Friday, February 29, 2008

Did My Query Get There?

Often I will hear from writers who want to confirm that I got their query or submission. Since I don't log any of that and get so many a day I couldn't possibly remember them all, I generally wish authors would not call to confirm receipt. Besides, they don't have to, as there are plenty of ways to accomplish this without bothering the agent on the other end.

1. Use Delivery Confirmation. The US Postal Service offers different forms of this and one doesn't require a signature. Use this one for submissions of chapters or manuscripts and you can check online to see that your package was delivered. Granted, this likely means to the mailbox or front door and not the actual agent, but at least you know it got to the right location.

2. Use UPS or FedEx Ground, both of which let you track things online. Be sure your agent hasn't posted somewhere that they don't want you to use those services. I used to say online that I didn't want anyone sending me anything requiring a signature, especially Certified Mail. Not every agency is that large and sometimes everyone (or the one) is out to lunch when the delivery guy or mail carrier shows up. Nothing annoyed me more than those "Sorry We Missed You; Your Certified Mail is at the Post Office" slips. Schlepping to the PO and waiting in line to get a sample chapter is an annoying waste of time for any agent. Now I get my mail at one of those Postal Annex stores, so they sign for everything, rather than me. But I still think Certified Mail is a waste of money for a query or submission.

3. If you are doing a lot with the US Mail, you might want to consider a few things:

a. Do you know your actual address? I know, this seems like a bonehead question, but it's for real. Many, many publishers do not know their own addresses, at least the ones the US Postal Service uses. Go to USPS.com and the Find Zip Code page. Put in your street address and zip code. What will come back is the USPS-approved version of your address. Use that one as your address, always, to help ensure mail reaches you.

b. Are you mailing it to the right place? Many of these websites that steal info from agents' sites or guidebooks have outdated information. Many of the guidebooks may also have outdated information. It is a good idea to check addresses directly on the agent's website before mailing anything off. Then run that address through the USPS system also, as the agent may not know his or her correct USPS address.

c. If you are mailing A LOT, it may make sense to sign up for a service like Stamps.com, which checks each address to which you are mailing against the USPS system and corrects it. It also puts the correct USPS bar code on your mail, which results in your mail getting their faster, because the bar codes let it zip through the system.

d. Don't want to do any of that? TYPE YOUR LABELS OR ENVELOPES in all caps, in Arial or Courier typeface. The OCR software at the USPS will read the destination Zip Code more easily and your mail will get their faster.

Z

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