Friday, March 20, 2009

Some Query Letter Fundamentals

1. I'm in this for money, not love. That means you can have the purest heart under the sun, and not want a single dime for your work, but I'm not going to work with you if you want to give it away.

Telling me you're willing to give away your work in order to get published is not persuasive. Don't include it in a query letter.


2. Sending a CD of your work in the mail ensures two things: I will throw it away unopened and you will have wasted your postage and CD cost.


3. Sending an email with a reading receipt annoys the snot out of the query readers here. They click cancel, or ignore or whatever gets the thing off the screen fastest. There is NO correalation between what the receipt says in terms of time read or opened and when those things, IF those things, actually occured. I understand why you want to use them. Don't.

21 comments:

garridon said...

I think reading notices are evil. All they do is annoy the person on the other end who invariably ends up having to click another button. I got an e-mail at work for a guy who they were giving a retirement party for. Wasn't in my department, didn't know him at all, and didn't even know what he looked liked. When I opened it, I got a reading notice prompt. And when I deleted it, I got a deletion notice prompt. Why did the sender need to know this about the hundred she sent out?

I know why people do it, too. But you know, it only works if the person on the other end uses the same program. Which is rather self-defeating to even take the effort. The agent is either going to click "No, don't send a read receipt" or they're not going to get one. So what would be the point of using it in the first place?

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I hate those reading receipts. Whenever they pop up on my screen, I click cancel and leave the message until later. Now I know I'm not the only one they bug.

Sara J. Henry said...

The one place where "I'll work for free" gambit may work is newspapers - it's how I got my start, and where I gained valuable writing experience. (And then somehow they did find money in the budget to pay me, anyway.)

Richard Mabry said...

Rather than waiting for an automated (or individual) "received" email, I note you ask the sender to check with you if there's no response in two weeks. How often do you find this happening? In other words, do e-queries get to you without problems the vast majority of the time?

christine tripp said...

1. I'm in this for money, not love. That means you can have the purest heart under the sun, and not want a single dime for your work, but I'm not going to work with you if you want to give it away.

I love, love, LOVE this one! It's so hard to convince, not just authors and illustrators but also some small publishers, that you can love what you do and that not be the same as doing what you do FOR love. I can bet there are a few doctors and teachers who love their job, but they still want a pay cheque at the end of the week.

behlerblog said...

Girl howdy, you read my mind. Again.

Deb Vlock said...

Oh, bummer. I was hoping we could give my book away to the editor with the nicest smile. :)

Kat Harris said...

OK, at the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I have to ask this question because 1.) It's query- related; 2.) You are the query goddess (and I mean that in the most reverent manner; and 3.) It's been bugging the crap out of me.

Is it women's fiction novel

or

women's novel?

The first feels redundant.
The second feels awkward.

One agent's blog says the first is wrong. Another agent says the second is wrong.

I'd really like to know who's right. What's the overall preference?

Janet Reid said...

Kat, it's "women's fiction."

Here's the phrase: Janet Reid's mindboggling list of query instructions is women's fiction, 89,000 words.

PurpleClover said...

1. LOVE this statement. Tell it like it is.

2. If an agent doesn't take attached docs...what makes these people think they will insert a CD from someone they don't even know from Adam??

3. What is the deal with that? So frustrating! My MIL does it to me all the time. I'm sorry just because I opened it doesn't mean I'm going to read it...I may scan it to get the level of urgency but that's it. Read receipts just piss me off. I feel like they are forcing you into a contract. Hm...I may have to try that "By reading this document you are agreeing to represent me." And then only have two buttons "okay" and "confirm" no "cancel" or "close"...muwahahahaha. lol. (I kid)

Kat Harris said...

Mindboggling it may be, but it is also oh-so-helpful.

Thanks!

T. Anne said...

I sent you a query yesterday. When I saw the title of your post a lump formed in my throat. Thankfully I did none of those things. But I'm sure I found new ways to annoy you. ;)

Jamie Hall said...

Ha! I just became your 666th follower.

Raymond said...

Is there ever a time that you'd take a smaller advance (not free) on the front end because you think you'll have a better chance getting paid on the back end? Obviously the goal is to get paid, but is patience ever a virtue?

BJ said...

The only time I've ever seen read receipts being useful is in a work environment where both parties work for the same company.

1) As mentioned earlier, they only work for people with the same e-mail program - and often only for people on the same network.

2) When you know a person is busy and doesn't get around to all their e-mails, if you haven't received a read receipt, you can bug them to read the e-mail. That would be bad form for dealing with an agent.

3) Request read receipt should not be set as default. It should be consciously chosen and only used for important scenarios like the one in thought 2). When people get too enured to them - as Janet and her colleagues obviously have - it becomes useless. Like crying wolf, only not as exciting.

freddie said...

I've never even heard of a reading receipt.

ryan field said...

I don't think I've ever had a reason to use a reading receipt.

Steve Stubbs said...

Why would you want to send a reading receipt if you don't charge a reading fee?

PurpleClover said...

Steve - I thought it was funny. :)

Joanna said...

Ugh...I hate all the same things.

C.J. Redwine said...

Am I the only one hearing Cuba Gooding Jr. chant "Show me the money!"?

Thankfully, I haven't experienced a reading notice yet and I hope I never do. I block people who annoy me with stuff like that.