7.29.2005

Miss Snark retires to the speakeasy for the weekend

Dearest Snarkings,
Miss Snark is slinking off to the speakeasy for her weekly pail of gin and game of cutthroat Go Fish. She'll be back when you least expect it.

Have a great weekend.

Read good books!

Herewith:

What Is Life Worth, Kenneth R Feinberg (Public Affairs)
Saints at the River, Ron Rash (Picador)
Last Night, James Salter (Doubleday)

Anything by Barry Eisler, Alan Furst and Charlie Huston.

The Myron Bolitar books by Harlen Coben

Bleak House, Dickens. Aloud. Trust me.

None of these (sadly) are in the Snark Corral.
I can tout with a clear conscience!!

Vid Lit!! I TOLD you so!!!

From Publishers Lunch, the source of many a mid day snack comes this:

Lexington's newspaper reports: "In addition to hardback and paperback copies of books on The New York Times' best seller list, the store at Blue Grass Airport will have a children's section; an online station allowing people to log onto The New York Times Web site; a plasma screen television running programming from the Discovery Times Channel,...


book-related videos, !!!!!!!!

and news and documentaries produced by The New York Times; and New York Times souvenirs and gifts. Of course, the newspaper itself will be for sale there."


Some posts back we had a peek at MJ Rose's new vid lit for her new book. I'm too lazy to go look up the link right now, but it's there under The Wave of the Future.

And yes Snarklings, right there in Lexington Kentucky is one of the first places I've heard of that's going to be running "book related videos"..

Perfect for airport stores.

I knew this would be big.

Anyone who actually sees this new store, I'd love to hear from you.

And now, back to actually working....sooooo tedious.

"Is it Crap?" part three

Another brave Snarkling inserts his artful self into the Crap Detector here at Snark Central.

The sky is that magnificent blue which comes only with the advent of hard frosts and clear October air. She could see it through the windows all around her. She could see orange and red leaves dropping from big trees growing near the house, watching them fall against that blue background.

Looking over at him as he dozed softly, she could not remember if she had ever made love in the afternoon, in a room surrounded by windows with the shades up. Surely she must have, in some far away time when she was younger, surely there was a time when it did not matter if the sun was down, or the curtains pulled tight, or the door locked against the intrusion of friendly neighbors and children. But, right now, she could not remember such a time.

All she could remember, now, was the soft touch of his hands, the intensity of his eyes as his fingers traced the outlines of her body, pausing here and there in response to her trembling . The reverence in his eyes held her attention, making her forget everything that would normally make her nervous. The absolute adoration of her, and her body, on his face, in his touch, in his whole being, held her thoughts captive and took her away from this sunlit room.

She could not remember anyone ever doing that before. It must have happened, must have happened more than once, but she could not recall, could not remember anything like this. She reached out and gently touched the skin on his back. He stirred and she pulled away, not wishing to disturb him. She felt a tear work its way from the corner of her eye. She wondered if it was sadness that her life had gone so long without this kind of love, or happiness that she had found it at last, here in this sunny room with leaves falling against the blue October sky.


It's not crap.
I'd read on.

7.28.2005

C-Rap Rations for the Hippest of Snarklings Part 2



"Aren't you Rube, the Grim Reaper in Dead Like Me?

As he turned to look at me, an expression of amusement spread over his face like a wave of sunshine over a cloudy field. "I'm not a grim reaper in real life," he mimicked "but I do play one on TV!"


Your description slows down the narrative. Unless his expression of amusement does something to further the story, I'd take it out.

I was stuck in a hotel elevator with the actor Mandy Patinkin. I didn't recognize him until the elevator jerked to a stop between the eleventh and twelfth floors. It was just the two of us: me, a 20-something single woman having one of the best-hair days of my life and wearing my skinniest jeans, and the guy who, upon closer examination, played Rube in Dead Like Me.


Unneeded exposition. We get the elevator part from the next sentence.

"I'll bet you get asked that a lot, huh"

"Not really. Usually they ask if I'm Dr.Geiger, or sometimes they recognize me from Yentl. But you're the first person who's ever asked me if I was the Grim Reaper."

"Did it make your day?"

"Yes it did." His laugh, by the way, is charming.


Here's one of my biggest snarlie points. You've got us in the elevator with Mandy and the skinny jeans girl We're hanging on to every word to find out what happens. Then, you break our concentration by essentially turning to the audience and commenting on what's going on "his laugh by the way is charming"
"His laugh was charming" doesn't break the narrative line.

We stood there, he on his side of the elevator and me on mine, smiling and waiting and feeling rather awkward if truth be told. I noticed that he wasn't wearing any shoes or socks. He was wearing a two-piece suit, with the shirt pulled out, but no shoes. I wondered if he had been locked out of his room. I wondered if he was even staying at this hotel. Maybe he was having an affair with a woman who was staying here and her husband walked in on them. Then he left in such a hurry that he forgot his socks and shoes. Oh, Lord, the silence was beginning to feel even more claustrophobic than the elevator. At least Mandy Patinkin's feet didn't smell.


"If truth be told"is the same concentration breaker. Leave out "I noticed"cause we're pretty sure you aren't strip searching him. It also shortens the sentence and gives it more dynamic Ooomph.

"Who's Dr. Geiger?"


I'd read on if only to find out if Mandy Patinkin goes berserk in the elevator.

C-Rap Rations for the Hippest of Snarklings..part 1

One very very brave Snarkling has sent her page to the "is it crap" meter here at SnarkCity. (Miss Snark admires that kind of bravery)


The fresh smell of damp earth caressed Kariba's nose as she stood at the edge of her father's vineyard. The rain had come unexpectedly in the middle of the day -good news for the grapes, but bad news for a restless girl who had been trapped in the house during the best part of the afternoon.


1. fresh smell of damp earth ..caresses? Miss Snark prefers to not kiss or hug the dirt. Not every smell needs an adjective.

2. "had come" "who had been"...AGGGGGGGGG. This is one of Miss Snark's most common complaints: double verbing.
Any time you see "was" "had" "were" with another verb you can probably remove it and spiff up your writing 100%.
as in: "came" and "bad news for a restless girl trapped in the house during the best part of the afternoon."

We KNOW she's not in the house now so you don't have to spell out the past tense. Readers will make intuitive leaps with you.

One of the biggest problems I see is writers who think they are filling out police reports and have to include every fact, every look, every causal link.


Kariba reached toward the nearest vine and plucked a single, deep purple grape. Popping it into her mouth with the nonchalance of a seasoned vintner, she chewed -and grimaced. The grape wasn't quite ready for picking. She would have to wait a few more weeks until the harvest, when she would get her fill of all the sweet grapes that bounced out of the baskets and onto the soft grass. "Gleaning the grapes" she called it.



1. The first sentence can be shortened to "Kariba plucked a single deep purple grape". The rythm of your sentences is almost as important as the actual words. Shorter sentences at the start, building to a longer one in the middle, falling off to shorter ones. Not an ironclad rule, but good form to practice before you do something else.

2. Popping it into her mouth with the nonchalance of a seasoned vintner she chewed and grimaced.

again, over writing. Once she plucks the grape, she can pop it and grimace. We don't need the chew. Cutting down on the extraneous stuff keeps the energy of your writing from dissipating over too much text.



Kariba's father, Quillius Korfarb, owned the finest winery in Bajornia, as had his father before him. His wines were prized throughout the land, and even traders from beyond the Southern Ice Field were known to fill their holds with the fruits of Korfarb Vineyards. Kariba thought wine was horrible, and she wished they could use the grapes to make raisins or delicious jams instead. Still, at twelve years of age, she was old enough to understand that there was more money to be made in a winery than in a fruit stand -and to be perfectly honest, she was proud of her father and his fine reputation.


3. forgive me dear snarkling but..blah blah blah. This is both backstory and tedious. You've got us in the grapes, caressing the dirt. Let's see some action.


"Stealing Father's grapes again, Little Kiba?" Her older brother appeared from behind, on his way to the house after his day's work.

"I'm not so little, Quantuck," Kariba replied. "It only seems that way to you because you're so tall."

Quantuck laughed, a rich, cheerful sound without malice. "Were I a full half-length shorter, you would still be as small as a woodland sprite."


Aha! Here is where your story actually begins. Action, some conflict and a brother who should probably be doing something other than teasing his sister. Although if it were Miss Snark's brother, she would have said "blow it out your ear bucko".

Ok, in conclusion. This doesn't pass my threshold. I would say no, it's not quite right for us. There's nothing here that captures my attention, makes me want to read on.

For a really good look at more on this topic take a look at
A Literary Agent Reads The Reviews by Nat Sobel. It's a pdf download.

And oh Brave Snarkling Writer, I hope this is of help.

Epublishing in general

Chryscat said:
I would like to know what Miss Snark thinks about epublishing in general. Good? Bad? Indifferent?

(as though Miss Snark has ever been indifferent about anything!!!)

and then Ellen chimed in:

I'd like to know that myself, Chryscat, since I've been writing for epubs for almost two years now. My impression is that some NY editors and agents consider e-publishing a serious credit and some don't (at least in romance, which is what I write), but I'd like to know what Miss Snark thinks on the subject.

Miss Snark LOVES her blog. That's epublishing.
Miss Snark LOVES ArtsJournal.com AND DailyCandy.com. That's epublishing.

So, if you mean, the communication that happens electronically like blogs, newsletters, and discussion boards, Miss Snark puts down her martini glass and rises to cheer.

However, if you mean electronic publishing such as publishing novels on the web, stories on the web and worse, poems, Miss Snark sits back down and asks for another martini .. a double.

Let's start with whether I consider it a serious publishing credit. No.
Let's finish with whether anyone in trade publishing considers it serious work. No.

And it's not the format. It's the problem, to be blunt, of standards.
Anyone can do it. There's no editor looking for good writing, no copy editor checking spelling, no fact checker doublechecking it's Miss Snark not Miss Snarque.

It makes you feel like you've done something, but it's a bit like a juicy Big Mac. It fills you up but there's not a lot of nutrition provided to your writing portfolio.

Plus, from what I've seen, the pay sux. And Miss Snark for all her delicate ways, does like to gnaw on a soupbone and swill a pail of gin pretty regularly. Hard to do that if you're not getting paid.

It's hobby publishing. LIke playing with a garage band that never practices and only gets gigs at Mom's bridge club parties. Sure you're playing...but it's bush league.

"It's not right for us"

Ah yes, the catch all phrase.
Miss Snark uses a variation of this.
If you apply gin to the paper, the invisible writing comes through. It says "this is the suckiest thing in my slush pile since Paris Hilton's novel"

Let's look at some numbers: 85% of the material I get is unpublishable. That's a LOT of crap in the slush pile. Is yours crap? I don't know. Email me the first page and I'll tell you. (IMPORTANT UPDATE)....email the page AND let me know it's ok to publish it on the blog.
I'll leave your name off, but Im not doing one on one private audiences.

Of the remaining 15% a hefty dose are in areas I don't represent or feature themes I think are repulsive. So "not right for me" in this case means, I can't stand it but someone else might.

And sometimes "not right for me" means I'm too lazy to say anything else. It's a form letter.

As a writer approaching agents you must walk with the grace of a ballerina and have the skin of a rhino.

Like Kremlinologists of old, writers try to deconstruct the meaning of every word, comma and lipstick smear on correspondence. Stop it.

Don't look at what people say but how often you hear it. If you send 100 query letters and get back NOTHING helpful, it IS you. You need some outside assistance.

If you're getting back dribs and drabs of helpfulness, pay attention to that.
If you're getting back letters that say "not this but keep me in mind for other things" pay close attention. Miss Snark NEVER fucks around with that phrase. When you hear that, it's real.

August doldrums

From the comment corner comes:

Quick question, if you're still taking them: is it worth submitting anything to anyone in the industry at the moment, or is it better to wait until September? Do agents and editors give even less attention to individual submissions when trying to sift through the massive piles that acrued while they were on vacation, or is it more or less the same process for them year-round?

August does slow down. Even Miss Snark will be slinking off to her beach chair for a week. However, you can make yourself crazy trying to time a submission. Avoid this.
When it's ready, send it.
Good writing, like cream, rises to the top of the pail.

Miss Snark on the other hand, does dance around with timing. If I have a project that I think is going to go to auction,
or one in which there will be SERIOUS money, I wait till everyone is not on the Cote d'Azure. But, that doesn't mean I'm not trolling my transom pile for that project every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

You send, let Miss Snark consult the tea leaves of timing.

As for what editors do, I don't know. You might ask Agent 007. I never send anything to an editor without a phone conversation, their express desire to see it and an idea of a deadline for consideration.

Platypus platform platitudes

From the comment corner comes:

So Miss Snark drinks the platform Koolaid?
I understand it, but it's sad.
I pitched a project that an agent said was wonderful--walking on water and tripping over only the highest waves--but no go because, although I had the necessary professional credentials to write it, I wasn't also famous. A functionally illiterate but notorious person had a better chance to publish than a great writer.



Hey, don't blame me for this one. I think it stinks. But my job is to support Granny Snark by earning money not conjugate Latin verbs on the subways for your personal entertainment.

To wit, if the editors want platform, Miss Snark is in no position to tell them to fly a kite. Would that she could.

I've been in pitch meetings recently where the amount of speaking fees and the number of speaking engagements in a year were considered polite questions.

I've had phone conversations with editors who ask if a client is tv-genic.

Editors tell ME they are forced into this because of the pr and marketing people. Like string theory it sounds good and seems like an interesting explanation for chaos, but Miss Snark failed Physics and thus doesn't know the answer to the question.

The interesting thing about platform is a lot of people who've got a lot of it, ie professionnal speakers, publish their books on their own so they can keep the lion's share of the proceeds from back of the room sales.

Don't confuse notorious with platform. Martha Stewart has platform cause she has a magazine and a tv show NOT cause she went to the hoosegow.

Ron Hogan has platform to die for with his blog. The number of people who read that every day and see just very casual mentions of his upcoming book make a marketing director squeal. Ron's a good writer too of course, and he didn't start the blog to make himself famous but it was one of the things that made it easier to say yes to him than yes to someone with a Ph.D in stewerdesses.

7.27.2005

Questions from the Snarklings!!

Rene asked:

Agent 007 also warned bloggers about posting their rejection travails on their blogs, but would you bother reading a writer's blog?


No one has ever mentioned his/her blog in their query letter to me. I don't take e-queries so I don't see electronic signatures that might show them. I skim a fair number of blogs, but Im devoted only to about ten of them.


If an agent has had my requested full manuscript for 8 months, is that too long and should I start being proactive?


yes


Why do agents have blanket "exclusive" policies on requested manuscripts?


they do? I don't. From the comments on the post on exclusivity below (it might be archived now) several other agents don't. Most of my colleagues don't.


Umm, what is a pre-emptive?


If something is sold on "a preempt" it means the acquiring editor coughed up enough money to keep everyone else out of the game.

And the man with the Husky and a yen for Miss Snark's poodle asks:

I'm the same one who wants to know whether reputable agents send contracts immediately (at 007) and the one whose Siberian husky has a playdate with your poodle. :-)


well, let's define immediately.
Before you send the query? No
After you send the $180 for a manuscript review? No.

Before you've had a chance to ask a single question?
Or before s/he's asked YOU a single question? No and really no.

If I find something I like I jump on it with all eight feet (my four and of course the poodle's).
I'd much rather be selling your work than gazing into my crystal ball trying to find this week's lottery numbers.

That said, I've also made people jump through fences and over hoops to get stuff ready before I coughed up an offer. Mostly though if it's good, I jump. 30 days isn't uncommon.

Miss Snark turns Green...

with envy. While she's been over here snarking about, Agent 007 has been getting some GREAT questions from writers.

I like the one "do you google" prospective authors.
Yes. If they tell me they've written something I always google.
That's how you find out they meant they printed something up at iUniverse.

If someone is coming in with major nonfiction and needs platform credibility, you bet.

A recent query brought a proposal to write about television shows. The author proposed to interview the stars of shows like Happy Days. Knowing Richie Cunningham and the Fonz doesn't exactly hang out at Starbucks on 59th Street, I asked how he proposed to reach all these people. He sent me a copy of the letter he'd sent to about 50 people. It started out "hi, how are you? I am fine.". I realized this author was still in high school. I think he was all of 17.
The amazing thing was...he'd gotten replies. I guess tv stars are nicer than literary agents.

Pay to Play

From Ellen Fisher in the comment column a few posts back comes this:

BTW, I had a small publisher try a similar thing on me once. They rejected my manuscript, but they were willing to tell me what was wrong with the manuscript-- for a mere $180, I think it was. They'd be willing to look at the manuscript again only if I paid them for a critique. Needless to say, I marked that publisher off my list very quickly:-).


Exactly the right choice.
In case anyone is unclear about this; NEVER EVER under any circumstances EVER
send money to an agent. They pay you. You don't pay them.

If they get paid for expenses it's AFTER a book has sold and money accrued.

If they want money upfront for expenses, it's a huge red flag.

If you want to find out what is wrong with your manuscript join a writing group, go to a writing conference or find an honest friend.

Publishers who have all sorts of sideline businesses in critiqueing, marketing, and small animal talent agencies aren't making enough money in publishing to support themselves.
That bodes ill for money available for sales, pr, marketing and royalties.


.

So, who's making money here?

PW Daily reports that Amazon's 1.5 million advance orders for Mr. Potter was a break even venture.

PW is a a subscription site but here's the first paragraph.


Despite receiving 1.5 million advance orders for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Amazon only broke even on the title, the result of deep discounting and shipping incentives, company executives said yesterday in a conference call discussing second quarter results. Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos said the Half-Blood event was a "fantastic opportunity" for Amazon to show kids and their parents how easy it is to use the e-retailer. Amazon shipped Half-Blood to 165 countries.


Right Jeff...like any kid past kindergarten doesn't know how to use click and drag.

And then, without any hint of irony the article goes on to say there was no bump in other products in the second quarter either.

So, Amazon is doing a loss leader on HP and not seeing a bump in other products. Jeff Bezos is a smart guy but I guess Im missing out on where he's earning any money here.

Authors make hardly any money on sales through WalMart and the big box stores like Costco. Amazon isn't making money on the huge volume of sales.

Are the only people who make serious money in publishing the printers and UPS?

JK Rowling is now richer than the Queen of England. Maybe she should teach Jeff Bezos how to write novels.

The difference between scam and slime

From the comments portion of the blog comes this thought on an agency that sells an 80 page PDF download for $24.95 on the agency webite:



It is overpriced. At the same time, based on the sample at his web site, it might be well worth reading for many wannabe writers. They're clueless and prone to fall for scams anyway. The $24.95 they give (redacted agent's name) might teach them something. A reading fee paid to a scammy "agent" will be completely wasted.



What I want to make clear is I think it's the sales vehicle that is slimey, not the product. I also think if someone wants to provide useful information to "give back to the community" (a phrase Miss Snark hates with all her snarky soul) a less suspect vehicle might be the website with free access.

By offering to sell information via rejection letter or in download format on a website, the agent is in fact taking advantage of a writer's lack of knowledge. Caveat Emptor when you shop on ebay or at the knockoff artist's tables on Canal Street but agents are not flim flam artists and we shouldn't behave as such.

As a profession, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than "well, it might help someone who doesn't know any better". To take advantage of people because we can and because they don't know any better is and remains slime.

7.26.2005

Writing Conference Roulette

A plaintive call from the comment gallery: "tell us three writing conferences that are Snark worthy"

While Miss Snark likes thinking of herself as a cross between the oracle of Delphi and the Wizard of Oz, the grim reality is she neither speaks Greek nor hails from Kansas. That said, she relishes hurling her opinion bolts from the Olympian heights of her balcony on Flyover Street.

Thus:
Miss Snark's idea of a GREAT writing conference is one that does not require her to leave the boro, drinks are free and served by Ewan McGregor (oiled), and is also being attended by three executive editors with sudden holes in their winter list and money to burn.

None of these things should be anywhere near YOUR list, beloved Snarklings.

To figure out what is best for you herewith four statements of purpose:

1. Meet an agent or editor to pitch your FINISHED novel or proposal

2. Learn more about the arcane ways of the publishing industry

3. Meet agents /editors/other writers who will be helpful to you when your book is finished

4. Learn how to be a better writer or to get some help for your novel

Prioritize those statements
If 1 or 2 is the highest priority, here's my advice:

1. Pick a conference with agents and editors as the attraction, not a big name author.

2. Look for conferences attended by agents who run their own small or boutique agencies. They are the decision makers and usually they are looking for clients if they are at a conference. Assistant agents at ICM are usually NOT decision makers.

3. Go to every panel you can. Sit in the front row. Take notes.

4. Don't spend more than $500 including travel. Less is better.

5. Stay at the conference hotel. Leave your spouse and kidlets at home to fend for themselves.

6. Sign up for as many pitch meetings as you can afford (keeping the $500 limit in mind).

7. Take your laptop and spend the first night of the conference googling every agent who's there.




If your priority order is 4 on top and 1 on the bottom

1. Look for a writing conference that has writing workshops and lots of authors. Not necc. BIG name authors. That can be like getting beauty tips from Miss America ...those girls operate in a whole different league from those of us shopping at Sephora.

2. Look for a conference with writers of books you enjoy reading. If you don't recognize an author's name, google them, and read their latest books. Often times the big names are NOT the best teachers.

3. Sign up early. Preferences can be given in registration order.

4. Don't spend more than $500 including travel. Don't buy any books at the conference. They charge full retail on most of them and you can get them at the library mostly.

5. Take your laptop AND a printer. Plan to write and revise while you are there.

6. Stay at the conference hotel.

7. Meet other writers. Let the blowhards talk. The real writers are soaking it all in and putting it back out on the page.

If your top priority is 3, don't go. Go to free events like readings or book fairs.



For everyone, whatever priority is first:

8. Treat this like work. Fun is fun, but plan to get your money's worth. Use your free time to work, not fuck around, unless your goal is being on Page Six with Miss Snark.

9. Do not plan to accost or befriend an agent in the bar. While Miss Snark has funded entire college educations for bartenders with her tips, she's never once not EVER signed anyone in a bar or remembered anyone after a social conversation. Miss Snark remembers your work, even if you are funny and buying the drinks. She will REALLY not sign you if you ever produce video showing both her dress and syntax askew at the end of the night.

10. Never ever NEVER pitch unless an agent asks "what is your novel about". Some time back Miss Snark received an enthused call from a potential client. This author was so excited! because! her! husband! met! an! editor!!! on! the! train! into! town! from! the! airport.!!! The editor wanted to see her work!!! The editor however, sadly, worked in a house that only accepted agented work. (insert sound of CLUE GONG ringing here). Thus, the opportunity of a lifetime for Miss Snark: a deal right here in the offing and no work involved.

Miss Snark discreetly muted the phone while she guffawed. But lighting CAN strike, and not foolish enough to miss a chance if it drops in her lap, Miss Snark said, send the ms, I'll take it over to 666 Publishing.

The ms came. Miss Snark ripped the package open with her pointy little fangs. It was not the worst thing Miss Snark has ever read, but it was in the bottom 10.

Needless to say, the editor passed, Miss Snark passed and that poor author still doesn't know why.

Here's why: editors AND agents, but mostly editors have a hard time saying no to your face. That doesn't mean they are going to buy your project. It means they are going to have you send it and then send you a rejection letter. That seems like a waste of time and money you might think. Well, yes, but it's YOUR time and money, not theirs. Like most of us, editors will take the easy way out to avoid saying no to someone while sitting across from them in a bar, on a train, in an elevator or god forbid, at breakfast before 9am.

For any person who tells you they pitched successfully in any of those places, the next question to ask is "did the editor or agent take it on?" I'll bet my bottom dollar the answer is no.

Writing conferences can be useful. Serendipity can play a part. Just remember to ask direct questions politely, and remember everything you hear including Miss Snark's blog is just opinion.

Writing Conferences

The morning mailbag brings word of Miss Snark's colleagues headed out to points far and wide for writing conferences.

Miss Snark goes to these only when she can't avoid it.

Let's distinguish between writing conferences and fan cons.

Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Romance Writers of America ..those are all fan cons. Yes, editors and agents go, and there is some element of "how to" on the panels, but mostly its a place to meet and hear authors in the genre. Lots of authors (like SJ Rozan) like them because they are the place to see author pals and hang out with a pack of folks who understand your travails.

For unpublished writers it can be like going to the prom without a date,
but buck up bucko!

It's a great place to meet people who, when you DO land that deal, will be on your rolodex for blurbs. Try not to be too much the social climber or desperate housewife however or your rolodex will look like John Cage's score for 4:33.

Writing conferences are a whole different ball game. Their emphasis is on meet the agents and editors and learn how the publishing industry works. They can be helpful. They can also be a terrific waste of time and money.

There are lots of places to find tips on making a writing conference work for you. Here's mine:

Make sure the agents you meet with have actually sold something. Writing conferences are notoriously lax about checking this. They invite a big name agent, who sends the assistant. The assistant works "at XXX agency" but if that agent has never made a sale, you should know that going in.

Agents are NEVER upfront about this. They finess it in every form of fiction known to mankind.

And an agent who has never sold anything but works at ICM and has access to Esther Newberg is still worth talking to.

As in all things, do your homework. Know who you are dealing with.
And if you need to, write this down and ask till you get a straight answer:
"What have you sold?"

Ok Ok Miss Snark's imperfections revealed

Ok Snarklings one and all, yes Miss Snark used terms incorrectly.
Yes, all of you, who wrote to take Miss Snark to task, are correct. (and by the way, thank you)

For those who didn't catch the mistake and still think of Miss Snark as perfection in pumps, herewith:

POD is print on demand. It's a printing technology. You get actual paper. POD books can look like actual hold in your hand, read in the bathtub books.

Ebook is electronic text. This blog is electronic for example. Ebooks are read on little ebook machines. Miss Snark has seen them, and so far, can't stand them. But there are devotees who would read everything in e-format if they could. Sarah's blog has a comment on this after her post on TPO yesterday.

So, charging someone $24.95 to download 80 pages from a PDF file isn't really POD and it sure as heck isn't an ebook. It's like xeroxing the professor's teaching notes for class.

There's nothing inherently wrong or bad about POD. It has become a shorthand way to refer to junk publishing but 35 years ago "Made in Japan" was synonomous with junk manufacturing. Things do change. Miss Snark is one of those who thinks POD is going to have a much bigger place in the publishing world relatively soon.

And now, time to go earn my keep.

7.25.2005

Editors are fuckwits too

Miss Snark trotted briskly to her office this morning, carefully caffeinated
and ready to follow up with several dear editors on the Next Great Novel.

Sadly Miss Snark never even got to first base. She might as well play for the Cubs at this rate.

Editor #1 has moved to a new company. Friday was her last day.
Some editors will do an email notice of such changes, but most times
you're left holding the manuscript cover lettter with a forlorn look. If the
editor who asked to see the ms leaves/gets fired/changes jobs or divisions,
mostly it's a sunk deal.


Editor #2 is leaving her job and moving to some odd place called...Maine.
I got out the map to see where it was. This editor was a sweetie and sent
my project to a young editor eager to build a list. Of course, young editors
eager to build lists have little budget and almost no autonomy soI end up pitching to her, her boss, and her boss's boss sometimes. Yes it's a part of the deal but ohhh
man. The trick is to get past the people who can only say no and find the people who can say yes, and yes with enough money to make it worthwhile.

Editor #3 is pretty sure she's never spoken to me before, heard of me, had lunch with me and if she met me on the street would think I was someone else. The cover letter on the manuscript that referenced our telephone call and lunch last spring were clearly products of my fevered imagination. If, and she was pretty snippy about the IF, IF the manuscript is here, she would have passed it along to Editor X who handles that line.

Well of course, I didn't make it up. It is a total waste of my time and money to make up conversations. Between running a 400 page manuscript through the copy machine and sending it flying through the streets of Gotham on a bike messenger's ass, every submission costs about $20. If I don't sell this tome, that's a sunk cost. I don't get paid for it. Ever. Not if the author's next book sells, not if the author wins the lottery and wants to be good friends.

So, ya, I don't send manuscripts unless I've pitched it and you've said yes. Frigging disorganzied bitch.

oops, I mean. "overworked, underpaid, underappreciated hardworking woman".
Ya right.
I gotcher under appreciated riiiiiiight here.

What the fuck is wrong with you people?

The post on Snake oil word merchants has brought some VERY interesting email to the Snark box. Here's the first one:

This is the text of an EMAIL rejection letter.



Thank you so much for sharing your work with us.

We are grateful that you thought of us, and that you took the time to query. Unfortunately, this is not quite what we're looking for right now. Please keep in mind that this is not necessarily a reflection on your work, but merely a reflection on our current needs.

As a way to give something back in return, we would like to give you some free, practical tips that you can use to help strengthen your future queries. We have pasted an excerpt below. (Please forgive us if you have already read this.)

Thank you once again, and best of luck for continued success.


Here's the part that makes this slimey: we would like to give you some free, practical tips that you can use to help strengthen your future queries.

It's EXACTLY the same baited hook that drew writers into paying reading fees several years ago.

Now, the next part is the one I like best


-TITLE- is a short e-book (80 pages) which can be downloaded instantly, and read in a day

(an 80 page e-book in Adobe PDF file format which can be downloaded instantly for $24.95)


Gee, I hope they don't want to give me too much more in return, my Amex will burn up.

Who are these guys kidding?
$24.95 for 80 pages of PDF file?
Hell, you can buy Pat Walsh's book for $14 and that includes paper and ink.

Ignoring the obvious huckster overtones, I ask you
what's the point of this?
If it's to "be of help" --give the shit away on a web site. God knows half of us do that anyway.

If the point is to make a buck -step up to the fucking plate, write a proposal and sell it to a publisher.

The irony of a MAJOR literary agent in NYC selling his/her work as POD doesn't escape the ever watchful Snarkster.


No wonder writers think agents are weird.

Rock on!

Courtesy of ArtsJournal
comes the reason that Miss Snark now styles the blog as "The Blog that Rocked Your World".

It's been a crappy day so far. You can tell...it's barely noon and I'm already blogging.

7.24.2005

PS Buy my book

It has come to my attention that certain of my brethren are touting their books about publishing via their rejection letters.

As a sales tool, this idea never occurred to Miss Snark. But then, it failed to occur to her to charge reading fees too. Silly Snark.

Some time back there was a very large scandal about "literary agents" charging reading fees with the unspoken idea that paying up front increased the chance you'd make it onto the agency's roster. Some "agents" never sold anything but earned a tidy living from such fees.

AAR, the junkyard dog of agent decorum, frowns on this. Frowns mightily one might even say. As in: you can't do it and be a member.

Touting one's own books, for which one is paid a royalty, via a rejection letter, is not the same thing really. But it's morally the same. "buy this, pay this and you will learn".

There are some excellent books about publishing written by agents, editors, and others in the Wordosphere. I don't object to the writing, publishing, and hopefully blockbuster sales of such tomes.

I object to using a rejection letter to tout them.
A list of available references is less slimey.
A list of places like Writers Market, and other writing websites, okay.
And agents who recommend books they DON'T have a pecuniary interest in...fine and dandy.

But, "sorry not for us" and oh by the way here's a book I wrote on how to grab an editor's/agent's attention"...that's slime.

So, if anyone wants to know here's what I think:
cut it out.

It makes you look like a cheap ass huckster. God knows we can
look bad enough without actually ADDING material to query letters
that makes it worse.


And if any snarklings care to submit specifics of agencies who do this, I'll post them.

PS After a few postings on this topic, I've decided to close the comment bin and ask that if you have comments or input on this subject to email me directly.
misssnark@earthlink.net will get to me.

I will post about this again, but I think i need to filter the comments rather than just have them straight up since we are talking about specific people.

Snarkling Sunday!

There have been so many comments to the FOAD post and since I've been out of the office snarking about outside the 212 I figured I'd post them all here, and reply.

Some comments are edited for..um ...snarkieness.



Tribe said...
But you aren't snarky in the initial rejections, are you? Or does the snark hit the fan only when the rejectee writes back begging to differ with the rejection?



Miss Snark: No, at least I hope not. My rejection letters are form letters, printed out with name, address, title of book and "not right for me" kind of thing. The only variation is whether I include "do query other agents" cause sometimes the work is so gawdawful, I'm hoping the querier never queries anyone ever again.



Anonymous said...
One thing you should never write is "I love your writing, I just don't have the confidence to {basically, represent it}." There's nothing more transparent or useless to a writer than hearing the people who are supposed to be getting manuscripts in front of the right people are a bunch of timid, beaten-down sissies. Agents who write that and expect it to be taken sincerely rarely get sympathy from writers.


Miss Snark says: watch who you're calling sissy bucko or I'll sic my poodle on you.




Anonymous said...
I prefer comments, but anything's fine so long as it isn't an ad for the agent's very expensive e-book on how to write a query letter. I received one of those the other day, CC'd to a long list of rejected submitters. A few minutes later the agent wrote again, blaming the obvious mass email on his new assistant, but it sounded like he did protest too much. Nor did he apologize for the ad.
At least the unprofessionalism of the rejection made me glad this particular agent didn't make me an offer, so that's something.


Miss Snark: Mercantilism disguised as rejection letters!! Miss Snark has refrained so far from writing or selling any of her witticisms. That is just about two shades on the correct side of the fine line of the "reading fee" scam. When Miss Snark was a bobbysoxer certain college professors required textbooks they had written for the course syllabus. It was slime then, it's slime now. You can quote me. Free.




Chris Stephens said...
It would be better to include some comment with a rejection. That is, if you actually have something to say. There is always the chance--remote, I grant you--that authors can actually get beyond their egotism enough to learn something useful from what you have to say. As a learning exercise I believe all authors should learn to accept all negative opinions towards their work as absolutely true. They should undertake this painful exercise for perhaps thirty minutes. At the end of the thirty minutes they can go back to the more comfortable ontological position of rejecting all criticism as the work of warped minds.
9:21 AM


MS: remote, and more remote with the advent of publish on demand mills that tell you you can be published with hardly any work, and no pesky comments.




Maria said...
I prefer comments, but I understand why agents/editors don't offer them. They don't want the boomerang.


MS: yup. I've had people send rejection letters back to me with no comments or cover letter ... as if to say "did you really mean to send this" I guess. I've had people write back and tell me I'm obviously missing what the writer meant to say (ya think that maybe might possibly indicate a problem with...the WRITING??) I've had people write and tell me I'm full of shit..but would I reconsider?



kitty said...
A hand written comment carries the most post punch, even if it is "fuck off and die." (Memo to self: Scratch name off Christmas card list.)
MY rejection pecking order:
1) No response is the worst. Christ, at least let me know that someone actually saw the envelope!
2) A form letter is one step up from no response.
3) Rubber stamp response is humiliating but at least the stamper saw the submission and had to expend some energy (while pounding out his/her aggression).
4) Hand-written response -- just the word "Sorry" -- on form letter is much better than rubber stamp. In fact any kindly response, either typed or hand-written, is treated with the respect only afforded the Gutenberg Bible.
5) A non-form letter that's bitchy.
6) A non-form letter that actually gives me some idea, in a non-bitchy manner, why my hard work is being rejected.
7) #6 with an added bit of hope, i.e., "Keep writing," or the ultimate, "Try us again."



Miss Snark is #2. Take that as you will.



Paul Jessup said...
If I ever received a rejection letter that said "Fuck off and die", I would so frame it. Sometimes, I wonder if that's the real response I want when I send out a MS/Query/Whatever.


Dear Mr Jessup: Fuck off and die.
Or ... as below "Let's be friends".

Best wishes
MS



Anonymous said...
I've always suspected that many rejected manuscripts meet their fate not because of some specific problem within them, but because the agent reading just doesn't fall in love with the book. Think about the last ten books you read: how many of them did you love enough to give them an emphatic, no-holds-barred recommendation? That made you harass your friends until they read it? You're not going to love most books THAT much.
My guess is that agents want to love the books they represent THAT much. And much of the time, there's not any specific, quantifiable criticism they can give to "fix" the fact that they just didn't fall in love. But what the hell do I know?



Yes, this is a very good point. Somewhat like all fifty contestants for Miss America are beautiful but only one, for whatever reason is chosen Miss America. Doesn't mean the other 49 need bags over their faces ... this just wasn't their year.




David J. Montgomery said...
I think I'd rather just hear no, unless you have a constructive suggestion (something other than "stick this up your ass").
On a side note, relating to anonymous' comment above...Half the books that come across my desk (books that, presumably, impressed an agent, an editor, a marketing department, and God knows who else) seem so hard to love that it boggles the mind to think of what gets rejected.



Miss Snark: someone somewhere loved "The Rainbow Party"and "Gossip Girls" and "Bridges of Madison County".



Bill Peschel said...
I don't know that I would want comments unless I respected your judgment already. When Michael Seidman was at Walker, for example, I knew of him through his postings on DorothyL, his books on editing and a few letters. Considering he signed people whose works I love (Lev Raphael, Keith Snyder and Harold Adams), I would take any advice he gave with both hands, and be grateful for it.
Since half of all editors are below the mean for intelligence, I wonder which half your advice would fall on.
OTOH, I've been around long enough (that is, rejected) that it doesn't bother me what you do (posting on blogs have already inured me to the FOAD response). Just get back to me in a reasonable time. I'll take it from there.



Miss Snark: I think the folks reading and writing here in the blogosphere are one ...ok ...six ... steps up from the clueless folks who write me the bulk of my slush pile. I've said it before, it bears repeating: most agents aren't howling about the excess of good material, they are howling about the lack of it.




JJ said...
How about this: Nothing. Let's get rid of the SASE all together. Everyone knows that only bad news comes through the mail. If you love us, you're going to call or email. Rejection letters come through the mail.
You recycle my manuscript or partial and I'll wait 4 to 6 weeks before scratching you off the list and moving on.



MS: I think that's a pisspore idea. However, I've already said so over on the STAMP THIS posting so I'll let the matter lie.




Anonymous said...
It's like if you don't want someone to be your boyfried--or even go on a date--do you say? "Well if you changed x or y, the I could love you." Agents can't even say, "Let's be friends."



Miss Snark: I may start using this in my rejection letters. "let's be friends" is much nicer than "fuck off and die".




mapletree7 said...
a) If you're asking an agent to represent you, presumably you respect their opinion already.
b) Writing comments on rejection letters would require me to read the submissions. Most submissions don't require me to read more than the first paragraph. At which point I can safely say 'this sucks' and send a form letter. This happens to 90% of queries.
c) Seriously? Fuck off and die?



a. most of the queriers have not a clue who I am. I'm a name on a list.
b. Sadly true. I try to read ten pages just in case, but I'm never happily surprised if the first couple pages suck.
c. Well ... no, not those exact words. But the tone was pretty clear. And FOAD never comes from the big agencies. It's always from someone who thinks s/he's too important to ever need queries again.


ScaramoucheX said...
Snark, you really are too good...just reading the title of today's entry gave me a better laugh than I am likely to have all day...you're the best, and all the best people know it



Dear Scary: You have such exquisite taste.



Travis said...
My least favorite rejection letter is a really small one. I received one last week that was only a hair larger than a business card. I seriously considered scanning it and posting it on my website.
Looking at it from an agent's perspective, however, I admit it's a great concept. Print rejection letters on cardstock (more expensive), but make them small enough to fit eight on a sheet. Break even or maybe save a little money on the deal. Most importantly, your pre-printed rejection letters are a piece of cake to drop into an envelope. No folding, no flimsy, recycled copier paper. Genius.
Miss Snark, what's your opinion on #9 envelopes as SASEs? I thought I was being clever by using them, but now I wonder if I'm actually just pissing people off. (Of course, I'm pissing them off while they are mailing me a form rejection letter, which will piss me off three days later, so maybe it all evens out.)



Miss Snark: Business card sized rejections? What did it say? Haiku? The Kanji character for "I'm not worthy to read your work"? FOAD? I gotta look into this. Think of all the time I could save and use to drink scotch, shop for shoes ... or ... read!


#9 are the ones that fit inside #10 barely, right? As long as a letter folds into it with no stuffing and no origami structures needed, ok. What I detest are the little ones that are the size of checks ... or smaller. Or weird sizes, like wedding invitations.




Mark said...
I've had a couple of long responses. They were helpful and provided insight into the thought process on the other end.


Miss Snark undoubtedly was not one of them, sad to say.



JD Rhoades said...
I had quite a few rejections with comments and suggestions. Some of them were quite helpful, some only served to let me know that this really would not be a good agent for me because this person, while quite nice, has no earthly idea what I'm trying to do.
So, put me down on the "comments are good" side.


Miss Snark has received queries she didn't understand either. One of course was from James Joyce but happily, he found publishing elsewhere.






chryscat said...
Comments are good. I suppose we've all been commented and rubberstamped. And some days are assuredly better than others.
I think it's a shame that submitters in your slush pile feel the need to show their ass at every turn. That would definitely call for a rubber stamp. Or maybe just a polite "fuck off and die."
Grins*

Miss Snark: Father Snark has a rubber stamp from his days at the Pentagon. It says "Hogwash" in a lovely gothic font. Miss Snark may have to wrest it from his aging but still steely grip.



Ellen Fisher said...
I don't think it really matters. When you get right down to it, a form letter is not much different from a letter that says, "I'm only rejecting this with much handwringing because your writing is so good, but I'm just not sure I can sell it." Neither of these responses provides any useful information, and both are fairly formulaic... most "personalized" rejections I've received have sounded more or less alike. (The old "it's just not right for our list" line, you know.)
OTOH, a rejection that lists lots of specific problems with the manuscript is very helpful-- but it's also an invitation to the writer to rewrite and submit, which may not be what the agent wants.
But regardless of whether the author gets a form letter or a slightly more personalized rejection, there is no call for the author to be rude to an agent or editor. It's just not smart to tick someone off when you may have occasion to submit to them again in the future.


Miss Snark: Like an elephant Miss Snark remembers all. AND she looks better in the pink tutu than Dumbo ever did.