Thanks to links from the venerable Miss Snark, as well as this recent one from Jennifer Jackson, my blog appears to be getting more popular. This is very neat. So, while I've got everyone's attention, I figured that I would expound upon one of my pet peeves: returning manuscripts.
I don't like having to return manuscripts for partials, and I absolutely abhor having to do so for fulls. Why is this, you ask? Let's deal with the fulls, first off. Every single full manuscript I know of is always over one pound in weight. Our dear US postal system, in its almighty wisdom that something over a pound just might be a bomb, has decreed that you must hand anything over a pound in weight to a US postal clerk or carrier. It doesn't matter if the package is already pre-paid for, you still have to hand it over to them directly. This is a royal pain in the ass.
It means that I have to go stand on the line inside the post office, which is an ordeal that regularly takes me fifteen to twenty minutes, since there is invariably only one postal clerk working at any one time. So I stand on this line, I eventually get to hand the package over to the postal clerk, and then I can finally get back on my way home. By the time I get back home, counting the travel time to get to and from the post office, I've lost a half hour out of my day already. Sometimes more. Postal clerks, although they may be wonderful lovely human beings (and I'm sure they are), are among the slowest people known to mankind.
Now, here is where the situation gets even better. I don't have my own car; there's just one for both my boyfriend and myself. So many times, my boyfriend is kind enough to take mail to the post office before going to work, since we have no place to mail outgoing mail in our townhouse development. Normally, this should be a two second ordeal for him; drive up to the post office, park the car (in the badly designed parking lot, by the way), and drop all the nice standard-size envelopes in the mailbox outside of the post office door. Voila, he's done! But if you desire the return of the manuscript, then he's the one who's got to go stand on the freaking post office line. It's simply not nice, especially since it's not even his job to do that.
So let's review the situation one more time. Full manuscripts being returned mean having to wait on horribly long postal lines to do so. There is only one official employee at this branch of the L. Perkins Agency, and that's me. I have no interns or assistants or anyone else to send to the post office, with the exception of my boyfriend, who does it out of the kindness of his heart. Partial manuscripts often weigh more than a pound as well, and also require waiting on the long postal lines. Sometimes I will be frustrated, and I will just jam your partial to be returned back into the mailbox with all the standard-size envelopes. I haven't had one come back to me yet because of weight issues, so that's not so bad. Oh, and have I left out the most important part of why returning manuscripts is simply a silly thing to do? They are only made out of paper!
You have not sent me something engraved in gold. I'm not holding the one and only copy of the secret map to Timbuktu. I am holding something that was presumably printed on relatively inexpensive printer paper or for that matter, photocopied from something that was printed on such paper. I know that paper and ink cost money nowadays, but really, they don't cost that much. If you want agents to read and evaluate your work, you're simply going to have to absorb some costs to do so; it's all part of the business.
Plus, and I know that we have touched on this in previous posts about my mailman, Andy, partials don't arrive for me in pristine condition. They are often bent or curled, although this doesn't affect their readability. You really don't want me to return one of those to you because honestly, if you then send it out to another agent, it's not going to make a professional impression whatsoever.