Monday, September 1, 2008

Quick Tip: Is your email program or embedded signature costing you your query letter?

My sister-in-law used to use a free service on her Bellsouth email account, one that attaches cute graphics to the bottom of the email. Other folks I know have professional logo gifs or signature gifs embedded in their outgoing email. Some of my friends send me emails that have tiny little virtual business cards attached, "vcf files", the idea being that these files can be easily dragged and dropped into MS Outlook. And several of my friends have email that attaches an odd little file called "winmail dat" to the bottom of their emails.

All of these are considered unsolicited attachments when they show up in an agent's email inbox; nine times out of ten, agents (including myself) receiving that email will delete it unread. The alternative is opening an attachment from a complete stranger and possibly unleashing a computer virus in your hard drive. This is the reason that so many agents who accept email queries also ask that you send no unsolicited attachments.

Do yourself a favor and double check that your outgoing email doesn't carry any unwanted attachments of any kind. That cute little dancing puppy animated gif could be costing you your query letter.


domynoe said...

Another thing to watch out for: embedding. I've received a few manuscripts that were somehow embedded into the email rather than attached and they come out an unreadable mess that locks up my email program.

Jeff said...

There is such a thing as too much convenience.

C. Taylor said...

That's great advice. Thanks!

pseudosu said...

Does this apply to those signature links? Mine has a link to my blog. I've read conflicting advice about that-- some saying it's a good thing to include to give the prospective agent something to look you up on (to get a better feel for you), and some saying it's annoying.
What's your take gringa? --other commenting publishing overlords? any opinions?

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

yikes. I just copy parts of my manuscript from Word Document and paste them into gmail. So far, I haven't gotten any weird embedded responses yet.

andrewkaye said...

Not to mention a dancing puppy gif doesn't look very professional.

Unless that puppy's wearing a business suit or something. Then all bets are off.

JES said...

Thanks for the advice.

Although I'm so paranoid I even chop out plain old *text* signature blocks. Even though I try to select them because they're funny, humor is a dicey thing. My current one ("When I was born I was so surprised I didn't talk for a year and a half. (Gracie Allen)"), I don't know... maybe it would offend George Burns fans. Or just people who didn't get it.

(Although if an agent didn't get something like that, I might wonder if they'd be a good fit anyway.)

Alexandra said...

So that's what that thing is. My dad sends me emails from his work, and they have this annoying winmail dat thing that always gets attached. My dad has no pictures in his signature--only his name, phone number, and company, so even that is not the best idea for a signature.

clindsay said...


Re signature links: I never click on them myself; who has the time? What's important to me is the content of the query itself. If I like an author's pages and ask for a partial, I may also ask if the author has a blog or online presence but while reading the actual query itself I would never click on an embedded link.



† herzleid † said...

Just wanted to point out that the sender might not always be aware that this occurs with their email.

The "winmail.dat" is a plague stemming from MS Outlook which insists on using it's own message format (TNEF). It's not always evident to the sender that this occurs, since if they send the message to themselves their Outlook will interpret the format just fine - no attachment. Those who use a different email program will however receive those pesky attachments.

There's an article on it in the Mozilla KB, including some information on how to avoid it:
Microsoft has also addressed the problem:

Some Anti-virus programs also do this, and I think the easiest solution is to, if possible, disable scanning of outgoing mail (or choose a different AV program)