Friday, January 29, 2010

Snail mail

Some agents say if they don't see a reply-paid envelope right away they reject the query immediately. This is a big problem when querying American agents since many won't deal with IRCs and insist on US stamps. I spent hours trying to buy US stamps online only to discover the US Postal Service is 'not at this time accepting overseas orders'.

As for IRCs, Australia Post is not issuing any more. There's some new system planned, I'm told, but no-one seems to know what it is.

In my queries I mention these facts and ask if they'd mind replying by email. Of course, if they don't get that far into the query they might reject it first.

I'll start by clarifying that 'IRCs' mean 'International Response Coupons' for those who - like me - didn't immediately twig. And now I'm going to state that I wasn't asked a question, so I'm not really sure what I'm meant to say. I'll take a guess at a question, though:

'So what do I do when I can't send an IRC or American stamps?'

Well, you've already stated your problem in your query letter and asked the agents to respond by email. Whether they do or not is something you obviously can't control, so you're probably just going to have to risk it. There are also agencies who take electronic queries so you would have no problems there.

I anticipate that the day will come - soon - when agencies around the world will have to move beyond snail mail queries and embrace the digital age, ready or not. I personally find it a waste of time to send things back by post, SSAE or not. I'd love it if everyone queried electronically. It's much easier to organise queries when I can file them in folders in my email programme, and it's more environmentally friendly.

As for you, querying author, it's your decision as to whether or not you send queries to the luddites, and you'll just have to accept the consequences. The US and Australian postal services have obviously realised there's no money to be made in IRCs or foreign purchase of stamps because - guess what? - people use email.

3 comments:

Sharon Mayhew said...

I live in the states. If I needed an SASE for; the UK, I'd have my dad send me the stamps, for Australia, I'd contact a cousin, For Canada and Eygpt, I'd contact one of my critique buddies for stamps. I think I could get stamps from relaties of friends in Poland, Denmark, Pakistan, Korea, and New Zeland. But I'm guessing I'm not the norm...Perhaps you have to think about networking connections in situations like this.

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Zara Penney said...

I think (and yes it is tedious) you'd probably be best to just not expect the work back. I had a little 'think' about this and decided that even email it'd be "out there" but what's different with a physical copy. Your m/s is probably only one two or three chapters so it's not a huge investment.
SASE was necessary in those days before computer. Jane Austen had to have her copy back of course. I think that this is probably the easiest.
But I do see the day when less and less publishers want the problem of returning manuscripts. They would be a nuisance. First of all you have to have the space, the cockroaches need a place to hide obviously. Then when you hate it you have to trudge to the post office and stand in the never ending queue to send your packet of disappointment back to the author waiting with bitten fingernails. I think it's easier to commit murder with a sharp knife and get it over and done with rather than use a large bottle of aspirin and try to poison the victim (figuratively speaking of course).
And if the pub/agent ends up wanting the rest of the m/s presumably they've made a larger commitment and there's always Paypal.