1.23.2006

Agent Cool assists Miss Snark in steering Snarklings straight

One of Miss Snark's colleagues, Agent Cool, sends the following:

Could you please tell your readers (of which I am one):

1. No more querying mutiple agents via email! For those of us who accept email queries, we certainly can read the CC line to see that you also queried the rest of our office. And even if the author is quick enough to use the BBC function, agents just kinda know if something's been shopped around. One agent, one manuscript per agency at a time. You can do a mutiple submission--just one agent, one ms per agency at a time.

2. Not to submit more than one query at a time to an agent. No more letters with "I hope you'll like at least one of the twelve novels I've written " in queries. Frankly, and I think you will agree, that when I read that the author has 12 unpublished novels on the shelf, then there's got to be a reason why none of them have been published.


Agent Cool makes a very good point and I'm glad she wrote in since Miss Snark does not accept email queries and it hadn't yet occured to her that anyone would be nitwittish enough to send email queries to "dear agent".

Email queries vary only in their delivery system from snail mail queries. Yes, you have to put the agent's name on them. Yes "dear agent" or "dear submissions review board" or "dear Mr. Snark" are all BAD BAD things.

18 comments:

Bernita said...

Relief.
I may be found not worthy, but I am certainly not guilty of the above.
Now if that agent would just get back to me with a yes or no....

Maxwell said...

This is the problem with e-mail in general. It's too fast and easy. That's great for a lot of things, but it tends to short-circuit your common sense and discretion.

I've carried at least some of the habits of physical letter writing over to the e-mail world. Folks only a little bit younger than me, have no memories of the pre e-mail world. That's got to be a whole different conceptual concept for them.

If you want to get published on paper, you need to learn and respect the rules and traditions of the world of paper. Even if it's something you send via e-mail, all those rules are still there.

Anonymous said...

If Agent Cool is out there, could she comment in general about the propriety of querying multiple agents at the same agency?

I'm just about ready to send out queries, and there are a number of agents on my A-list who work at the same agency as another A-list agent. I had assumed it would be rude to query two agents at the same agency, ever. However, Agent Cool's comment implies that sequential submissions are fine, although simultaneous submissions are not.

Comments?

Jarsto said...

I currently have four finished novels lying around, but I would never say so in a query. The reason I still have them lying around here is that I don't think they're ready to be published yet. In fact at least two of them may never be ready. I learned a lot from writing them, but they'd need major surgery to make their plots believable and engaging. Quite frankly I can't even imagine asking an agent to pick one of twelve novels that way.

But I do think there is a difference between just having the novels on the shelf and pitching them all at once. That said I'd start worrying if I didn't have anything I thought publishable by the time I reached twelve novels, even though I don't spend as much time as I should editing. (I just like writing new stuff a lot better)

Sal said...

re e-mail correspondence, watch the subject line. Use nothing in the subject line that might even vaguely be construed as spammish.

A friend of mine, in her capacity as editor of Seismological Research Letters, had mail trapped in her spam filter and lost for a week. She finally was able to track the mail down.

What happened? The subject header was "submission," it came from a Mexican domain and had a large attachment -- a combination of factors that tagged the mail as spam. Luckily, she'd been expecting the submission and followed up when it didn't arrive as expected.

If you're sending something to someone who's not expecting it, they won't be following up when it goes missing.

Watch it.

While you're waiting for an e-mail response, worry about your spam filters and how they might interfere with the response you're expecting.

E-mail goes missing, gets hung up in spam filters, gets discarded sight unseen because it looks like a letter from the wife of the nephew of the guy who used to run Nigeria.

If you're going to use e-mail for queries and/or submissions, do everything you can do to ease the route both coming and going.

Bernita said...

Wonder if it's alright to re-e-query, considering the spam comments above?

Or send a snail-mail query?

Or just write it off as as NO from a rude (or new-to-tech) agent who decided not to respond - in spite of inviting e-queries - but has not bothered to post a don't call-us-we'll-call- you type of disclaimer?

Anonymous said...

Re: Unpublished novels 'on the shelf.'

I agree you shouldn't query or pitch more than one project at a time. This just seems like common sense at every level--don't scatter your efforts.

In a surprising number of cases (Sue Grafton and Stephen King are some of the more familiar names) it is the fourth novel that gets published. In the case of George V. Higgins, it was the fifteenth. When the reviewers talk about what a great 'first novel' a book is, they usually mean 'debut novel' (though they may not know it).

Querying or pitching about more than one thing is just silly. But so is the point of view of some agents that if there are unpublished novels that they must be unpublishable.

Case in point: John Gardner. When he finally got through to the right person in the industry, he had been writing for ten years and had five unpublished novels. The editor in question took all of them.

If you're a good writer, your unpublished work isn't something to be embarrassed about--it's an asset waiting to be deployed at some future date. This is the only place Hollywood is more sensible than publishing--your unsold work is viewed as as a resource, and if an agent or produced comes across something they sort of like, they often ask, "What else do you have in your trunk?" (Guess they don't have 'shelves.')

Agent Cool said...

To Anonymous:
Pick one agent and submit one query to them. Wait for that agent to get back to you. If they are not right for your work, but feel another agent in their office is, they will gladly pass along your query, at least in my experience. There's no harm in resubmitting to another agent at the same agency, but I wouldn't get my hopes up about the results. If someone else was right for it, you'd already know.
Check the agency's website to see if they post agent profiles. Use that to direct your queries, when available.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, AC!

That was pretty much how I figured it might work, only with more pointing and laughing at the nitwit who requeried the same agency.

litagent said...

Ditto all of Agent Cool's remarks, and also Sal's sage advice: if I get back an email message asking me to "request approval" or some such nonsense to respond to an email SENT TO ME (and it happens all the time), the author can be sure he'll never hear from me.

The Beautiful Schoolmarm said...

I recently sent out eight query letters (and various query packages including chapters and pages and aynopses as per different agents' policies). Most of them took e-queries too, but I felt like a paper query was more personal and more sure. This is probably strange, but and e-query feels to casual for something I've invested five years in.

I can guarantee that none of them were sent to Miss Snark because she doesn't handle fantasy.

Mark said...

Yeah, I've never cc'd several agents at once. Sometimes they want the proposal in the body of the e-mail to avoid attachements. These are all very easy rules to follow and I've had good luck with this querying format. Just no luck selling the projects, which is another matter.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

To the agent that I'm submitting To
An Insta Poem by Rachael

I haven't a clue about your name.
Using Mr. Miss or Mrs seems so lame.
Oh and that stain on my manuscript is just a bit of baby goo.
Ignore it. It's good for you.

I wish you'd answer my email.
You know the one? I sent it to you personally.
Miss/Mr/Mrs Agent who will make me rich. . .
That one.
Your answer back is slower than a snail.

I know we can't help but be a winning pair.
I'll make you rich with by book on net manners.
You'll be able to retire, and that's no fair!

I slave away writing this stuff and sending queries
by the dozen.
I have to do it this way. I have muffins in the oven.

The least you could do is circle the appropriate title
and mail me back a contract.
Then I'll know exactly how rich I'll be and famous too.
And all from telling you to ignore the baby goo.

Ok no comments on the bad poetry! I think I won an award for quickest poet within two blocks of my house once. And that proves I'm a great poet! So shush!

Anonymous said...

Oooh, I feel so dirty, now. Last year I did multiple email queries. Personalized them, though. Sometimes I even queried three and four agents at the same agency. Worse, I didn't check to see if they accepted email queries! But wait, it gets worse. One of the agents I queried emailed me back. She was aware I was submitting to other agents in the office! She didn't even accept email queries, she said. Wait again. Now it gets good. I signed with her. Turns out she liked my book. You and your rules, Agent Cool. So not cool.

tremblor said...

I just start all of my queries with "Yo:"

I use the colon because it is a business correspondence, after all.

The Beautiful Schoolmarm said...

It's all in the punctuation, doncha know. Make your English teachers proud!

Anonymous said...

What about those places that say, "email queries to email@emailplace.com" but don't list the names of the agents or editors who you should be addressing the email to? Is it still taboo to address these agents and editors more generally, or do they still expect a personalized query letter?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Many of the agencies that use a generalized email for queries also have the names of the agency principals on their web site. I do my best to find the names of those associated with the agency and address my query to the owner if possible.

I'm not sure it's worth the effort. Probably I don't reach the agency owner. But still, I think it's the professional approach.