So should the wannabe Famous Author query agents and editors by email or snail mail?
Do the results differ? Truth be told, I haven't been at this querying business long enough to tell. With about 30 queries out there flapping their wings on my behalf, only a half-dozen have come home to roost. My very first e-query flew back within 12 hours with a request for a partial MS. Omigawd, the future is bright. Grisham labored in obscurity for years, selling his first self-published novel out of the back of a station wagon at swap meets, and here I've struck gold with my first effort. Before shopping for a Mercedes, I thought it might be prudent to research my new best friend. Oops. Google came up dry. Other than the brief entry on First Writer that led me to him in the first place, I found nada on the usual literary agent databases. I emailed Mystery Agent to see if I should send the partial by email attachment or snail mail, and also politely asked whether he had a website or blog. Since then, silence reigns.
My first query, and I get VaporAgent.
By the way, check out the link to Lit Agent X for actual examples of wacky, clueless queries that will make you feel incredibly smug.
The rejections I've received so far have all been professional and polite, usually along the line of "not for me" or "not a match." That's fine because I understand that this business is about art, not science.
Sometimes I have the same reaction as a reader. I had heard good things about Middlesex by Eugenides and grabbed it off a bargain table at Borders. I fought my way through the first 20 pages before giving up. Just "not for me," despite what Oprah thinks. I'd also heard about Spaceman Blues: A Love Song - supposedly cutting edge, awesome prose. I tracked down the first chapter on the author's website and it blew me away. Absolutely for me.
But I've noticed that replies to e-queries tend to be very minimal and safely-worded, whereas those returning to my mailbox sometimes have more positive, even helpful comments scrawled on the letter. One snail mail rejection came back yesterday from a prominent NYC literary agent and actually had nearly 100 words of feedback - my synopsis was a "compelling presentation" and he couldn't see any obvious flaws, but didn't feel the necessary "connection" to take me as a client. Wow! (Why hadn't the girls back in high school let me down like that, instead of telling me to buzz off? Virginity would have been ever so much more palatable.) That rejection will keep me motivated for months to come. I'm thinking it's suitable for framing.
As I said, I'm still new to querying and with some of the most successful agents only accepting e-queries, maybe that's the best way to go. I admit to getting a minor tactile thrill from folding up an SASE and slipping it into another envelope along with a crisp piece of stationary with my brilliant, well-researched query. But I don't get creepy over it.
I have important reasons for dragging my query letters down to the post office and dropping them through a slot, reasons that have nothing to do with the odds of success or failure or helpful comments. Once a query is mailed, there is Hope for a period of time. That Hope helps me glue my butt to a chair and tap out more queries, rewrite my old nonsense, and create gawd-awful first drafts of future nonsense. The fact that there is no scientific or logical basis for this Hope is inconsequential. It's the best buzz I've gotten since I threw Jim Beam out the back door.
On the other hand, last night I emailed a carefully-crafted, well-researched query to an agent who's supposedly waiting breathlessly for a thriller to represent. The rejection showed up among my incoming emails before my morning coffee break today.
Technology must die!
Almost forgot - thanks for checking out this blog, and keep on writing.