There seems to be something in the water lately—or maybe it’s airborne. It seems to be seeping into the minds of those who query us and it’s making them do strange things, which, in turn, makes our rejection finger want to hit the delete key rather than respond.
We live in an age unprecedented in the entire history of mankind, a time when anyone can connect to unlimited informational sources through the Internet. But it seems that with this wonderful resource, there are still literally thousands of writers, people who should know better by the way, who never utilize this wonder. With all this information literally at our fingertips, my question this morning would then be: Why is it that Wylie-Merrick still receives query letters from writers who get it all wrong?
WHY IS IT that we are still receiving queries addressed to “Dear Agent,” or “To Whom It May Concern” or “Hello There,” or to no one at all? Pure business etiquette should tell anyone who is trying to solicit anything from anyone that first impressions mean everything. Since it’s been expressed here on this blog that this is going to get you rejected, one would think that would be enough. There are posts on this blog that talk about why addressing a business letter (yes, a query is a business letter) in this fashion is not going to make much of an impression on most agents, or anyone in the human resources department of any company, for that matter.
WHY IS IT that we are still getting loads of snail mail queries when on our Web site and here we ask writers to only send us digital queries via an e-mail message?
WHY IS IT that writers are still sending chapters or samples of chapters when we have expressly asked that they not send them? When we receive chapters, we know immediately that the person querying us has never read anything about us—not a good thing when asking us, or any other agent, to represent your work. The reasons for this should be obvious to anyone who researches agents.
WHY IS IT that writers still send attachments when everyone knows that viruses are passed from computer to computer by attachments? Common sense would dictate to anyone who sits down to a computer on a regular basis (most writers live on computer these days) that you do not send unsolicited attachments to anyone. If someone requests an attachment, fine. Send it. However, if no one has requested chapters or a full via e-mail, then you shouldn’t send any attachments at all. We STILL get people sending us attachments with their queries in them. Needless to say, these are automatically deleted without response. HINT: Attachments can contain viruses, or worse, large attachments can really damage an e-mail programs ability to function.
WHY IS IT that writers believe that if they say they are a best-selling author, they suddenly are? There’s a new trend that when I send a rejection, I receive back an e-mail chiding me about the huge mistake I’ve made in rejecting a best-selling author and that I’m going to be really, really sorry that I did. Not really. We even have a post on this and why we can’t regret rejections. People who think we should don’t understand how the business works. Besides, let me put it this way: Best-selling authors who have queried us in the past have always given their name and their credits right up front so we know they aren’t yanking our chain. When querying an agent, put that information—the part about being a best-selling author—in the FIRST query letter, not in the rebuttal one. Also, if you wrote a best-selling novel in the 1980s but have written nothing since, there’s not much I can do for you. The audience created by the 1980s success won’t remember you unless you were really BIG.
WHY IS IT that agents are expected to have the knowledge of the publishing universe at their fingertips, and we do, but writers, those who readers depend on for a great read (fiction) and information (nonfiction) believe they shouldn’t have to do anything but put words on a page? This is called a double standard. Professional writers, of which one of us is one, have to have a certain knowledge base, and we find, oddly, that most new writers don’t believe this, at least those we have contact with.
WHY IS IT that when we do research, we cross-reference, double cross-reference, and then double check our cross-references for accuracy, so that even if we do miss something we know, deep in our agent hearts, we’ve at least tried to do our best to get the most updated information available on a topic, yet many writers look at one Web page from six years ago, query us based on inaccurate information, and then blame us? It is standard operating procedure here to research as much as possible before pursuing anything that has to do with publishing, and we’ve made it widely known that the most updated source of information is our own site. However, most people query us based on information on agent directories that we have little or no control over (and are outdated before they are published or never updated). We don’t expect writers to do anything we wouldn’t do ourselves, which is what most agents would expect. It is not an unreasonable request for us to ask you to give it your best effort.
To summarize all of this, before sending anything to us, please get to know us. Consider some of this information might actually be accurate and maybe make a note of it. We have gone to a great deal of effort to provide a blog filled with tons of information that every writer can use to help smooth the path to publication. It may seem harsh sometimes, but sugar-coated sweetness is like breakfast food that adds unhealthy pounds. We don’t sugar-coat anything because we know that what’s good for you doesn’t necessarily always taste good, but we think it will help your career, and therefore ours, which is the reason why we blog.