A few readers recently wrote in with some great questions. I want to answer them on the blog just in case others were wondering about similar topics.
Q: When sending a query to a literary agency, how do I choose which member agent to address when there are no specified genres for each agent, or multiple agents that represent the same genre?
A: Personally, I would not submit until I knew who exactly to send it to. Call the agency and politely ask whoever picks up the phone to tell you which agent handles "science fiction," for example. If you send the query with no agent in mind, will it be passed around to the correct person and read? Probably. But - the fact that you targeted an individual agent because you knew their "likes" should be a bonus for you. If you encounter a situation where three agents at the same agency all handle sci-fi, I still advise querying the one who will be the best fit for you. You only get one shot. Writers House, for example, is a huge agency and lots of agents there consider the same subjects, but you are only allowed to query one agent with each submission.
Q: Do literary agents prefer a sample or manuscript to be formatted in a certain software program? Is Microsoft Word too juvenile?
A: I use Word. Just about everyone I know uses Word. There are specific ways to format everything, from a query letter to a synopsis to a book proposal. But no, you don't need special software to be successful.
Q: If an agency accepts both snail mail queries and e-queries, would one gain you more personal attention over another?
A: I suppose it really doesn't matter, but always check their Web site (if they have one) to confirm that no one particular method of submission is preferred. Lately, the newest preferred submission method is through a form on the agent's Web site. You see it more and more.
Personally, I like e-queries because they are simple, free to send, and tend to get responses faster. Some people have told me that they submitted both print and electronic queries at the same time to the same agent (to absolutely make sure it arrived). That seems like a pretty good idea, but you never know - it may come off the wrong way to the agent.
Q: During the first phase of submissions, I never heard from several agencies after the initial contact. I had to put a Spam Blocker on my author e-mail address (which means emails bounce back to the sender and they have to "prove" their existence). This could possibly account for the "no response" factor. Would it be all right to submit to these agencies again?
A: Thank you for submitting this question, because I should have mentioned this a long time ago. Man oh man, I hate these spam blocker things that request me to prove my existence. It seems likely that agents do, too. I see this a lot with Earthlink e-mails. Editors and agents get a lot of e-mails, and don't like any silly hassles like this.
My best advice to is to completely turn off that feature or get a new e-mail address and query using that one. After you do that, yes, send a polite follow-up note, and include the original query letter.