Monday, December 26, 2011

A brilliant new way to shoot yourself in the query

I can't help myself. When queries come in, even over the holidays, I sneak a peek. I'm always hoping something so good will pop up that I Must.Read.Now.  Sadly what I find more often are new perplexing ways you've found to do yourself some damage.

Just this morning there were these two:

1. "Please respond" in the subject line, and the ONLY thing in the subject line.  Maybe you don't get as much spam as I do, but surely you've noticed that phrase is one spammers use a lot.  Even if your query isn't spam, if you make it LOOK like spam, it's a bad sign.  There are two ways to figure out what goes in the subject line of a query:

a. What the guidelines of a specific agency tell you to put

OR (not AND)

b.  Query for (title of your work here) /(fiction/non-fiction/memoir)

Put the title of your work in first, then whether it's fiction, non-fiction or memoir.

That's ALL.

And honest to garamond "Please respond" is just an invitation not to.

2.  "Please reply to my home email address (email listed)" and it's NOT the address from which the query was sent.

When I reply to your query, I hit the "reply to" tab on my mail management program and it replies to the email address you used to send the email. Under no circumstances am I going to type in a new address. Not ever.

Query from the address you want to receive the replies.  It never occurred to me that this had to be stated, but I guess it does.

And if anyone has any insight into why someone would do this, I'd be interested to hear it.

Now, off to breakfast:


Julianna Scott said...

I've found that people like to send queries from a work email, but don't want the response going back to work as they might get caught in the company filter. Though, why they would use their work account to begin with if they are worried about this, is beyond me.

Miranda Paul said...

Hope your breakfast is great! Thanks for posting, I got a good laugh out of this one. :)

Jane Lebak said...

Why someone would ask you to reply to a different address...

Okay, so the only time they have to research agents and send queries is during their lunch hour at work. But being good employees, they would never have their personal writing on their work computer. That's only on their home computer, so it has to be sent from the home address (and it never occurred to them that after receiving a positive reply, they could forward it home themselves.) Perhaps the employer has blocked access to gmail.

I'm not saying these are good reasons. But it's a reason.

E.Maree said...

The 'work e-mail address' reasons stated above is the only explanation I can think of for it, as well, though it does puzzle me.

I do know a few people who are rely on read receipts to check important e-mails are received, which is only supported by Microsoft Outlook. Maybe they're sending it that way so they can make sure it's received via the read receipts?

On a side-note, it made me smile to see that you're still peeking at your queries when on holiday. As if we needed any further proof that you're one of the most dedicated agents out there!

Anonymous said...

Who the heck sends a query on December 26th? Someone who got "You CAN be a Novelist" for Christmas? Or maybe "The Idiot's Guide to Being a Total F*%#king Idiot"?

jesse said...

So, let me get this straight: At work you're a shark, but at home you're a polar bear? Is that because, in your off hours, you want to be cuddly yet still be terrifying?

Heather Hawke said...

Is it really a problem to send a query during a holiday? I'd suppose it would just go to the back of the line and the agent would get to it whenever. Besides, while researching agents is good, I don't know it's my business to find out which holidays they celebrate - unless it's a "query holiday."

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Me: Bill, who said you could use my computer? … um what are you writing?

Bill E. Goat: Quiet, Pixie. I’m thinking … Janet. I’m writing to Janet. New query. I’m sure she almost took All Quiet on the Goat Front, or How I learned to Love a Sheep Midst the Fog of War. So, I’m tryin’ again.

Me: Bill, “Please answer this you hawtie” might make her giggle insanely, but it’s not proper form.

Bill E: What do you know? To quote an obscure movie, “You know nothing. …”

Me: [Ignoring the silly remark] Bill, you should probably include something in that email that’s actually about your book …

Bill E: Bribes work, pixie. Haven’t you listened to the news lately?

Me: Ten bags of sun dried leaves and a bag of sweet-corn feed probably won’t sway Janet.

Bill E: There’s always hope. … I’ll add two free nights in a drafty barn overlooking the scenic Columbia River and two free lessons in speaking Goat. French Goat. We French Alpines have style and “the accent.”

Anonymous said...

Regardless of holiday observance, most professional not-life-critical offices are closed between Mitra's birthday and the turning of the Roman calendar. During that time, an agent's in box no doubt fills up with spam, crap and queris from noobs who query on Christmas Day. I'd never do it. I'd rather arrive in a clean inbox. Friday afternoons are good I hear.

Mister Furkles said...

One might query from work because the work system tools are better. During the holidays, one might query from a relative’s system. One might suffer from OCD. No thinking is required to query. Getting results is a different matter.

Steve Stubbs said...

I have a suggestion for that crowd. In the world of electrical engineering the forward slash (/) put before a signal name means NOT (in the Boolean logic sense.) So someone could put "/Query" in the subject line to say "This is not a query, Ms. Reid; it's just more damn spam." It says it rather succinctly, not to mention cryptically. Then when you open the e-mail, thinking to find a query for the next smash runaway bestseller, the answer to all your bill collectors' dreams (as if you could stand to have another one of THOSE on your list), you would find out not only is this / a query, but that it is /Interesting either. You would probably tell that author / to write again.

Of course two NOTs cancel each other out in Boolean logic, so that two NOTs (//) do not (/) modify the meaning of whatever follows whereas one NOT (/) does. With that in mind, //Have //a //Happy //Holiday //Season. //And //a //Prosperous //New //Year.

Unknown said...

Could be worse: it could have three exclamation marks attached. Excellent advice nevertheless! I'm going to remember this.

The Number Zero: it's Subacool.

kelly said...

Re: why someone might ask to reply to a different address:

Perhaps the attachment document is on a computer which doesn't contain the person's main email client, so they have to go through a web email client. Or maybe they are having technical difficulties getting an attachment to send with the body of their email. But maybe that email address gets a lot of spam, and the person is worried that the reply will get lost in amongst the spam.

I've had both happen, though not for something as important as a query.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Insights in to why someone would be so lame? I don't have a clue. Just wanted to say G'Morning.

Cara M. said...

Well, actually having accidentally sent something from a different address than the one I intended, I can explain. (Not why you would actually say 'reply here' since all of my email addresses are forwarded to one account.) But because I have all of the email addresses forwarded to one account, I have also set up gmail so that I can send emails as different users. I query using my university email so I sound more professional (and older), but the default is gmail, and sometimes I forget to change it.

Hope that answers at least some of the puzzle!

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice, Janet. As always.

I'm rethinking the Yes and No boxes after the question "Do you like me?" strategy. I should probably stick to the way the professionals like to see it done.

Happy New Year! And may 2012 bring you and yours new journeys and new treasures.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Bill E. Goat to Pixie: I don't think Mr. Stubs is ....

Pixie: Bill, be kind ...

Bill: Do I have to?

Pixie: Yes, Bill. ... But I agree with you.

Elissa M said...

Many here have done their best to apply logic to an illogical action.
I can think of no good reason why a person wouldn't query from the same address to which they wish the reply sent.

If an address allows you to receive a reply, you can query from that address. Physical location makes little difference to most e-mail providers. In cases where it does make a difference, wait until you get home.

There's no rush with a query-- if a writer is in a hurry to send out queries, he/she probably hasn't edited the project enough. It's that simple.

BW said...

I have two personal email accounts. The one mailbox, which is an AOL account, is able to hold and send large files and the other mailbox, which is my preference and since it is not an AOL account, is smaller and only holds small files. The smaller email address looks more professional in my opionion.

furrykef said...

Some e-mail programs let you specify a reply-to address in your e-mail, such that when the receiver clicks "reply", it will fill in the alternate address automatically. That way you needn't bother anybody with "please respond to [some other address]".

Of course it's still a safer bet to just send the e-mail from the same account you want the reply to land in, but there's still no real reason to tell anybody to manually type in a different e-mail address to reply to.

Dave Clark said...

I can't tell you how often I do not make any of the mistakes listed here, or on other agent's websites. I think I'm taking exquisite care and considering every nuance and detail. And I still can't get a full request. Is it my breath? Oh, wait. It is.

Lemur said...

I actually have three email addys. One is my "everyday" address - the one that my family and friends write to. This one tends to get cluttered with spam, messages from Facebook that someone has commented on my post (don't ask me why, I've shut that thing off 3 times now) and other trash. I'd NEVER use that email addy for my writing, because if you're an agent considering my story, I want to be able to find your email.

The next email addy I made was on the same system. An email in my pen name specifically for queries and other writerly things.

Then I started trying to send queries. Disaster. That email program gives me exactly 20 minutes to paste my query and pages into email, triple check for spelling errors and make sure my query and sample pages aren't turned into a giant block o' text. Miss that 20 minutes and I've got to start over.

So I went and got a new email addy at yahoo (much kinder). However having had yahoo emails before, I know the email addys can get scrubbed if you don't check your email with tight regularity. What if 6 months later (maybe after I'd given up and focused on my next book) an agent decided they wanted my story and my email addy was now defunct!?

So when I query I put both emails in my contact info, just in case. But I don't try to tell the agent which one to use. I just hope their answer gets to me one way or another.