One of my blog readers sent an e-mail to ask why we don't accept electronic queries at JABberwocky, which is actually a pretty good question that seemed worth answering.
Part of it -- the most important part for me -- is just the generation I'm from. I spent many years reading queries on pieces of paper, and I'm still very comfortable doing it that way. There are a lot of things that can be determined about the quality of a query just by looking at that piece of paper. First and foremost, is the query letter one page or two? It's much harder to get that sense from looking at an e-mail query, and I still think this is one of the most important tests. Even for a one-page letter, I can take that out of an envelope and see before I even start reading if there's a good balance of information about both the author and the manuscript, or if the bulk of the letter is an over-long description of the book. There are words of that letter that jump off the printed page -- good or bad -- in a way very different from scrolling along on a computer screen.
Then there are the process management issues. I could have people send a query letter as an actual attachment of a letter, a PDF or Word file. Do HR people at big companies that get all kinds of attached resumes look at all of those on isolated computers? Leave that aside (I can get paper cuts with hard copy queries, nothing in life is entirely safe), the time to download and open the files and then paste e-mail addresses into a response template is probably greater in aggregate than opening hard copies and putting replies into SASEs. Maybe I'm wrong, and an electronic query doesn't need to be recycled, but I'm pretty sure it's not a big time savings to have e-mail queries.
As another management issue, there's the "out of sight, out of mind" thing. Queries would need to come in to a dedicated e-mail address, and I'm not sure an e-mail box I wasn't checking would nag at me the same way a pile of hard copy letters does.
When the day comes that I have people working for me who are pushing heavily on having e-mail queries, I doubt I'll hold to my own stronger comfort level with hard copy. That day hasn't yet arrived. But there's no denying that for me I'm still happiest holding a piece of paper in my hand, just as I am happier on days when I get into Manhattan and buy a physical copy of the Washington Post, instead of reading it on line.