1.11.2006

SASEs

Ok, so you think SASEs are only for rejections.
You think they are a waste of time.
You think if I want your book I'll contact you.

I'm not going to spend much time trying to convince you otherwise.

I'll leave it at this: if you don't include an SASE in your query, I'm not going to read it.

I'll tell you this ahead of time, not as some sort of idle threat to follow the directions or die, just as a heads up.

There's a lot of advice out there on the internet about how to send queries.
I'm the one reading the slush pile.

You decide.

56 comments:

R.J. Baker said...

Who would have thought that this is such a polarizing issue?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Hi Snarkie!

A SASE is good sense and good manners.

Most of the questions that come my way are via email. Even answering an email costs me money.

I am always happy to answer questions (assuming they aren't insulting or a request to give away an expensive book). Most requests ask for photos. I must take them; up load them; and write what additional matter the email demands. Costs money honey.

There should be no issue here. Send the SASE. Your work is worth it, isn't it? And, if you can't respect the agent enough to send one, why should they respect your work?

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:
I'm echoing earlier comments trails, but ...

Only really full-of-themselves-arrogant-writers think SASEs just contain form rejections. Their assumption must be that their query letter and synopsis will knock the socks off an agent, making her leap over tall stacks of slush to dial star nine and the writer's number in order to sign it.

Out of five recent snail-mail queries I sent to agents, three of them used my SASE to request a full or a partial. Only two of the five used it for a form R.

Anonymous said...

Nothing like clinging to the same ol' same ol' when common sense dictates otherwise, huh? The SASE is unnecessary. Silence means "no" to a writer ... it's that simple.

This also applies to your dreaded email queries. Curious you employ internet technologies for everything but the query.

Let the SASE and policy vs. equeries go the way of the agent and editor who actually groom writing talent.

Tom said...

Will agents spring for the two cent stamps on SASEs sent some time ago?

E. Ann Bardawill said...

I don't get resistance to SASEs either.

If I phone someone and leave a message, I clearly state who I am, and HOW to get in touch with me.

I don't expect them to lug out a phone book and look me up.

It's courtesy and common sense.

Anonymous said...

Three reasons -- from my personal experience -- to include the SASE, BESIDES the fact that it's universally requested by agents:

1. To gauge the level of response to my work. I've gotten an incredible number of positive comments on my rejections. This let me know I was on the right track. When I got all form rejections, I knew something needed improvement, and it sure as hell wasn't the "system".

2. To provide documentation for tax purposes. I filed a Schedule C as a writer for 4 years before I made a sale and was able to write off tons of expenses. My rejection file is proof to the IRS that I'm actively pursuing writing as a BUSINESS.

3. To receive requests for partials and fulls. Yes, it does happen. It just hasn't happened to the naysayers. Nor will it.

4. To verify that the query arrived. I had 1 instance in which the query was lost. The only way I knew to inquire was no SASE in my mailbox.

OK, that's four, not three. And that's just off the top of my head at 6-damn-30 in the morning before coffee. I followed the rules, I have an agent and a book coming out from a major publisher in May 2006. SASE's only helped.

Anonymous said...

While I enjoy the vast majority of your posts, this one reminds me that this blog is merely one perspective.

Some writers don't just "think" agents don't use SASEs. Some of us have sent many queries with SASEs, only to have a low percentage (10% in my case) come back via SASE.

Personally, since I only target agents I think are right for my work, I'm not doing enough mass mailing to complain about the stamps that never come back. Nevertheless, the point remains: if more agents would use the SASEs, I think fewer writers would question their use.

Anonymous said...

Admittedly, when I was (finally) offered representation, the offer came by phone. But before I found an agent, I actually had five requests for full manuscripts come in my SASEs. (Others came via e-mail, and only a couple by phone.)

Okay: an SASE in my mailbox used to give me a sinking feeling. It's true, MOST were rejections. But they weren't always bad news, and in a number of cases where they didn't request material, agents did have personal comments, tips, or suggestions--or in sometimes said "this one's not for me, but I'd like to see any other work you might have." And I'm guessing that the agents might not have bothered without the SASE.

Even if agents don’t immediately toss your query if it arrives sans SASE, I think you're doing yourself a major disservice if you don’t include one. Not sending an SASE amounts to upping the work an agent must do to give you feedback. Is that really what you want to do?

Uisce said...

I thought "penny wise and pound foolish" was pretty good advice.

Anonymous said...

Have there been any investigations into the possibility that the AAR is receiving kickbacks from the postal service?

Anonymous said...

"Silence means "no" to a writer ... it's that simple."

Now granted I don't have any experience with this (never felt my work was ready to submit yet) but it seems to me that silence can mean far more than just "no", if the silence occurs because you don't send a SASE. For example silence could mean "I don't have time to take this on, but I think X might be a good person to try." Or it might mean "You should work a little on a few things, but I'd be happy to see more of your work once you do." Without the SASE you don't know what the silence means. In fact chances are some of the silences mean "You couldn't be bothered to send a SASE like everyone else, so I couldn't be bothered to read it."

Susan said...

Now here's a dumb question. The SASE is a business envelope for just one or two sheets of paper, right? Not a huge SASE that would hold the entire manuscript. Or do you send both? Is it widely accepted that once you send out a manuscript it won't be returned but recycled if rejected?

Anonymous said...

I figure that when I'm trying to contact an agent--whom I want to respond to me, yes or no--it's in my own interest to give that agent as many ways to contact me as possible.

Like others, I've received positive comments and requests for partials via SASE. I've also received a form rejection via email. It's not like SASEs are cursed and other forms of contact are blessed.

For those who believe that SASEs only contain rejection letters, I don't see why it's so hard to acknowledge that your experience may not mesh with Miss Snark's practice.

mysterygirl said...

I've been querying agents for the past several months. Over half the agents who've requested partials and fulls have done so via snail mail using my SASE.

I've met a lot of writers at conferences who crab and moan about submission requirements, and think they can change the rules by ignoring them. This baffles me. I'd rather play by the rules so I can find and agent and get published.

M. G. Tarquini said...

2. To provide documentation for tax purposes. I filed a Schedule C as a writer for 4 years before I made a sale and was able to write off tons of expenses. My rejection file is proof to the IRS that I'm actively pursuing writing as a BUSINESS.

Gold star to the anonymous person.

You need the form rejections. They keep the IRS happy. They prove to the IRS that you are indeed a real author and not a hobby. Do you understand what that means?

Losses.

Tax-deductible LOSSES. For the postage and the paper and the computer and the conferences and the envelopes and the printer ink and the books on writing and ...

Get my drift?

How much are those losses worth? For the calendar year ending 2005, depending on your tax bracket, from zero percent to 35 percent on the dollar, more because, depending on the state or municipality you may also be able to take the losses with them.

Some of you may say, 'What's it matter? I make nothing anyway, so I can't take the losses.'

Because of something called Loss Carryforward. Yes. When you finally land that deal and the chunky advance check arrives, you have old losses to put against it.

Check with your accountant on this. I've been out of that game a while, so I'm not up on anything that doesn't concern my personal taxes. Anybody out there filing jointly with somebody who does make money, should dance a jig to find out about the Schedule C stuff and should consider filing amended returns for past tax years.

What? You didn't save your receipts, or your rejections or your...

Excuse me, I'm off to have a vapor.

Eileen said...

Personally- I figured a chance at the career I want is worth the few pennies to send out a SASE. My now agent called me rather than use it- but to be honest it's never occurred to me to ask for my stamp back. Maybe all those years of Catholic school beat it into me- but geez people follow the directions.

R.J. Baker said...

The Tale of Two Tragedies:

First, a good writer, whose work will not be read for not including an SASE.

Second, a good agent, will not find the good writer, because they refuse to read anything without an SASE

What a shitty plot line. You decide.

Anonymous said...

An agent or editor won't reject you because you included a SASE and it makes it easier. They will reject you because your writing isn't good enough, your query letter isn't compelling, you used pink unicorn paper, whatever.
The last time I sent out query letters - about 20, before realizing the book wasn't ready - I got 8 requests for the manuscript. All of them used the SASE. I got about another 5 or 6 handwritten notes that were very positive. Again, all of them used the SASE.
I've also had editors who didn't want something refer me to another editor. I can't imagine they would have bothered doing it if I hadn't included an SASE.
But you know what's more important than all of this? Once you get to the point where you are sending out manuscripts, you have crossed the line from art to commerce. Commerce tends to follow set rules. In this case, one of the rules is, include a SASE unless otherwise told. Even if you end up querying 100 agents, that's still only and extra $50 or so (with postage and actual envelopes).
I don't know. This kind of argument always reminds me of my stoner friends in high school who used to say they didn't wear seatbelts because they thought they could be thrown to safety in a car accident. Yeah.

Anonymous said...

I just think it's polite to do everything I can to help someone that I'm trying to get to help me! And it's only 39 cents!

Christa M. Miller said...

As I said on the other blog, to me, it's about showing the agent you can follow directions - however small they are. I personally do not want to risk an agent thinking I won't be willing to make suggested detailed changes to the work, just because I ignored the SASE requirement.

Details, BTW, get authors rejected all the time... "Dear Agent" is one. Spelling and punctuation are the ultimate tiny details. IMHO, an SASE is no different.

Steven said...

"The SASE is a business envelope for just one or two sheets of paper, right? Not a huge SASE that would hold the entire manuscript. Or do you send both?"

The SASE is the business envelope. I always send a ms which my cover letter says is disposable since the cost of postage is greater than that of printing out again. Also, once the ms has been read, it really isn't in shape to be sent out again in my experience.

SA said...

Here's a million dollar question, is an SASE still needed if you've sent the mss upon being asked by the agent in response to an equery? If an SASE is the deal breaker then all six requests for my manuscript will be rejected ;-( I figured the agents would reply via email. Boy, am I a novice!

Dave Kuzminski said...

Silence, a.k.a. no response, also means you don't know if the agent actually received your query or submission.

Contrary to what some naysayers state, most agents and publishers do respond using the SASE provided to them.

SAND STORM said...

Ol' Ms Snark has got it all wrong!Here is what you do for her and all other agents. Print your MS on lime green or bright pink paper this always gets their attention first. Then to make sure you keep their attention you use single spaced lines with an 8 pt. fancy font. This allows them to focus on your work. Let them know right up front you are the next James Frey or Paris Hilton. State what you require them to do for you this to will help in their decision. Fold MS in half and courier it to them with instructions that they have 3 days to phone you with a response.
Also tell them that you only will accept a contract from a major house.
Now if enough of you would follow these simple instructions then you will be so busy answering all the requests for your MS that ol' MS Snark will finally see the error of her ways and in a fit of emotion decide to change the genre she represents and say go with oh I don't know maybe Thrillers.

Anonymous said...

I queried agents a while back. I always used an SASE.

I received only rejections in the SASE. Some were very nice, hand-written rejections with great feedback. Some were form letters.

I never, not once, received a request for a partial or full MS via the SASE. All those requests came via e-mail or over the phone, and yes, all of those requests also requested an additional SASE for the agent's reply.

When I signed with my agent, I signed after a phone call.

In other words, none of the agents who requested a partial or full, or who offered to represent me, actually used the SASE I provided.

Do I care about that? No.

I included an SASE because it showed that I could follow the rules, not because I expected agents to use them if they wanted to represent me.

Mama Rose said...

I don't understand why this is such a big deal. You gain nothing by omitting the SASE. And you gain a lot by including it, as evidenced by the stories people have told. It seems like a no-brainer to me. This is a tough business to break into. Why make it even tougher by ignoring the requests of people you hope to do business with? :)

Linda

kathie said...

There's resistance to SASE's? WTF? (thanks Miss Snark for my new favorite phrase) Sometimes the degree to which I'm out of the loop is stunning.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

My goodness, I thought we were DONE with this! Can we move on to other nitwit topics, pu-lease?

*oh, and this is why M.G. Tarquini is my accountant. I can't keep any of this straight*

Stacy said...

I taught high school for several years before becoming an editor, and both jobs have one striking similarity. There are lots of rules, for very good reasons, but lots of extra-bright folks feel that rules are stupid, and ignore them. So, in much the same way that I would send the student to redo an assignment if he didn't follow the rules, I often find myself asking authors to redo or resubmit or just-bloody-email-it-to-me-I'll-do-it-myself-dammit! It always means more work, it always means more cost, it always means that your schedule is thrown to hell. Department head is mad, Marketing reps are mad, because they promised people the book when we said it would be ready, they didn't make up the dates, did they! Management is mad, cost overruns are biting everybody in the ass. And you can always tell which authors are going to give the most trouble because they were the ones who refused to follow the simplest instructions. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Some writers don't just "think" agents don't use SASEs. Some of us have sent many queries with SASEs, only to have a low percentage (10% in my case) come back via SASE.

Well, then, some writers probably are doing something else wrong to cause a lack of response. Like sending letters addressed to "Dear Agent" or something. Some writers probably suck, too.

Nevertheless, the point remains: if more agents would use the SASEs, I think fewer writers would question their use.

Obviously not so good at math, are you? Maybe two people here are questioning their use, and over 30 on the other side of the fence.

Signing as anonymous because if it's good enough for the whiner, it's good enough for me.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Doing what the agent asks you to do is a sign of respect for them. It shows you're paying attention. It shows you've got a good attitude.

Giving a one or two finger salute and tossing your manuscript off any damn way you please is ignorant. And it's the sing of a prima donna, someone who will be difficult. I mean, if you can't listen to the agent before you sign a contract... well, if I was said agent, I wouldn't want to deal with you.

I read magazine submissions. I'm amazed at the number of people who don't read the guidelines. They send queries even though we don't want them - we say just send your work. They send stories that are 9000 words long when we only publish up to 6000, tops. They put hard returns in their material and - shoot me now - one of them typed in the page numbers (I mean, come on, being allowed to submit via email is cost-free. Invest a frickin' minute in formatting your work the way we ask for it).

Seriously, reading submissions has given me a real sympathy for what agents and publishers must go through on a daily basis.

Just do what you're bloody well asked to do. Sure, SASE's get lost. IRC's don't get used. Maybe. It could also be the fault (heaven forbid) of the post office. I've had that happen on matters completely unrelated to manuscript submissions.

And you know, sometimes the agent or publisher uses the sase to send you back some suggestions for revision that are actually valuable.

I'm with Miss Snark all the way on this one.

Anonymous said...

While I haven't yet reached the point to start querying, I can't imagine exluding the SASE.

Of course silence means no, but having a form rejection letter means you can stop waiting. Second Choice Agency calls you up six months after the letters go out, but you're not sure if First Choice Agency is going to call because they usually take six months to respond, too. Maybe they would have sent you a rejection letter (or a request)last month, had they had an SASE to do so.

My $.02, for what's worth.

Anonymous said...

The agent I currently am targeting asked for a full using my SASE. Enclosing one, if asked, looks professional. It's hard enough to get published. Why in heaven's name would somebody neglect to do something as simple as enclose an SASE? To prove a point? OK. But when my two-year-old holds her breath to prove a point, it's her who ends up passing out.

Feisty said...

Some people just have to be contrary.

I don't get why this is an issue other than some nitwit thinks he knows better than anyone else.

Kate Davies said...

Gee, every request for more material (queries to partials, partials to completes) I've ever received has arrived in my SASEs. And a significant percentage of my rejections have been personalized, with great suggestions for improving my work. I wouldn't give that up for anything.

I guess I don't understand the hostility to the SASE expectation. Yeah, it's a downer to see the envelope in the mail, but so what? This is a tough business. Get used to it.

Besides, how do you close out a submission officially without knowing the response, form rejection or otherwise? I'd rather get a 'thanks, not for us' than a big fat ... nothing.

Irate Savant said...

Ah, yes, but the question is what else to include. A small gift, perhaps--tasteful, yet nonetheless mesmeric? All too sadly, I have found that the self-evident brilliance of my writing is insufficient.

Sonarbabe said...

I would say that 98% of my SASE's contained rejections. However, of the ones I've sent, I have received partial requests and in a very nice change, a rejection with very useful feedback.

Another thing, rejections are a part of the biz. No one likes rejections, but it develops a tough skin. Deal with it. Spend the whopping $.39, do what the agent or editor asks and get over it. You're not doing yourself any favors by being a rebel. Just making yourself look like a fool.

Kathleen said...

I agree with the last two responses (and most of the others)...this isn't a controversy. My advice is to do what you think you need to. If you think you don't need to send a SASE for whatever reason, and you are unconvinced by Miss Snark's vehemence, then nothing I can say will change your mind.

However, I am concerned that some of the anti-SASE folks are trying to convince others that they are right and that newbies will be taken in.

The point (and yes, there is a point in here somewhere) is that when agents provide quidelines, it is in the writer's best interest to follow them, if he/she wants that agent to represent him/her.

Harry Connolly said...

From reading Mr. Konrath's blog, it appears that the point is not pinching pennies, but one of psychology. He claims that including an SASE shows a lack of confidence in your work, because you've provided a ready means to send a rejection.

I think this is wrong-headed, but whatever. The man isn't trying to save money and trouble. He's trying to seem like a writer who doesn't expect a rejection.

Shesawriter said...

That this question even has to be raised is ridiculous.

Tanya

Just Me said...

How on earth does an SASE 'encourage' an agent to reject your work? I genuinely don't get this.

Does this guy, whoever he is, seriously think that an agent is gonna go 'Gee, there's no SASE, so I guess I'll just have to accept this writer onto my books'? Or what?!

Sal said...

Reminds me of the two very different personalities of our two sons.

Stacy sed: I taught high school for several years before becoming an editor, and both jobs have one striking similarity. There are lots of rules, for very good reasons, but lots of extra-bright folks feel that rules are stupid, and ignore them.

Both guys had the same English teacher one year. One was a senior, the other a freshman.

This teacher insisted that students keep a binder with all notes, homework, handouts, assignments, &c.

All paper had to be 8.5x11. Square corners. You could use either black or blue ink, but whatever color you used Day One of the semester, you had to keep using for the entire semester.

Our older, "creative" son was having a conniption fit. Her rules didn't make any sense. Why only black or blue ink for the entire semester? Why square corners and not rounded? Why? Why?

The younger, more um. socially adept, son sed, "She tells you exactly what she wants. If you do what she wants, she gives you a good grade. Deciding to do what she's told you to do is hard why?"

Anonymous said...

FYI, apparently you need an SASE for short stories, too. Who knew? I called a magazine 12 weeks after sending in a story to see what's up. Lady said they hadn't read it yet, they did receive it, and btw, where's the SASE? She said she needed it to send me a contract if they want to use my story. Needless to say, I mailed her an SASE the same day. Nitwit no more.

Anonymous said...

He's trying to seem like a writer who doesn't expect a rejection.

Which, as many above have pointed out, is likely to look like arrogance to the agents. Or rather, it would if they could discern what the lack of an SASE means in this particular case. Probably they will assume 'oh, here's another idiot who can't follow simple instructions.'

Peter L. Winkler said...

"Doing what the agent asks you to do is a sign of respect for them."

Howza bout respect for the writer from said agent? Said agent who, not seeing an SASE tosses the letter without even reading it with the hostile sentiment "Yanno, f'you buddy."

This is what Dr. Phil calls a "right fight."

Even though Miss Snark admits that the SASEs are for rejection-therefore also admitting they serve no useful purpose for either the agent or writer-she demands you include them OR ELSE.

Everything hinges on adherence to a meaningless protocol that has no relation to the actual value of the material being submitted.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Peter, SASE's do serve a useful purpose. I've gotten a few form rejections, but also personalized letter. One even suggesting publishers I could approach who they felt would be very interested in my material.

If I hadn't sent the SASE I wouldn't have gotten that.

And why should people just respect everyone who sends in a manuscript? We all know there are plenty of people sending out trash, as well as sending out former Booker prize winners under false names to try to prove how dumb publishers are. I have a friend who works in the publishing industry in New York City - do you have any idea how many manuscripts come in every day? They have a filing room for them.

The way to get people in this industry to respect you isn't to sh!t all over them. It costs less than 50 frickin' cents - damn, if I can afford the ink, the paper and the postage for the manuscript, WTF difference does that make?

Anonymous said...

monica writes:

Peter:

That's just it! It's not necessarily pointless to just put in the silly envelope with the silly little stamp. SASE Is not just for rejections. (as it has been pointed out at least six dozen times over the course of four posts by Miss S.) I don't care if an agent uses it to pick his/her teeth with. They ask for it, so send it. If you can spend $.39 to mail off the query, then you can spend an extra $.39 to get a reply.

"Everything hinges on adherence to a meaningless protocol that has no relation to the actual value of the material being submitted."

No. It hinges on the writer being able to follow directions. If I were an agent, I would hesitate to work with someone who couldn't be bothered to follow directions that I set forth. If they can't cooperate in the inquiry stage, that paints a rather unpleasant picture of what the rest of the relationship will be like.

That's just me, however.

Anonymous said...

"...therefore also admitting they serve no useful purpose for either the agent or writer..."

There are dozens of comments above enumerating the uses of the SASE from writers both published and unpublished.

Remodeling Repartee said...

Okay already. It was my first submission and I FORGOT!!!! And haven't heard boo in twelve weeks.

Can we change the topic so I can stop beating myself up?

Harry Connolly said...

Everything hinges on adherence to a meaningless protocol that has no relation to the actual value of the material being submitted.

Things have the meaning I say they have. Also, things have only the meaning I say they have, and no other.

Relly said...

Some of us have sent many queries with SASEs, only to have a low percentage (10% in my case) come back via SASE.

Your 10% doesn't equal 10% of everyone's experiences. But let's pretend for a second that this is universally applicable: every single agent requests an SASE, and 9 of 10 don't use them. That still wouldn't mean it's wrong to include them.

1) One of every ten means it, and will toss your query sight-unseen. There goes 10% of your list.

2) Other agents may notice its absence, and think, "Right, this person can't follow directions." And they'll zap your query, too.

3) One of those nine might use your SASE to say something along the lines of "It's good, but here's what I didn't like." But that person won't bother without it.

4) Assuming that an agent will be so bowled over by your work that he or she will dig around for your contact information is ludicrous when you remember the pile of slush that every agent is sitting on. The next query might be just as good, and it might have an SASE.

Complaining about the SASEs not being used is fine, but using that to then theorize that SASEs are a waste of time - that's shortsighted. You're only hurting yourself. Why risk it? Personally, I'm going to take the chance that my 39 cents just went down the drain.

Everything hinges on adherence to a meaningless protocol that has no relation to the actual value of the material being submitted.

OK. And? So what?

You lost 39 cents and had to jump through a series of pointless hoops. .... So?

I'll jump through hoops singing showtunes if I have to. Because I'm serious about this. It's not a hobby, it's not an ego thing, this is what I want to do. And if these are the hoops I have to jump through, then I'm lacing up my sneakers.

Anonymous said...

peter l. winkler said: Howza bout respect for the writer from said agent? Said agent who, not seeing an SASE tosses the letter without even reading it with the hostile sentiment "Yanno, f'you buddy.

OMG, the totally unprovoked and unjustified lack of respect agents show writers who decide the agent's stated guidelines don't apply to them! The horror! The horror!

Stacy said...

Peter L. Winkler said...

Howza bout respect for the writer from said agent? Said agent who, not seeing an SASE tosses the letter without even reading it with the hostile sentiment "Yanno, f'you buddy."

This is what Dr. Phil calls a "right fight."

This comment disturbs me, because it displays the same kind of thinking that made teaching wrong for me. Sure, fine, young people are the future,teach them well and let them lead the way, blah, blah, blah, but for a system of education to work, there has to be a certain amount of acceptance, even if it is only superficial. So what if you don't believe in commas? They may well be part of The Man's Plan To Keep
you Down, but use them when you write or you will fail. And if the rigid structure of the argumentative essay conflicts with your need to be free to be, well, hell, one hour of captivity per day, 4 days a week leaves you with plenty more free time.

Who was it that said 'Question everything"? Clearly he never had an exam to pass or a deadline to meet. There are always reasons for rules, but because you are on the other side of the door, they seem random, even whimsical. When I get a manuscript that is single spaced and has no margins, how can I edit it? Where am I supposed to write? No hard returns seems like a stupid rule until you're trying to disk edit the mess or, god forbid, set text. And when I say no major changes after 2nd proofs and the author CUTS AND PASTES the proofs . . .

I'm not an agent. If an agent says she needs an SASE to be able to do her work the way she wants to, then I assume she has a good reason.

archer said...

What I want to know is, is it a SASE or an SASE?

Stacy said...

Well, I see SASE, I read it ess ay ess ee, so I use 'an'. What the rest of you do is up to you.