Friday, May 17, 2013

Don't Underestimate the Power of the Snail: paper submissions are not dead yet

by Cat Woods

While scientists debate the merit of resurrecting woolly mammoths, T-Rexes and Tasmanian tigers, one animal is still thriving: the snail. Or more specifically, snail mail.

Paper submissions are not dead, yet I've heard writers flat out dismiss them as an option when considering which agents/editors to submit to. That's great news for the authors who lovingly send their babies off in a cocoon of envelopes and stamps. It means less competition.

Beyond that, snail submissions have other compelling benefits.
  1. E-queries and copy and pasted sample pages do not have the professional appearance required in a dead tree submission. Writing paper submissions is good practice--especially if an agent/editor requests a full or partial, as these are often sent via the almighty snail. Also, being able to craft a business letter is a life skill. Why not learn it now?
  2. Dude, you're missing out. Seriously, of the twelve publishers I'm looking at for a project, six of them require snail submissions. And these aren't shabby or lazy publishers who refuse to "get with the times" and go digital. They are reputable companies who put out some of the most beloved books on your bookshelves. By ignoring them, you drastically reduce the number of submissions you can send.
  3. No spam. Yeah, you heard me. Snails don't eat spam. When you paste on a stamp and send your baby out the door, it gets to its destination. Not to mention, email did not invent read-receipts. There are these handy little things called postcards that you can send with your dead tree pages. Self address that, stick a stamp in the corner and all the agent/editor has to do is pop it in the mail. Viola. Receipt acknowledged.
  4. No fretting about format. If you italicized something, it will hit the reader italicized. Or bolded or underlined or blue or green. The format you print it in is the same one it will arrive in. The email gremlins will not have the opportunity to mess with your letter and leave odd spaces and unwanted indentations behind.
Yes, it costs money. But I personally find more satisfaction in sending out a crisp, professional package than an untidy looking email. If that makes me old fashioned then so be it. I guess the scientists can clone me someday.
In the meantime, follow these tips for the perfect snail letter.
  • Use a header with your contact info
  • Like all business letters, type the info of the agent/publisher on the left
  • Follow your agent/editor's name with a colon (:) not a comma (,)
  • Date it. Yep, email takes this step out of the equation, but you need to put it back in for paper copies.
  • Complete the body--typo free
  • And do not forget to sign your name. This step is often missed by snail mail virgins because we have such little opportunity to actually sign our names anymore.
How do you feel about snail mail submissions? Have you tried it, or do you refuse to think about it? Some people believe snail submissions receive a lower response rate. If you've got hard data on that to share, we would appreciate it.
Cat writes by day and wrangles snails by night. Her cyber endeavors include blogging here and at Words from the Woods, moderating at AgentQuery Connect and rating books on GoodReads. Most recently, her short stories have been published in Spring Fevers and The Fall, with another one coming out in one of the Summer's Edge anthologies.


Megan said...
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Megan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Sinclair said...

Also important to make sure that the agents (or publishers in some situations) will accept a snail mail query, but you're right, the snails can capture attention in a way email never will.

Gina Gao said...

These are some very good points! Not everything should be done online.

Cat Woods said...

Matt, so true. Every publisher/agency has their preference and we must heed their needs.

Gina~ I think it gets pretty easy to fall prey to the ease of the internet and we forget that some really good stuff still occurs in the "real world".

Sophie Perinot said...

Huge fan of the snail-mail query here (and not just because that's how I secured my agent). I DO think they look more professional when done well and I also think it is just too darn easy for an e-query to be one-click deleted or to get stuck in a filter somewhere and never arrive at all.