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Thread: When they accept either, do you email or snail mail?

  1. #1
    Who wants a cup of tea? HFgal's Avatar
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    When they accept either, do you email or snail mail?

    In a way, it's nice when the agent only accepts one format - makes your decision for you.

    But when they accept both (and you can't find evidence that they prefer one over the other), what is your approach?

    Here are my thoughts so far:

    PRO EMAIL:
    - It's fast, so in theory their response should be faster.
    - Most agents that accept both seem to accept way more email - demonstrates a de facto preference?
    - Eco-friendly
    - Free

    PRO SNAIL MAIL:
    - No worries about email mangling the format of what you submit
    - Able to use nice stationery - classy!
    - If you are an HF gal like me, is email sort of anachronistic?
    - Email: So easy to delete. Too easy.
    - Since snail mail is less common, makes you stand out more?

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    E-mail is faster, easier and cheaper, so I'm pro-e-mail all the way.

    Since snail mail is less common, makes you stand out more?
    I've heard this argued before, but it never feels right to me. Maybe it's because I keep my e-mail inboxes organised, but mail is easy for me to toss to one side and forget.
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  3. #3
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    I hate having to deal with snail mail. Going to the post office and standing in line, not to mention the costs...blargh. When I was subbing to agents, any agency who required snail mail was immediately crossed off my list. At this day and age, I do not wish to be repped by an agent who isn't tech-savvy enough to accept e-queries.

    But that's just my personal preference. There are plenty of fine agents out there who prefer snail mail.

    Speaking of using "nice stationery", I wouldn't recommend going for anything out of the norm. No eggshell-colored paper or letterpress envelopes.

    ETA: I find physical mail easier than e-mail to throw away, actually. I have a recycling bin right next to my desk and most of my mail ends up in there.
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  4. #4
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    There is no choice for me. It's email unless they say no email. Done.
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  5. #5
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Email's right there where they're working. An agent can click over during lunch or on a quick break without having to deviate from what s/he's doing. Physical letters sit in a pile. They look like work and they have to be picked up. It's more effort to get to them.

    IMO, go email if you can.
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  6. #6
    The colors! THE COLORS! leahzero's Avatar
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    I don't think "standing out" or any similar factors should be part of the equation. They're either going to be interested or not, and a minor difference like reading a query on paper vs. on a computer screen won't sway anyone (and if it does, I question that person's judgment in the first place).
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  7. #7
    Who wants a cup of tea? HFgal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leahzero View Post
    I don't think "standing out" or any similar factors should be part of the equation. They're either going to be interested or not, and a minor difference like reading a query on paper vs. on a computer screen won't sway anyone (and if it does, I question that person's judgment in the first place).
    That's a really interesting point - and in conflict with some of what you can read out on the web. I would like to believe that it is the words in your query letter (and synopsis, and excerpt) that sell you, not the format (although if you have sloppy format, that's gotta count against you).

    I guess the best thing you can do is just have a testicle-grabbing first sentence and first paragraph in your query letter.

  8. #8
    Hopeful romantic/hopeless pedant ARoyce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leahzero View Post
    I don't think "standing out" or any similar factors should be part of the equation. They're either going to be interested or not, and a minor difference like reading a query on paper vs. on a computer screen won't sway anyone (and if it does, I question that person's judgment in the first place).
    Exactly. Given the hundreds of queries an agent receives per week (or even per day), things like stationery seem minor. The query itself should stand out, whether it's delivered by email or snailmail.

    Personally, when I queried, I always used email, unless an agent specified otherwise. It's environmentally friendly, convenient, and easy to store for future reference.
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  9. #9
    have faith, restart itsmary's Avatar
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    Unless they prefer e-mail over snail mail (or unless they require you to send the first 50 pages with your query), I send snail mail. Just a personal preference.

  10. #10
    This will all make sense tomorrow
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    An electronic version they can read on the subway, at the gym etc...lot harder and more annoying to lug around a 300+ pg manuscript...
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  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW FCameron's Avatar
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    Many agents convert the electronic submissions of manuscripts to their e-reader. I've noticed several on Twitter talk about reading full ms on their Kindles.

    BTW--when I "proof" my manuscript, I convert the document to e-pub and read it in iBooks when I'm traveling. iBooks allows me to highlight and make notes. It's a great way to catch things because you're reading only a paragraph at a time on something small like an iPhone.
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  12. #12
    resident curmudgeon
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    Snail mail whenever possible. They can't delete it, it isn't mixed in with fifty thousand really bad queries and submissions, it's a heck of a lot easier to look professional with snail mail, and I find it simply gets much better results.

    Really, easier, cheaper, and more convenient may be good when buying a car, but in writing it means tens of thousands of new writers are flooding the system.

  13. #13
    resident curmudgeon
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    Quote Originally Posted by ARoyce View Post
    It's environmentally friendly, convenient, and easy to store for future reference.
    An e-mail may be environmentally friendly, but everything it takes to send an e-mail, from the computer to the power lines, to all sorts of other things, are far, far more unfriendly than cutting renewable trees.

  14. #14
    Whatever I did, I didn't do it. Phaeal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    At this day and age, I do not wish to be repped by an agent who isn't tech-savvy enough to accept e-queries.
    My agency accepts only snail queries, but every communication following that query is by email or phone, so, yeah, they're tech savvy. Why they want paper to start, I don't know. My reason would be to cut down on the query avalanche, especially from impulse queriers.

    When I was querying (and with short story subs), I never noticed any significant difference in response rate, response time, and requests for more material between email and snail mail. Given a choice, hey, I'll save a stamp, but I don't mind going to the post office, either. Good place to people watch.
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  15. #15
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    My experience is that they don't accept either method, with admirable equality.

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  16. #16
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    I like email, and always have. I think it just makes things easier all around, although I can see how an agent would use snail only as a first-line defense against slush.

    But since it costs about $1.25 to mail a letter to the US from here, I can't imagine what an 80K word double spaced manuscript would cost to mail.
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  17. #17
    I'm already a real writer. Katrina S. Forest's Avatar
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    E-mail, unless there's a strong implication on the agent's website that they prefer snail mail.

    Ditto Phaeal. I don't think of the agents who only do snail mail as non tech-savvy. I think it just makes less queries to read.

    When I did get a request from a snail mail submission, it was a direct e-mail asking me to send the ms as an attachment. All our communication was via e-mail after that.
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  18. #18
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
    My agency accepts only snail queries, but every communication following that query is by email or phone, so, yeah, they're tech savvy. Why they want paper to start, I don't know. My reason would be to cut down on the query avalanche, especially from impulse queriers.
    Ahh, I stand corrected then!
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by leahzero View Post
    I don't think "standing out" or any similar factors should be part of the equation. They're either going to be interested or not, and a minor difference like reading a query on paper vs. on a computer screen won't sway anyone (and if it does, I question that person's judgment in the first place).
    If all agents and editors were androids, this would be true. But they aren't, they're human. If you think standing out in the right way doesn't matter, you also believe every job service and headhunter out there has no clue on how to get clients hired.

    Or you've simply never seen an inbox with ten thousand queries in it, every last one of them the same as far as you can tell.

    Standing out in a good way always matters, and in every profession there is. If nothing else, it gets you a faster read.

    At some point, the writing itself has to sell itself, but at some point the people who get hired for jobs have to stand out by the actual work they do, as well. This does not stop employers from giving the chance to those who stand out in an interview.

    You've heard the phrase "all things being equal"? All too often, things really are equal with the exception of who stands out in a professional manner, who makes the best first impression. This is a business, and first impressions really do matter.

    Even the best and hungriest agent can usually take on no more than four or five new clients each year, and she's going to get one heck of a lot more than five writers who are vying for those slots. The same is true of editors.

    I also know that, as an editor, time is in very, very short supply, and while the writing does have to sell itself, the writer who stands out in a good way gets first crack.

    I also know how incredibly easy it is to delete a couple of thousand e-mail queries when you realize there's no way in hell you have the time to read them all, and still get anything else done.

    And while it's a different arena, I also know that as a writer, I get much better results, a much higher percentage of go-aheads, by submitting article queries through snail mail.

    The writing does have to sell itself, but if you question someone's judgment because part of the equation is how a writer stand out, you're questioning their experience, and their humanity.

  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW
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    My thoughts are email all the way unless they specifically ask otherwise. I've had too much misdelivered/lost mail in my relatively short life to trust the postal system with my brainchildren.
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  21. #21
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    I also know how incredibly easy it is to delete a couple of thousand e-mail queries when you realize there's no way in hell you have the time to read them all, and still get anything else done.

    And while it's a different arena, I also know that as a writer, I get much better results, a much higher percentage of go-aheads, by submitting article queries through snail mail.
    I'm sorry James, but I have to disagree with the thoughts behind this. If any agent is callous enough to delete an inbox of e-mail queries unread, they won't think twice about shredding their snail mail query pile either.

    I would also consider any agent who'd bin queries unread to be a bad agent.

    When you open to unsolicited queries, you're commiting a chunk of your time to read through those queries. When you open to e-mail queries, you're commiting to an even bigger chunk of time. But either way, the agent has commited to read unsolicited queries, and they shouldn't be deleting or binning anything unread.

    If they can't handle the amount of incoming queries responsibly then they need to change their process, get an assistant, or close to unsolicited queries. A writer shouldn't have their publishing chances affected just because an agent's overloaded themselves with work.
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  22. #22
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I'm interested in this thread since I have a trail of computer glitches behind me and have more faith in the postal system than cyber-space.

    I once asked an author if given the choice by an agent to snail or e-mail, he replied that when a choice is offered, snail mail looks like the work of amateur. (Huh. Even though they accept both.)

    I like James Ritchie's reply: snail all the way. (That's right in line with Vonnegut's thinking...because it got him out of the house, he was out of his wife's hair, and he got to flirt with the cute postal office girl, etc....all part of his process.)

    If agents are out to make their hectic lives easier, assuming e-subs make that happen, why offer both? And why would hard-copy look like the work of an amateur?

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW benluby's Avatar
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    I personally believe the answer is as varied as all the answers we see on this topic. Some will be more impressed to see a bundle of papers on their desk with nice paper, others will view that as something that they have to dispose of.
    It's really going to come down to each particular agents preference as to what they like to see and what may interest them.
    What may have one actually giving your MS a chance may have another hitting delete/shoving the ream plus of paper into the circular file.

  24. #24
    crazy mean SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by benluby View Post
    I personally believe the answer is as varied as all the answers we see on this topic. Some will be more impressed to see a bundle of papers on their desk with nice paper, others will view that as something that they have to dispose of.
    It's really going to come down to each particular agents preference as to what they like to see and what may interest them.
    What may have one actually giving your MS a chance may have another hitting delete/shoving the ream plus of paper into the circular file.
    Agents accept work by post or by email in order to make it easier for the writers whose work they've requested. It's not a question of their being more impressed if you send your work in by post.

    They certainly don't see paper submissions on their desks as "something that they have to dispose of", and suggesting that they do is insulting to agents and patronising to the writers who send in their paper submissions.

    Literary agents are people first, agents second. They want to find good writers in their slush piles; they want writers to succeed. Let's not suggest that they're tyrants, out to squish us. Please.

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    ... sometimes depends on how they phrase it.
    Some say both, but still rather mean one.

    "EMAIL ME! But if you must make a nuisance of yourself then I suppose you might be a stupid son of a gun and snail mail me." Or vice verca.

    They don't say so in so many words, but that's the general impression you get.

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