Tales from Nitwit Town

A colleague received an email query. Like Miss Snark this agent does not accept e-queries and the website and listing at Publishers Marketplace are clear about that.

In a fit of generosity (never to be repeated) the agent responded to the query --which opened with "I read your website carefully"-- by saying "I believe you missed the part about no e-queries".

Herewith the response:

I didn't miss it. I ignored it. And here's why:
I am a soccer mom in suburban hell and writing is my only outlet. Because it fills my passion but not my pocket, the only way I can afford to stay writing is to be very tight with spending. Snail mail queries are expensive and wasteful. After spending two and a half years writing- realizing no income, I don't feel it is out of line for agents to at least take a quick look at the writing via email to see if suits them. This saves the writer a lot of time and expense. Please don't make the writing community a self-selecting group who can afford the entrance fee.

Ah yes. Silly us. We forgot you're the one with the dispensation to be treated differently. You've gone to all that time and trouble to write it, to research the agents, why shouldn't they do you the simple courtesy of a quick look.

Because you sent an attachment?
Because we ask you to submit work in the way we want to receive it?
Because this is a business, not soccer league where "everyone plays"?

I'd like to have Office Max give me printer ink for free too. I mean...don't they WANT me as a customer? It's the least they could do. We all know ink is overpriced and ink is how HP actually makes money since their hardware is a loss leader. Surely Office Max doesn't want to limit their customer base to a self selecting group who can afford the entrance fee.

And that entrance fee. Gosh darn. It's $2 per query. And if you query fifty agents, thats $100. It's such a burden, but nevermind, we'll bend the rules just for you; you're entitled being a soccer mom in hell and all. What were we thinking, asking you to behave like this was a business. Silly silly us. Please, send your work. In fact, we have your response letter all ready. We'll even put our own stamp on it to save you 37 hard-earned cents.

Dear Soccer Mom:
Thank you so much for sending me your query letter and sample chapter via email. Today, at 10am when I received it and downloaded the attachment, my computer crashed. No matter, I was GLAD to get your work. My computer technichian had us back up and running in a jiffty. He charges $85 an hour to do diagnositc work and he was here for two hours, but you know, we had lots to do while we waited. We read those boring snail mail queries from people who aren't really special enough to know the rules don't apply to them.

And your work: it’s breathtaking. Awe-inspiring. I don't think I've read a novel that made me shiver in just that way before. Of course we'll be offering you a contract. Before you sign it, you need to send me fifteen copies of your 1500 page novel. I'd like them shrink wrapped and mailed separately. I know you won't mind because of course, you wouldn't want something as vile as expense to come between us would you? Of course not.

Much love,
Miss Snark


Bonnie Calhoun said...

ROFLMAO......that was great Miss Snark....get it all out so you don't take it out on the UPS driver tomorrow!

Breathe said...

I'd hate for my kid to play on this woman's team.

Soccer mom chilling with wine during practice,

E. Dashwood said...

Although I never sent an unsolicited attachment--nor would I ever open one, I received some positive responses from agents for whom I did not follow the letter of their law,e.g., sending sample pages when they asked only for a letter. None of these landed an agen, but it wasn't because of my violating their strict requirements. I found that agents would ignore violation of their rules if they liked what they were reading.

In the end, my agent is one who had ambiguous requirements, i.e., query with SASE. I saw that as a green light to send my whole proposal.

Christine said...

Ick. Why don't people understand??? You know, if you can't follow a few simple instructions, WHY oh WHY would that agent/editor/whatever want to work with you? It costs a whopping .37 to send a query, plus another .37 for a SASE, plus some paper and two envelopes. Even I can afford that, but I shop at Staples, where the store brand is REALLY cheap. Come on, 500 envelopes for less than $5! A ream of paper for $3! And their ink is pretty cheap too.
Clip a couple of coupons, soccer mom, and you can get that easily.


Mad Scientist Matt said...

Yikes. She's one of the few who I would wish got "accepted" by a Deering clone scammer.

litagent said...

Let me add to this rant:

If an agent doesn't publish a telephone number, there's a reason; he/she doesns't wish to be contacted by telephone. But sure enough, every few weeks (yesterday in fact) my home phone rings, and on the other end is some enterprising author who has tracked me down and is now surprised that I: A. didn't answer in a more professional manner (Yelling hello over your kids cartoons) and B. am not particularly enthusiastic about his project. Would you call your dentist at home? Your hair stylist? Well, maybe you would, but don't call me. Once I take on an author, I give him all the appropriate ways to contact me -- office phone number, cell phone number, muliple email addresses. But until I represent you, don't be presumptuous. It's a WRITTEN medium after all. Write to me. And ditto Miss Snark's comments on attachments -- and sending the entire novel when a sample's been asked for -- and all the other little games authors play because they think they're the exception. Phew, glad to get that off my chest. Thanks Miss Snark.

kmfrontain said...
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kmfrontain said...
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Dave Kuzminski said...

I fully agree. If an author can't follow simple guidelines concerning what to send, though I have encountered a few places where conflicting guidelines were posted, then the author shouldn't expect the agent or editor to review their work.

As to the phone numbers, I also agree. Even they need time to themselves. In fact, that's why P&E doesn't post phone numbers and email addresses unless the agent or publisher wishes those posted.

kitty said...

"I am a soccer mom in suburban hell and writing is my only outlet."

First of all, SocMom, you chose that life.

In 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published, Pat Walsh wrote:
In a profession where protocols are valued, writers are judged partially by their ability to follow the directions.

Ric said...

Miss Snark,
You obviously don't understand that I'm trying to help you. My book (just finished the last page this morning) is very very hot. It's based on Dracula and held together with Transylvania folk music and a dusty old Bible written in some language I haven't figured out yet.
Mitch Albom, a fellow columnist, says it's great (or he will when he gets around to answering his email).
The reason for the email is you need to jump on this fast. There's a rumor a girl in Ann Arbor is writing something similar and I just know a seven - 7 - figure advance is yours for the asking.
I'll be waiting by the phone because I'm sure you'll call - pay no attention to the fact that it's a different area code. You need to have this in your hands this afternoon.
Yes, I'm aware what your web site says, but that's for the 'little' people, not for REAL writers.
I'll be here designing the cover for the book. It's much more interesting than fixing those typos on page 1. Isn't that what editors are for?

Anxiously waiting by the phone.
Thank you for your prompt consideration, but if I don't hear from you by 2, I'll have no choice but to go straight to another agent who understands the process better.

Anne said...

"Snail mail queries are expensive and wasteful."

Only if you are carpetbombing agents. If you are finding the right agents for the material, doing the research, etc., then it's not expensive at all, because you're not sending a million letters out.

I'd be curious to see some stats on email-friendly agents vs. snail-only. I imagine the first category gets at least 50% more submissions, which makes "the courtesy of a quick look" actually a lot to ask.

litagent said...

I would say the ratio, for me, is more like 2 to 1 or even 3 to 1, email queries over snail mail. I actually prefer email, because it's easier to respond. (SASE or not, it still means I have to type up a letter, print it out, put it in the envelope and mail it.) But it also means that I'm perpetually swamped, so I'm seriously considering a change in policy.

Jamie said...

Snarkiest post ever.

Bernita said...

Our Snarkendipidous darling.

Breathe said...

I have been noting my email address in cover letters (along with SASE) in case they prefer to respond that way.

Anyone else try that?

Saundra Mitchell said...

Breathe- I highly recommend putting your e-mail address in your letterhead (but yes, still send the SASE!) During my search, I had several agents respond to paper queries via e-mail, as did the agent with whom I eventually signed.

roach said...

I have noticed a correlation between a writer following submissions guidelines and the suitability of the submission for a given project. In 9 out of 10 cases if the writer isn't submitting according to my guidelines then the work isn't what I'm looking for.

rosemerry said...

Soccer mom chose to be that. If she doesn't like soccer she should have put her kids in little league.