Agent Kristin isn't wrong..but neither is Miss Snark

Dear Miss Snark,

what do you think of wonderful agent Kristin's take on technology:

Example #1: Accepting email queries.

I have many friends who just can’t get on board with this because they still love, for various reasons, the paper format. Perhaps it’s easier on the eyes to read or perhaps they think writers take more care with the writing of the letter if they will go to the length of paying $0.39 for the stamp or whatever.

I know many of my agent friends will hate me for this but I can’t help but think that’s just unnecessary old school.

If you’re an agent looking to build a client list, then it’s a numbers game and the faster you can get to a good project, the more likely you’ll be to land it. I know I’ve taken on many a good client because I was timely in my response via email.

I’m using technology to my advantage.

In fact, I’ve taken on one client in my career who couldn’t use email and wasn’t interested in learning.

Never again. My clients also need to be technologically savvy because that’s how I operate.

I think Kristin Nelson is very very smart.
I know she sells good stuff for good money.

I know she's going to read this and laugh cause this isn't the first time she's stared down her elegant nose and tsk tsk tsk'd at me for not taking email queries.

Well...she's probably right but I'd use a fountain pen if I could get away with it too.

That said, she's right exactly on the money about technology. I've let go of clients who couldn't get their electronic acts together. Things move too fast now; a client not only has to be on email but must check it regularly and know how to send documents, edited documents, and all that kind of good stuff.

I don't take equeries because I read slowly. I know if I read too fast I tend only to see problems. I read something twice before I ask for a partial. I only ask for one or two a week. I get 100 letters. Takes me about 6 hours a week to go through them all. I turn them around, mostly, in a week. I know for a dead ass certain fact that's not a slow response time even in this electronic world.

I am old school in many respects. I'm ok with that, and my clients are ok with that.


Sherry Decker said...

I'm okay with that, too.

Writerious said...

It'd be interesting to be able to compare the quality of queries at an agency that only takes snail mail queries and an agency that prefers email queries. Do people who query on paper take more time and try to write better queries. Does email allow people to feel that they can just toss something off and see what happens? Or do they still take their time with it?

Dave said...

Put anything capable of writing in front of me and I will use that device - pencil, pen, crayon, magic marker, typewriter (I still own one, never use it). MAC, PC, teletype, tablet of paper. It's a tool to write and that is all.

I will use whatever is at hand and LEARN what is fast and efficient.

E-mail is a tool not for writing but for communicating. A brain is a tool for writing. All the computer does is to speed the process.

The last four years I worked at a real job (I'm retired), I converted my office completely to electronic formats. I reduced a file drawer of paper generated every quarter to 1/2 inch required twice a year. It was so wonderful to travel 90 miles twice a week and carry my office with me.

And when I did retire, I handed off my office to my successor with one day of training. Good for him and good for me.

Meg said...

Well, there's another example of why one agent might be a good fit for a specific writer and the next one isn't.

Judy said...

To each his own, Miss Snark. I prefer emailing out queries and have stopped sending to anyone who wants snail mail. But you can still be my friend.

Anonymous said...

Hate to do the grammar police think (not really), but I think this says the opposite of what you want it to say...

Things move too fast anymore for a client not only to be on email but to check it regularly and know how to send documents, edited documents, and all that kind of good stuff.

Miss Snark said...

well, it's not the grammar police to point out that the sentence is shoddy. I fixed it. well..I tinkered with it.

thank you officer

type, monkey, type said...

The idea that agents want writers to use paper because they think they will write better queries is just silly. What, are agents trying to make it easy for us? Yeah, right. I would think the email query would be a good measure of professionalism--can you refrain from using emoticons and lower case and typing "ru" for "are you"? :)

Anonymous said...

Fountain pen? Pshaw, new-fangled nonsense. I'll cut myself a quill any time.

Me said...

My problem with e-queries is that I obsess about that first impression. And even when I've sent e-mails with virtually no formatting, I've had chances to see them at the other end and noticed that they sometimes take on weird formatting, or extra characters, or hard returns where I didn't put them. You get the idea.

With a paper query, I can control what the query looks like when it goes out the door. (Granted, I still can't control if the post office mangles it on the way there...)

Manic Mom said...

Miss Snark, You wrote: "I don't take equeries because I read slowly. I know if I read too fast I tend only to see problems. I read something twice before I ask for a partial."

Do you think in doing the crapometer, some of the stuff you ZAPPED might have been queries you would have considered had you had the paper in front of you and were not in such a rush?

And no, I wasn't even in the crapomoter, so I'm not getting my hopes up. Just wondering.

Breca Halley said...

If my future agent wants to communicate using smoke signals, that's just fine with me, provided she/he gets the necessary job done. I definitely prefer email queries, and the fact that it's email has no bearing on how much time I spend composing the damn things. It took me a week to write one of my queries. But whatever works for the agent will work for me.

On a completely unrelated note: Miss Snark, you have read a Scott Westerfeld book (So Yesterday)! I hope you liked it. He's top of my list of favorites.

Miss Snark said...

Manic Mom, If you compare the amount of time I spend on queries a week in my office and the amount of time I told you I spent on the Crapometer you'd see that I spent a LOT more time reading the crapometer stuff than I would have if it rolled in here at Snark Central.

I read everything in the crapometer entries. I stop reading at ZAP in my office.

Jane Lebak said...

I love email queries. I also love fountain pens. If you ever so choose, Miss Snark, it is possible to enjoy the best of both worlds.

kitty said...

You don't have to explain yourself to me, Miss Snark.

VF said...

I prefer e-mail too, and I spend just as much time making it the best I can as I would if I was printing it and sending paper. I would never send a nasty reply to an agent or publisher who sent a rejection that way. Some writers do, though, probably because it's faster and easier to do that via e-mail than by putting it on paper. Maybe this is why some agents don't like e-queries?
I'm happy to send paper, too.

Ig said...

I nearly went blind reading the crapometer entries. I would imagine that staving off permanent eye damage is another plus of receiving snail mail queries.

Or I need to eat more carrots.

The Rejected Writer said...

I actually write the first draft of everything I do (meaning books, articles, etc.) with a fountain pen. Does that mean I'm out of touch?

I do have and use a computer.

Just a closet Luddite.

Anonymous said...

Through the miracle of email, I am now able to get a request for a partial within an hour of sending out my query and a rejection of said partial less than two hours later.
In what other way can you go from euphoria to regret in the same afternoon--other than wasting $12 on a first run foreign film?

Rob in Denver said...

Why is this even an issue? I figure that the agent has what I want... and I hope I have what the agent wants. How hard is it to play by the agent's rules when you don't yet have a business relationship?

ophelia gone mad said...

I agree with "me". I don't feel comfortable sending my queries via email. I've only done it once. But using email to communicate after the query has been received is fine. It's just that initial contact has to be/should be paper in the mail.

whitemouse said...

I think there's merit to saying that less importance is placed on email correspondence.

That's not good for agents, because they probably get twice as many crappy e-queries as they do snail queries. It's just too easy for idjits to engage them in a ping-pong cycle of send-reject.

It's also not good for writers, in that some agents adopt the policy of not replying to queries they reject. That may be a policy adopted in desperation to deal with ping-pong idjits, but it's still an unprofessional one.

I'm willing to send e-queries, but not to agents who say they won't reply if their answer is "no". To those agents, I will send a snail query.

The rejection letter proves that they at least got the letter, and that's something I want to know.

Eileen said...

When I first started writing I thought that there was a special agent convention where agents all decided what was good or not good. What the rules would be. The margins! What do they want for FONT? Now I am coming to see each agent has their own style. What works for one- doens't for another. Rachel Vater's blog shows this really nicely as she moves through the query pile.

Demented M said...

The core issue to me is process effciency. If Miss Snark can stay on top of her slush like that, then cool, no email, no problemo. She's just as fast (if not faster) than some of the agents who take email queries (as I can attest to from personal experience). She's not losing clients to technology.

I think the problem comes in when agencies don't proactively manage slush or assume that the paper slush timeline is the default industry clock. It's not, and when something is hot, I think agents accepting email queries have a slight edge over the snail mail only agents.

And not very many agents manage their slush as efficiently as Miss Snark. At least not that I've experienced.


spongey437 said...

I think that you need to take the same amount of time on an email query as you do a paper one.

Case in point - I am looking to hire an accountant in my company right now and am getting a bunch of resumes. Most of these are coming in via Monster.com and email. Now, standard protocol for sending a resume to someone (via snail mail) is to include a cover letter that typically explains who you are, why you want the job, and why you would be great for the job.

It seems that people think that because the resume is coming in via email that they can skip this part.

Only one out of eight resumes that I received this morning had a decent cover letter, and that one received 80% of my attention. And then on the resume side, setting it up to look professional, spellchecking, editing, etc... seems to be missed on these too. I think people think that speed is going to somehow make up for the shortcomings of the content.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Well ... ummm.... I like email. ... But I don't care that you don't take email submissions.

You should rep Fantasy though. Surely should. Read a bunch. Fall in love with it. You can do it!

Think of all the sexy little pixies out there needing an agent to represent the authors who write about them. ....

wassup said...

I mailed a snail query and received a "snail" in response (well, the agent simply used the SASE). She gave me a choice of submitting the requested data by either e-mail OR snail mail. I chose the little critter, even though it would and did take longer for it to arrive.

I just like the looks of "words on paper." Tidy and professional. But then I'm somewhat old school too. :-)

kelly said...

I imagine the trouble with
e-queries is the same problem
with e-books: you can't read
them in the bathtub.

Virginia Miss said...

I agree with "me" and whitemouse. I, too, obsess about appearance and formatting, so I prefer snail queries. However I will send e-mail queries to agents who prefer them. But if an agent accepts either, I go with paper.

Elektra said...

Rejected writer, I'm one up on you. I've lately taken to writing with a lovely brass-tipped quill I got for my birthday last month.

Pepper Smith said...

LOL! Kelly, actually you can read ebooks in the bathtub. Just put the e-reader inside a ziplock baggy or two to keep the water out in case you drop it. You can easily push the buttons through the clear plastic. Or so I'm told by folks who do it.

Anonymous said...

Fountain pens: Why not? When I sold my first novel my best friend (a calligrapher) got me a fountain pen to use from that point on. :)

--Danny Adams