Last week I was alone in the office, catching up on all the tasks that had lingered in to the new year. Vacations are great (and man oh man, I needed that one) but coming back to work is always daunting. I had almost 300 emails waiting for me. NONE of them are emails I can just discard without reading (I'd cleaned those out the day before.)
I have 30+ full manuscripts waiting to be read.
And yes, I have more than a few projects that will be going out on submission this first week we're back at work full time.
In other words, this is not the time to be sloppy when you query.
Here's the example from the day I was in the office: A writer with several published books and a goodly number of articles is looking for an agent. He's querying me. That's great. I'm delighted to get those kinds of queries.
Unfortunately, the query had no information about the new project. None. Not category, not word count, not plot, let alone anything else.
Most days I'd probably have read a couple pages that were included with the query. I'm always on the look out for good stuff.
Most of the time this guy would have been ok.
Not this week. Form rejection.
I just wasn't in the mood to take the extra time. Might I lose out on something? Maybe. At that point I didn't much care, I just wanted to get my inbox under 300.
And here's your take away on this: you don't know when those busy times hit an agent. It could be now like it is for me; it could be next month, it could be after summer break.
You follow the guidelines so no matter when an agent reads your query s/he has the material she needs to decide about moving ahead with your project.
A savvy querier understands there are ALWAYS more good projects than there are slots on agents' list to take them on.
A savvy querier understands the guidelines are there to help her, not trip her up.
A savvy querier understands that following the guidelines especially when s/he thinks s/he doesn't have to/shouldn't need to is really really smart.