As you regular readers know, I’ve been sending out query letters to literary agents in an attempt to interest them in my edited, polished, ready-to-sell novel. This is the second time I’ve gone through this exercise, and I find I have many of the same questions as three years ago.
For a host of reasons, publishing fiction is tough today. Many publishers will not accept an unsolicited query or manuscript from an unpublished author. They prefer to let agents do the screening for them. I understand that. But here are a few of my questions:
1. Why do some agents, in their current, updated listings and web sites, state that they are “actively seeking unpublished authors with the following...”, and then state that their response time will be 2-3 months? Somehow that fails to meet my definition of “active.”
2. Why do some agents require email or electronic submissions, while most agents refuse to accept them? Personal preference? Many who refuse e-submissions claim they just don’t have time to respond to the vast number they receive. How long does it take to scan through an emailed letter and make a judgment? It’s either no or maybe. If no, click “reply” and paste in your form “no thanks” letter. If maybe, hit “reply” and paste in your form “send me a synopsis, three chapters and a SASE” letter. If I send them a letter by USPS it’s going to be the very same letter, formatted the very same way as the email one. And it’s much easier to respond to the email.
3. For those who say to allow up to several months to reply, what are they doing for that time? If they’re off at writers’ conferences or meeting with publishers, etc., when they get back they’re going to have a whole pile of those e-queries to go through, and guess how fast they’ll be pasting in the “no thanks” letter then! To me, two to maybe three weeks ought to be plenty of time to browse through the pile of mail or email and get SOME kind of a response back to the sender. Any longer than that and the pile WILL get insurmountable!
4. Do agents not understand about antivirus software? They invariably require “No attachments,” and cite the dangers of viruses. The current versions of Norton and McAfee will protect from viruses in both emails AND attachments. But who needs attachments anyway? If you use Word to format the document and paste it into Outlook to email it, the formatting will be retained. So when I send an email query I append the synopsis to the letter (after a page break), and then append the first 50 pages to the synopsis. No dreaded attachments, and the agent can read as much or as little as he/she likes. Elegant.
I guess that’s enough of a rant for today.
By the way, you ought to check out one particular agency web site and the agent’s blog. This lady sounds like she’s really got her head screwed on straight. She seems to speak “common sense,” which is a language I can understand. I’d sure love to have her represent me!
Here’s the web site: It’s The Nelson Agency in Denver, owned by Kristin Nelson. Check out her Common Sense Speak at her blog while you’re at it.