The Agent Game

A viewpoint on publishing

Archive for August 2008


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For some time now there’s been a lot of talk about e-queries on various discussion boards, so I thought I would offer my own take on the subject. As always, I’ll add the caveat that this is my own opinion, and should be taken as such.

In some ways it seems so simple. Find out the email address of an agent and send them your query via email, with the expectation that you will receive a response in return. There’s no need to make trips to the post office, no money spent on stamps, and no need to worry that you’ve forgotten to put a SASE in with your query letter.

Unfortunately, as is the case with so many things, it’s not as simple as it looks. Does the agent even accept queries via email? If so, does he or she prefer them that way, or do they prefer hard copy? Does the agent reply to every e-query they receive, or only those for projects that interest them? Does the agent accept attachments, or does any reading sample asked for in their guidelines need to be included in the text of the email itself?

There are two important things to remember here. First, take the time to research the agent’s guidelines before sending an e-query, the same way you would before sending a query via regular mail. Second, whatever the agent’s guidelines, don’t violate common internet etiquette unless the guidelines for email queries specifically tell you to do so. For example, most people will refuse to open attachments sent to them by strangers, and agents are no different. If you keep these two points in mind you’re already going to be way ahead of most of the people currently using e-queries.

Remember too that no agent is obligated to take e-queries, despite what some people seem to think. Being able to query via email should be looked at as a privilege, not a right, and an agent who prefers to have a bin full of mailed queries rather than an inbox full of e-queries isn’t some sort of Luddite. Some simply have developed a workflow that functions more efficiently with paper (an intern can often stuff a pile of SASEs with form rejections more quickly than they can cut and paste them into emails), and others have been burned one time too many by either people who decide the agent’s email guidelines don’t apply to them, or, even worse, those who think that getting a form rejection via email is an invitation to engage the agent in a discussion about why they were rejected.

Email queries can make things easier for both writers and agents, as long as everyone involved remembers that the different delivery method doesn’t mean that the rules for a successful query don’t apply.


Written by incognito

14 August 2008 at 11:16 am

Posted in Getting an agent