Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You're abrogating the social contract we have. Knock it off.

I have publicly ranted about the rudeness of "no reply means no."
I have stated publicly that I answer all my email queries (the real ones.)

I intend to keep my part of that social contract with you the query letter writer.

Your part of the deal is you do NOT send me other stuff.
No pictures of cute animals.
No pleas about missing children.

No newsletters.
No fundraisers.

It doesn't take too many people to create a problem. It's time for writers to add this to the list of things they make sure their friends, critique groups and writers' message boards know.


Eric said...

Okay, but don't blame me when the quality of your life suffers from all those missed opportunities to take advantage of diverted Nigerian funds, or misplaced Hong Kong infrastructure construction bearer bonds, or the simple lack of a good joke to tell at an inappropriate moment.

Lateia Elam Sandifer said...


I've begun to get all sorts of religious emails, jokes, political emails, all because I was a writing conference co-chair. I can't imagine the junk mail you get. I think the rule should be this: Don't forward ANYTHING to anyone you don't really know. Don't assume others have share your political leanings, particular faith, or abiding love for cats/dogs/ferrets/etc.

And please, please, stop with the chain letters. I really don't want anything bad to happen to my parents, or kids, or dogs, but I don't want to add to the junk mail problem either.

Mame said...

I think all of the agent email problems that I read about could be cured by going back to paper queries. Shredding and recycling, or junk emails?


Laurel said...

Don't forward ANYTHING to anyone you don't really know.

I think that sentence could be more effective if it were shorter. It should end at ANYTHING. Like so:

Don't forward ANYTHING.


Maryannwrites said...

LOL, Janet. I have been advocating professionalism for eons and yet still meet writers who don't get it. I got pretty snarky when I was editing a print publication and am even more snarky now.

Currently, some writers don't understand the difference between social and business associations Online.

Lateia Elam Sandifer said...


Point taken. Brevity is key! LOL

Bill Mabe said...

It blows me away that you're getting those emails from people who have queried you. I would have figured it was just spam from the head of the UK Lottery Commission.

CKHB said...

Nope, sorry, too ambiguous. You failed to exclude inspirational stories that should be sent to your 5 best friends or everyone in your contact list. Or photos of UGLY animals.

Anonymous said...

Damn. I wonder if it's too late to cancel that Scotch of the Month Club subscription in your name? I figured that was one step above the picture of adorable kittens frolicking with lovable puppies.

Marty Ison said...

I estimate that submitting queries by email saved me $120 in postage last year that I would have spent for snail mail with SASE. I don’t want to lose that benefit. I appreciate that you and many other agents offer writers this opportunity.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Given this post and your list of things that ARE NOT a query letter, I wonder how you feel about operations like Harlequin's new vanity line "Harlequin Horizons" that lists "having a bound copy [of your book] to submit to agents" as one of the pros of their service.

I know that one of your "not a query" criteria is specifically a bound book, so how would you handle someone who is operating under the "professional" opinion that having that not-a-query bound book will ease their search for an agent?

Writers who don't look any further than the information on that publisher's site might think such things are the norm, since HQ is generally a commercial publisher and theoretically should know how the business works.

Delayne said...

I'm actually surprised that people don't know that they shouldn't send this stuff. It is annoying enough to their friends and family but geez...

It has also gotten bad in the texting world. My bill went way up (I don't have a text plan) because of forwards about missing children or multimedia messages with crude pictures!

But try as I might, and I'm sure try as you might, we may never rid ourselves of these problems. But kudos to you for constantly trying.

The Daring Novelist said...

We all really try, but....

You know, people who do this don't necessarily HAVE friends. And if they do, they don't listen to them.

Judith said...

I hope you're not holding your breath. I think certain forms of idiocy are immune to social niceties. It causes the afflicted to think they are the exception to the rules.

Becky Mushko said...

So the newsletter announcing the fundraiser for the missing child whose cute pet is distraught because the child is missing wouldn't be appropriate either?

Angie Ledbetter said...

No pralines, coffee and hot sauce?

Margaret Yang said...

Oh, man! I don't even forward stuff to my own agent, much less agents who have rejected me. What is wrong with people?

Diana said...

You know, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea for writing workshops and the like to start giving "Social Etiquette for Writers" classes for those who don't know that this kind of thing is not okay.

I have to wonder if the people who are doing this have ever worked in a business setting. If you wouldn't forward this stuff to the CEO of the company you work for, don't forward it to every agent that you know. Jeez.

scaryazeri said...

unreal. Liked your comment, Eric. :)))

Mags said...

Agreed. As it should go for all.

I'm still getting spammed by two different (legitimate) agents who apparently add rejectees' email addresses to their promo lists. One of them for his own damn projects!


Judith said...

I asked my own sister to stop sending me crap like that, and she actually got pissed at me. (I don't think I called it "crap") I wouldn't have a lot of hope for strangers knowing better. Too bad JR can't use filters to dump the majority into junk mail or immediate trash like I do.

Kate said...

I'm with Laurel. Don't forward ANYTHING. It always makes you look like a hayseed. Even if you send a really really funny joke, people remember the joke and not who sent it.

Since you can't convince everyone, my husband, bless him, took it upon himself to introduce all of our relatives to snopes, and failing that, blind copy.

Susan M. Boyer said...

Why would anyone EVER send ANYTHING to EVERYONE in his/her address book? That is wrong on so many levels. That list would include my mother, my GYN, and the real estate agent that sold us our house. There is NOTHING I need to share will the three of them. And yeah, forwarded emails are a pestilence.

Daniel Friedman said...

G-mail automatically adds people to its contact list.

If people later send messages to everyone on the contact list, you'll get the e-mail. The people who are sending it may not realize the list includes addresses they have not manually added, and probably don't even realize they are sending this stuff to you.

Unknown said...

I definitely think the main problem is people having email addresses added to contact lists automatically. Not that it's an excuse. I agree that forwards are just something that should not be done period.

I know nothing about this, so forgive me, but is it possible to set up the email such that, for instance, only email addresses that you had specifically added (in the case of clients, for example) and those with "query" in the subject like would automatically go to spam?

That would still be a pain in the rumpus, however. Definitely frustrating. Frustrating as well for writers such as myself who are being reflected on badly by those who do idiotic things like this.

Dale Bishop said...

There's a lot of this going around. I get forwarded e-mails from readers now. What can I say?

Thank you for buying the book.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Nuthin’ but queries –
Not even news about berries -
No photos of goats or news of evil stoats.
Nuthin’ at all ‘ecpt a plea or a beg
Will you rep me? I’ll send you a keg!

Nuthin’ ‘bout pixies, not even about cousins named trixie
No links to recipes
No even one for chocolate deluxe goo
Only a query should go to you.

If it’s not about a book we want you to read,
It won’t do any good to pout or to plead.
The message is clear …
Go away evil spammer or you’ll end up
In the slammer and bleed.

(Hey what do you expect from an off the top of my little head poem? It rhymes.)

You don’t wanna see it,
That much is clear,
Even if it’s about a subject we hold dear.

It might be audible to most
Even something we’d toast
But to you it’s just spam
Something less than real ham …

“Get lost, Buster!
Be gone with your mail.
If it comes to me
I’ll drop it in the pale.”

Insta poem by Rachael

Furious D said...

Personally, I never forward anything, because nothing I get sent as a "forwarded" message is worth forwarding any further.

As for the rudeness of the "no-reply-means-no" I can top that big time, but I don't want to bad-mouth a major publisher on the internet.

Unknown said...

See, the thing is that I'm a Nigerian Prince and I want you to help me smuggle $4,000,000,000.02 out of the country. Half of which I'll give to you if you accept.


Spam is bad and it's worse when someone is doing it when you told them to stop.

I think you should be able to reach through the computer screen and b**ch slap people who try to sway you with a sob story. Seriously, you told us not to even try.

Loretta Ross said...

Someone forwarded a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE wanna-be "poem" about crystal meth to my crazy half-sister. She couldn't forward it to me because I changed my email and wouldn't tell her the new one, so she cornered me one Thanksgiving and read it at me.

It was awful! I was crying. My ears were bleeding. "Stop! Please stop! It doesn't rhyme. It has no meter. And it's STUPID! I'm begging you!"

So, yeah, um, forwards are evil.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I just don't understand people. Can't we just stick people who are unprofessional on an island somewhere, to better pave the way for those of us who try really hard at this BUSINESS?