You screwed up, how to recover

Dear Miss Snark,

I went a screwed the pooch. Having recently whipped my manuscript into final draft form I've been honing a query letter.

There was one agent on my list,that I really wanted to make a slam bang impression with, but she only takes queries via standard mail. Okay, I thought. No problem.

So I take my query letter. It's rock solid. It could cut frickin' diamond. I get the first ten pages of my manuscript printed out. I'm feeling good. I put it all in a package after pacing around. I lick the envelope shut, stalk out to the post office box, and drop it in.

An hour later as the postman is pulling away from my apartment bloc I about shit myself because: FUCK I FORGOT TO INCLUDE THE FUCKING SASE THAT'S SITTING RIGHT ON MY DESK.

Now I have this feeling that the manuscript won't even make it out of the slush pile, because they'll just pop open the envelope, notice there's no SASE, and chuck the whole damn thing.

Here's the only upside I can see: I included my e-mail address and phone number in the heading. What should I do? Send a second query package with a note apologizing for the lack of the SASE in the first, or just quit being neurotic and figure that if my writing is good enough they'll shoot me an e-mail if they want more with a slap me on the wrist for being an idiot.

Am I being overly optimistic with the second scenario?


Wait about three weeks. If you hear nothing, query again. Do Not Mention your previous foray into forgetfulness. No reason to ever mention it ever again in fact.

The three week window applies ONLY to cases where you forgot the SASE. Normal turnaround time on queries is 30 days. A colleague and I were laughing just yesterday about an email she got asking the status of a query sent on 1/10. Yesterday as you know was 1/29.

I wrote up a little message to send back but I don't think she used it: Dear Querywort: In order to turn queries around in under 30 days, we limit ourselves to reading only the first line. I'm afraid your first line 'I'd like to present my novel' is rather over used, doesn't provide fresh perspective and thus not something we can take on. I hope we got back to you promptly on this so you can query others.


Heidi the Hick said...

May I just say I quite enjoyed this person's letter...

and I've done stupid crap like this too. Once I sent off a query before I changed the agent's name. I realized my huge mistake when I opened the query letter on my computer and saw the name. And I wonder why I get so many rejections.

I'm hoping agents have short memories.

Anonymous said...

And then if you send out your query and it comes back in four days(!!) and in your sase is a note no bigger than a calling card saying no thanks then you know some intern or assistant is assigned to just sending no to everyone. No way that big time New York agent read your query. Nowhere in Marketplace or AgentQuery or in his website does it indicate taking no queries.

Ryan Field said...

I think we've all done this at one time or another. Too much on your mind, no doubt.

If I'd taken great care to write the letter because I was seriously interested in this particular agent, I probably would have sent a SASE out that same day with a note explaining my mistake.
I would have done this because the only contact info they would have would be my address and phone number and that's not fair to them if they really like the material. I wouldn't, not on my last dying day, give an e-mail address to an agent who only takes snail mail queries; it's a control issue with me :)

--E said...

Wait, I don't understand...

He makes a mistake (forgets SASE). Now you want him to make another mistake (query after three weeks)? Why?

Are you just being too dry and subtle in your wit for me to realize that you're being ironic? (I drank my tea this morning! Must have been decaf.)

Anonymous said...

My last query went out like this:
"I'd like to query you for possible persentation..."
Persentation. *sigh*
OK, I'm dyslexic, but my spellcheck should have caught that.

But, I only noticed it when the agent wrote back asking for my first three chapters.
So I guess that silly typos in queries do sometimes get overlooked.
I did, however, make very sure I got the agent's name spelled right and that I sent it to the right e-mail addy.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to make a checklist. Should have done it when I first started querying, but this conversation is inspiring. Items: Agent's correct name on letter? Matching name on envelope? SASE? SASE is actually stamped and addressed? etc.

My brain, addled at the best of times, is now full. I can't rely on it to handle these piddly yet crucial details.

litagent said...

A follow up after 19 days? Try people who follow up after 2 or 3 days. They get a very prompt reply.

Anonymous said...

I have a general query question: I sent a few letters out about three months ago and haven't heard back--not a peep. What should I do? Simply re-query those agents, as though the whole thing never happened? Or write them a letter that mentions that I DID already query them, and then go right into my standard query? Or just assume that no response after 3 months means "no"? Thank you very much to anyone with any insight. This query quandary is driving me crazy.

ORION said...

After I sent out a requested full to an agent, I noticed several instances in the first chapters of my book in which I used the word your for you're.
I have no idea how that happened.
Probably the evil query and manuscript fairy.
Unfortunately there is no "intention check" on computers.
Oh and the agent?
Offered representation and sold my book.

Ryan Field said...

Sam...we've all done it :)

Fuchsia Groan said...

I forgot an SASE, and the agent emailed me a week later asking for a partial. She wanted an exclusive and ended up sending me a form rejection on the partial, so I can't say the story has a happy ending, though... (Yes, I sent a SASE with the partial.)