Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Querying when you might be unreachable

I have an international move coming up but my book's just about ready to query. Knowing that it can take weeks for a response, my instinct is to send the first queries out when they're ready. But, do I mention that between certain dates I may not have internet access and thus would not be able to respond ASAP? How about if I'm not certain of the dates yet, the move being contingent on selling a house? I don't want to chance a bad impression by starting out with a delayed response. Would this be seen as presumptive? Insulting if the date is too far out? Or is it best not to mention it and just keep my devices as hooked up and charged as possible? Or wait til I'm settled before I query?

Don't query before you're in a position to reply in a timely manner.

That said, it seems foolish to wait to query when it's very likely true that there will be a lag time in replies.

I would suggest querying from a NEW email address that you set up just for queries, and ask someone to monitor it for you if/when you're out of wi-fi range.

That person can have a copy of the novel and send it as requested on your behalf. And if the agent asks something, your Designated Sender can reply that you're:

1. sailing the seven seas
2. digging out of prison
3. scouting locations in Canada for the horde of Americans contemplating a four-year sojourn there and will reply when you've resurfaced.

You probably don't want to saddle someone with your working email account (hell, I'd be leery of doing that to anyone even if I paid them a princely sum) but a dedicated email probably won't be too much trouble.

This way too, you're not sending things like "I'll be out of pocket for six weeks...I think" which is not something I want to see in a query letter.


BJ Muntain said...

Interesting question. Interesting answer.

And the hordes of Americans who threaten to move to Canada if something political happens never do.

I bake cookies, but they never come. :(

Lennon Faris said...

A separate email account for querying may be a good idea anyway, whether you're about to be detained or not. I keep the tab open all the time and when I see that little (1) by the tab title, I know it's something exciting. (An auto-reply is exciting, right?!). That way I don't have to keep refreshing q10 sec. Wait, other people don't do that? I'll just um, see you all tomorrow then...

BJ - those cookies are sounding really good.

LynnRodz said...

Good solution to a tough question. Some agents may not answer for a year (or not at all) while another may answer lickety split. Once those queries go out you have to be ready.

I can see a mass exodus from the US if someone ends up in the Oval Office and I'm not talking about illegals so start baking now BJ! Once the Kool-Aid wears off they'll be saying, "Wtf have we done!"

E.M. Goldsmith said...

BJ- if you're baking cookies, I am headed that way. I've heard apart from the 10 month winters, Canada is lovely. Can I bring my pug?

I am glad OP asked this question. I hope to spend 3 months abroad in next couple of years, and at my current pace could very well still be in the query trenches. I like Janet's idea. I think I will be ok as I should, in theory, be able to at least answer replies from my phone, and be no more than one day without Internet. Unless France and the U.K. decide to revisit the Dark Ages. Good luck OP.

Colin Smith said...

If this was my situation, I think a lot would depend on how imminently I would be moving. You said you weren't sure of the dates, Opie, but do you know if it could be weeks away, or months away? If the move is a few weeks away, I'd wait to query. Get settled into the new digs, figure out how to get food, electricity, and Internet in your new culture (which can be confusing even if the natives speak sort-of the same language), and then query. That intervening busy time will enable you to look on your query and pages with fresh eyes before you send it out.

If, however, the move is months away, I would go ahead and start querying, and maybe add a note to your email signature indicating that you will be making an international move in a few months. Send queries out to your first ten agents. If they're all wonderful, non-NORMANs, and reject promptly, then query the next ten. When you get closer to moving time, update your signature, and then stop querying as the move becomes imminent.

All the best with your novel and your move, Opie. Sounds like exciting times ahead for you! :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

You could always get your parole officer to check your email.

BJ, crumbs in pocket sounds good.

Oh yeah, I thought about moving to Nova Scotia, if you-know-who trumps the election, but I've decided to stay where I am. We'll build a bomb shelter, teach our grand children to duck and cover and it will be the 50's all over again.

Unknown said...

I can't seem to keep from checking my email compulsively for quite some length of time after I have queried, and so far, my most positive responses have come after I have completely given up and moved on to the next thing. So maybe being inaccessible would actually enhance one's positive response rate, like carrying an umbrella to ward off rain.

I haven't been to too many places where a once-every-two-days check-in at an internet cafe has been impossible. (In rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa, I have sometimes depended on a colleague who has created an internet hotspot through his phone.)

I think you should keep your Nova Scotia plan in play, 2Ns, and I'll join you there. When I was a kid, we used to go up to Digby every summer to visit my grandparents. What a beautiful spot!

Brigid said...

OP, you can even set designated responses so that your proxy friend can respond in your words. Google has a built in "Lab" called Canned Conversations. Yesware is the fancier, creepier alternative. That way your friend doesn't sign off "Best," when you always sign off sign off "So long and thanks for all the kale".

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I wonder if Opie has written the query letter yet - that process can take a few weeks by itself! It also matters where you're moving too. When I moved to France a few years back, I thought I'd be without internet access for a few weeks too. Lo and behold, wifi is everywhere in western Europe and North America. But if you're moving somewhere else, that's well out of my expertise. :)

I know this is silly and probably not super helpful, but I feel it's my duty to remind everyone that voting is much easier than moving to Canada! Just make sure you show up on election day. :)

RachelErin said...

I think Janet's advice is great. It's better not to assume anything about the internet where you're going.

Right around Hurricane Sandy, when I was living in Pisa, we had a few days of fog that shut down our internet. No, that is not a typo. Fog. It has cyber-stealth powers that rainstorms and hurricanes can only rage about.

It took them two weeks to get internet back to the entire city. TWO WEEKS. In a city with a famous university. DH went to the internet service store daily, and they shrugged. It happens every couple of years. Meanwhile we saw news reports of areas hit by Sandy having internet restored in 3-4 days.

I wasn't querying, but I had design submissions out to magazines and was rebuilding a website with an Aussie. Email was not recreation. The web designer did not believe me when I told her a height-phobic cloud had flattened our service. I can only imagine what an agent would have thought. Is it a metaphor for going on a bender? Evidence of taking hallucinogens?

Better to be prepared. Stealth fog could strike anywhere.

DLM said...

This could not be a problem for me, because I wouldn't be able to stand missing something. I'm rather like Mark in this.

I can barely wait until tomorrow for the last flash fiction results; if it came to waiting for agents I've researched and feel good about and hope to hear from? No way could I not-know IMMEDIATELY that they have responded - good or ill.

Unknown said...

I get email on my phone. Even so, I just recently 'missed' an email for 7 days, even though I checked every day. After a momentary panic I managed to send along my material, everything just fine. Most people, and maybe even vicious sea creatures, don't get upset at minor delays or glitches in email responses. These kinds of snafu's result from the same evil force that steals socks from the dryer. (Oh, and don't forget to check your spam filter frequently. They seem to take special delight in waylaying correspondence from agents.)

Amy Schaefer said...

As someone who has spent most of the last six years on the move, I feel your pain, Opie. The good news is: this is not an insurmountable problem.

A lot depends on where you are moving. If it is in the First World (and even much of the Third), your new town will undoubtedly have cafes/restauants/dog groomers that offer wifi, either for free or with purchase. Go, buy a coffee, check your email once a day while you are waiting for a permanent connection in your new digs.

If that isn't possible, a 4G mobile broadband stick might be a help. Check the coverage with local providers first, but these are usually pretty good.

Be sure to use an email address with a web interface so you can log in from wherever. Consider setting up a gmail account (or similar), either as your main address, or have mail forwarded from your old email address to gmail if you don't want to change.

As a final point, I wouldn't mention your connective difficulties in your query letter. Unless you are riding a unicycle across Mongolia and really will be out of touch, you should be able to check email often enough to keep up with requests. Bring it up once someone has asked for a query or full, and then only if the issue is still relevant. Good luck!

BJ Muntain said...

I've given up on checking my e-mail every minute. After the first 20 or so queries sent out, you stop obsessing or go nuts. Or both. Don't ask which way I went.

EM: I love pugs! Although my chosen breed is the Shih Tzu, pugs are almost as cute. :)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Good luck, Opie, on the move and on the querying. Nothing more I can add to the wise advice from the Queen and from the Reef Gang.

I remember the first time I traveled to Scotland and had to use, gasp, a phone (and try to sort the international code) to let my parents know I was safe. At that time, my circle of friends and family (except for uncles and Dad in WWII/Korean War) did not travel overseas.

Craig F said...

Technology has come up with a lot of ways to stay in touch. Some of it is very expensive though. Iridium Satellite phones has moved closer to the real world and some offer internet. The phone might not be the most expensive part though. Operating costs can be a killer.

Satellite internet by Hughes/Dish might be helpful. On a boat it would probably only work in harbor. They have a way to check signal strength built in and it allows you to aim it.

Mobile devices seem intent to conquer space and time but haven't gotten there yet.

A lot of though depends how how big of a move you are heading for. Setting up a household outside of borders you know can cause a lot of culture shock. It might be better to wait until the dust settles. Querying can be hard enough on your sanity during normal operating hours.

Megan V said...

Amy, as a unicyclist, my knees buckled at the thought of riding across Mongolia. Uff da. That would be one arduous trip.

Anywho, back on topic. Opie,

I think the QOTKU has the right of it.
Have a dedicated email for querying. Have someone you trust keep track of it during those times you will be away. Make sure to cover the variations of requests (save separate versions of MS—partial and a full). Have a pre-drafted e-mail response for sending requested material that the person can send out. And depending on how long you're gone, make sure that the person in charge of your email while you're away has a way to get a hold of you in case of a potential call/offer of representation situation. After all, I think it would be strange for potential agent to discover that they wouldn't be able to call or e-mail with you at all for six weeks when they've decided they LOVE your MS.

Rena McClure Taylor said...


Oh, but for the life of the 1950's, bomb shelters and all. Sure there were problems, but life was slower, simpler. Besides, we got tv and frozen tv dinners--Patio Mexican Dinners (yum) were the best. My sister and I got them twice a year when Mom and Dad went to area school teachers' meetings. The rest of the time, Mom cooked--full course meals after school--even pie from scratch. As to the necessity for bomb shelters, we didn't worry--much--the preacher said God would take care of us Sunday mornings before we went home to Sunday dinner--pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions. Oh, and homemade chocolate pie.

Unknown said...

If you have a trusted friend who can send out your MS for you, be certain they know all the agent vocabulary. Please send a full MS. That's easy. Please send the first 50 pages.Sounds simple enough except my chapter breaks are on page 47 and 58. For this request I would send the 58 pages. Please send no more than fifty pages, rounded to the nearest chapter break. So for this I would send 47 pages. Please send the first fifty pages with a one-page synopsis pasted at the start of the document. I usually put a copy of my query letter on page one. My synopsis is two pages. So for this request I deleted the query letter, cut down my synopsis, and sent 58 pages. I could go on and on but you get the point. Last week I got a partial request and the agent wanted it printed and snail-mailed.

And for the record, I'm not complaining. I am happy to send my manuscript in whatever form the agent wants to see it. Hell, I'll write my synopsis on the side of a pumpkin and mail the pumpkin if that's what he/she likes. (Yes, you can mail a pumpkin.)

I'm just saying that querying can get complicated and be prepared for this. As other comments have said, look for a coffee bar or an Internet cafe. And best of luck with queries and your big move.

Amy Schaefer said...

Megan V, I knew we'd have a unicyclist in the group somewhere.

Sherry Howard said...

Brilliant suggestion, Janet, and one I wouldn't have considered. We leave our children with sitters, surely our writing can be tended to when needed.

BJ, Canada sounds even better with chocolate chip!

Megan V said...


Yep. Just don't make me ride across Mongolia. Although, I might ride to Canada for some of BJ's cookies. They sound heavenly right about now.

Also—wishing you fair winds and following seas. I can't wait to hear about your travels when you are able to connect again.

Mister Furkles said...


Amy is right. You may get a web email account. I use gmail.com but there are may others. Then if you are near a city, you only need web access. There are Internet kiosks in most cities and if there is a library, it may offer free Internet access.

You can search the Internet for locations of Internet kiosks in the cities you will be visiting.

If you are planning to sail a slow junk or dugout across the Pacific, you'll want a satellite phone anyway.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Rena, yup the 50's were good, even if you were a duck and cover kid. And, really difficult if both parent's worked. Mine did. Summers were hard, more for them then me.

Mark, Digby is great but I'm a Baddeck kind a girl. Love it.

OT, and not to get political, but this is a scary election year for sure. I thought eight years ago we became what we had always claimed we were. I guess not.
It is uncomfortable up here on my fence.
It's funny but the only place which seems to allow respect for varied points of view is here. Maybe it's because we're writers. Writers have to see all and stay open to what's out there.

What we need is a country of Reiders.

Dena Pawling said...

This post and these comments has made me realize I must be the tech-unsavviest [tm] person in the US and may be even in the First World. I have no idea how to attach a document to an email from my phone or even from a library. I can only do it from my computer. And the idea of saving a bunch of email drafts with all possible combinations that an agent might request, and stressing over the fact this would NOT be replying to the original email that s/he responded to, asking for pages, and/or making the subject header exactly the same so it would thread correctly. Ack! Too much stress. Personally, I'd wait until I had internet at least every other day.

Does anyone else see the irony in this? What with the glacial pace of publishing otherwise?

Good luck with your move. I've moved exactly twice in my adult life, and only once as a child. I moved an office twice, that's not fun either. My husband absolutely refuses to move from our current house, until he's removed in a body bag. Moving is a nightmare. I don't know how military families do it. I feel your pain.

Good luck with your move and your querying.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: I find few people truly are non-partisan. Writers/artistic types especially, since we tend to be passionate about things. We may not agree on what political/social issues matter to us, but we all have them, and we'll shout our support and cast our votes accordingly. I certainly have very strong views about the country and how we're doing, and the various candidates running for office, but I'll reserve my thoughts for the ballot (it's Primary Day in NC). :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

2Ns- I know just what you mean. Now, to borrow from something on this blog (I think it was John Frain), I just tell people that I am a citizen of the Known Universe. You've met our queen, right? Maybe we can form our own country virtually. Janet is a wonderful queen. And no matter where OP moves, the shark will find a way to keep in touch.

BJ- my pug, Frankie is a big fan of Shih Tzus as long as it's not playing the role of Trump's hair. We'll bring coffee, some terrific craft beers (both lagers and stouts), and some decent Scotch. I am actually considering a job that is in Edmonton, but I have no clear notion where in Canada that might be.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Dena, attaching documents from an iPhone couldn't be easier, IF you are using the iCloud drive, whatever the heck that is. I don't know what it really is, I just use it. You can do the same thing with Google docs and Google drive from any device using gmail.

I'm not complaining, and I'm certainly still going to go into a panic attack at every email from any agent, no matter what, but it just occurred to me that there is a certain irony associated with authors going to general quarters in trying to answer any email from an agent in 5 minutes flat when we are typically not at all amazed by email responses from agents that take months (or how about never) to arrive. Wow, what a run on sentence. Exactly the kind of sentence I really try to avoid in any correspondence with an agent! Maybe I should try to take longer than 5 minutes before hitting reply next time.

Celia Reaves said...

Ah, the 1950s in America. Mom stayed home with the kids, we at dinner in the living room watching TV, we had won the last war and weren't embroiled in the next one yet. Good times. Except when it wasn't: Polio. Jim Crow. McCarthyism. Personally, I don't want to go back there.

Canada is more appealing. Remember when thousands upon thousands of airplane passengers were dumped on small cities in Canada on 9/11/01 because the US closed its borders to air travel? Our northern neighbors were amazingly neighborly to all these unexpected guests. I'm sure they will be again if there's a massive move to the north after the election. I agree with Bethany, though: instead of making plans to move, let's all VOTE!

BJ Muntain said...

Wow. Well, we are streamlining our refugee process... I suppose this counts?

EM: Edmonton is quite a ways north. Not igloo country, by any means, but north. And it's a big city. If you want a taste of Alberta (Edmonton's province) come to the When Words Collide conference in Calgary in August. It's on the way up to Edmonton.

Sorry for all the off-topic. EM, if you want to e-mail me about WWC, bjmuntain at sasktel dot net. Or even just to chat about dogs...

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

VOTE instead of move, I love it.

Two amazing memories of our awesome neighbors up north.

Yes Celia when they took in the planes on 9/11, (thousands of passengers) especially (was it Goose Bay) where people opened their homes to strangers.

And I will never forget and always be grateful, for Canada saving the five embassy workers during the Iranian Hostage Crisis.
When I recall the billboards near the border, facing north, which read "Thank you Canada", it still brings tears.

You guys up north are hearty folk and the best of neighbors.

On Topic.
If it were me, I'd wait until I was settled. Fresh eyes, after something as stressful as such a big move, might give you a whole knew perspective on your writing.

Adib Khorram said...

I like this idea of a designated sender (would there be a special ribbon to go with this job?). Though my mind immediately turned to all the added neuroses this would lead to. I still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, convinced I've sent the wrong version of something to someone! Woodland creature brain at its finest.

Jenny C: I confess I'm quite surprised there are agents still doing snail mail! I wonder how common this is.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Hey is there an undercurrent of political commentary or is it my imagination? Me, I love politics, I suppose that follows from my interest in narrative fiction, though a reminder that rivalries with arbitrary divisions can get out of hand, wouldn't go amiss: the strange tale of the blue and the green.

CynthiaMc said...

I've never even considered leaving (though I might do a weekend jaunt for BJ's cookies). Maybe I've spent too much time overseas. My preferred MO is bug the living heck out of any politician that annoys me.

CynthiaMc said...

With the exception of John Mica. He stopped meeting with some very important-looking people one day when The Princess (my Japanese Chin) and I were having lunch at Paris Bistro on our Park Avenue. He came over to tell me how cute my dog was (she is). He didn't introduce himself (I recognized him), just complimented her, petted her, and went on his way. She liked him (and she is a shrewd judge of character). That was good enough for me.

Unknown said...

Politics cropping up in narrative fiction can make for a great read. It's the narrative fiction now popping up in politics that gives me horrors.

Colin Smith said...

Cynthia: I wonder if that's what people really mean when they say they are fed up with "politicians"? (whoo boy, we're really wandering from the topic here--sorry, Janet). Every election cycle you have those candidates from the private sector who play on the fact that they are "not politicians" and "not insiders" etc. Fact is, though, as soon as they run for office, they become politicians, with all the schmoozing and fake smiles and big promises. Maybe what people really want are politicians who are real people. Who are not always just trying to get your vote, but are attempting to engage with people honestly.

Again, I know it's off-topic, but I just went and exercised my U.S. citizenship privileges, so it's sort of on-topic for me. :)

RachelErin said...

DeadSpiderEye, I must be at home if other vommenters are linking to late antique history.

In my pre-draft of my WIP, I called my factions Blue and Green inspired by the Nika riots. They had similar upsets in Alexandria, although not on quite the same scale.

OT: With the culture shock bit, I remember having trouble logging into to my gmail in internet cafes because the keyboards were different. I couldn't find the @ sign. I only bought ten minutes, so my punctuation ended up funky. So maybe leave extra time for comma hunting?

Joseph S. said...

Excellent answer, Janet Reid.

You got me thinking maybe I'll set a up a new email account strictly to mail query letters. I'm just worried I'd check it three times a day to see nothing there.

Totally off-topic: I went to a music concert at an art gallery next to the Irondale Café (aka The Whistle Stop Café). The gallery owner said the characters and many of the events in Fried Green Tomatoes were real people and real events. Fannie Flagg's aunt did own the café, and lived across the railroad tracks.

By the way, while I waited to get inside, a coal train "whistled" by. So cool.

JulieWeathers said...


I didn't get a chance to enter the contest, but I do wish you fair seas. The querying is going to be a conundrum. I'd find a good friend, and I'm sure you have many. The chances of an agent answering quickly are slim, but it does happen.

Good luck with the move and the querying. I'm sending a fairy dragon to escort you. He's mostly housebroken, but you know...dragon.

Congratulations on a completed book. What a remarkable and magical accomplishment!

Claire said...

I'd wait, OP. As frustrating as that might be when you feel your manuscript is ready to go, I think it's better than the alternative. I couldn't entrust the job of responding to agents to anyone else, I know I'd lie awake at night worrying about all the possible things that could go wrong.

Realistically you're unlikely to be out of contact for very long; put your book in a box, take care of your move, then hook up that wifi connection and get querying. A few weeks will not make any difference to your writing career; an inadvertent communication snafu with a potential agent just might.

CynthiaMc said...

Fannie's The All Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion book also came to be at that cafe. The ladies who gave her the idea for the book used to meet there. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. It's my favorite book of hers.

CynthiaMc said...

Colin, I despise politics and politicians. Do my best to keep them straight.

Craig F said...

I just wish for one time when I could have some pride in whom I voted for. It won't be this year. This will be yet another time that I am voting against someone more than I am voting for another.

Joseph S. said...


I ordered the All Girl Filling Station book (and "The Short Drop" too)

CynthiaMc said...

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Kim Batchelor said...

Oh, Ms. Janet Reid, you made my day.

Future Resident of Canada