if I don't like it.

Lauren Hawkeye said...

And one more comment- in many industries, there is something called "paying your dues". Jessica, Kim, Jacky and every other agent out there do not owe us, aspiring authors, anything. So why all the negativity?

Merry Monteleone said...

Wow! Well, that was a rousing set of comments...

While I think it's pretty brave of AC Douglas not to sign anonymously for those comments (providing that's the real name he or she is trying to publish under) I still have to comment on the conversation.

I really don't care what your procedures are for finding an agent, the only person you're hurting by not following the agency submissions policies is yourself. Here's the thing for me, though, if I was an agent that you were querying, I wouldn't work with you even if you wrote the most brilliant prose imaginable, because you appear more than a little difficult... life's too short to enter into miserable relationships banking on the fact that they might make you money... especially when taking the risk that an author's disposition could have an adverse effect on the agent's relationship with any editor they were skilled enough to get that author placed with...

Not wanting to snail mail partials isn't an issue, but the fact that you are so adament about it, and further that by the fact that you'd argue the point with every person to disagree, including the agents, on a public forum, kind of makes you appear less than fun to deal with... in case you were wondering...

And all of this is what I came away with from a blog about snail mail... I prefer to read in hard copy, like many previous posters said, but I'll submit in handwritten caligraphy if it'll help... okay, not really, but close.

Shalanna said...

This all brings up two questions/concerns.

1. I've never heard of putting your e-mail addy in a slugline (the old-fashioned word for the header at the top of pages 2-540.) I've always seen it as "LASTNAME/Title Words--P. X" at most. If the title is long, you're supposed to just use keywords from the title. In fact, I've had problems in conference-sponsored contests that wanted the headers right-justified and mine were left-justified, and they argued that my way was "wrong." Where is the industry's position on this stated? Is there such a thing as "the industry's position," come to think of it?

I would be afraid that my partials would be trashed by other editors/agents who didn't like seeing an e-mail addy and/or phone number in the header of every page. You wouldn't want to have a footer for each page with those in it, either, as that would ruin your 250 wds/pg count and it'd "look unprofessional." *sigh* It's a dilemma.

2. Many agencies and houses say they'll only respond to queries they're thrilled by, and this means that you often have to wonder whether an e-mailed query even got there. That's part of life. I don't recommend using any kind of "return receipt requested" bot. I find that the "return receipt requested" trick is a problem; I personally click on "NO, DON'T SEND THIS JACKA** ANY KIND OF NOTIFICATION AT ALL, AS IT'S NONE OF HIS/HER BUSINESS WHEN/IF I READ THE MESSAGE." And then I usually block that sender from then on. What business is it of his/hers when/if I read some message or other? I can read it at my leisure; that's the appeal of e-mail and the 'net.

To some extent it's a privacy issue. Where I used to work as a software engineer, there were managers who tagged all their trivial, time-wasting BS messages with that flag, and then they'd come to meetings and claim that So-and-So had read the message on Date:Time, and thus must have completely comprehended the message. I often countered that I had seen the message in the e-mail queue and had opened it so that it would quit beeping ("Ya Gots Mail, Hon"), but I hadn't had time to read all that stuff, so I'd skimmed it and then dragged it to a "read later" folder and could not be held accountable for whatever detail in the TPS reports that manager had been blathering on about. I imagine it would be equally intrusive for an agent to have to "acknowledge" that he or she has "read" your query (it's just a plain old intrusion and against my idea of what courtesy and privacy rules would dictate.) I'd forget about those "get a click to verify they're reading my message RIGHT NOW and that it's the MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD" verifications unless I were the manager at some TPS reports-generating company and I had the authority to zap employees who didn't drop everything to read my deathless-prose memo immediately.

Faye Hughes said...

Michele Dunaway wrote:

I sent Jessica 100 pages--a partial. **snip** Jessica sold 6 books for me last year. Well worth the risk I took when I queried her and then put my package in the mail.

It should be noted that when Jessica received that original query, Michele was already a multi-published author with a strong sales record at a major publisher. Yet, Michele had to follow the rules like everybody else. Ultimately, it's what we all have to do if we want to succeed in this business.

And for Anon 10:12 pm, I can understand your frustration -- this business can really drive us all crazy -- but it's not fair that you blasted Michele when all she's doing is pointing out the truth. Like it or not, agents do receive their income from their clients, not from potential clients who query them. Most agents read queries/partials after hours, as in nights and weekends, for that very reason. I know Michele Dunaway personally. She's far from being an elistist. To the contrary, she's a generous published authors in terms of volunteering her time and support to RWA and to the genre she loves.

The bottom line here, however, is that if an agent says, "I want the partial by snail mail," you have to follow those rules if you want that agent to read your work. It's a rule that applies to everybody -- published authors with a proven track record of success and unpublished authors.

Best wishes to everyone for publishing success.

Faye

A.C. Douglas said...

Merry Monteleone wrote: While I think it's pretty brave of AC Douglas not to sign anonymously for those comments (providing that's the real name he or she is trying to publish under).... [...] Here's the thing for me, though, if I was an agent that you were querying, I wouldn't work with you even if you wrote the most brilliant prose imaginable, because you appear more than a little difficult.

I’m afraid you’re right about my being “difficult” if by difficult you mean refusing to follow certain procedures simply because “that’s the way it’s done.” It has to make sense to me — business sense — otherwise I refuse to play along. And if you think I’m “difficult” in my dealings with agents, I’d be an absolute terror in my dealings with publishers as my view — my business view — of the publisher-author relationship is: after delivering a ms and going through the important editing process with the house’s editor to produce the finished ms, I’ve fulfilled my obligations and responsibilities — ALL of them. After that, everything — let me repeat that: everything — is on the publisher. I refuse to take any part whatsoever in the marketing and promotion of the finished book. That’s the publisher’s job entirely, not mine. That’s part of the reason why an author seeks a publisher. My job after delivering a finished ms is to write another book. That’s what authors do. Write books. Today (but not as recently as even 10 years ago), if an author is required by a publisher to take an active part in the marketing and promotion of the finished book, the author might as well self-publish and reap all the cash rewards for himself instead of sharing it with the publishing house.

Well, you get the idea.

Oh, and, yes, A.C. Douglas is my real name, and I’m a testosterone-saturated male (surprise!).

ACD

Mark Terry said...

I find AC Douglas's comments--and people's responses to his comment--interesting. What I'm not seeing is an understanding of where AC is coming from. I don't know this for certain, but AC seems to be coming from a very business-oriented point of view.

Why do I think that's important?

Your agent works FOR the writer. I know, I know. In the real world, agents may very well be in the driver's seat, or at least it seems that way since writers often feel like they're in the position of begging for representation. But agents are aware also that if you become wildly successful, guess what? They work for you. And you can go elsewhere if unhappy with representation.

I think the publishing industry works a certain way, ie., in regard to how manuscripts are delivered, how agents are expected to deal with editors, etc. So when an agent asks writers to do things a certain way, it's nice to think there's a professional level reason for doing so. In other words, we want hardcopies of manuscripts because 3 of the 8 editors we know who handle this material will only accept hardcopies.

But a truth often lost in the desperation to bend over backwards for representation, is that it's a business relationship and the writer may ALSO have a way of doing things for a variety of reasons, as well.

I see A.C. essentially saying, "look, I'm a business person and this is how my business runs. I'll adapt if necessary, but, a little flexibility on my BUSINESS PARTNER'S end would be a good thing as well. Quid pro quo and all that."

Now, maybe I'm putting words in A.C.'s mouth. I'm a published novelist, a fulltime freelance writer and editor, and a business person. I'm very flexible. At the same time, I'm aware that how my business partners (whether agents, editors, publishers, etc) run THEIR business affects MY business, and if I eventually find that the way they run their business hurts my business, then I need to re-think the relationship.

And yeah, I suppose I'm testosterone-addled as well, but in this case I think it's irrelevant.

A.C. Douglas said...

Mark Terry wrote: I find AC Douglas's comments--and people's responses to his comment--interesting. What I'm not seeing is an understanding of where AC is coming from. I don't know this for certain, but AC seems to be coming from a very business-oriented point of view. [...] I see A.C. essentially saying, "look, I'm a business person and this is how my business runs. I'll adapt if necessary, but, a little flexibility on my BUSINESS PARTNER'S end would be a good thing as well. Quid pro quo and all that." Now, maybe I'm putting words in A.C.'s mouth.

No, you’re not.

You’ve nailed it.

Perfectly.

ACD

Cranky Multi-Published Author said...

Okay, this has gotten beyond ridiculous.

AC and Mark can talk until they're blue in the face about how this is how THEY do business. Who cares? A writer who wants an agent to rep his work has two choices: either follow the submission rules for acquiring an agent, or don't. If he does follow the submission requirements, he *might* get representation. If he does not, he most assuredly will NOT.

And as for Mark, here is the thing that puzzles me. You say you are represented so why did you enter the first chapter/synopsis/query letter critique contest at BookEnds? It doesn't make sense.

But then I'm just a cranky multi-published author who is in desperate need of coffee this morning.

Mark Terry said...

"And as for Mark, here is the thing that puzzles me. You say you are represented so why did you enter the first chapter/synopsis/query letter critique contest at BookEnds? It doesn't make sense."

1. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

2. I'm keeping my options open.

3. For the hell of it.

4. It's good practice.

5. I discussed this in my cover letter to the fine ladies at BookEnds in response to "winning" the contest, and it's none of your business. :)

And I would say, if I'm working with someone and they say, "Can you mail us a hardcopy of the manuscript," I would PROBABLY say, "Sure." Or I might say, "I'd be willing to pay for your printing costs on your end so I don't have to spend three hours going to the UPS Store, paying $30 or $40 to have it printed up, return home, get it all packaged up, go back out again and spend $15 to have it mailed."

That's a couple hundred dollars of my work time that could be solved by attaching a PDF file and hitting SEND. It's a real consideration.

If they think that's a major inconvenience, well, so be it, but my time is valuable, it's cheaper for them to print it out than it is for me to print it and mail it.

My point, such as it is, is that if this writer-agent relationship is totally one-sided, then there may be problems with it.

A.C. Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A.C. Douglas said...

Cranky Multi-Published Author wrote: Okay, this has gotten beyond ridiculous. AC and Mark can talk until they're blue in the face about how this is how THEY do business. Who cares? A writer who wants an agent to rep his work has two choices: either follow the submission rules for acquiring an agent, or don't. If he does follow the submission requirements, he *might* get representation. If he does not, he most assuredly will NOT.

Oh? And you know this...How, exactly?

You’re of course dead wrong, and I have the agent contracts to prove it. Three, as a matter of fact; one after another over a period of some two years — for the same ms. (The ms was a tough sell, and I gave each agent who accepted it for representation six months to peddle it. If they were unsuccessful in that time it was to be assumed by both parties that they’d exhausted their contacts for this atypical niche-market ms, and we’d therefore part company.)

But please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that others would do well to follow my example. I offered it here as *my* response to Jessica’s post. My business methods and procedures are right for me. Others’ mileage will indubitably vary.

ACD

Anonymous said...

And for Anon 10:12 pm, I can understand your frustration -- this business can really drive us all crazy -- but it's not fair that you blasted Michele when all she's doing is pointing out the truth. Like it or not, agents do receive their income from their clients, not from potential clients who query them. Most agents read queries/partials after hours, as in nights and weekends, for that very reason.

If that's the case, and Jessica reads queries and partials in her spare time, then how am *I* (as a writer), taking any time away from Michele?

If that indeed is the case, then Michele is NOT paying for Jessica to read my query/parital.

I just feel it was a pretty crappy, yes crappy, thing to publicly state, and that it read more like a 5 year old throwing a temper tantrum because "Mommy" spends more time with the new baby.

Anonymous said...

For an agent, potential clients are just potential earnings. Existing clients represent actual earnings (or soon-to-be-actual-earnings).

I guess it's sort of like a saleseman who has to go to 100 doors before he makes 1 sale. He's only making $$$ on 1/100 contacts, but the other 99 are necessary to find The One.

spyscribbler said...

I just skimmed, I was afraid to read to closely, LOL. When I query BookEnds, and if Jessica asks me to snail mail, I'll do it gratefully. :-)

To contribute to the discussion, though, let's keep in mind that when we're writing, we're writing, and it's all about the love. But sometimes we have to turn on our business mind, and think about risks and profits and such.

I can see how someone would choose not to snail mail their manuscript in a search for representation. I've heard stories of people querying a hundred or more agents, sending out as many as fifty manuscripts.

I simply wouldn't be able to afford to print that many up. Even though I make enough profit from my fiction, where I could absorb that cost, I know that my living expenses could not absorb that kind of cost. (Printing and mailing a single manuscript has to be around $40, or?)

But I'd definitely set aside the money for my top pick agents.

Just like I wouldn't snail mail my manuscript to twenty small presses who typically give a $1000 advance, (I'd have spent the entire advance on the submission process and taxes!)

I would spend the money to snail mail it to Random House and Simon Schuster. :-)