1. This sux 2. This really sux 3. You used too many staples 4. You forgot to enlose a $20

Offers a Snarkling

Dear Miss Snark,I know agents are all very busy, but why do most of them write in code, e.g., "not quite right for my list"?I know you can't speak for other agents, but why not just tell us what's wrong: the plot goes off in ten directions, there's too much telling and not enough showing, not one of the characters is likable, too much description and backstory, start your story with a BANG. ... I hope you're doing the same kind of critique when someone sends you a real-life critique to your agency. One can only dream.To save time so you don't have to compose responses, which I guess is probably why we get those dreaded form letters, here's an idea. Why not just draw up a checklist of things that are wrong with submissions, then check off the ones that apply when a writer makes a submission and return it in the SASE. We'd know a lot more, and it wouldn't take a lot of your valuable time. Just an idea...

Dearest Snarklings,

No, Miss Snark is NOT offering her astute and well thought out comments to the writers in the slush pile. Miss Snark sends them a form letter saying "sorry not quite right for us". I'm sorry it's not helpful BUT....Miss Snark's job is NOT offering critiques. Her job is to sell work that is ready for the marketplace.

When you go to an audition to sing at the Met Opera, you get "thank you" at the end, not a critique.
When you submit work to an agent, you're saying you're ready to play in the big leagues.

One of the reasons I launched the Snarkometer was to help blog readers see how I looked at query letters. That's the reason they are on the blog, not handled privately in email...I wanted to reach more than one person at a time; it's a more effective use of resources.

The second reason I don't offer more helpful rejection letters is I've gotten some REALLY snarly letters back from people telling me I was a dimwit with no taste. Some of them were vitriolic enough to scare me, so I stopped doing THAT pretty quickly.

And third, as we've all seen, despite Miss Snark's sophistication and savoir-faire, tastes vary. What I don't like, others do. You can see that here on the blog after I say "yuck" someone will write on the comments line that they liked it.

And agents aren't as busy as they'd like you to think. There's a post on that somewhere back in the archives. If you're a mother of a toddler, trust me, you're busier than Miss Snark. ER doctors, nurses, receptionists, short order cooks too. We've got a lot of work, but generally we don't have hungry or sick people screaming at us to hurry up.


rachel said...

As the mother of a toddler, I would like to thank you for the acknowledgement of our hard work. I look forward to a mere 40 hour work week and bosses who may scream and behave irrationally, but generally don't crap their pants.

Bernita said...

Wait until you have four...

Christine said...

What Rachel said. Thanks, Miss Snark.

Here's one for the Snark dictionary. Snark-astrophe. Or Snarkaholic. One step up from a Snarkling.

Bill Peschel said...

"The second reason I don't offer more helpful rejection letters is I've gotten some REALLY snarly letters back from people telling me I was a dimwit with no taste."

I made that mistake exactly once, on the phone to a computer game "creator" who politely wanted my opinion about his game. I demurred and danced about the question before I finally mentioned one part that I thought could see improvement. He turned savage instantly, blistered my ear with objections and profanity and hung up in rage. Never made that mistake again.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, when someone of a certain ilk or predeliction for trendy garbage trashes your work, it can be a sort of merit badge. Wear it proudly. It means you did your job well.

John Berger quote: "I can't tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that art has often judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and show to the future what the past has suffered. . . the powerful fear art."

Geez, folks, if you can't take a little heat from Miss Snark, how will you ever survive the New York Times Book Review?

Deidre Knight said...

Go, Miss Snark! Say it, girl! I love the comparison about the audition at the Met. And, of course, authors want very timely responses, but also want personal replies. You can't get 'em both, gang. :)

Deidre Knight

Anonymous said...

I have question Miss Snark. How do the pages you've been getting here compare to the ones you see submitted at work? Are these pages pretty typical?

Miss Snark said...

New York Times Book Review? Try Dale Peck!!

I understand the feeling when an agent says "this sux". I don't like people telling me I'm full of crap either. However, the difference is in the reaction: don't write back and tell them they're pond scum. The trouble of course is that no one HERE would do that; the ones who need this info are off reading some one else's blog. Dale Peck's maybe!

Peter L. Winkler said...

Dale Peck has a blog? Where? :)

My classic rejection is the purple postcard I received from agent Richard Balkin. It has a series of one line reasons for rejection with a box next to each. I don't have the card handy, but one of the reasons-"This just didn't turn us on."

Miss Snark said...

I don't think Dale Peck has a blog. I think he confines his Peckishness to paid book reviews. I could be wrong...let me know if I am!

I love the postcard check list. I think I'll institute that here at Snark Central:

1. This sux
2. It is a waste of paper and eyeball movement
3. You think you can write?
4. I'm too busy to read anything
5. You don't turn me on.

I see real possibilities here with calendars, mugs, tshirts and ..um...business cards.

Danni said...

Miss Snark, I really appreciate your last paragraph here. I think we sometimes get to thinking we are more than reality makes us. It's nice to hear there are those out there who understand that "busy" is an excuse (though sometimes a viable one).

I also appreciate the honest list of reasons for the form rejection.

ali said...

Have you ever seen rejectioncollection.com? It's full of people being nasty about agents who've given them personal advice. I normally sen a thank you card :).