Writing process

The spam-checker ate my favourite agent’s email address

As you know, we’re trying to sell novels here. If you read much about writing on the internet then you will also know that that a lot of agents now accept email submissions. This is great for us down at the bottom end of the world because it saves a lot on postage*.

Like a lot of authors I have my favourite agents. Those who sell a lot of books in the genre we** write in, and who sell books that we both love to read. There are even a couple of really special agents who were encouraging with the last manuscript and they’re the first ones we’re going to send to the next query too, when the book is polished enough.

One of these agents is prefers snail-mail queries but one is happy to take email and I have queried her before via email.

Last night, as I glanced through my junk email folder prior to deleting it, what do I see? The agent’s name against a letter touting miracle pills for the male of the species (you know the ones).

That was fine. I understand that we all end up caught by spammers stealing our email addresses, and although it infuriates me I know that there is little I can do about it. Most of the time the poor innocent victim doesn’t even know their address has been spam-napped unless they get an undeliverable mail message back about an email they didn’t even send. What I normally do is add the victim to my junk-mail list and their emails are automatically routed to the junk mail folder.

I caught this one, so I said, yes, agent was a ‘safe’ person and all was right with the world.

Except … these spam mails seem to go around and around among the users on the list until the spammer gets sick of it, or we add most of the other users to our junk mail list. It’s fine for me, because I do run my eye down the list of senders of junk mail before I delete them, and I can recognise important names. Like the agent’s.

But it doesn’t work back the other way.

This agent has by now probably received spam mail back from me. She doesn’t know me. What’s she going to do? If she’s anything like me she’ll already have clicked on ‘add sender to blocked sender’s list’. Which means that next time I send my carefully crafted email query to her, with its extra line mentioning that even though nothing came of it, she had asked to see a full for the last novel, that email will go straight into her junk folder, or will be deleted, unseen.


*A quick note on postage. The internet has been a boon for us trying to sell our work, and not just because we can email queries to prospective agents. It’s great for the snail mail too. Why? Because it’s so easy to order postage stamps from other countries. Those of you who remember international reply coupons (IRCs) will probably agree with me that they were hopeless. But now I can order postage stamps, and even correctly sized postcards, and include them with the query. It’s fuss free for both me and the agent. I love it.

** The constant switch between I and we is deliberate. See I, we, and the grammatical intricacies of me talking about us.

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