Going Postal (About Shipping & SASE’s)

Today I went to my P.O. box and found a bunch of manuscripts I’d requested. And as always, a couple of them had been sent Priority Mail or even Express.

Here’s my advice: Don’t waste your money! Only send it Priority if the agent or editor has asked you to. Otherwise, sending it Priority is not going to affect how quickly I’m able to review it. And don’t send it Priority because you want it to “stand out.” Here’s what happens: I go to my P.O. box and I get all my mail. I open all the packages, discard the packaging, then take all the proposals & manuscripts back to my office and put them in my “to be read” stack. So the fact that yours arrived in a special red-white-and-blue box doesn’t help yours look any better than the rest. My advice: a plain envelope or box, and the cheapest shipping possible. (And incidentally, I think most agents would say the same thing.)

Now about those SASE’s…

The conventional wisdom for the last several decades has been that if you want a response from an agent or editor, you need to include an SASE with your submission. But we live in a new time. In these days of electronic communication, everyone has a different way of dealing with things. Some still require SASE’s, some don’t. It’s important you check the Submission Guidelines of everyone you’re querying. For WordServe, I’d like to suggest the following:

If you send something through the mail, forget the SASE and instead, INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. There’s no reason for us to waste trees and for you to waste stamps. Much easier for all involved—and easier for those of us who keep our records electronically—if we can communicate by email.

Only include an SASE if you want your entire submission returned: proposal, sample chapters and/or full MS. In that case, make sure you enclose an envelope large enough to hold it, and enough postage to cover it.

With any agent or editor, if they like what they see, they’re going to want to communicate with you immediately in order to see more, or discuss possible representation. So you definitely want them to be able to reach you by phone or email or both.

So, make sure your phone number and email address are clearly visible on all communication. This is important no matter who you are querying.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  4. David A. Todd on February 28, 2008 at 1:48 PM

    >Thanks for this post, Rachelle. I had somewhat come to this same conclusion for certain types of submittals, and was planning to send out several next week without SASEs and requesting e-mail notification for acceptance. You’ve confirmed my instinct.

  5. Anonymous on February 27, 2008 at 9:32 PM

    >I’m all for saving trees, the environment and a little money.

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  6. Melissa Marsh on February 27, 2008 at 4:34 PM

    >Like Lisa, I like to send mine with delivery confirmation. I always want to make sure it gets to its destination!

  7. Lisa on February 27, 2008 at 9:29 AM

    >I send my partials/manuscripts Priority Mail so I can get delivery confirmation (a postal worker told me I couldn’t get dc on regular first-class mail). Agents/editors don’t have to sign anything, but I can check the USPS website to make sure it arrived.

  8. JC on February 27, 2008 at 7:34 AM

    >Many of the How To books on writing differ when it comes to formatting manuscripts. Two jump out at me at the moment and I hope its ok to ask then here. Are we to underline italicized words so they are not missed at printing, or is that now archaic? And how do you differenciate white space (to show short lapse of time w/ same location or same POV) between the use of asterisks (to mark drastic change or POW switch)? Ive just been typing “WS” to mark the use of intended white space, but wasn’t sure if there was a correct procedure.

    Another question, concerning the target audiance. How narrow of an audiance should our focus be? Is Christian male readers ages 14-40 who enjoy action-adventure too broad?