Saturday, June 12, 2010

C'mon THINK!

I have a shiny new computer. It's a laptop. It has a screen the size of 2.5 mass market paperbacks. I measured.

My incoming email viewing screen is smaller. It's as wide as a mass market ppbk on its side, and about 2/3 the height of the same book. In other words it's about 4" high by 7" wide.

Now, why on earth would you be interested in knowing this?

Because maybe if you actually cut out a piece of paper the size of my incoming email view window you'll see why starting your query letter like this is not a good idea:


(street address)

(City, State, Zip)

(Home phone)
(cell phone)

Ms. Janet Reid

FinePrint Literary Management


RE: Query Letter

I know who I am.
I know this is an email.
I even know it's a query.

Yes I want your contact info but NOT at the top of the letter.
Put it at the BOTTOM of an email query.

In case this has not dawned on you yet, I reply by hitting the REPLY key in my Entourage program. I don't retype your address. I don't pay any attention to it at all unless I need to. And even then, I look at your email address in the roster of incoming emails NOT the body of the email.

I'm reading on very small screen. DO NOT WASTE the first 15 lines by telling me anything except what the book is about.

I have colleagues who read their email on their PHONES. They're reading on a screen the size of your palm.

Every scroll down, every time we have to move past the nonsense is an opportunity to stop reading. Don't put in MORE of those opportunities. Put in FEWER.


lexcade said...

i love you. way to get straight to the point. if only you repped genres i wrote...we'd get along swimmingly.

Ann Best said...

I've put you at the top of my blog list because your advice is just what I need. Clear, concise. Like a good query and good writing should be. You'd think we writers could figure all this out for ourselves. But...


Josin L. McQuein said...

I got yelled at for telling someone this :-(

They told me "my way" of doing a query was unprofessional and not how they learned to write business letters in school. They'd be sending letters the "right" way. I even pointed them to prior mentions of this on your blog.

I think said person will soon be shark bait... and I'm not even a little sad. :-P

Janet Reid said...

Putting all the contact info first is the correct form for PAPER queries. This post applies to email only.

Anyone who tells you they learned to do this in business school has not figured out that paper and electrons work differently.

Writers, no matter their age, MUST be adept at the new forms and the new media.

You simply cannot insist on writing with a quill pen and hand delivering your manuscript in a box with a pink ribbon until you are VERY very successful.

If you're sending me a query, no matter how successful you want to be, or I hope you will be..that is not where we are NOW.

Lydia Sharp said...

I think this post should be linked in the submission guidelines of every agent who accepts e-queries.

StuartC said...

Thank you very much. You just prevented me from making a big mistake.

Jude said...


Dana King said...

I've read a lot of blogs with query advice. No one gets to the point like you do. You're not mean about it--okay, you act mean, but even I can spot the underlying desire to be helpful to the queriers, not just make life easier for yourself.

Even better, I can't tell you how much I appreciate that you actually send rejections. Nothing is more frustrating for a fledgling writer than for an agent or publisher to say, "If you don't hear back, we're not interested." I know they're busy. I'm busy. We're all busy. If the submitter spent the time and effort to meet the guidelines, the leats the agent/editor can do is to tell him "no." A single email at the end of the day, with all the authors' names on a bcc line will suffice. It doesn't take that long.

Thanks for extending the writers that courtesy.

Anonymous said...

It just never felt right to set up and email like a print letter. I always struggle with the salutation in an email. Should it be there?