Oh, do I need some Snarky help on this one!
I read a book. A particular book, in which the main character reminded me of my own hero. Since the author had been kind enough to thank his agent, I dropped her an e-mail and pitched my book to her.
She replied she'd love to read the first 50 pages. Oh, and could I include a #10 envelope for reply; she'd recycle my pages if she didn't like them. (which we all know she will, 'cause she liked the other guy's book)
I mailed the pages. I mailed the #10 envelope. I've heard through the grapevine that she can be slow to respond, so I was shocked when I found my envelope in my mailbox this morning.
Inside, was a rejection letter... written to another person.
Their letter, my envelope.
So. The agent apparently hasn't made any decision about my manuscript -- or maybe she sent it to the guy whose letter I got -- but she also has no way to mail me a rejection, should it be necessary (which it won't be, 'cause she repped the book I read).
Obviously, the kind thing to do is send the letter to its rightful owner. But what do I tell the agent? Do I offer to check my pocket lint for the change to send another SASE? Do I forget her entirely because even though this error fits with the sensibility of my character -- not to mention the book I liked so much that she repped -- if she can't be more careful, she's not the agent for me?
First, this kind of stuff happens. It's not a sign of disorganization or cluelessness. It just happens. You do NOT mail the letter to the author. You call the editor. You say "a letter to so and so was sent to me by mistake. Shall I mail it back to you?" If her assistant answers the phone (and don't assume the person who answers the phone IS her assistant) ask the assistant cause chances are it's her mistake and giving her a chance to fix it without the agent actually knowing is a good deed.
If you call and leave a message and you don't hear back in a week, mail the letter back with a letter of your own saying "this was sent to me by mistake".
You don't need to send a new SASE. At this point, she owes you a stamp...at least.