Question for Ask Wendy


Q: “What happens when a publisher with a submission guideline of’query only’ receives a query letter that accompanies a manuscript? I would think that way if they’re interested in reading the ms. it’s right there, and if not they can chuck it. Is it viewed as such an affront such that there are audible gasps in the room when the envelope is opened or is the envelope not even opened, based on its weight? Or could it just be that too many mss. clutter the office? Seems after reading countless times that editors just want a good manuscript, that it’s anathema to this perspective that a query letter that doesn’t dazzle can’t keep them from reading a book that does. And by not accepting mss. they are hurting the economy due to the lower cost of postage. Thanks – G”

A: From everything I’ve read, the agent’s guidelines (such as “query only”) are in place for a reason: it’s just too time-consuming to read manuscripts. I do not recommend sending a complete manuscript (or for that matter, a synopsis or proposal) if the guidelines specifically say “query only.” If anything, it will likely make the agent think that either A) you didn’t bother to read their guidelines before submitting or B) you read their guidelines and completely ignored them. If you read articles on agents’ biggest ‘pet peeves,’ almost all mention “writers not following our guidelines for submission.” My suggestion is to write a great query letter that makes them WANT to request the full manuscript. Thanks for the question!

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