8.03.2005

Timing..revisited

Some time back -at the bottom of the blog- a Snarkling asked if it mattered when a manuscript or query is sent. August for example is notoriously slow in publishing. Last two weeks of December (three if we work it right) too.

Miss Snark was rather quick to answer that good writing rises to the top and send it when it is ready.

Miss Snark is rethinking this.

It's hot. The weather has been all over the place. Days of 90 then days of 70. Everyone on the subway is crabby. Well..crabbier than normal.

Miss Snark is pretty much at full tilt boogie crabby 24/7.

She's finding that she's MUCH quicker to say no to queries and MUCH less patient with work that might only need a kinder eye.

Her loss? ya sure.
But yanno. Why risk it.
Save your stuff till September. And don't send anything in December.

22 comments:

The Zombie Lama said...

How about:

Dear Miss Snark,
I have written a COMPLETE piece of crap that I'm hoping someone will publish since it looks awfully similar to another piece of crap I just bought two weeks ago.

I have no publishing credits, no agent, and my use of the english language is shaky at best, but I feel this could be the next big thing.

Sincerely,
Insert-Hack-Author's-Name-Here

Anonymous said...

Lovely Miss Snark, you know, with the copious amounts of gin you claim to enjoy, living with an artist, snarking up a storm, and jaded as you are from the New Yorky having "been there and done that" (despite the fact that you're probably no older than your early thirties--if that)do tell me something, wouldja? Where did you come up with the oh-so-rigid policy of not accepting e-queries?

Some of us simply will not consider an agent if we are told we must send a query by snail.

How can you possibly expect to compete with all those young (and not so young) agents who are eager to read and respond to the good stuff as soon as it comes in?

I once sent a few line e-query for a non-fiction book. The agent happened to get it immediately and respond back within two minutes to send the complete 50 page proposal. I sent it by e-mail attachment. Within 11 minutes she wrote back saying she read it and wanted to sign me...Ultimately, I didn't go to the dance with her but my point is: How can you compete with this kind of cyber-speed when you're locked into the snail mail thing?

Is it not time to reconsider being in the dark ages with this query by snail mail policy now that you are beginning to taste the juicy fruits of immediate responses on this blog?

I mean, seriously, if you're wanna run with the Big Dogs, how can you afford to let other hot -to-trot agents get the goods before you do?

Travis said...

Buyer's market.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, thanks for coming clean on the September thing. Heh.

Who gives a shit if you only accept snail mail? Writers are definitely more desperate for reputable agents than agents for writers (number-wise), so if you'd personally rather read hardcopy queries, screw your critics. I mean, you're selling books here, not e-books. The words are gonna hafta come alive on paper sooner or later, people!

Ellen Fisher said...

Ack. Now you tell me. Too late... I sent my latest manuscript in to an editor in mid-July. I just hope there's a big ol' cool spell when she pulls it out of her pile...

Anonymous said...

However, given Miss Snark's August crabbiness, I wonder if it is the time that some enterprising young agents pick up some gems overlooked by those at EH.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Miss Snark, I hate to do this for fear of your vicious, delicious wrath, but this is an agent who disagrees with you. In fact, if I were pressed to tell writers when the best time to query is, I’d side along the opposite of what you said.

The fall gets busy. We’re all trying to sell projects. It’s practically a free-for-all. There’s less time then to look at prospective projects than there is during the summer (unless you’re an agent who can afford to be in your house in the Hamptons and only checking in with the office every other day). I know I’m spending more time on queries now (and requesting more partials and manuscripts) than I will in the fall. And hopefully, I’m now padding my list with a bunch of great projects for the fall. And asking writers to do rewrites and further develop their work that will, with luck and a pair of nunchucks, be complete autumn. That’s not to say that great writing won’t rise to the top during any season (except, of course, during the last two weeks in December when the industry puts on it’s leopard print sleeping mask and hangs up the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door—the lovely Miss Snark is right about that).

The moral of the story? Every agent works differently. While timing and luck are great ingredients, they also can’t be planned. Manipulate the situation all you want, but it’ll come down to a compelling query letter, thorough research and writing that will knock my argyle socks off. Miss Snark and I agree about that. So, if heaven’s forbid, you sent out your queries last week and are now stalking postal employees trying to get them back, don’t fret (unless you sent out crap). And try to get some sleep and stop biting your nails, ok?

You can just call me,
Dead Meat

P.S.
Spare me, oh great Snark one, I’ll work to never contradict you again, especially during heat stroke season!

Anonymous said...

It's analogous to saying you can't time the stock market.

Miss Snark said...

Miss Snark wants that house in the Hamptons. Maybe she'd better quit calling James Patterson's books crap and start trying to sign him.

Anon is very correct: we all DO work differently.

Im glad not everyone is as crabby as I seem to be this week when receiving queries.

Anonymous said...

Oh good gracious, I'm an idiot. Go ahead and discredit me for my quick typing, hasty posting and dumb misuse of it's and its. And I yell at my writers for stuff like that...

Dead Meat

Anonymous said...

You can have James, I steal Danielle and we can buy neighboring Hampton homes where we throw adjoining gin-soaked parties. And invite lots of senior editors, get them trashed and convince them to take out their checkbooks (and we'll be kind enough help them hold the pen)...

We can even put up a sign calling it the Snark Estate.

Dead Meat

Anonymous said...

Do the August and September rule also operate for the next stage along? Do you hold back manuscripts rather than sending them to editors in August? Or does the editor-agent game play out some other way?

Also, something I'd love to hear more about: What should authors who have agents do - or not do! - while their agent is sending the manuscript around? My agent sent out my manuscript in May. I'm dutifully working on a sequel, but still on tenterhooks. When is it appropriate to ping her? (I'm thinking this month.) Would it be appropriate at all to ask her whom she sent it to?

-- Rick

Miss Snark said...

Hi Rick,
I only send manuscripts and proposals when I've talked to an editor so if they aren't there, I don't send. If I know something is going to need serious money I don't think about pitching till I know everyone is back home who has to authorize the dough.

While you're waiting to be sold..write and sell short stories. Enter contests. Write to Miss Snark. SJ Rozan is the source of the idea on writing short stories. It helps build your portfolio, so to speak.

More on the other questions in a full post.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark,

Please also elaborate on what "serious money" is, as far as you're concerned. A "very nice" deal, or a "good" one?

Is it just a hunch that a project will potentially bring in the dough? Does an agent straight up tell an editor that they're expecting big money for it? Is this something you discuss with your clients before submitting to editors? I mean, do you have a conversation about how much the author expects to make off the book?

Are the expectations higher for non-fiction proposals than for completed novels?

Thankya kindly, Ma'am!

Miss Snark said...

Serious money is money that needs approval from the higher ups in the food chain. Some editors can acquire on their own at certain prices...most need approval from the boss for big money.

What makes money "big" depends on the house. Big money at any of the Random House villages is a far different cry from big money at a small boutique press.

I discuss money with my NF authors all the time. They have a figure in mind for what it will take to write the book if we're going in with a proposal. Photographs and side material can have an impact on the "cost".

Novels are a crapshoot.

Doubleday bought Fight Club for about six grand I think. Gillian Blake at Bloomsbury (on a panel at BEA) said her average novel cost $40K.

In the words of that ageless philospher Crash Davis: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you're rained out.

Anonymous said...

Does Miss Snark think that New York agents are still the power-agents? ( and do you also wear a power-agents suit?) What about California? I've seen agents listed on sites such as AgentQuery that have sold many books - some from Virginia, Texas and Colorado.

Miss Snark said...

You don't need to live in NYC to be a good agent. One of the VERY best agents in the biz lives in Denver: Kristin Nelson. Lots of good agents live in California.

I wear my superagent unitard and stiletto heels for all business meetings.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, you are oh so enlightening. Simple sentences weaving together the workings of a mysterious, usually elusive, industry. I adore you. :-)

Margaret said...

Miss Snark,

You made a comment a while back that a "query" meant a query letter and the first five pages of the novel. I've been mulling over this one and can't quite accept it no matter how much I wish it were so. If it means query and 5 pages as a general standard, why would agencies like Donald Maass specify to send in a five-page sample? And if it does mean that, why? What purpose does it serve to create a sublanguage for guidelines instead of using plain English? If an agent wants a query letter and the first 5 pages, why not just say that?

I'm one of those who emphasize that the guidelines should always be the final judge for what a particular agency or market wants, but what's an author to do if the guidelines are written in a secret handshake language? What if agent a really means just a query letter and so by sending the 5 pages I fall into the "does not follow guidelines" category while agent b means query and five pages, so I miss out on the opportunity to send a writing sample?

As you can tell, I've been thinking about this quite a bit and feel like I'm going in circles. Any illumination would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Margaret

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, in the summer some publishing houses are rich in interns, who triage out the bad slush and clear the processing path for the good stuff.

It varies. Reply hazy. Ask again later.

-tnh
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/

Miss Snark said...

Margaret, my muse.
Good writing trumps all.

An agent will read something if it's written on post it notes (Well, ok, not really) to find out if it's good. Putting your work in the right format and "following the rules" isn't about showing what a good writer you are, it's reassuring us that you'll be a good client. Trust me, those do NOT go hand in hand.

My point about sending five pages was that a fair percentage of crappy cover letters come with decent writing.

Cover letters are NOT a reliable indicator of the quality of writing. Certainly some of the worst cover letters accompanied amazingly bad writing. But often enough some writer just can't get it together on the cover letter, and yet shines on the rest of the page.

I don't want to miss that. Most savvy agents and editors don't either.

I'm not sure why people don't say "cover letter and five pages" instead of query letter, but every agent I know wants to see the writing.

There are some agents reading the blog and a few editors too. Insights welcome!

Margaret said...

Hmm, that makes a lot of sense and would help the gut twisting of being judged on something so minimal.

Thanks once again :). I'm looking forward to your answer about the envelope size.

Cheers,
Margaret