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View Full Version : Is it rude to email an agent or editor with a question?



Question
05-22-2012, 04:54 PM
There are some questions that can only be answered by the person who you'll eventually be sending your work to, but I am aware that these guys do have a boatload of queries to get through. Is it bad form to send someone an email asking a short question?

Terie
05-22-2012, 05:00 PM
There are some questions that can only be answered by the person who you'll eventually be sending your work to, but I am aware that these guys do have a boatload of queries to get through. Is it bad form to send someone an email asking a short question?

Pretty much yes. If it's a question that can only be answered by someone you're working with, surely it can wait until you're at least in talks with them, can't it?

heyjude
05-22-2012, 05:08 PM
I wouldn't. Like Terie said, if it's that specific, it can wait until you're past the initial query stage.

Most questions can be answered with a search. Or by asking others. :) Do you feel comfortable sharing your question here?

Undercover
05-22-2012, 05:52 PM
Well I've asked agents questions before and it hasn't hurt me. In fact when I asked if they take YA when it wasn't specified on the site or searching for it on the net, they've often said yes, and that they'd be happy to see the query. I wouldn't have known that if I didn't ask. I guess it depends on the question.

Also I wouldn't bug them with a lot of questions either. If it's important to ask first, then I don't see why it would hurt.

kaitie
05-22-2012, 08:08 PM
Not generally a good idea. The one time I ever contacted an agent asking a question was a case where the agent had a specific email address to send to and for some reason my emails were bouncing back. I wrote and asked if it would be okay to query snail mail because the email queries weren't going through, and let her know that several people were having the same problem.

Unless you're having a technical problem, such as with a web form, I wouldn't send anything. In terms of querying, you can always find out what an agent is looking for on their website or guidelines (Query Tracker and Agent Query have this information as well), and if there isn't any information, you send a query and five pages.

If the question concerns writing or anything of that nature, you can ask around here and get advice. There really is very little need to ever contact an agent before you query, and doing so will usually only get on peoples' nerves--as you said because they don't have time to spend answering questions for authors at the query stage.

happywritermom
05-22-2012, 09:15 PM
Agents are people too!
I think it would depend on the question.
I'd be more likely to call first and ask an assistant though.
Your email might get lost in a spam filter or a query pile.

HoneyBadger
05-22-2012, 09:21 PM
I wouldn't say it's *rude,* just a little unprofessional, maybe.

I've tweeted at agents after the fact, which was awesome in detecting a spam-trapped query, but I don't know if I'd ever email an agent with a question. I just collect as much info as possible and, if I can't find anything, I query with a "I've taken the liberty of pasting the first five pages below," and that's that.

Theo81
05-22-2012, 11:05 PM
If they tweet, ask there.

Or, is it an appropriate one for the BRBC thread?

I wouldn't email them.

Question
05-23-2012, 02:18 PM
I'm glad I asked, lol. I don't want to step into the world of querying three months from now dead in the water :P The question itself was really about the agent's taste, but I never considered tweeting :) I'll try that instead and hope I'm lucky enough to get a response ^_^

Thanks :)

angeluscado
05-23-2012, 05:45 PM
If it's about the agent's taste, look at the books that he or she represents - those would probably be to their taste.

Jamesaritchie
05-23-2012, 06:16 PM
The worst that can happen is that you won't get an answer. Agents are like anyone else, not Gods or demons. If it's a short, to the point business question, go ahead an e-mail.

Phone calls are a bad idea because the damned thing rings, and you answer it, or have a message on it, and there's no subject line, etc.

E-mails are not as annoying, do not demand an instant answer, or any answer at all.

You may get no reply, but you won't get blacklisted, and no one will start talking about how rude you are.

VanessaNorth
05-23-2012, 06:35 PM
Sometimes submissions guidelines don't include information that could be important to the submitter, and sometimes they just aren't all that clear. In those cases, a quick, politely worded question:

Dear Agent,
I searched your submission guidelines and couldn't find the maximum and minimum word counts. Do you represent work under 70k words?
Best regards,
Author

kaitie
05-23-2012, 06:47 PM
I disagree, Vanessa. It's an unnecessary communication and there is no need to ask. There's an easy way to find out--send the query. If the agent doesn't represent works under 70k (or similarly, if the work isn't to their taste), then you'll get a rejection.

This is the kind of thing that, based on the blogs and what not I've read, tends to frustrate agents. The advice I've always seen given by the agents themselves is don't ask first--just send the query. Most agents don't give word counts on their sites. Either use the industry standard guidelines or just send the submission.

Jersey Chick
05-23-2012, 06:59 PM
The only time I've ever contacted an agent directly was when I received a request for a full, only the title requested wasn't my title. But since the request was addressed to me, I called to question and the agent was cool about it.

Other than that, I wouldn't do it.

rainsmom
05-23-2012, 07:27 PM
If it's about submission guidelines -- what they specifically like, page count, etc. -- I wouldn't bother. Just query. Even if they say, "No, I can't stand stories on that subject," YOUR story might be exactly the spin they didn't realize they were looking for.

You have ZERO to lose by sending a query.

A.P.M.
05-24-2012, 04:56 PM
The only time I ever asked an agent a question and got a response was with an agent who I had previous positive communications with (she and I had batted a ms back and forth with revisions until she rejected it).

You're better off just querying. If you get a rejection or a no-response, there's your answer.

Barbara R.
05-24-2012, 05:02 PM
Sometimes submissions guidelines don't include information that could be important to the submitter, and sometimes they just aren't all that clear. In those cases, a quick, politely worded question:

Dear Agent,
I searched your submission guidelines and couldn't find the maximum and minimum word counts. Do you represent work under 70k words?
Best regards,
Author

I agree with Kaitie. You don't ever want to give agents or editors an excuse for saying no; they can find plenty themselves. First get the agent hooked on your writing, then mention the world count...which is malleable anyway, since the work will undergo editing.

kaitie
05-24-2012, 09:23 PM
I think you misunderstood what I was saying. Word count should always been included with the query. It's just that sending a separate email to say "Will you take my word count?" is a waste of time and annoys some agents. If you just query and the word count is an issue, you'll get a rejection and have your answer that way.

Time is limited, and to send two emails when one would have sufficed is pretty much a waste of everyone's time.

HoneyBadger
05-24-2012, 09:28 PM
And, honestly, those kinds of questions are going to make most agents mentally attach a "doesn't know anything about the industry" red flag to your future query.

Research agents through their sites, Twitter, Agent Connect, Query Tracker, here, their personal blogs, Publishers Marketplace, etc. Research the industry in general: what's selling, what's not, preferred word count for debut books in your genre, etc etc.

Writing the book is, in some ways, the easiest part of the whole damn thing.