November 29th, 2007

books

from the mixed up files of Agent Manners

Dear Agent Manners:

Hi. I'm glad you're soliciting questions, because I have one-a-couple.

1. When you get submissions from overseas, what's the SASE situation?

1A. Would it be rude of me to ask for a reply by email if an agent has requested a SASE, given the circumstances?

To explain:

I'm in France and I want to send query letters to U.S.-based agents. But, I can't affix a French stamp to the SASE. Also, La Poste leaves much to be desired in terms of... well, every facet of their service, and I don't want to obsess over whether or not an agent received my submission and/or actually sent a reply. And I have read how much agents HATE submissions they have to sign for.

Right now I am contemplating a convoluted, labyrinthine scheme involving my parents in New Jersey acting as glorified secretaries, but frankly, they don't deserve that. Also, the thought of not only receiving a rejection letter, but having it read to me by my parents over the phone, makes me want to purchase therapy sessions in bulk.

I appreciate anything you can tell me about how other writers have achieved this feat.

Cannes-fused

***

Dear Cannes-fused (loved that one!):

As others have pointed out, there are alternatives. The coupon has its flaws -- it's expensive, it requires the agent to make a trip to the post office (and the postal employee to figure out where they are in the convoluted menu system), many countries are no longer offering them. Agent Manners advocates ordering stamps from the USPS if possible or having a friend in the US buy and mail them (seems silly but may be the only route available to some). Your idea of using your parents as a home-base has also been done (regardless of the resulting angst). Actually, in your case, it may be best to simply have your parents buy you stamps and send them over. Agent Manners hears they make a lovely gift in holiday cards.

Email queries can be complicated. Some agencies don't accept them. DMLA does but the official agency policy doesn't require a reply unless interested (I always reply, but sometimes I get bounced or spam-filtered). And it is possible that requesting it in a snailmail query that lacks an SASE may be overlooked. Agent Manners doesn't consider it rude to ask, but it may be ambitious to expect it to always work.

Postcards to confirm receipt (as mentioned by feyandstrange) may reduce the amount of anxiety involved. They still require postage, though. And Agent Manners most seriously recommends preprinting your postcards as they have a tendency to get eaten by printers and one never knows if the agent in question has sufficiently practiced their penmanship.