8.28.2005

Miss Snark sifts the comment pile

Complains a wannabe-Snarkling:


Yes, I see a lot of agent websites that are curt and unfriendly. It's like they hate you. Some want you to jump through a hoop of fire before submitting a proposal. Then there are the agents that lecture you about properly addressing them, as if they are royalty. Then they send you a rejection notice and don't mention you by name or sign it. Ugh, I'm getting tried of these people. I keep going through this process and thinking ...there has to be a better way.


Hold on there bucko!

"lecture you about addressing them properly as if they are royalty"??

Well, you can call Miss Snark Her Royal Snarkieness if you so desire but you really don't have to. You do however have to call her Miss Snark. Not Mr. Snark. Not Ms. Snark, and certainly not Miss Anthrope.

I've yet to see an agent's website that asks for more than you to simply use the correct name. That's hardly "as if they are royalty". Let me know if I've missed seeing one.

And "jump through a hoop of fire"? Do you honest to god think we do this to make your life wretched? Think again. We ask you to submit work in the format that WE have to submit it in. Unless you want Miss Snark rewriting your pearls of wisdom don't you think you'd do a better job of communicating your ideas?

And as for the lack of personal response, you get to complain about that ONLY if you send out 100 personalized query letters a week, every week, for over a year. That's what rolls through the door here.

There are lots of offensive things agents do (see posts on fees etc) but what you're complaining about isn't on the list.

What you're complaining about is that no one is treating you like a valued customer. Well, I have news for you. You're not. You may become a client sometime, somewhere, but until then, you're asking me to use my valuable time to read your work. You're not paying me. You're not compensating me in any way. I'm mostly glad to do it cause I think there's a chance I'll find something in this pile, but don't ever think you're doing me a favor by letting me see your work.

You're just one in a group of people clamoring for attention. Know that, understand that, and either accept it and quit complaining, or go publish on your own. There are LOTS of ways to do that now. Cafe Press, iUniverse, Authors House. $500 and no interference from Miss Snark.

12 comments:

Llauren said...

Welcome home, Miss Snark.

Longtime lurker here. Also a professional book reviewer, passionate reader, admirer of snarky prose and martini-dry wit. Major fan! Now coming out. Thanks for making this blog a required stop several times a day.

Anonymous said...

The agent-writer relationship is symbiotic, mutually beneficial. Both parties deserve the same amount of respect, and neither deserve to have their asses kissed just out of principal. I'm equally pissed off by writers who haughtily claim agents wouldn't have jobs without them, and with agents who throw out lines like, "You're asking me to use my valuable time to read your work." Neither attitudes are particularly constructive, and both reek of disgruntlement.

However, in the case of the big-headed careerists, I have to side with the agent. They're the ones being solicited, and if they're going to go through all the trouble of posting requirements somewhere, it is the writer's job to pay damn good attention and get the address lines right. There are simply too many people out there thinking they're ready to move on to that professional phase of writing, when in fact they're clogging up the drain-pipe and making it difficult for the rest of us. Think how big the chip would be on YOUR shoulder if you opened query after query and found unforgivable results in each one- everything from the name of the agent to the grammar in the first paragraph of the sample. And Miss Snark is lenient enough to look past a lot of the rubbish in the first few pages that most agents' assistants would gloat over and toss!

I'm speaking as a will-be novelist whose agent has his manuscript at several large houses. My agent has forwarded me some of what typically hoses his inbox, just to give me a taste of the powerful agent life. Ha! If I'd spent all my time writing sloppy prose in a vacuum and squibbling over how agents should be addressed, this bird would have never gotten off the ground.

Christine said...

Yeah, as someone who's read things in a slush pile, I have to agree with Miss Snark. I think I'd have to have my eyeballs sterilized at the end of every day if I had her job.

Just read the guidelines, follow them, and get on with your life. Now, we've all done something dumb in sending out queries, like not fixing the part about what's in the envelope before we print it, or putting the wrong zip code on the agent's address at the top of the letter. But, try, try to get it right most of the time. It's not that hard.

Anonymous said...

Especially because writers are supposed to be people who obsess over detail.

Anonymous said...

My agent has forwarded me some of what typically hoses his inbox, just to give me a taste of the powerful agent life.

Miss Snark, please tell me this isn't normal practice.

Sorry, Anonymous, but your agent sends you samples from his slush pile? That's insane. Unprofessional, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Unprofessional, maybe, but neither of us could resist my curiosity.

The insanity starts and ends with what would-be writers qualify as a "query letter"- two page bios listing, alphabetically, every last online, homegrown website where their stories have been published? Ten page samples- that being just the prologue? Greasy familiarity with details which have nothing to do with publishing and which indicate hours spent tracing my agent on Google? Quite an education!

Miss Snark said...

It does reek of in-girl crowd at boarding school cruelty doesn't it? I guess I'd rather blog than xerox copies of bad query letters and mail them to clients. I'd also rather my clients were busily writing income producing work rather than being my built in audience.

The other thing is so many queriers, even, or perhaps especially, the worst, are not stupid. They just don't know. There's an element of cruelty in using their work for your amusement. That said, there are walls of this kind of stuff in every publisher's office.

As bad behaviour goes, it's not the worst we've seen described here on the blog.

Your visceral response to it is of course fear that your work will end up in that pile. Don't worry. It won't. You can see from above that the only stuff that qualifies for this is really really out there.

kitty said...

Miss Anthrope :) Reminds me of Florence King's columns.

Anonymous said...

Actually, my response wasn't out of fear that my query would end up being plastered on a wall.

I related it to when I did have an agent. How would he have responded to such a request from me? I believe he would have suggested that I stop worrying about what others put in their query letters and to spend my time writing something he could shop around to editors.

Had I persisted, he probably would have urged me to spend a week at Writers.Net if I really wanted to know the quality of most "not for us" queries. With the aside that for every query that gets workshopped at places like that, most of what he receives doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Here:

Agent: "Your query letter was pretty well-written, from what I remember."

Me: "That's funny. I basically looked at some books and stuck to the common guidelines. I mean, I'm not a salesman or anything."

Agent: "You might be surprised by how many writers send query letters that show a complete lack of research on the matter."

Me: "Well, I think it's about having pride in your work and a little common sense."

Agent: "There are a couple of letters we keep around here just to show everyone what we mean by rubber-stamp-rejection material."

Me: "Are the names and titles blacked out?"

Agent: "Actually, there are. It's the letters we're using, not the people or their manuscript."

Me: "I wouldn't mind seeing what you consider bad quality."

Agent: "I guess it wouldn't hurt anything."

Tada.

Yes, it's true that the emails he forwarded were of the out-there variety. The plain ol' shitty or uninspired letters he doesn't bother to keep, I guess.

I did get a laugh out of thinking of myself and my agent in school-girl uniforms, whispering behind our hands. That'd be some Halloween party.

But for the "writers should be working on their books instead of goofing off" remarks: puh-leeze. I put in overtime working on my books, and whatever waking hours are leftover I devote to the Great American Novel for my Masters thesis. From 7 to 3 every weekday I'm making lattes and dopios for all yous.

Miss Snark said...

what's a dopio and do they come in gin pails?

Remember the comments were not directed at you personally, although I have noticed you slacking off at 10:09 am everyday. Don't make Miss Snark crack the whip.

Anonymous said...

Hehe. A dopio in gin pails might be more of a pailio. I estimate you'd pay...one hundred dollars for those many shots.

I know the comments weren't directed at me, personally. They can't be- I'm one of probably hundreds of anonymous posters/viewers of this blog. And I know plenty of those would-be writers would-be-much-bettah if they really WERE working on their cherished manuscripts instead of talking hot air about writing, agents, and the sacrifices they're making for their art.

I also acknowledge that what I have with my agent has, over two years of excrutiating editing and planning, turned into more of a business-friendship. It's pretty cool, actually.

Bad query letters do happen to good writers, but in my (admittedly, not so) humble opinion, mere ignorance is a big fat waste of perfectly good trees and inbox space.

And Miss Snark rocks it in stiletto heels, baby.