Dear Miss Snark,
I'm a long time Snarkling with a tendency to lurk. (I almost commented once but KY caught my scent as I peeped over the fence and chased me away with one sharp--well, there's no other way to say it--killer yapp.)
Pride (and doggie treats) in hand, I approach again, this time with much fear and trepidation, etc., etc. to ask a nitwit category question about one of your VERY favorite subjects: e-queries.
I'm in the midst of the query process and have saved the e-query only agentsfor last. I verified that your recommendation was that we include pages, even in e-queries, and I was wondering if you could tell us what formatting you've seen work well for this. Most e-query agents DO NOT wantattachments, and I'm a little uncertain how to throw the pages in the email without making them look ridiculous (and I do realize that e-mail programsalso do a number on formatting.) Any advice? Before you say it, I know I'm getting caught up in the details (I know, I know!), but from everything you've said about e-queries being so easy to ignore I don't want to do something annoying and lose the 6 seconds of attention I may get from the agent.
Well, as we all know, Miss Snark writes only with a quill pen, on foolscap and delivers her rejection notes via footman, so all e-query folderol needs to be handled by someone who actually Knows Her Stuff. Agent Knows Her Stuff is in Denver and people there call her Kristin Nelson. She's been kind enough to pop in and answer this for us all.
Because Miss Snark doesn't accept e-queries and I do, she kindly asked me to guest blog and see if I could answer your equery questions.
First off, I have to say I have no idea why you would save the equery-only agents for last. There are so many good agents who accept them now and it doesn't cost a cent to send, why in the world would you wait? Most equery agents will also respond within a week or two. Sure beats waiting for Bob the Postman to haul his cookies to your door every afternoon.
Of course, there are some agents who don't respond at all but don't let them give equery-only agents a bad name.
I congratulate you on knowing that equery agents don't want attachments. We won't open them so you will want to post the first 5- 10 pages of your manuscript in the body of the email (if that is requested). I suggest only the first 5 pages or so. Any more than that is often overwhelming to look at in email form and to be honest, most agents make a quick assessment of whether the work is right for them (even by snail mail) within the first five to ten pages.
I personally just prefer a query letter; however, if the writer also includes around 5 sample pages, I will give it a look if the query letter itself is of interest to me. If the query letter doesn't grab me, I won't bother reading manuscript pages even if they are included.
As for the formatting issue, I'm not a computer expert (and I'm hoping some more computer-savvy Snarklings will jump in on the comments section to help out), so I actually don't know why the formatting gets messed up when sending. I have noticed that some of the big email providers such as AOL or EarthLink tend to be the biggest culprits for format issues. Maybe there is an issue in cutting and pasting from Microsoft Word into their email-writing
program? You might try formatting those sample pages in a txt file? Honestly, I wish I knew.
I do know that you can do a test run first. Email a copy of your query letter to your friends who have a variety of email programs (some who use Outlook, something else, AOL etc.) and see how the end product turns out. Then you can fiddle with it.
I will still read the email queries with strange formatting, but I won't tackle the sample pages.
That's just too hard.