Query tip

May 10, 2009

I love this query tip from Michael Larsen‘s How to Write a Book Proposal.

For snail-mail queries, he suggests sending a self-addressed, stamped postcard that reads:

Please send the proposal __

Sorry, we can’t help __

Plus the name of the agent, for the writer’s benefit.

“No matter how busy they are, agents and editors interested in finding new writers will take the time to read a one-page letter and put a checkmark on a postcard,” Larsen writes. “Although they may have their assistants do it.”

So I personalized postcards (using a print service that’s associated with Flickr, where I’ve uploaded all my travel photos) with a beautiful scene from my trip, the view from my bungalo at Isalo National Park in southwest Madagascar. If I don’t use all these special postcards for queries, I’ll send them to friends.

View from my bungalo outside Isalo Park, Madagascar

View from my bungalo outside Isalo Park, Madagascar

While stuffing my postcards and query letters into envelopes, I realized the downside to the postcard: an agent can’t stuff her reply letter inside. So then I wondered: Should I send a self-addressed, stamped envelope instead?

This is a tedious, nit-picky detail, one that matters far less than the quality of my query and book idea. But since I’m a first-timer, I like to get details right.

What do you think? Should I go with the unique postcard or stick to the boring yet dependable envelope?

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    0 Replies to “Query tip”

    • I’d go with your first plan. Include a well written and catchy query (sounds like you’re doing your homework – good!), and the postcard. It’s different, creative – tells the agent something about you, you’re not run-of-the mill. If an agent is really super interested in you he/she will write you a response, and if just piqued a bit, will check off the “send me your stuff” option on the card. If not interested at all, they’ll be glad it’s easy to just check off the “not for me” and drop it in the return mail.

      GREAT photo, btw. 🙂

    • Karen Walker says:

      I think I’m with Marvin on this one, Alexis. A unique way of querying can’t hurt!


    • Why not do both?

      Some agents and publishers are so picky they look for any discriminator to toss your work. (Sorry, don’t mean to sound jaded, but just read some of their sarcastic and blunt submission guidelines and you’ll see what I mean.)

      Additionally, if they have a form letter or some document they want to send you, they’ll stick it in the SASE. Unless, of course, you don’t have one. Given the nature of their rapid fire business, what do you think they’ll do? They could type-up or write out and envelope just for you”¦.but probably not. Just sayin'”¦

      I see no downside to sending both and covering all your bases.

      Best Regards, Galen.

    • Destineers says:

      I use postcards, myself. I have a design that matches my website. Like you, I like to make it easy for them to respond. As busy as they are, I think they appreciate it. Also the postcard with a tasteful picture/branding (yours is beautiful btw) puts you a step ahead of the pack.

      For anyone interested in trying postcards, there is a place online (Vista Prints I think its called) that frequently gives this type of product away – all you pay is shipping, a nominal investment for trying to see if this method is right for you. I think if you have a custom graphic you want to upload (opposed to using their gallery) there is an upcharge of like $3 but they keep your graphic in your file for your continued use without having to reupload and pay again). Vista Prits also has the same deal with business cards…for something like $3 shipping you get a box of choose your design business cards for book signings, including with correspondance, conferences…the possibilities are endless)

      Good post.

      NA Sharpe

    • Elle Parker says:

      Go ahead and try the post cards for a while. All agents are different – some will like it, some have letters they send, some will do whatever’s easiest.

      I’m sure you know this already, but I WOULD read their submission guidelines very carefully, in case they state their preference, and make sure you use what they ask for.

      Elle Parker

      • Ami says:

        I’m with Elle on this one. If the agent specifically requests a SASE, send a SASE. Otherwise, I don’t see any harm in using the post cards. I did learn from an Agents panel at the conference that the easiest way to get tossed in the “no” pile is to NOT follow their guidelines. The good news is if you do follow the guidelines, you’re in a minority and your chances of getting a “yes” are much higher. 🙂

    • I would go with the query letter as their submission requirements generally will ask for one. I have searched hundreds of agents, and they all pretty much ask for the same thing: a query letter.

      But you can include a color image in the letter itself that you would have on the postcard. And I like NA Sharpe’s idea of a design that matches her Web site. I’m putting together something along the same lines that I can incorporate into a query letter. Something simple that will not overwhelm the reader of the letter and usurp the meaning of the query letter.

    • Jina Bacarr says:

      Your postcard is vivid and exciting! I love the idea of sending the postcard as a way for the agent to respond.

      Who knows? Maybe they’ll love the postcard so much they’ll keep it as a souvenir and call you up and ask for your proposal.



    • Alan Chin says:

      I think either way is fine. Each agent is going to have a different preference. Wow them with the query letter and it won’t matter.

      The advantage of letting them send a standard rejection letter is, sometimes they include helpful comments. I had one agent refer me to another agent who was better prepared to handle my stuff.

      The disadvantage is that more many agents and publishers, you simply don’t hear back from them even if you send them an SASE.

      alan chin
      author of Island Song,

    • Ashley Ladd says:

      When I submit books to my edits and epublishers, I send emails. Lately, I’ve submitted by email to agents as well. Whatever you’re comfortable with. Like Alan Chin said, so many of the agents and editors are busy so you won’t get a response even if you send an SASE.

    • Enid Wilson says:

      I sent emails too and get the rejection emails faster. LOL. Alex, I have to type in name and email address everytime I want to leave comment. Is there simpler way in WP software to save readers’ time?

    • Chris says:

      Of course, any way you can stand out. Besides, it shows your creativity and isn’t that a desirable trait in a writer?

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