E-Queries...the other topic that refuses to die

Dear Miss Snark,

Why do most agents prefer to receive a query only (no partial) in the mail instead of email? I'm stating most based on the published guidelines.

I hate equeries.
There's no way to format or write an email that is visually easy to read without chopping things up into two sentence paragraphs. Formatting survives transmission only intermittently.

I use email for things I need to keep track of: conversations with editors and clients. I don't need to keep track of queries.

And once someone has your email address, it seems to magically transform itself into an invitation to "communicate".

When I opened my agency, I did do email queries. I was ready to embrace the electronic age. Didn't take too many really nasty responses to rejections for me to change my mind.

And I realized too that I was just giving the work a cursory look. If I'm clicking through my email while I"m on hold, waiting for Killer Yapp to finish his security sweep of the closet, or waiting for the UPS man to stagger up the stairs after I buzzed him in, then you're getting about three seconds of my attention, and not undivided attention at that. That's not how I want to look at queries.

How other agents feel about it I don't know. I know one agent who takes them and the number she gets is staggering. I haven't really asked my colleagues why they take them or don't. Maybe some of them will weigh in on the comments section.

And for those of you who think I'm the nitwit of the day for not taking equeries, put a cork in it. We've had that go round and the referee declared a winner. Case closed.

And if you're mailing a query, I think you should include five or so pages of the work to show how you write even if the submission guidelines say "send a query letter". Yes, there are some cover letters that demonstrate a person is utterly clue free about writing and publishing and you wouldn't have to read the pages to say no BUT most people, even good writers, can't write good cover letters to save their lives. Query letter = cover letter + pages.


Anonymous said...

Miss Snark,

Why would you bang on about why you won't take equeries and then turn around and tell writers to break other agents' guidelines?

Extremely Anonymous!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Miss Snark for answering my question. I understand you can only speak for yourself, but I find your reasons logical. I'm no longer scratching my head.

Although I adore those lovely squiggly lines informing me I may have a misspelled word or ten, I agree there's nothing like seeing it printed on a page to really make the warts stand out. So your reply makes perfect sense to me when I look at it from that perspective.

Mindy Tarquini said...

Why would you bang on about why you won't take equeries and then turn around and tell writers to break other agents' guidelines?

She didn't say that. Some agents say, DO NOT SEND ANY PAGES AT ALL. Those get just a query letter, but I trust Miss Snark on this.

Once, I had to call an agency office. I really had to. I was querying a kid's book and the agent who handled kids for that agency had just left and there was no replacement listed, but the agency made it clear that submission should go to the right person. So, with trembling fingers I called and thank G*d, I got a receptionist.

She told me who was handling the kid's submissions for the interim, then she said, 'Put in a few pages so he can see how you write.'

"Excuse me?" I said politely. "Are you sure? The guidelines say query only."

She said, "Oh yes, he always likes to see some pages. Just send three, that's fine. That's what they mean when they want a query."

Anonymous said...

I always thought it would be better to include a few pages with a query letter, but was scared I'd be put on some blacklist entitled : Writers Who Don't Obey The Rules - Never Open Any Mail From Them Again. I thought ten pages, but I can live with three to five :), and thank you, Miss Snark, I am now emboldened. I like equeries because I don't live in the States and getting hold of US stamps for SASEs is such a mission. But if that's what it takes . . .

Sam said...

I've heard both sides now...
As an author livng overseas I appreciate e-mail queries. However, I can understand an agent's POV, and if I were an agent, I think I'd prefer snail mail queries.

Anonymous said...


Cork duly inserted; but now, it seems, I cannot sit without considerable discomfort...


Kelly said...

Miss Snark, you've long since convinced me I don't even want to query an agent who only accepts queries by e-mail. (And I'm glad to know that "query only" means to include sample pages.)

Beth said...


I have to wonder--what's wrong with querying agents who only accept e-queries? There are plenty of good ones who operate that way. One of them just requested a full manuscript from me.

Bernita said...

You mean I'm going to have to learn to cut-and-paste?

Anonymous said...

I think the point Miss Snark is making is that she feels the author gets a better shake if he/she submits via snail mail.

I want my work considered for more than three seconds. And if it means I put out a little effort typing, printing and mailing, so be it.

From what I've heard in my critique group, some agents who accept e-queries request a lot of projects. Three out of six members' ms were requested by one e-query friendly agent. Three out of six were rejected (one later accepted another offer of representation, two still looking.)

What I gleaned from that experience is that it's the agent's way of krilling up as many ms as she could, then giving the first pages a look.

A lot more cost-effective in the long run to send the query letter and a few pages to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, you've long since convinced me I don't even want to query an agent who only accepts queries by e-mail.

Just can't win for losing with you people, can Miss Snark? She's saying it a personal preference! Kristen Nelson, of whom Miss Snark has said several times she is a fan, only accepts email queries, and in fact recently blogged about what she does when she gets snail mail ones.

Different agents do business differently. Doesn't make them better or worse, just different. What I can't comprehend is why people find this hard to accept. Do you complain to Amazon that they don't have a store in your area? To your local brick and mortar bookstore that they don't have online ordering?

Bernita said...

A writer, are you sure you haven't missed the point?
Which is/are sample pages.
Which are a more iffy addition to e-mail inquiries.
No one is criticizing, as far as I can see, how individual agents conduct their business.

Anonymous said...

Haven't missed the point. As you can see, I quoted the comment I responded to, which was about email queries, not sample pages. Email queries, by the way, was also what the original post was about. (See title.)

Are you sure *you* haven't missed the point?

Bernita said...

Yes, but you see I read the original post, not just the title.

Mark said...

I use equeries and sample pages, but if I really want a particular agent to read the work, in lieu of this method I send it in. It's no big deal to print a few pages, but the whole book is. Luckily, all of my fulls were requested as attachments. That's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Email is for me much more convenient. No envelopes to open and throw out. No printing. No paper wasted. I like to keep my eyes fixed on my computer as much as possible because gad, the rest of my office is a mess. And kind of ugly--I'm waiting for my first big sale to tear out the wood paneling in this basement. (It's REALLY ugly wood paneling.)
I do dislike the fact that e-queries makes it so easy and cheap to query me that people who can't even be bothered to read my website and discover I don't do fiction or children's will STILL query me, but to me it's worth it.

Anonymous said...

Re: "BUT most people, even good writers, can't write good cover letters to save their lives."

I've attended conferences and listened to editors and writers state this before.

The Beautiful Schoolmarm said...

The definition of a good cover letter is ambiguous at best. There are obvious things: correct information, spelling, sentence structure, hook, word count, info about your book, bio. Be honest. But what about the details? What is the line between professional and personal? A letter can be so professional that all vestigaes of personality are eliminated. On the other hand, a writer doesn't want to come across as too chatty/familiar.

Anonymous said...

O Miss Queen of Snarkness,

As someone who is in the midst of trying-to-get-an-agent purgatory with his novel -- and who loathes and despises the query letter he has revised three million times -- I am so happy you suggest just going ahead and including five or so pages. But here's a question for you. Dare I include the first five pages of my second chapter rather than the first? My reasoning being that the first five pages of my first chapter is almost all dialogue, and I would like my prospective agent to know: A. My novel isn't all dialogue, and B. I am capable of writing something other than dialogue.

I love your blog.

Anonymous said...

My reasoning being that the first five pages of my first chapter is almost all dialogue,

Out of curiosity, Dan, why is the first five pages of your first chapter all dialogue, especially if the rest of the book isn't?

You mean to say that you've got absolutely no setting, no "stage directions", no other narrative to vary the pace?

Now, if this is a stylistic thing you've done, and it happens again regularly through the book, then there is nothing wrong with subbing your first five pages. But if this is the *only* place you've done it, and you don't think it's representative of the whole book, I'd recommend you rethink about how you've written the first five pages.

It is so important to establish mood and style in the opening of a book. If you've written the opening of the book in one style, but don't use that for the rest of the book, your readers will feel cheated. Agents will know this and will reject your work for inconsistentcy of style.

verification: queer paperback packet

Anonymous said...

Dear Heidi,

Hey, thanks for the comment. After rewriting the opening about fifty times I couldn't think of any better way to begin the damned thing. I think "Now, if this is a stylistic thing you've done, and it happens again regularly through the book" pretty much sums up the situation. I would just like the agent to know I can write something else besides dialogue. (Presuming I can write dialogue). One guy is looking at the whole book, so here's hoping.

Good luck to you.

Agent Kristin said...

I have several reasons why I prefer email queries.

1. I hate messing around with paper. I hate lugging my recycle bins down to the recycle/trash room of my building. I hate all the extra time it takes to sort through priority mail (aka: from publishers) and query mail.

2. Email query means the writer is savvy enough to find me via the internet. You're the only client I want. Early on in my career, I signed one client who was not email or internet savvy. I'd never do that again. Email is my primary form of communication. I'm constantly touching base with all my clients. If I had to pick up the phone, that wouldn't happen.

Also, internet marketing is the most important tool an author has. You shoot yourself in the foot if you're not savvy with it.

3. Response time is much quicker. I read your query and send the response (either yay or nay) all in a minute or two. Mailing responses takes up too much time in my day.

I'd rather spend that time making deals, reading my requested materials inbox, talking to clients.

Queries are last on my list so the faster I can get through them, the better I can do my job.

I think I get more queries. For the most part, they are queries I want to read and evaluate.

For those that aren't (ie: I have a psychological thriller...duh, I don't do thrillers) I figure it out in the first sentence and boom, send off my rejection letter. Only 10 seconds wasted.

: )