"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Email Queries: The Fast Food of the Publishing Industry

Okay, I'll admit it, I'm from the old school. I come from the days when you printed your query letters and sample material, put it all neatly into a brown manila envelope, enclosed a SASE, and deposited it into the mailbox with a pat and a prayer to send it on its way across the country. Then you waited, and waited, and waited for the day when the SASE came back with either a "no, we're not interested," or a "yes, please send the complete manuscript." Then you boxed up your masterpiece (again with return postage clipped to the cover letter) and sent it off to wait, and wait, and wait. Sometimes for months. But, the longer you had to wait, more was the hope that maybe the agent or editor on the other end was giving it thoughtful consideration. (Yes, in those days, you could actually send to editors without an agent.)

I will also admit that I find email queries a little nerve-wracking. How can you be absolutely certain that when they are opened on the other end that the line spacing will be right and the font won't come out in both Times Roman and Courier New? Worse, what if it falls into cyberspace? How will you ever know since many agents requesting email queries also state that they respond only if they are interested? This business is hard enough, but to be cast off without the courtesy of a response? That is truly a low blow to a writer.

Emails queries are, however, devilishly easy and they cost nothing. Plus, the rejections (if you get a response) come in fast and furious so you can go through a lot more agents in a lot less time! The upside of not getting a response (yes, I suppose there is one) is that you can convince yourself that your query didn't reach the agent at all, that it vanished into cyberspace. This delusionary tactic will allow you to bypass the heartbreak that goes along with a rejection letter.

So, I guess the process of sending queries has gotten easier. But sometimes after I've hit the "send" button, I get this really empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's sort of like eating fast food on the run; it just isn't quite as satisfying as a good home-cooked meal.


marion said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



asabourova said...

Great post! Yes, email queries are scary. But, sometimes you get a response back so fast you don't have time to get nervous! (I once got a response back in less than an hour).

Linda Sandifer said...

Lucy (Marion), glad there has been something here of interest. Thanks for visiting and returning!

Asabourova, one hour? That has to be a record! I think the thing I like the most about email queries is that they save me a long drive to the post office and a lot of money.

Kat Harris said...

I love this comparison. So true.

I have to bite my tongue to keep from ranting about the non-response from agents.


Deb@RGRamblings said...

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the electronic age. If not for e-mail I'd still be posting hand-written letters and receiving them back in the mail. If not for MSN I'd be talking to people on the phone more often and hearing their voices. I miss those things.

On the other hand, I can see the benefits of querying online. I think I'm glad that I don't have the experience and memories of the "old" way!