Miss Snark retires to her fainting couch with a cold compress

This post at Media Angst makes me weep with frustration

Lauren Barat-Logsted

Not because they are not true.
Because they are.
Like every industry there are slacker agents.
I just wish they'd retire to a farm in Nova Scotia and
watch the salmon spawn.

And yet...for every story like this there are others, several
of which are mine, about authors who spent three years redrafting
manuscripts cause we loved the concept and wanted
the book to be good enough to sell.

Gotta admire her persistence and tenacity. As one of the comments
said, I'd have been hiring mercenaries too.

Thanks to Ron for the link.


You want fries with that plot line?

Publishers Marketplace is a great resource for
pretty much everyone in publishing. Miss Snark
bows to a gold statue of Michael Cader daily
in devotion.

Prowling around through the blogs over there
after sniffing through the latest deals, we came
across this gem about what makes
a book worth reading. Scroll all the way
down to the section on BEA at


She is, as far as we can tell, spot on the money.

"look ma, I did it all by myself"

I'm going to skip right over the part about how this arrived in my email inbox when I specifically tell people our agency doesn't handle e-queries, and move right to the good stuff...

subject line: this might interest you

text: after being rejected by a million agents, ~Fido Fleckstein~ has published his novel online and you can go read it here: ~www.Fleckstine.com~

Let's deconstruct this.
The work you think is fabulous has been rejected by what looks to be the entire known universe. This does not bode well for me liking it either.
Yes, I like weird and avant garde things.
Yes I love what they publish at Softskull and
what they publish at Akashic

but so do a lot of other agents. I'm not enticed at all with this "clever" plan to persuade
me that this is an overlooked gem.

Second, I rarely go looking for new writers on the web.
Mostly cause there's so much dreck out there it's a
MUCH more efficient use of my time to read a literary magazine like

or any of the other things you can pick up at any good indie bookstore.

Third, you sent me an email (despite the fact we don't do e-queries)
and it was a blind carbon copy without a single hint you knew a damn thing about me,
or the agency. That identifies you almost instantly as a person who knows nothing about publishing. As an agent, it becomes my thankless, frustrating and largely UNPAID job
then to coach you about the industry if I were to take you on.

Given a choice between someone who's clearly done some sort of reading about the
business side of the industry and
some nitwit who knows he's an undiscovered James Joyce,
I'm going to pick Side A every time.
And every agent I know is too.

We like to spend our
time selling your work, not teaching you about the industry.

Now, go read something good.
Start with Writers Market.

Portraits by Michael Kimmelman

Michael Kimmelman is the art critic at the New York Times.
He's got a new book coming this summer so I went over to NYPL.org
to reserve it, and discovered "Portraits"
published in 1998 by Random House.

Portraits is a collection of conversations with interesting artists,
Francis Bacon among them.
Tucked away in the Bacon chapter is this:

"And he was marginal man for some years after
1939 as well: when World War II began, he was
summoned by the army for a physical. He hired a
dogf rom Harrods and took it home with him
the night before the exam. Dogs, like horses,
gave him asthma.
He was rejected by the army, and ended
up doing odd jobs for several years during the war."

Notice how he passes right over the
"hired a dog from Harrods" part.
It's never mentioned again.

Now, I want to know how one hires a dog
from the British equivalent of Macy's and Bloomingdale's.

Can you rent a dog from Macy's or Bloomingdale's?
If you can do that, maybe they'll rent you a man?

I'll take Ewan McGregor...oiled.

Now, go read something fun.


Previously published

What is it with people who think IUniverse
(or Writers Club Press as I guess it's called now) is a "publisher"?

It's not.
It's the equivilent of the web in print: anyone, and I mean ANYONE
can send in their work and presto magic it's a book.

When you query an agent and say
"I previously published -title-",
and you DON'T list a publisher,
the first thing anyone with a brain does is google the title.
Previously being printed by a POD chop shop doesn't count as
"previously published".

Adding insult to injury, you tell me the book was
"warmly received by reviewers".
What you mean is that Amazon has good reviews,
so I know you're not playing on my side of the street.

Here's some help: "reviewers" at Amazon are not reviewers.
They're reader comments.
Generally anonymous.

In case anyone else hasn't mentioned this to you yet,
Amazon reviews don't meet criteria of an objective review.
(Miss Snark loves snarky reviews of course).
You'd be better off to tell me your mom liked it.

Quit trying to wow me with publishing "credentials"
that only reveal your
lack of industry savvy.

All you have to do is write well. That's hard enough.
Try not to shoot yourself in the foot by looking like a dimwit
before I have a chance to read your stuff.

Now, go read something good, and leave me to my slush pile.

Speaking of other people who aren't...well...real

Courtesy of the estimableSarahWeinman who I hear likes to drink with those highly questionable cigar smokers from Beatrice

it turns out that I'm not only not Binky Urban, or Flip Brophy,
I'm also not Michiko Kakutani.


Innocent (rather than guilty) pleasure: The Writers Almanac

From "our friends at Minnesota Public Radio" those droll elves of the airwaves comes my daily dose of Writer's Almanac. Contained therein today:

"Eric Ambler once told a friend he'd been reading James Joyce and she said, "Never read very good writers when you are trying yourself to write good trash. You'll only get depressed.""

Certainly that advice holds up well.
Maybe even better than some of Eric Ambler's spy novels...but I haven't
read one in so long I'm probably wrong. I've been busy reading Alan
Furst. For my money, he's the best in the biz right now. Sadly, he
is as they say "represented elsewhere", but then, so is Dan Brown.
And James Joyce.

"Are you really an agent"

Tiptoeing through the tulips of email this morning Miss Snark finds a missive from some hapless writer who asks......seriously one fears..."are you really an agent".

Who would claim to work for the Dark Side if they didn't??
Well, now wait a second.
Now that Miss Snark is properly juiced, (that first cup of Cafe Bustelo helps this process)
there are actually those poor souls out there who claim to be agents who
are in fact...not.

Consider the website Miss Snark winched out of the morass last week. One page said
"Here are books we helped publish". Interesting choice of phrase of course.
A phrase Miss Snark would look for, were she to be seeking an agent might read
"Here's Miss Snark's list of sales".

As it happens, Miss Snark, the all knowing and all powerful Oz having nothing on
Miss Snark, literary agent, knew those books. And the person who "helped get
them published" didn't agent them at all. That person edited them.
Is this misleading?
Yea sure...to the unwary.

So in case you're wondering Oh Wanderer in the World of Words..yes
Miss Snark IS an agent. But she's not Esther Newberg. And she's not
Binky Urban. But she thinks being called Binky is kinda cool. Like
being called Flip Brophy.

You'll just have to find her the old fashioned way: Look under
"Snark" in Writers Market.

Now, go out and read something worthwhile.
And if you can't find something worthwhile,
go to SarahWeinman.com and see what she's reading.

That's where Miss Snark is headed.
After coffee.
And maybe a cruller.

Honest to Pete, do you think this WORKS??

So, working through my stack of query letters today. As usual, there are a couple that are interesting and couple that are so weird as to make me fear for the fate of western civilization...and then there are these:

"It's also the setting of the serio-comic novel for which I am seeking
representation from a few select agents.."

ok...what the fuck is a serio-comic novel?
They forget to tell me that at agent school.

Is it like a serious novel that has some funny parts?
Is it a comic book that is about serio-type things?

And let's not overlook that smarmy "select agents" phrase. I'm sure you
worked hard selecting me...you picked all the agents who understood
what serio comic meant.

Please. Get a grip on your prose. Maybe if you grip hard enough I won't have
to worry about the fact you teach English at a place where people pay to attend.