Thursday, March 6, 2008

What happens when you mail me a query? Like, on paper?

Despite my having been an agent for a whopping 21 days, I have already accumulated a great deal of paper slush at the office. Large bulky envelopes containing massive amounts of dead trees. (And, as noted in the previous post, one rather antiquated floppy disk.)

Look, I'm not going to tell you not to mail me queries. But I'd really prefer that you didn't.

I'm not actually in the office very often. Maybe once a week, tops. And when I'm there, it's to have a brainstorming session with the other agents or to discuss a project with Peter or one of my other colleagues. I'm reading about contracts, getting paperwork filled out and mailing it off to clients. I'm returning phone calls. But you know what I'm not doing? I'm not looking at paper slush. By necessity, paper slush gets shuffled to the absolute bottom of my to-do list. And I don't actually feel guilty about it. Why don't I feel guilty, you ask? Because I know that not one of the folks who mailed me an envelope chock full of dead former-rainforest bothered to take the two seconds necessary to research my submissions preferences. That's why. (Yes, I actually do know how long this takes because my inner OCD kicked in and I just timed it: type the words colleen lindsay submissions into Google and see how fast you get my guidelines.)

I don't hate paper. And I don't hate you for using paper. Paper is a lovely thing. Money is made of paper. Books are made of paper. These are two of my favorite things! And I daresay my bathroom would be a poorer place without paper. But please keep your queries in the cybersphere, where I promise they will be as lovingly looked after as though they were my own digital children. Cross my heart!


ChristineEldin said...

Are those Diesel's purple avatars?

I have nightmares about them.

mlh said...

Love the blog. I'm glad Nathan Bransford mentioned you on his forum.

When browsing your guideline for submissions and what your email query should include, one of the links isn't working. It's the third "this" on line number 10.

Just thought I would bring it to your attention.

nymeria87 said...

Great blog. The kitten picture almost made me pee my pants laughing. Hint taken ;)

tkersh said...

Last summer at a conference, I got a request for an emailed partial from a dream agent. Four months later, I had received no reply, so I sent an email follow-up. Three months after that, still no reply, so I am on the verge of sending a dead tree follow-up.

Email queries are terrible for both sides. They add to writers' angst because they are prone to get lost, buried, killed by spam filters, and accidentally deleted. Agents have to fish them out from the pile of spam and important emails.

Lately, a lot of agents like Jonathan Lyons are going to electronic submissions, which I hope catches on in a huge way: (

Writers know the query is safely submitted, and agents have a lot less inbox clutter. If it's done right, agents will even get a nice web-based form to read their queries, and a single button press to send a rejection or partial request. (No I'm not selling them but I wish I was!) Check it out!

makoiyi said...

Hms, I went and had a look at the website tkersh suggested. That is selling a story purely on the merits of a letter, isn't it? I actually find that incredibly impersonal.

While I realise that selling novels *is* a business, to be judged on a letter alone is a little daunting.

Many writers who write darned good novels don't do justice to their writing in query letters and synopses. True, it's a skill one has to master to get anywhere. At the same time, that kind of form filling really impersonlizes the whole thing.

Maybe I'm just odd, but...