Emailed Queries-Bad for Authors

self addressed stamped envelopeJust read a marvelous essay on writer psychology and snail-mailed rejections by Nick Ripatrazone in The Millions. Here’s a snippet and link:

“Miss You, SASE: On Postal Submissions

By  posted at 6:00 am on February 25, 2014 1

Ripatrazone’s article focuses primarily on submissions to literary magazines, but it brought to mind a thought that’s been hovering around back there for years: emailed queries hurt everyone but the environment. (I wonder if there’s an offset between the paper saved and electricity wasted?)

What we lost when we lost snail mailed queries:

  1. Mail. I liked mail when it was mail. I mean the word. Can’t mail just be mail? Publishers just be publishers? Book titles, lengths, and authors just be book titles, lengths, and authors? Now we have snail mail, self, legacy, traditional and hybrid publishers and, the worst: metadata. Don’t get me started on “platform.” But I digress.
  2. Piles. I liked piles. I could put submissions into a pile and review (ok, have my assistant review) them once or twice a week, en masse. Physically digging through to see how the gems shone through.
  3. Control. I liked controlling when I read submissions. Now they pop into my email box and clamor for my attention when THEY want to be read, not when I want to read them.
  4. Formality. I loved formality. Queries were written as business letters, keeping the relationship between agent or editor and writer professional and distant. This is as it should be. We are strangers until we are colleagues. Let’s wear our nice clothes when we’re getting to know one another.
  5. Physical evidence. Oh how I miss physical evidence. A query on purple scented paper was an easy turn down, but fun, too. Queries with typos, all caps, three pages, strange fonts, postmarked from prisons—these things helped with decision-making and added spice to my (ok, my assistant’s) day.
  6. Time with the query. How odd to say this—people once were horrified that gatekeepers could tell by a few sentences that a query wasn’t working. Seemed so short. Now queries are deleted at the subject line, sometimes. It’s hard to read online. Much easier to say no to email. There are just so, so many now.
  7. Does haste make waste? You bet.

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