Sending Queries by Fed Ex

Hi Miss Snark,

I just finished reading The First Five Pages by literary agent Noah Lukeman and enjoyed it. His chapters, examples and exercises were entertaining and will help me fine-tune some stuff in my writing. However, I read this in the first chapter and thought “Eh? What would Miss Snark say about that?” You can tell by the price of postage, this book was published a few years ago. : )

Regarding query letters:

“The second is to send your letter by FedEx (or some other guaranteed-signature delivery method) instead of by regular mail. Spend $11 instead of 33 cents. If it comes by FedEx, someone’s forced to sign for it, and thus it usually gets opened on the spot. This doesn’t guarantee it will get read—and the agent or editor may even get annoyed—but at least he’ll be aware of it. And he just might read it with greater care, because he knows you cared enough about it to spend the money.”

I’ve read on several agent blogs that this is a mistake and usually guarantees a rejection because of the trouble the agent has to go through. Plus the expense! If I sent out 30 query letters in this way, it would cost me a fortune in mailing expenses. Lukeman states earlier in the chapter it’s better to select two or three agents to query instead of twenty or thirty. While that would cut down on expenses, it certainly narrows the field of opportunity. I’m inclined to bypass both bits of advice and send out my queries to several agents via the cheap seat US Post Office.

This is utter crap.
Perhaps the copyright date is 1993, back when FedEx was more of a big deal but these days people use it in NYC instead of a messenger services.

The real reason it's crap though is that "someone has to sign for it" and that means me. Which means you've interrupted me. When I see the address label isn't a publisher or a client, guess where it goes? Yup. The slush pile. Unopened. Unread.

The second reason it's stupid is that it sends the subliminal message that you think HOW something arrives is somehow more important that what it says. That means you're a nitwit. I try to avoid having nitwits for clients.

Don't do this.


judy said...

That's a darned expensive query.

typemonkeytype said...

I swear I've read this exact same question before, with the same quote. Was it here?

ORION said...

I think you should pay someone to fly to New York and hand carry it to the agent.
When it absolutely, positively HAS to get there on time.

Word verification: penxees
I am NOT kidding.
Sexual organ of a pen?

Laura K said...

Well, I hope I am not sending subliminal messages, but I send all my queries--if they include pages--via Priority Mail. The subliminal message this sends is that I don't trust my flipping post office worth a darn (it took 10 days for a piece of mail to reach someone in the same state as me) and if I can slap a "delivery confirmation" on there (NOT signature, just so the PO delivery guy scans it), I can at least be sure it left my town!

Don said...

It's copyright 2000. That's the only bit of bad advice that I remember from the book (I just read it in January). The other writing book that I'd recommend (read at about the same time) is 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published & 14 Reasons Why It Might by Pat Walsh, which is geared towards being a bit later in the writing process (he warns that you really should have FINISHED your book before reading his), and so is more a compilation of the sorts of things that we get here at Snark Central. If you're going to buy only one book, get The First Five Pages, but I'd definitely recommend reading both (cheapskates head to the library).

bran fan said...

Sorry, Don, I have to disagree. Miss Snark is correct (as always). Noah Lukeman's advice is crap. The Pat Walsh book is a good buy, however, although again, Miss Snark will tell you the same thing for free.

Donald Maass' book, *Writing the Breakout Novel* has a lot of the same advice as Lukeman's book. However, the tone is vastly different. Maass wants to help you avoid being a nitwit. Lukeman just wants to complain what a nitwit you are.

Ryan Field said...

The point behind THE FIRST FIVE PAGES is showing writers how to recognize bad writing.

If you're interested in editing or in learning about word economy it's fascinating.

Mister Mxyzptlk said...

Re: sending FedEx between Manhattan addresses. What's the carbon profile on that, given that the package goes to Memphis and back overnight?

~Nancy said...

Re: sending FedEx between Manhattan addresses. What's the carbon profile on that, given that the package goes to Memphis and back overnight?

It's possible there's some sort of discount involved. Or, it might just be easier to have the Fedex (or UPS) person come by and do their thing (instead of calling and giving said package to a messenger service).

Where I work, I've sent packages to an accounting firm within the same town; and this town is nowhere near as big as NYC. I do it because I can't be bothered to jump in my car and bring it myself (wear and tear on the car, too), and the firm receives a discount. I've sent a few things regular mail because there wasn't any sort of a rush on getting it there.

Of course, I could be completely off the mark here as far as agents are concerned. :-)


Mark said...

Lukeman has good ideas on content of the enclosed query but this isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

Is Fedex ground the kiss of death? A writer recommended I send my full this way, rather than in a manuscript box, because my manuscript was small and then I get delivery confirmation. But I just now realized you have to SIGN for Fedex ground! I am an idiot! I thought it was like Priority Mail--just a scan/track sort of thing.

Is this an automatic no?