Wednesday, September 05, 2007

E-mail Queries

Dear Dead Beat,

It seems that more literary agents are willing to accept e-mail queries. Do you have any advice how to go about writing them?

Computer Shy.

Dear Computer Shy,

Yes e-mail is becoming more acceptable in the publishing world. However not all agents or editors do accept them, so be careful. Read their guidelines. Only e-mail them if they say this is okay.

Once you know that e-mail is fine, there are a number of things to think about. Basically the procedure is the same one you would follow if applying by regular mail: A query letter, synopsis and extract if required (read their guidelines).

The real danger with e-mail is that we have got used to a form of communication that is often colloquial, sloppy, and written in shorthand. Too casual. Frequently it has not been proofread - that's why we have e-mail isn't it? We've no time to spare, zip zip, the world is spinning at an almighty rate, gotta keep up.

Unfortunately most agents would like you to sit back, take your time, consider style and presentation, oh yeah and be articulate, be focused, organised ... all those things writing depends on dammit.

Credo: Instant messages require instant responses. Reconsider your beliefs. Do not be impatient. Agents are a busy lot and often get more than one e-mail a day!

Treat the text of your e-mail like a traditional query. However it seems that it can be shorter - something to do with the size of the screen versus holding a sheet of paper in the hand.

You can include links if they are relevant - i.e. a link to your website etc. but only if it is relevant.

A few other thoughts - Include the word "Query" in your subject line, make sure your e-mail address, signature etc. is personal and professional, make sure you have the editor's own address

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