Tuesday, November 07, 2006

SASEs

When I was researching blogs to see if I wanted to write one, I found time to read a ton of them on a regular basis. Seems like I don’t have that much time anymore. Maybe it’s the time this blog takes or perhaps it’s other things in my life. Either way, I’ve narrowed it down to about two or three I check once or twice a week. The others I click on occasionally to see what’s going on.

A couple of the ones I check are Miss Snark and The Rejecter. It amazes me that a recurring theme on these two, especially on Miss Snark, is the subject of SASEs. How can this be such a huge issue that it has to be discussed over and over? Someone even suggested (hopefully, sarcastically) that Miss Snark devote a whole workshop at a conference to the subject.

Please! If you’re a Texan, you would read that as “Puh-leeze!”

Here’s my take on the subject:

First of all, it doesn’t matter one hoot how you pronounce it – Sasee, sass, or S-A-S-E. Who cares?! Say it however you want.

Second, if I query by email, how do I include a SASE? You can’t include a SASE in an email query. Duh.

Third, if I send just the query letter, do I include a folded #10 envelope for the SASE or a flat #9 envelope? Okay, people, you are worrying way too much here. Agents are not gods who will throw your query to the floor and do a Mexican hat dance all over it just because you used the wrong size SASE. They are people just like you and me – hardworking, dedicated, professional, and nice, at least the ones I’ve met. You can do either. If you have #9 envelopes, those are nice because they fit flat in the bigger #10 envelope. If you only have #10s, those are fine. Just fold it neatly in thirds and insert it into the other envelope.

Fourth, in the scenario that an agent’s website said he/she prefers a query letter, a one-page synopsis and the first 5 pages, so you sent it all in a flat manila envelope, do you have to include a SASE in the form of another flat manila envelope? That depends. Do you want the synopsis and pages returned? (And if you do, why? Are you planning on re-using them with another agent? Don’t. Are you worried your idea will be stolen? Don’t.) If you want the pages returned, that’s okay. In that case, send an envelope large enough to have it all returned and put enough postage to cover that (the same amount you used to send all the material). If all you want is their letter saying yes or no to your query, then include a #10 self-addressed envelope with a first-class stamp. And leave it to them to dispose of your pages.

Fifth, if I include a SASE designed to get only a return response, but not my pages, do I have to ask them to destroy the other pages? No, you don’t have to. If you think the agent is too dumb to figure that out, then why are you querying him/her? But it doesn’t hurt to politely tell them they can discard the pages. It won’t mark you as a simpleton.

Sixth, do I really, really, have to include a SASE at all? The reasoning is this:
*when you’re sending out a lot of queries, SASEs can get expensive
*SASEs only bring bad news
*why should I spend so much money to hear bad news when a lot of agents can’t even be bothered to send a full page rejection letter
*I’ve included my email address – if they want a partial or full, they’ll email
Okay, most of that is true. It does get expensive to query agents. Agents are notorious for sending form rejections on little strips of paper. Most SASEs are bad news – but not all. A lot of agents who like your query and want to ask for more will email – but sometimes they make the request via your SASE. The bottom line in this case is don’t fight the system. Include the SASE. There are plenty of agents out there who won’t request pages if you don’t include a SASE. And, yeah, you may end up paying for your query letter to be returned with a stamped “not for me” on it. But you may get your query letter returned with a hand-written note giving you advice on how to fix what they see as a problem or with an encouraging note on it. And you may get a request for a partial or full.

Yes, it’s expensive to include SASEs in all your queries. That’s why it’s important to target your queries and not send them out helter-skelter. It’s why it’s important to send out about ten at a time to see what kind of response you’re getting. If you’re getting nothing but form rejections, adjust the query letter before you send out more. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s the professional thing to do.

The life of a writer involves a lot of stress. Don’t make SASEs one of them.

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