In my querying stage, I've recently gotten two envelopes back that were unopened. I checked their websites, and one of them has a notice on their page saying they're not taking submissions (mea culpa--I don't have internet at home and was relying on a book). Is it customary to just return the envelope to sender?
Would that it were and I had x-ray vision. Think of the extra time I could devote to swilling gin and pursuing Mr. Clooney.
I get 100 letters a week here at Snark Central. If there's only a 2% glitch rate, that means 2 people get weird ass responses, no responses, or letters from Killer Yapp asking for donations to the Squirrel Resettlement Fund.
When YOU get the error, all you see is your letter, you don't know you're the unlucky one or two out of a hundred.
Write again. Don't mention the glitch. You can call or email to ask if the agency is accepting queries, but please, I beg of you do not call to ask about your specific query.
I've barely recovered from aching ribs after a colleague related the following:
working busily on some tome on a Sunday, the telefono trills. In a fit of insanity, she answers:
Caller: Is this Agent Wurk O'Haulic?
AWO: Yes, hello.
C: I'm ..ah...calling, I'm calling to see if you got my query. (just a quick aside to remind you it's SUNDAY! He clearly expected a machine and to leave a message and that the agent would actually call back!)
AWO: I don't know. I don't keep track of query letters. We do respond to everything we receive.
C: Yes, I know, I got my letter back.
AWO: ...ah...ok...so, you know we got it.
C: Well, it was just my letter, there was no letter from you.
AWO: We respond with form letters to things we don't want.
C: There was no form letter even.
AWO: We email people when we want to see more pages.
C: But, did you even read this? Did you even see it?
AWO: I'm sorry, I don't recall specific queries.
C: Well, does this sound familiar? (and yes, dear readers, he begins reading his query letter aloud, to the agent, on the phone, on a Sunday afternoon).
Now, the best part of this story does involve facial expressions, which are sadly lacking in this rendition, but you're a novelist, you can fill in the blanks.
There are many things one can do when a querier reads the query letter over the phone just on the off chance you made a terrible mistake saying no the first time, and are suitably impressed by the diligence of this great and overlooked auteur. One of them is hang up. Another is ... not.
We're still laughing about that down at the watering hole but it's not the kind of hilarity you want surrounding your name, trust me on that.