Now Im investing in a rope manufacturer

Dear Miss Snark:

I query agents by email only. I try my best to only query agents who accept email queries, but occasionally I send queries to agencies that do not accept them by accident. Apparently such was the case as I received a response from a VERY reputable agent with ICM (who usually don't take unsolicited queries). I queried regarding a non-fiction proposal. The following is a timeline that will best set up my question:

4:00 PM: I send out about 20 queries to agents from an internet resource.

9:30 PM: I receive this email from said ICM agent: "Fascinating. Please send the proposal. I look forward to receipt."

6:30 AM (next morning): I reply, inquiring whether she prefers email or snail mail.

6:50 AM: She responds, indicating email. (bold is Miss Snark's addition)

8:30 AM: I send the proposal as an attachment, with a cover letter as the email itself.

11:00 AM: She replies: "Many thanks. I'll print it out and have a look"

Now for my question:

It has only been a few days, and I know you HATE nudges, but when, if ever, should I follow up? (and how?) I know standard rule is about 2-5 weeks, but the speed at which all of this occurred, and her last reply leads me to believe that she would be reading the proposal soon. Is it a good sign that she hasn't responded yet? If it is a rejection she probably would have just sent an email, being that that is our correspondence media thus far. What should I make of the situation if two weeks pass?

Wait, you got an email from someone at 6:50 am and you think she was in the office?
Have you lost your mind?
"I'll print it out and read it" is shorthand for "got it, I'll read it when I can" cause most people don't want to sound as cold and cruel as Miss Snark...even at 6:50 am.

You know she has it.
She'll get back to you.
Three weeks MINIMUM and five is better.

The fact that you heard from her promptly and at that horrid hour most likely means she's clearning up her email box before vacation.

Try to avoid shooting yourself in the font if you can.


Jim Winter said...

"I query agents by email only."

Speaking as one in the agent hunt, this is a bad, bad idea. It effectively cuts off the majority of the potential agents out there, including some very good ones.

About the only agents I query by email are those who specifically ask for it or referrals, in which case emails and phone calls have been exchanged already before I'm even in the loop.

This is less than 1/3 of the queries I send out. Because less than 1/3 of the leads are email-query agents, and even fewer are referrals.

They're called stamps. You buy two per agent: 1 for the envelope, 1 for the SASE. Despite its problems, the US Postal Service is pretty reliable, way the hell better than DHL.

Now, when I get an agent, ask me again if it was an email query or snail.

Anonymous said...

IMO, it depends on your location. Not everyone who queries American, or even British agents is in the States or the UK. And stamps or IRC costs are also hard to estimate if you're not in the country.

And though you are serious about getting published, sometimes you don't have the budget for printing anything. You may not even own a computer, in which case, you might access the Web through the library. (And library printing costs can go through the roof.)

So, sometimes, email is likely the most cost-effective way of querying. Occasionally, it's the only way, e.g., you don't have access to a printer and taking your manuscript and cover letter to a print shop isn't always feasible, either. The total cost of postal querying over time may exceed that of owning a computer -- if you own one, it's a one-off cost -- and paying for Internet access.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm getting lost in the numbers here. At some point, you can do yourself a big favor and throw out all the numbers. Especially the ones that spell time.

Look at it like this; I'm headed to a Dr's appointment and I've left myself 5 minutes to get to the appointment, when it's actually a 30 minute drive. So what I do is, once I get in the car, I refuse to look at the time. When I finally walk into the Dr's office 25 minutes late, I don't feel like I was late; no fuss, no muss, and no worries. The Dr doesn't notice because he's running a good 25 minutes behind.

So, if you throw out the numbers, like I throw away car clocks, you will find that you won't be worried about when an agent gets back to you.

Now let me give you a clearer illustration:

OK, Agent Snark says her timeline to get back to you is somewhere between 3 and 5 weeks. And this could be true of Agents Winkin, Blinkin and Nod. So, you throw out the 3 and the 5 and that leaves you with the word weeks. Well, hell, that could mean anywhere from 1 to 52. Voila, instant stress reducer. And your agent will bless you and your posterity for waiting 52 weeks and not doin' the nudge thing.

Anonymous said...

Jim, I also query by email only, for the very reasons that snitchcat gave. I live in Europe and travel a lot, but am querying US agents for specific reasons. I've found that every major US agency has at least one suitable agent who takes my kind of stuff AND accepts equeries. So I'm querying such agents first.

I can't complain about the results: after a month of e-querying, six requests for partials and fulls, all from top agents/agencies including the WMA. Better yet, none of them have asked for exclusives, and four of them asked me to send the ms per attachment - specifically because of my "foreign" location, I assume.

I've only just started the querying process and I don't want to run out of US stamps for SASEs. It was hard enough )as snitchcat says) getting the info on the correct postage for a SASE addressed to a foreign recipient. Nobody seemed to know.

If I get an acceptance in the next few months then it will from a very good agent who takes e-queries. Only if and when I run out of good e-query-able agents will I move on to snail mail agents. And so on down the list.

Anonymous said...

I use MS Outlook extensively for appointments and chores I need to remember. I look at the agent's guidelines. If they say three weeks. I go at least five weeks out and put it on Outlook that I need to follow up with said agent.
No stress because something else is remembering for me. Now I can work on the next book, story, whatever. When five weeks is up, that reminder pops up. Voila! I haven't shot myself in the font by being impatient.
Chris Redding

Dave Kuzminski said...

First of all, folks in other countries can now order US postage stamps online. This removes the frustration of obtaining IRCs which by my experience in the US can be frustrating as many postal workers need it explained to them before they even know what to look for. Then most of the time, the postal office is too small to keep those on hand or no one knows where their supply was stored.

So, order US stamps for the SASE, put the current postage amount on the envelope, and include it with your query. Heck, if the postage isn't enough, the envelope still stands a good chance of returning to you if both the to and return addresses are both yours. At worst you'll pay a few cents more in postage due when you receive it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think email only has limited me. I have sent out about 100 queries so far, all to agents who handle non-fiction history. I have recieved 35 responses, 7 proposal requests and 28 rejections. So, as of now, it seems to be working. If end up with 100 rejections....well then I will rewrite my proposal and possibly start with the snail mail agents. My biggest dilema is that I will only have access to the original history source for about 13 more months, so I need this to happen (if it ever does) as quickly as possible.

Anonymous said...

So, sometimes, email is likely the most cost-effective way of querying. Occasionally, it's the only way, e.g., you don't have access to a printer

Who in earth these days has a computer (and uses e-mail) but not a printer?

Anonymous said...

Following up on Dave's advice to buy postage online:
For our friends in foreign lands, please note the following website:


This is the international page for the U.S. postal service. On this page, you can choose the country you reside in and click envelope (for SASE), and then you'll see the results page listing the postage prices and estimated delivery times from the US back to you. Also, once on that results page, you can click the top right link that appears, which will give detailed country info.

You can purchase postage from the main USPS page (shop.usps.com)---and hopefully these resources will relieve you of all of the guesswork!

Ann Aguirre said...

I don't think choosing an agent only from those who accept e-queries is a bad idea. I did precisely this because I'm in Mexico and I prefer to work with someone who is techno-savvy. It's not the cost of using the postal service; it's the time factor. It takes about a month for a simple letter or postcard to reach the states from here, and never mind an actual manuscript. My agent, who is fantastic, lets me e-mail completed manuscripts. This is a huge vote for efficiency in my book. We do almost all our correspondence via e-mail, unless we're teleconferencing.

The only thing we use the post for is contracts and royalty checks. I couldn't be more pleased about that, so why look for someone who clings to outmoded business models when that isn't your ideal partner? There are tons of great agents out there; best to choose one who echoes your outlook.

Kanani said...

"35 responses, 7 proposal requests and 28 rejections."
So it sounds like you're getting a good response.
Chill. Go work on something else. Five weeks minimum, but it isn't unlikely that it'll be more like 3 months.

My biggest dilema is that I will only have access to the original history source for about 13 more months,
I can't imagine an original history source leaving, unless you're talking about someone who is dying. And even then, I'd assume that all the material you need has already been taken and documented in your final MS.

But perhaps you're talking about a time correlation between the events in the book and developments in the world. If that's the case, then this has to be made clear in your query. Unless it's understood, you have no control whether this book takes one year or two to put together for publication.

Sharon Maas said...

I'm with Annie. I've found several excellent agents who accept e-queries and I'm so glad I can send my ms as an attachment. The cost of an airmail full ms to the US from the UK is horrendous. I simply couldn't afford it.
In my present situation - away from home for six weeks - I also have no access to a printer.
I believe that more and more agents will be accepting equeries and for those not living in the country we're submitting to this is a real advantage. I too have chosen to query only such agents.

Jim Winter said...

"IMO, it depends on your location. Not everyone who queries American, or even British agents is in the States or the UK. And stamps or IRC costs are also hard to estimate if you're not in the country."

I did not factor in the foreign factor until afterward. And I have queried UK agents. Postage to Canada will double your costs. Once you leave the continent, it gets worse. So in that case, email only is probably best for foreign.


Domestically - and I mean for anyone, not just the US, an investment in stamps really opens up the market. Now if we're talking budget concerns, I'd probably shy away from agents who want partials up front. I don't, but anything packaged gets sent Priority. Now we're talking some serious printing and shipping costs.

Foreign mail and packages add up costs and resources consumed quickly. And if you only have the $40 cheapie printer that costs less than the ink cartridge, factor in all the excess time.

But for agents on your own soil, it really pays to spend that $.78 (or equivalent non-US cost).

Takes longer, but it pays.

Are there more nonfic agents taking email than fiction? Seems to me even the email agents I find prefer at least a letter whenever possible. Most of them.

Anonymous said...

Elaine--New Yorkers, first and foremost. Not only are most of us under a severe space crunch, but usually we are also broke. At least those of us who work in publishing.

But I do agree that only querying email-friendly spots could be limiting. Also, as a book editor, I just want to point something out that I'm sure our intrepid poster is not doing, but seems to be rampant and frankly is getting on my nerves today because it's Monday. Please, when you query by email, don't substitute your website address for emailing actual material. It's lazy. And my biggest pet peeve when it comes to mistakes people make in email queries.

Sal said...

It was hard enough (as snitchcat says) getting the info on the correct postage for a SASE addressed to a foreign recipient. Nobody seemed to know.

USPS rate calculator

Pop in your country. e.g. France
Enter weight of SASE, say 1 oz.

= Airmail letter post is $0.84.

= Global priority post, which is supposed to give you a zippy return but doesn't seem to give much advantage, is $5.25

= Economy surface post (AKA "slow boat" which I use to send calendars to friends in France) is $4.10 for up to 16oz. But your 1 oz. letter would also be $4.10. You don't need that.

International Reply Coupons are 'xplained here. IRCs seem to be valued at $0.84 value which is the cost of sending a 1 oz letter to France or Albania or Abu Dhabi. A 2 oz letter costs $1.65 (two IRCs). &c. and so forth.

Anonymous said...

dear author of the original question,

if you only have 13 months of access to your subject, why aren't you opening every possible door at once, and as quickly as you can? if you wait for the e-queries to play out before you query by snail-mail, you may lose your access to the history source and--i don't mean to be rude here, honestly--that sounds like possible self-sabotage. unless there are extenuating circumstances: perhaps you find that e-queries resolve themselves much faster and that snail mail isn't worth the wait.

many agents & editors bring paperwork home--on paper--to read at night & over the weekends. So unless you're overseas, I think it's fair to remember that some people just can't read from screens that many hours a day, or bear the costs of printing out thousands of query- and partial-pages from strangers. My agent, by the way, does not accept e-queries or e-partials from non-clients--but DOES let all clients email in absolutely everything, even if they live down the block. She's a reputable agent who conducts 100% of her business by internet except for the querying process--but a rigid rule about e-queries would knock her off your list.

Dhewco said...

I query via email (just about only via email) because I have a job that doesn't pay very much at all. I simply don't have enough money to print out 6 or 7 pages a week to query (I don't do such huge numbers anymore...am finishing a new novel that I'll switch to when it's finished) I have to save my paper and ink for the partials and full requests I'll hopefully get when I do start querying again.


Anonymous said...

I managed to get a laser printer for a hundred bucks by scouting the store website and scoring some great discount codes. After refilling my 2000-page cartridge twice (at $7 a pop), I'll have to buy a 4000-page catridge for all of $85. It's always worth the cost, if you can do it. Screw inkjet. And screw Kinkos, too.

Anonymous said...


I will be moving from the area in which they are archived, after my fiancee finishes her undergraduate degree. That is why I only have 13 months.

As to shooting myself in the foot by only using equery: maybe. But it so much fatser, cheaper, and better in almost every way. If I can't find an agent out of the hundreds I will eventually equery, then maybe my book is to never be.