If you've recently received a solicitation from eQuery Online with a 50% discount offer, you're not alone. This query blasting service appears to be engaged in an intensive round of spamming to drum up new business.
(What's a query blasting service, a.k.a. an automated query service, you ask? For a fee, these services promise to identify appropriate agents and editors, format or write your query letter, and send it out electronically to hundreds of addresses. Some services track responses for you, or set up a special email address; some let you get the responses directly. All you have to do, theoretically, is sit back and wait for the manuscript requests to roll in.)
I've blogged before on why query blasting is unlikely to be effective (poor targeting, no assurance that agents/editors are reputable, the probability that automated queries will be regarded as spam) and on why agents and editors hate them. eQuery claims to be different. For one thing, it says it limits its clientele to seven writers a week, "to avoid burning out the industry contacts and to maintain the best possible response rate for users." For another, it promises that its queries will go only to "traditional" publishers and non-fee-charging agents, and that its list of recipients is "custom tailored each time to the category and genre of your novel." (The fact that its email blasts include "over a thousand active industry people" rather undercuts this statement. For most books, there won't be even close to that number of appropriate, reputable prospects).
On its website, eQuery offers testimonials from clients. Frankly, given agents' expressed dislike of eQuery's techniques, not to mention the fact that most of the named publishers (Random House, Knopf, Bantam Dell, Penguin, HarperCollins) have agented-only policies, I find the testimonials improbable. But let's take a closer look.
Today I'm looking at 34 requests as a result of your wonderful work.
-- Elizabeth_King, Camarillo CA
Searches on Elizabeth King of Camarillo, CA turn up no publications.
It's only 8 P.M. on the day you sent out my pitch for my novel THE WRONG BUS, and I have 21 requests to submit my manuscript.
-- John_Hampton, Los Angeles CA
Searches on John Hampton and The Wrong Bus turn up nothing but the testimonial.
The day after you sent out my eQuery to publishers and agents, I got 30 requests.
-- Gerald_Schoenewolf, New York NY
Gerald Shoenewolf appears to be a well-published nonfiction author, which raises the question of why he would use eQuery. Possibly for a novel? At any rate, his most recent publication is a June 2006 re-issue of a book originally published in 1997. There's no sign of a novel in his book list.
Thanks to your service, I have 36 requests for my manuscript (including from Kensington Publishing, Writers House, Curtis Brown, Artists and Artisans).
-- Arthur_Montague, Ottawa Ontario
Arthur Montague's profile at WritersNet notes that he has no agent at present, and lists two books: a novel pubbed in 2003 by Best Books Online, a self-publishing service, and a nonfiction work that doesn't appear to be available.
I've had over 30 agents and publishers wanting to see my book.
-- George_Parker, N. Hollywood CA
No sign of publication for George Parker of North Hollywood, CA.
The eQuery was a fantastic success! "The Disavowed" has now been sent out on 4 requests with 4 more to be filled.
-- Don_Marnock, Calgary Alberta
Searches on Don Marnock and The Disavowed turn up nothing but the testimonial.
So far I've received over 19 requests to read my manuscript.
-- Marilyn_Kyd, Lynnwood WA
Here's Marilyn Kyd's bio at WritersNet. She lists several books, all of which, according to her website, appear to be self-published. This listing for The Questfore Caper suggests why.
I have received 5...requests and 4 synopsis requests since yesterday afternoon from my eQuery.
-- Brad_Meyer, New York NY
Could that be this Brad Meyer, whose only novel, A Matchless Age, was pubbed in 2006 by PublishAmerica?
The response rate with eQuery has been the best EVER and has made clear to me what the recipients want: a short, sweet note with all the info in plain sight.
-- Mike_Denison, San Francisco CA
No sign of any published books from Mike Denison of San Francisco.
Moving on to the testimonials offered in eQuery's recent spam (for the text of the spam, see this post from Absolute Write):
Using eQuery Online I just sold my first novel to St. Martin's press!
-- Steve Carlson / Jacksonville, Oregon
This testimonial checks out. Steve Carlson's novel, Almost Graceland, is due from St. Martin's Press in November. According to the book's catalog listing, St. Martin's Press holds both UK and foreign rights, which suggests that Mr. Carlson may indeed have sold his book without an agent (St. Martin's Press officially has an agented-only policy, which makes this very unusual, eQuery or not). Mr. Carlson is a professional actor, and the author of two nonfiction books on acting, both published by real publishers. Nonfiction authors often don't know the ins and outs of selling fiction, but he's not exactly a novice.
The agent who I snagged though eQuery online has just advised me that an editor at a major New York publishing house now wants to make an offer on my novel!
-- Wayne Arthurson / Edmonton, Alberta
Wayne Arthurson has published two novels, one in 1997 and one in 2002, both with small Canadian presses. No sign of either an agent or a major NY publishing house.
The dumbest thing I've ever done is NOT use eQuery Online sooner! I received responses to read my manuscript from people at Bantam Dell, Kensington Publishers, Penguin Group, and so many agents!
-- Julie Palella / Naples, Florida
Which, if true, makes it a bit puzzling that both her novels are published by PublishAmerica.
So eQuery can claim just one success (if there were more like it, you can bet they'd be listed). And that's assuming it really is responsible for getting Steve Carlson's novel over the transom at St. Martin's. This is not exactly an impressive track record. If you're still tempted to accept eQuery's discount offer, ask yourself whether it makes sense to pay for a service that at worst pisses off the industry professionals that are its targets, and at best, doesn't offer any better odds than you could manage on your own.