7.09.2005

Happy Birthday Big Bad Love

Writer's Almanac
is one of my favorite things to read each morning. Today comes the news that it's Larry Brown's birthday. Larry Brown of course, died last year at 53, of a heart attack. The couple times I met Larry he was funny as hell and usually drunk. I think it was cause he missed his wife when he was out on the road. Or maybe it was cause he was shy and the idea of appearing in front of hundreds of people at a bookstore was daunting. Whatever the reason, he was, but he never was miserable or ugly, which is more than I can say for some non-drunk guys I've met who thought they were God's gift to women...or men...or goats.

Larry Brown's stories about learning to write should be required reading for anyone wanting to learn the craft.

He said, "There's no such thing as a born writer. It's a skill you've got to learn, just like learning how to be a bricklayer or a carpenter."

His story Falling Out of Love begins, "Sheena Baby, the one that I loved, and I were walking around. It was late one evening. All the clouds had gathered up into big marshmallows and mushrooms, and it was an evening as fine as you could ask for, except that we had two flat tires on our car some miles back down the road and didn't know where we were or who to ask. We were about ready to kill one another."

7.08.2005

The wave of the future ...

is a tsunami with MJ Rose on a surfboard.

Courtesy of the Dwarf
is a zippy new book marketing tool called VIDLIT
and if you click on that link you'll see a "vid lit" for MJ Rose's book
The Halo Effect. For more info about the book and MJ Rose,
Mr Perkins has a nice interview with her.

I had to remember to turn on my sound again, and it's not the best on
dial up, but you'll get the idea

People wailed and moaned when Jane Friedman CEO of Harper talked about branding books with
the publisher not the author but Jane Friedman is one smart lady
and when I see vidlit I can see Jane's vision:

Imagine if you will that your cell phone gets a text message that you've got incoming mail. You click yes, and for 93 seconds you see a vidlit promotion about a book. You click (or more correctly -thumb-) yes, and within 24 hours the book is delivered to your door. Your credit card is charged $8.95.

The technology for that chain of events is in place and working.
What remains is for publishers to collect their wits and begin both
marketing books like that AND using print on demand technology.

With POD technology, almost 30% of the cost of a hardcover book and 20% of a trade paperback is eliminated because you don't have to allow for returns.

(That info came to me from a seminar at the Small Press Center about two years ago).

I can certainly envision a savvy publisher bypassing brick and mortar stores for books that will appeal to a particular demographic. Literary fiction for example. Smart political books that don' rely on snarky titles to make a point. Poetry. Literature in translation. First time novelists in any genre.

We ALREADY brand by publisher within the industry in case you haven't noticed. Any reputable agent can tell you what an FSG book is like, what a Picador book is like, and what a Judith Regan book is like. Consumers may not do that yet.... but they will.

The good news is that this means that publishing as we know it will not disappear in a sea of self published POD trash heaps. The only way someone is going to thumb YES consistently enough to make this process work is if they get books they like to read. Maybe not "good books" in the pretentious New York look down our noses at the stuff that sells definition of good ... but "good" in the sense of exactly what the LitBlog Coop is struggling to define right now. One of my authors described it thus: a good book that keeps you engaged and when you're done you throw it over the back fence to the neighbor.

The world is changing and we're gonna be standing in here with our dicks in our hands wondering what the hell just hit us if we don't plan for this coming wave.

Surf's up snarklings!

Take THAT Mr McSweegee

....er I mean McSweeney.

Dave Eggars is all over the blogosphere with his comments about snarkiness being akin to pissing into the pond of publishing. (Miss Snark is not taking this personally...yet)

Fortunately a better man than I, James Atlas, has already dealt effectively with that kind of crap.

From The Atlantic's Fiction Issue:

"Imbued with the righteous moral fervor of a revolutionary, the negativist -to introduce a new literary type- is more pesuasive than the encomiast, who tends to resort to the bland formulaic language of praise. There is an urgency about the eloquent negative review, a prosecutorial zeal..."

and closing with
"Good manners are the sign of a dull literary era."

And this was written in 1981.

I cough up my cash for this at St Marks Bookshop, a wonderful place to while away the hours on a rainy day. If you stand by the lit magazine section, you can overhear the most amazing conversations.

7.07.2005

Full Disclosure....naked snarkieness

ArtsJournal.com carries a link from The Guardian
today for an article about Foetry.com.

We'll cut them some slack for being late to the party, the Foetry.com scandal is
really old news, but this reminds me of some things I've been thinking about
concerning this emphasis on "full disclosure".

First, is the fact that Foetry blogger Alan Cordle is married to a poet relevant to the work he did exposing the cozy set up of poetry contests? What's the difference between someone outing Alan Cordle as the cloaked Foetry blogger and Cordle's outing of Jorie Graham's connection to the winners of contests she judged?

Akin to this is
Quinn Dalton
writing at Media Bistro about anonymous reviewers.
She's unhappy with the Kirkus review of Bulletproof Girl and would like to know who wrote it so she can see if the reviewer had some sort of agenda. (Thanks to Jessa for the link)

Hard on the heels of all this is
Scott Cantrell writing in the Dallas Morning News about classical music composers sorted out by their sexual preference.

All this leads to the big question: what do we need to know about the people who write the stories, the news, or create the art?

Does it make a difference to know Leonard Bernstein was gay to appreciate his music?
Does it make a difference to know who wrote a Kirkus review?
Does it make a difference to know Jorie Graham was involved with (and later married) one of the poets she selected for a poetry contest prize?

My answers: no, sort of, yes.

The fact that Leonard Bernstein was gay, straight, or a closet Republican doesn't matter to me. I love his work and I respect his contribution to the field. Same goes for Wagner, whom many people still cannot forgive for being a favorite of Hitler, even though Wagner was long
dead when Hitler rose to power. West Side Story and Parsifal are works of art apart from their
creator and can be judged or appreciated on their own merits. Wagner being an anti Semite or Bernstein being gay doesn't change a single note of their work.


The reviews in Kirkus are written not for readers to make up their mind about whether to buy or read a book but to influence booksellers. There's a chance of economic damage to an author if a review is negative. That being said, Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly are professional companies and their own reputations depend on being seen as fair-minded. The current set up means it's a Kirkus review, not an individual review.

Kirkus has no vested interest in the success or failure of Bulletproof Girl or any other book. Their vested interest is in writing reviews that help booksellers.

If Quinn Dalton thinks her negative review was unjustified, she should make a hundred copies and send it to every book reviewer in the United States and say "Kirkus if full of crap and I bet you'll see why when you read the book". I haven't made a study of the good or bad reviews in Kirkus or PW to see if either of them have a slant. If Quinn Dalton wants me to take up her battle she better have more ammunition than "this is a bad review I don't deserve". I work with musicians and writers on a daily basis and trust me (ha!) none of them think they are deserving of a bad review.

Jorie Graham giving a poetry prize to a poet she's romantically involved with, and then apparently lying about it, is just ugly. Contest judges are presumed to be distant from the competitors. You can't even enter a random drawing on Cocoa Puffs Prize giveaways if you work for the Cocoa Puffs people, or the media company handling the contest. Should poetry hold itself to a lower standard than cereal?

Poetry contests have a HUGE vested interest in attracting lots of entries and a big name judge: it's how they earn their money.

What makes the outing of Foetry blogger Alan Cordle so noxious is that it's clear to me anyway that people tried to use that to discredit him. Yes, some of his claims of collusion were reminiscent of conspiracy theorists, but he also pointed out some very clear violations of any objective standards in several high profile poetry contests.

Disclosure for the sake of revealing skullduggery even if inadvertent, and disclosure for the sake of trying to silence or embarrass someone are two really different things: like the difference between art and pornography -- hard to define, but I know it when I see it.

7.06.2005

Criminal "agent"

About once a year there's a story about someone who's indicted
for bilking hapless would be writers from their hard earned
money. Courtesy of Michael Cader here's the link to the one
for this summer.
Albany Times Union


Now, if you google "Kelly O'Donnell" literary agent, the first
six listings are some form of "she's a fraud".

She charged money up front.
Her books don't appear on Amazon.

What the fuck MORE would anyone need before it might dawn
on them that this woman, in her schizo disguise of agent and
publisher is a FRAUD??

The Times Union story quotes some poor soul on a limited
income who cut back on buying food so she could pay this
woman. Ok, there's a special place in hell reserved
for those scam artists, but really now.....that is just
clueless with a capital C.

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit is a wonderful collection of essays
by Lawrence Block about writing mysteries.

The phrase sprang to mind in an entirely different context when
I read the comments on my previous post about the
"vitamin salesman" who claims he can cure cancer.

He self published that book so there was no editor looking
over the manuscript for ... to put it charitably ... wild ass claims.

But, there are other books categorized as non fiction
and published by major publishers that have wild ass claims
as well.

Edward Klein's diatribe about Hillary Clinton leaps to mind.
And James Frey's Million Little Pieces.

I haven't read Klein, and don't intend to.
I did read James Frey's book and found myself wondering-
did anyone check up on this?
It's a memoir, and truth is stranger than fiction, and maybe
I'm too much a cynic but there are some parts of that
book that made me wish he'd published it in the New Yorker.
The New Yorker has a fact checking department that is
pretty much legendary.

I've sold non fiction and no one has ever asked me if I verified
anything. No author has ever been asked for proof of some
of the stories.

Maybe I'm not selling wild ass non fiction (that's probably true),
but should fact checking only come into play when there are
wild ass claims?

With the advent of the internet anyone can claim to be anybody.
It's clear people will write just about anything to sell a book
(Ann Coulter springs to mind).

We're about ready to indulge in a lot of talk about the checks
and balances in the government and the role of the judiciary
with the resignation of Justice O'Connor.

Who's checking us?

7.05.2005

This guy gives Snake Oil Salespeople a bad name

Courtesy of my expensively indispensable hard copy
subscription to PW comes the news of Kevin Trudeau's
"bestseller" Natural Cures They Don't Want You To Know
About.

The PW article leads with "it's not hard to see why (his)
self published (book) has hit the PW bestseller list
at #13..."

The guy ran a $500,000 per week infomercial campaign
for the book.

Sadly, Miss Snark missed seeing this infomercial
with her own four eyes, so if she's wrong about these details,
one of my beloved Snarklings must write in with the correct
info.

Here's the deal:

The list price of this book is $27.00 hardcover
Figure at BEST, he collects half the cover price
He's sold 1.5 million copies since last September
according to his publicist.

That sounds like a tidy little sum of ...-hum of
Miss Snark's inner abacus- about $20 million.

But $500,000 a week since last September is
38 weeks or 17 million dollars.

That leaves three million dollars at BEST
for 1.5 million copies sold.

Three million dollars sounds like a lot of money
doesn't it?

Too bad his settlement with the Federal Trade
Commission for claiming his supplement cures
cancer was two million.

Down to one million.

And the only things the FTC allows him to hawk
on TV now are books...not supplements.

Surprise, surprise, he writes a book.
And pays through the nose to get the word out.
Even though it probably is a break-even venture.

He makes his money on supplements and his
pay per view website. Two billion dollar global
empire according to PW.

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.
It's a free country ... you can buy what you want
I guess.
But it makes me sad to see books reduced
to the consolation prize in an FTC settlement,
and a loss leader product for a guy who
clearly has PT Barnum as his role model.

I hope he loses his shirt.
I'm not snarky enough to wish him a disease that
he claims to cure so he can feel the desperation
that drives people to believe these charlatans.

7.04.2005

Yes!! The BookSlut says it best

My introduction to blogging was Jessa at Bookslut.
I think she's just great.

Her latest More Brawling, Less Bawling

is right on.

Thanks to Bookslut for the link.

Ready for my close up!!

Miss Snark envisions herself in print.


The Friday Project

but Miss Snark also envisions herself winning the lottery,
dating George Clooney AND Brad Pitt
and becomng the next
PatWalsh.


Thanks toInside of a Dog for the Pat Walsh info. (woof!)

How much?

Culled from The Slush Pile that Ate Cleveland:

"I am seeking representation for....yadda yadda yadda
...a 365 page (single spaced)..."

Holy Verbosity, Batman!

First. it's word count that matters. In fact, it's pretty
much ALL that matters unless you are working in the
graphic novel format.

Second. don't ever, and I mean EVER send an agent
a manuscript that is single spaced.

One of two things will happen if you do:
1. You'll get an automatic rejection letter that might even say your
work was read carefully. It wasn't. It was discarded unread.
It's simply physically impossible to read single spaced text...so
we don't.

2. You'll get an automatic rejection letter that says "this
is not quite right for us" because we're not sure
exactly what it is, but we know we don't want to
read it.

Word count.
Not page count.
No single spacing.

Don't get whistled out of the game on fouls before you
have a chance to show off your best moves.

Toxic combo...medical school and novel writing.

Another piece of flotsam on the incoming tide today:

"Dear Miss Snark:
I'm a fourth year medial student at (deleted to protect
this numbskull from hordes of angry patients) with
a degree in Psychology from Fancypants U. I spent my
first three years of medical school writing a novel entitled
(redacted). I'd like to ask you to read it and decide
if you would be interested in representing my book
to publishers."

About as much as I want to have you treat me for
anything more than the common cold....

Look, I went to graduate school. I counted myself
lucky to READ a novel when I was studying let alone
write one.

Bottom line: maybe you are a freak of nature and can
write a good novel while you memorize bones of the feet.
But it requires a huge leap of faith for me to think so...and
Miss Snark's leaping days are pretty much confined to
the tenth day of Christmas with the lords while the
nine ladies dance.

You can screw up a million ways to Sunday in a query letter.
Try to improve your odds by leading with what makes this
novel interesting. Try NOT to shoot yourself in the foot in the
first paragraph. If however, you do inflict such an injury
I really hope you were paying attention that day in
medical school instead of working on your dialogue and
character development.

Yet Another Winner in the Query Letter Contest

Oh ye gentle querywarts who love to write Miss Snark about
your novels.

Try not to sound witless in the query letter.
It's a bad bad thing when after one sentence I want
to wad up the paper, and your SASE (with a kitten stamp
no less) and grind it to the floor under my hobnailed boot.

(Miss Snark does not actually wear hobnailed boots,
but she keeps one on her desk for these emergencies.
Miss Snark wears bunny slippers to work).

Here is the latest example:

"Dear Miss Snark:
My name is Felix Buttonweazer."

This is NOT an AA meeting.
This is NOT a debutante ball.
This is NOT the red carpet leading to
the Oscars.
You do not need to announce your presence.

I know who you are Felix...you (one prays to god)
have typed your name at the bottom of the letter.

A query letter of one page is about 250 words.
Why are you wasting them telling me something
I both can easily figure out and don't need to know?

That first sentence is important. Try not to waste it.

Now, if you need help with GREAT opening sentences,
go read Edna Buchanan. That lady knows how to
grab you good.

Yes, Miss Snark has a little addiction problem

I confess it.
I'm addicted to books.
Nice ones.
Hardcover ones.
NEW hardcover ones.
I love the smell of them, the feel of them,
the taste...oh wait, never mind...TMI.

Having this addiction can be expensive.
However, Miss Snark has fallen upon the
secret of booklovers, particularly lovers
of fiction, here in New York City.

The Mercantile Library

For a mere pittance of a membership fee you
belong to a library that has all the delicious
new hardcover books you want.

And if you want something they don't have,
they will buy it for you. Honest. Amazing huh.

The Merc is how I indulge my dedication to
hardcover mysteries. As a toilier in the lilyfield
of publishing, I'm frequently paid in
bee spit, rather than hard currency.

The Merc makes it possible to be a
productive member of society while
remaining a full fledged book addict.


And get your hands off that new Walter Mosley.
That's MINE!

Pay attention damnit!

After slogging about in the muck of manuscripts, I treated
myself to an Edna Buchanan novel. I heard her talk
at BEA and I'd read her Brit Montero novels and
thought the new series Cold Case Squad would be
a good beach read.

Well, yes, it is. Edna Buchanan is a damn good writer.

So, if she's such a damn good writer, how come she's
repeating her jokes? To wit: "he died hungry". She used
it in The Corpse Had A Familiar Face and she uses it here
as the closing line in a scene. It was funny the first
time, and it's funny now..but did she think we wouldn't
notice?

Or, is it ok to repeat jokes like that? I guess I could be
persuaded. It's not like she's screwing up back story
a la Robert Parker's Spenser series when it's REAL clear
that he's forgotten what he wrote in the first books.

But, I did notice. And anyone who's read both books
will notice. Will it stop me from reading her books?
Heavens no. I think she's really fun to read.


So, Miss B, if you repeated it cause you'd forgotten you'd
written it once before, go read the book.
It's good stuff.

And if you recycled it cause you thought we'd never
notice...we did.

Miss Snark confesses she is ..yes...compulsive

Miss Snark has survived another four day weekend.
While others on the jitney were loaded down with
trashy romance novels (buy more! buy more!
Miss Snark encouraged) or some weighty "look how
smart I am" tome, Miss Snark was hauling
manuscripts.

No need for strength conditioning when you
are an agent. Lifting the daily submission pile
counts for abs, pecs and thighs. That is what
Miss Snark tells those pushy lads at NYSC
and she's sticking to it.

In all three manuscripts Miss Snark was really
really REALLY annoyed to find spelling errors,
format errors, blank pages, missing pages and
general all around slacker pages.

So, you might ask, what's the big fucking deal Snark Breath?
It's not like this is the final version heading to the printers.
You know it's "safe deposit box" and so would a copy editor.
If I write "safety deposit box" you KNOW what I mean, and
so does any editor. Why are your panties in a wad?

Ah, dear prospective client, let me tell you why.

It shows you care about your work.
It's like brushing your teeth before a date,
and polishing your shoes before a job interview.

Now, hard as this may be to believe, Miss Snark
is obsessive/compulsive/anal and persnickety.
In fact, Miss Snark's mother's maiden name
was Persnickety, so it's bred in the bone.

Being the current embodiment of the Persnickety line,
Miss Snark's attention leaps to all errors in manuscripts.

This is NOT a good thing if you are trying to enfold me in a story.
If your heroine is engaging in a mad passionate love affair
with a porcupine, and you spell it porkypine, trust me,
the mood has been broken.

It's like being able to see a ballerina sweat.....it's really
hard to appreciate the grace when you see the effort.

Good spelling, good formatting is the ballet equivalent
of making it look effortless.


Read it more than once. Have someone with an eagle eye
read it more than once. Pay for that if you have to.


All we see is what you write.
Tie your shoes.
Brush your teeth.
And for gawdsake, back to the barre!