Friday, April 29, 2011

Adventures in Querying

I realize this makes me look like an idiot, what with my last post and all, but it's just another one of those things that's bound to happen once and a while.

I now know why rocket scientists are prone to screwing up. When a rocket goes into space and something goes wrong, people always wonder how that's possible. After all, with all those smart people working at NASA, how can you screw up something like forget to put on the last heat-resisting panel?

It's all about attention to detail. I know, that sounds a little backwards, but it's true. See, you're focusing so much on everything else - getting the agent's address right, spelling their name correctly, making sure your query letter is formatted right, and in my case, making sure that the envelopes are right-side up this time - that other things you normally don't screw up on get neglected. And then you screw up on them. That scientist at NASA was working so hard on the other 99 panels, he forgot the last one. It happens.

So what did I do this time? I forgot to put a stamp on my SASE, thus effectively making it a SAE. There I was, making sure my margins were correct on my manuscript sample, ensuring things were spelled right, numbers were correct, I had the right number of pages, I signed my query letter at the bottom, etc. etc. then I shoved it all in the envelope, made sure the SASE (or at the time, SAE) fit well, licked the adhesive, and carefully folded it over and firmly pressed down. I flipped it over and looked up one last time at the submissions guidelines.

The word "postage" caught my eye and in that brief moment, the image of my SASE flashed in my mind - minus postage. After a giant mental "O M G, W T F," I oh-so-carefully opened the letter again, snuck a stamp onto my SASE, and quickly licked and re-sealed the envelope. Luckily it worked out well and I didn't ruin the first envelope too much with tearing or lack of stickiness the second time around. I really, really didn't want to be stuck using tape (the envelope was already stamped, so I didn't want to ditch it, but tape just looks....bad). I hoped it would stay stuck until the morning.

The story ends happily ever after (at least, for all I know), because I sent out the letter today and it was still holding together. I just hope it can make it all the way to New York without getting trashed.

Why can I not get my snail mail query letters right??

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Your SASE Is Wrong

Today while querying an agency via snail mail, I prepared my SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope for those of you who have only done e-queries). Normally I print them—the regular envelope and then the SASE. But my printer was semi-inkless, and having half-printed addresses on there isn’t exactly professional—or smart as the post office might lose them due to part of the address being illegible.

So I carefully wrote out my address and the agency’s address in nice, printed pen. I got my query together, popped it into the first envelope, and then started to put in the SASE. Then I realized something—the addresses were upside-down. Sure, they look fine on the front, but when you turn the envelope over you realize the opening is facing down.


I debated for a bit. It’s an honest mistake, and anyone has likely done this before. Most of the time we think, “Whatever” and send it out anyway. I mean, Aunt Em isn’t really going to care, is she? She’ll just be happy to get a letter from you. Or your best friend will just laugh at you when she gets it and then open it up and think nothing more of it.

But…an agent?

I’m running out of envelopes so it annoyed me that I’d pretty much wasted one. Was I going to shove an upside-down SASE in with my query? Okay, sure, there’s a darn good chance the agent wouldn’t care at all. They might think I hadn’t noticed my goof, or just think, “Big deal” and get on with life like Aunt Em and the best friend.

And yet, I didn’t shove it in there. No way. To me, it just smacks of being unprofessional…or just plain incompetent. Like having a typo on your first few pages (which I discovered I had a while ago—well after sending out a handful of samples to agents. Yes, by the way, I’d read it, I had three people read it, I read it again, and it still got missed). I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s an honest mistake, but I want to make the right impression the first time. I’m not sure which agent might spot that and wonder about the person on the other end. It does seem kind of judgmental in a way, but I refuse to take any risks with agents.

So I got a new envelope, double-checked it, and wrote a new SASE and put it in. I’d wasted an envelope (well, maybe I’ll find some use for it…), but hey, at least now I don’t look like a goof to the agent I queried.

What would you do? Use the upside-down envelope or say, “No way José” and grab a new one like I did?