Friday, April 2, 2010

An answer

There have been a few stumbling blocks that have popped up on my road to getting published. Questions, concerns, confusions... at times I wasn't even sure what question I was asking exactly, just that I knew I needed an answer to something. The post-completed manuscript process itself was generally a mystery, I'd never gotten that far, so I'd never bothered to concern myself with what happens next. I figured: "I'll worry about it when I get there."

Well, I got there... and I was lost.

Luckily for me, there are many folks out there who are more experienced than I, both on the Internet and off, (like the Wyrdsmiths and the Loft, for instance) and for the most part, they have been ridiculously generous with their time and more than willing to entertain every rambling and unfocused question a noob like me can come up with.

But there was one little thing that no one really seemed to know:

The E-mail Query Format

Now, everyone I talked to had the snail mail format down pat and it was pretty much the same across the board. But when it came to E-mail queries, everyone just shrugged and said: "Use the snail mail format." The general consensus seemed to be: "Don't over think it too much. Format is important, but honestly, it's only really important that the information contained within is clear and concise. The order and margins and what-not aren't that big of a deal."

And judging by the insane amount of Agent's blogs out there, this seems to be pretty much true, but still... I didn't like ad-hoc feel of it. It felt like e-mail queries were still so relatively new, that they were still unknowns, and that this was still the time when shit was still being decided and I didn't want it to be officially established somewhere and then miss the information and then send in some incorrect queries and have my lack of knowledge erroneously attributed to a lack of professionalism and have my Query rejected as a result... you know... your basic litany of writer neurosis, it was kind of like the Domino Theory, but not as paranoid and insane.

The worst part was the fact that the usage and acceptance was all over the place. Some Agencies don't even accept e-mail queries, as in: snail mail only! (Which is so insanely anachronistic... I mean, WTF... Where is this Agency located? 1910?) Others are just now getting onto the e-mail band wagon (welcome to the 21st Century!) and they caution writers on their Geo-cities-esqe website that they still prefer snail mail. One place in particular wanted the first 50 pages included, but NO attachments! 50 PAGES! PASTED IN! Pretty much guarantees your formatting is shot to hell... And then on the opposite end of the spectrum, some Agencies accept ONLY e-mails. A few have even gone so far as to install plug and play templates on their websites for all submissions.

So the question remained: What does the e-mail query template look like?

And then I found this on Nathan Bransford's Blog (reprinted below for the link lazy.)

Dear Blog Readers,

This is how you format an e-mailed query letter. Note that I did not begin with the recipient's address or my address or the date, as that is not customary for an e-mail. I also am not indenting because indenting and e-mails do not mix.

I am using block formatting. I double space between paragraphs but otherwise the query is single-spaced. It is written in a default font, it is left-justified, and the font is a normal size. If I have copied from a word processing program or past e-mail I am careful to make sure the fonts and sizes match. I haven't added pictures or tried to get fancy with anything because I want the agent to see that I'm confident in my words and don't need any gimmicks to make my query stand out.

Believe it or not, less than 25% of the e-queries I receive are properly formatted. While you won't get rejected if your query is incorrectly formatted, if you accomplish this simple task correctly you will convey an indispensable aura of professionalism. And remember: the amount of time you spend formatting, coloring, bolding, italicizing, and adding pictures to your query is inversely proportional to how professional it looks when you're finished.

Nathan Bransford (note that I didn't leave space for a signature since it's an e-mail)

My address
My phone number
My e-mail address
(optional: my website/blog)

Now, I don't know if this is going to be the all around accepted format in the future, but for now, its clean simplicity appeals to me and I intend to re-format my future queries (should I need them - fingers crossed...) to reflect this style.

What do you think?


Also, Fellow Scribblerati Agent Mark Teats and myself will be attending the Loft Query Letter Class. If you're in the area and are dying to meet us/heckle us/watch us serendipitously from afar and swoon, that's where we'll be. Be warned: We attack, often unprovoked.

1 comment:

Qlaudie said...

Fantastic, Jon! Thanks for this.
*swoon, swoon*