When I was functioning as that lowest of all life forms, the unpublished author, I benefited from established novelists willing to share their experiences. This article is intended to give something back, especially since my experience had some unexpected turns.
I quickly learned to prefer sending queries by snail mail. Yes, it is slower, expensive, and more work, but my perception is that paper queries are taken more seriously and less likely to be ignored. They are also harder to destroy than merely pushing a delete key.
Where I struck out on my own relative to what I was reading on the Internet was the volume and velocity of my campaign. I sent out more than 500 queries, each a customized package, in three months. I scrupulously abided by all guidelines listed for each agency or publisher except one. I did not abide by the industry’s requirement of honoring exclusive reading policies of agencies who request it.
This is an unethical system that appears to have been deliberately rigged to unfairly favor publishers at the expense of writers. Although many publishers no longer ask for it, it is a disgraceful legacy that needs to be put out of its...