Equal Time for Pat Walsh

Dear Miss Snark,

Thanks for the heads up. Don't worry about the nitwit thing, I've been called a lot worse just today and it's still morning here. MS: there's something worse than being called a nitwit in this blog? I shudder to think.

I did suggest that writing to published authors could be useful to writers trying to break through publishing walls. Reason number 58 begins: "Many people in the publishing business will not like me saying this, but I think submitting a short bit of your writing directly to a published author is an effective way to gain access to agents. Clients who refer writers to their
agents feel good nurturing new talent; if it works out, they have done the agent a favor."

(A key phrase is "short bit.") I came to this belief by hearing from several authors that they were helped in some way by an already published author and were willing to help others in the same manner.

I believe an author who has been through the publishing grinder has an embedded empathy or sympathy for writers starting out and may not be as jaded as most agents and editors. I've received referrals from authors I've worked with and taken them more seriously than over the transom submissions and I would much rather have heard an author tell me that someone submitted something to him/her and they liked it than hear that the writer being passed along is his/her brother-in-law.

That said, I warn against invading an author's privacy and selecting authors who are brand name bestsellers and those who are busy on tour. An author who is uninterested is under no obligation to respond in any way and their silence should not be held against them. A writer should not ask for specific advice on their writing or a manuscript critique. Any correspondence is just a no obligation invitation to read something.

I should add a few things. The advice only holds true if you know the author's work well and think he would enjoy a piece of yours. If the writing is not good enough, then you've just wasted everyone's time. Any "tricks" like these are long shots, and while I've seen it work, I've seen it fail many, many more times. Best to stick to working on the page.

What day and time should everyone meet in Times Square? MS: oh darn, you weren't there at3pm today?

Thanks for all the kind words about my book,

Pat Walsh


Anonymous said...

I came to this belief by hearing from several authors that they were helped in some way by an already published author and were willing to help others in the same manner.

But I can't help but wonder... did these authors indicate to Ms. Walsh that they were helped by a published author whom they had never met? Published authors to whom they sent unrequested pages?

I, myself, have received help connecting with agents by published authors whom I've met in person at social events, writers conferences, etc. In fact, many published authors whom I've met or been referred to were extremely gracious about sharing agent information, offering to read pages, etc. But this is called "networking." It's a far cry from sending unsolicited bits of manuscript to authors who don't know me from Adam.

Sorry, Ms. Walsh, but I disagree with your advice. Then again, that's easy for me to do, since I'm posting anonymously.

Miss Snark said...

Pat Walsh is a gentleman.

Anonymous said...

I know of a couple of writers who've been soliciting endorsements from well-known authors (who they don't know) to use in their query letters to agents and editors. I don't agree with this tactic either, but it worked for one of these authors because he got a bestselling author to read his work, and endorse it. Still... A writers time is better spent writing a great book.

Anonymous said...

This advice seems wrong on so many levels.

First, most published authors I know simply will not read unsolicited work from anyone. Authors who want to help those trying to break in do it by getting involved with online forums, attending conferences, teaching classes and so forth. Even they generally won't read anything that's not posted publicly unless they've developed a close relationship with the writer. In our litigious society, I don't blame them.

Second, I'm concerned that aspiring writers might see "Send this to an agent, not to me" as an excuse to query the published author's agent with "So and so recommended I contact you...." That never works, of course, because it only takes a phone call or email for the agent to find out the truth from his/her client and label you a nitwit.

Tribe said...

Anybody have Thomas Pynchon's address?

Miss Snark said...


Anonymous said...

Whoever Pat Walsh is, she's not doing published authors any favors.

Most of us have too little time for our families and ourselves, whether or not we're on tour. And we're always under deadline. It's always awkward to say no to an aspiring writer. You never know if they will hold it against you forever, post whacko things on the internet about you, stop reading your books etc.

PLEASE, PLEASE don't encourage anyone to put us in the position of saying no. We're not agents. We didn't ask for a slush pile. It's bad enough how the industry relies upon us for blurbs of published works.

There are no short cuts. Aspiring writers have to write compelling query letters and fantastic books. Most fail at the latter and worry too much about the former. Encourage them to worry about their craft. If they write compelling enough work, it will get picked up. Most of the stuff out there shouldn't be.

Kitty said...

I missed all of this fun today! Miss Snark dancing nekkid in Times Square? In this weather? YIKES! I'm sure the male spectators were warm ;~)

As I thought about the idea of asking an author for feedback on my work, I remembered that I've done just that. However, I know these three people well enough to make such a request, and I asked first before I sent anything.

Anonymous said...

LOL!! Tribe!

ssas said...

I'm with anonymous (if that IS your real name). If a writer's critique is what you want, then join a good critique group. If it's writer "business" connections you're after, head to a conference or workshop.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there's any legal ramifications of reading other people's work, especially a fan's work that may have been influenced by you. I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the tactic, but if I were published, I'd be more keen reading an excerpt of a crime novel than a dark fantasy simply because I wouldn't want to subconsciously rip them off.

I know, it's hard to be a writer and not a reader so there's plenty of ways to be influenced, it's not a cut-and-dried case like Magic the Gathering card designers not looking at fan-made cards for legal reasons. But still, it's one thing to be influenced by a published author's work and another to be subconsciously nick the best selling points from an unpublished author.

It's probably a very nit witish (how do you spell that?) way to think, but I'd rather be ethically safe than sorry.

Matthew Bamberg said...

I found an agent for my fiction project from getting to know another writer while writing local magazine features about local authors.

Anonymous said...

Laraqua, you don't think it's possible to be a published author and an agent? -- Al

Anonymous said...

From Mr. Walsh: "The advice only holds true if you know the author's work well and think he would enjoy a piece of yours. If the writing is not good enough, then you've just wasted everyone's time."

Also, this is a pretty big caveat. I'd venture to guess lots of unpublished writers (heck, writers in general) aren't the best judges of whether their own writing is "good enough."

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I referred to MR. Walsh as a woman. That's why I'm posting anonymously. The nitwittery can't stick to me that way.

David Isaak said...

For those who don't know who Pat Walsh is, he is a well-known, well-established editor, and his book on wirintg and getting published is among the best that has been written. (And, I might add, it is pretty damn snarky, too.)