8.06.2005

Show me the money...(you can keep Tom Cruise though)

Wonders a Snarkling:


However, I'm wondering what is the thing that creates this "more money" of which you speak.

Miss Snark interrupts to edify:
"more money" is from the post on the value of blogs in getting a book deal.


LOL. Is it Just Traffic, or is it content, and if it's content, what type of content?And, you know, who are you? Hey, I had to try...... :)


Traffic. The number of people who see your name, know your work and are thus "warmer" sales prospects than the cold hard herd at WalMart...that's what entices editors.

As to who Miss Snark is, surely you jest. That's like pulling the mask of the ol Lone Ranger, tugging on Superman's cape AND spitting into the wind.

And now Sayonara Snarklings, Miss Snark sails off into the sunset of another Saturday night with her lorgnette, gin pail and well thumbed copy of X Rated New York .

Standardize the query process

A snarkling writes hopefully:



Agents/editors guidelines seem so distressingly anal at times that I wonder why the agents/editors don't simply agree on a universal form for all submissions/queries.


Cause we can't agree on what to order for lunch in our office let alone agree on query forms.

Hell, it took Yurp five hundred years to develop the Euro...and even now there are those who disdain its use.

Mostly though cause agents are competitive with each other, not collegial. We're all looking for ways to make our own lives easier and the heck with those (ha! THOSE) other writers/agents etc.

There's no percentage in it for US (ha! US!) so the chances of it happening are zip to none.

It's like learning to conjugate French verbs. A pain in the ass, but once you get the hang of it it's not the worst thing in the world. That would be Latin declensions.

Hic Haec Hoc-key puck
Score one for the Snark Team!

The middle of the bell curve...

Miss Snark is catching up on her reading today. Query letters abound, vacation looms, Miss Snark wants to leave a tidy desk just in case Jann Wenner
Mr MomWenner comes a'calling.

Mr Wenner aside, Miss Snark turns to the slush pile.

Not quite as many crimes against the written form in today's mail.
Some good material in fact. Good, but not good enough.
Not publishable, not marketable..nada.

Thinking of the posted rejection letters here

and the entire blog devoted to "not right for us" here at 756 Agents

Miss Snark notes that for writers of novels there's very little space for the "just for fun" writer.

Think of musicians who play for love not money. Church choir members. Garage band guys. Amateur orchestras and bands.

Or artists: Painters and sculptors at local galleries and shows.

Filmmakers who make movies for friends or families.

There's no way to be an "amateur" novelist really. No real place to just write novels for fun. Short story writers and poets have a multitude of outlets (few of which pay worth spit but they're there).

I have no suggestions for how to change that.

I can't even write to these queriers and say "this is good but not good enough" cause all they do is write back with MORE stuff that's not good enough.

I have to admire these writers. Theirs is a quest with a certain nobility, dreaming of characters and plots that might never go beyond pages read by a very few.

I have some respect for people like that, always hoping the next one will be the one. Always hoping someone will share their vision. It evokes the hero motif don't you think? Toiling in the wilderness?

Amateur didn't used to be a dismissive word. It used to mean ladies but mostly gentlemen who were devoted to something for love rather than lucre.

I would venture to say most published novelists don't write for money, but to get something published, money enters and controls the equation. Miss Snark is not an amateur agent nor is anyone in this business. But we can only take on the very top of the Bell curve, the five percent or so who are writing publishable, marketable work.

Is there a place for the next group? the 80-95%ers who aren't bad at all...just not publishable, and not marketable.

I wish I had an answer, but I don't. Do you?

Park the Car in Snarkly Yard

'writes a snarkling:

Thank you again, Miss Snark, for this example. I've been stuck in a car all day writing imaginary queries in my mind. Yours gave me great ideas.


Let us all remember here, Miss Snark lives in New York City.
"stuck in a car all day" evokes images of a subway, jaws of life, and strapping young men from the FDNY racing to her rescue.

After a brief pause to regain her composure, apply a cold compress to her brow and banish thoughts of brawny boys in turnout togs,
Miss Snark is moved to ponder: what does one do all day in a car?

Is this one of those disconnects between residents of the 212 and all others?
Like the idea of avocado on pizza?
Not locking your door?
Speaking to strangers on the street?

Miss Snark feels she may be having a Crocodile Dundee in reverse moment here.
Off to moisturize.

From the mouth of babes

A Snarkling in training writes:


One accumulates the impression - from reading aspiring writer's complaints and editorial expositions - that there exists a coalescence of Us and Them. You know THEM. They live over the mountains and they have dastardy orgiastic rites and eat babies sometimes. Almost a cultish type of paranoia, and both groups seem to reflect it. Both whine that the other doesn't understand them, they are so overworked, etc. High temperatures and kitchens come to mind.


Kitchen? What is that?
Oh right, that room with the large white box Miss Snark glimpses as she struggles to make coffee in the cruel glare of morning light, and where she rescues her shivering little vodka bottle in the evening.. gotcha.

Now,..us versus...well..THEM.

Miss Snark is fond of being an US of one but your point holds.
In fact, Miss Snark does know of dasterdly orgiastic rites, having been to a writing conference or two, not to mention Judith Regan's office before she scuttled off to LA.

But she gets your drift.

There is more than a certain amount of collegial sniveling about THEM. "This business would be great if it wasn't for writers" is a joke...sort of. On more than one occasion in the middle of a negotiation Miss Snark has had her knickers in a twist cause the author didn't understand some screamingly obvious detail like the difference between first and second serial rights. It took the concerted effort of three staffers to pull the stiletto heel from Miss Snark's crazed claw...but that's another story.

There's always going to be Us and Them. It's a condition of the human animal. We are incapable of being in close knit communities that exceed about 100 people I think. I read this somewhere, my recollection is foggy, but the idea is that humans can only be in groups of 100 before the sense of division, and THEM, kicks in.

On the other hand, if you want to breach that gap, come work in my office for a day, or a week, or a month. Im not sure you'd get a sense of how it is to work solely on commission, in an industry that controlled by the likes of WalMart, but it would certainly give you grist for the mill.

On the other hand Miss Snark isn't going to come walk a mile in your shoes for love or money. It would require leaving New York City and giving up her primary weapons. Not even for you, dear Snarklings.

The Quill Awards...Miss Snark's version

Other than the stupidest name in the world, the entire Quills awards program is ...well...old old old.

Miss Snark has a much better idea.

Porcupine quills.

Nominate if you will:
1. The least helpful / least informative website by a literary agency

2. The least helpful/worst written book about writing you've read either this year or ever (indicate which).

If anyone selects Miss Snark's they win two tickets to The Quills' Awards Show.
Second prize is four tickets.

8.05.2005

Blog Blog Blog

Writer's blogs.
Several devoted Snarklings have written to ask if agents, specifically Miss Snark, surf the blogosphere. You bet. In her snark suit. With her snarkboard. Wearing heels. Cowabunga Snarklings.

Hard to tell who people "are" sometimes on a blog.
When you read Beatrice the blog by Ron Hogan are you reading the blog of a book reviewer, writer, reader, or hot shot cigar smoker?

Same for the inestimable Maud who is a writer, reader, reviewer and commentator on the world.

Or Jaimie who is both a writer and a phtographer and all around interesting character.

All sorts of established authors have blogs and I sniff around those periodically.

All sorts of people I don't know have blogs, and I sort of poke around in them.

Do I look for writers by reading their blogs? No
I find writers the old fashioned way: they fall into my mailbox with nice letters.

However, if someone queries me and says "Dearest Miss Snark, I have a blog that gets 1000 unique hits a day" and "my blog is about my writing" of course I'd pay attention.

Miss Snark, for all of her peculiar ways and fondness for gin, knows a marketing bonus when she sees it.

Now, is it a good idea to spend as much time on a blog as it would take to get 1000 unique hits a day?
Probably not. Better to spend it on your actual writing. A good blog with tons of hits won't sell a novel. Good writing will. A good blog might pump up the amount of money you can get for a good novel, but it's not going make a pig surf.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Snarkvel


Dear Miss Snark


Writes a Snarkling



The first time I heard about "Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil" a guy on the radio stammered around trying to explain what the book was about. He said he just couldn't bumper-sticker it. Hearing this on the radio piqued my interest, so I bought the book and loved it. I've been wondering what John Berendt's query might have looked like. I suspect stammering in a letter wouldn't pique anyone's interest. How would you have written that query? Your answer would make a great post.


Miss Snarkling responds:

Dear Mr. Mehta:

Imagine being on trial for your life not once but three times. Accused of killing a "walking streak of sex" houseguest who may have been a conniving rent boy, Jim Williams, Savanah bachelor, real estate mogul and Christmas party host embodies everything that makes Savannah so southern Gothic genteel. A town that won't say homosexual in public is rocked to the core by this trial. Not that they'd ever say that of course, bless their hearts. Throw in the Lady Chablis; a Georgia bulldog; and a little bit of voodoo and you've got a narrative non fiction page turner. Oh, and don't forget the soundtrack by Savanah's own Johhny Mercer. Jim Williams lived in and restored the Mercer house till his, shall we say, "troubles" began.


Now John Berendt didn't write that.

But here's what he did say in an online interview with the New York Times.



JMacbmac asks: How did the book get published? Was it rejected by any house?

JBerendt 1: It was not rejected by any of the four publishers my agent sent it to. But my original agent DID reject it. She told me it read very well but that it was just "too local." This book that was "too local" is being translated into Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian and Portuguese. It is also a bestseller in the U.K. -- England, Ireland, Australia and South Africa.




You'll notice she didn't say the writing stunk.

8.04.2005

Miss Snark gets tense about verbs

While strolling through the blogosphere Miss Snark saw her name in big red flashing lights. Naturally she stopped to see what all the fuss was about.

From Secrets and Lies comes this:

Also? Note to self: quit listening to other people's opinions about words. There was that foolish summer I spent avoiding all forms of "to be" because somebody (and I'm not being coy here, I honest-to-god cannot remember who, that's how terribly important *they* were,) claimed fiction littered with being verbs was deficient. Fiction without being verbs? Stilted and overwritten, in the attempt to avoid the most common verb in the English language. It took me months to realize that-to be or not to be, hello??

This morning, it's Miss Snark and her hatred of the past perfect. Oh god, she's a professional! She does this for a living! She hates past perfect, and I use it all the time a... big breath! Breaaaaaaathe! Miss Snark is probably a fantastic agent, but she is not *my* agent. Rebecca's read plenty of my work, and never once commented on the use of past perfect. (And I suspect there's no breaking me of it anyway. Had come means something different from came, and I'm still so neo-archaic that I use the subjunctive mood; past perfect ain't goin' nowhere.)



(some stuff taken out)


2 Responses to "Thinking Too Much"

Stephanie Says:
Past perfect is a bad thing? This just makes me think of all the critiques I've done where I've had to correct people for not using past perfect! Who knew that a tense could be so controversial. . .


Saundra Says:
Certainly not me! Though I did know a woman one who got so bent out of shape if you called the subjunctive mood a verb tense that you actually had to warn other language-y people to avoid the subject entirely. It was an impressive rant, but only the first six or seven times one heard it!




Miss Snark was of shocked to her shoes to discover she's being thought of as a hater of any sort of perfection, let alone the past perfect.

Here's the scoop: MIss Snark admires the past perfect. Had she world enough and time she might compose an ode to it.

What she doesn't like is seeing it used as the default tense.

Yes indeed "he had been" is different than "he was". When you purposely choose to use the past perfect, it's an art form. Like curry. When you use it all the time cause you don't know any better, then it's ...well...slurry.

clearly the readers over at Lies and Secrets know their tenses. Would that everyone did.

Where are you looking?

We've been talking recently here about cover letters and writing pages and touched only briefly on the actual mechanics of locating names for potential agents.

I've always recommended the old standbys at Writer's Market and Publisher's Marketplace.

It occurs to me (slowly yes, but eventually) that since Miss Snark is herself not seeking an agent (marriage brokers to the stars do NOT count!) she could use some advice from the Snarklings.

Where are you looking for agent names and info?
Are any better, or more effective, than others?

If you want to pass on info that you don't want made public, email Miss Snark at misssnark@earthlink.net

And the Envelope please...

Comes a dear Snarkling wondering about how to send all those pages Miss Snark keeps insisting on.

And the answer is: neatness counts.
Miss Snark likes things that can be arranged tidily.
She does not like bundles of envelopes so fat with pages that she could use it to play stickball with the lads on Second Ave.

Herewith the recipe for presentation:

First, a 10 x 13 catalog envelope.
This is the envelope you mail everything in.

Inside it goes, in this order:
cover letter
five pages of writing sample
#10 Stamped self addressed envelope with ONE first class stamp.
These items are paper clipped together if attached at all.
NO staples, tape, brackets, chewing gum or magic spells.

You put all this in FLAT.

This way, it comes to Miss Snark's tidy desk and she can open it without cutting the paper in half (it's happened), without trying to stuff a polite letter into an envelope that was folded over so many times it has more wrinkles than a soap opera plot line, and most important, it can behave itself in the stack of incoming mail.

Is this going to get you a better, closer read?
No.

Is this going to keep Miss Snark from saying no if it sux?
No

Is Miss Snark going to measure your envelope and discard those that don't meet her specificiations?
No.

So..why bother?
Cause you're a professional.
And you take pride in your work.
And you like things to look like you care.
The diligence you bring to your everyday tasks (not that communicating with Miss Snark should ever be considered mundane) carries over to your writing.
Do it well.
It's good Snarkarma.

Miss Snark is bored...so fucking what

Comes a Snarkling:

I have now seen two comments (one from you and one from another
writer/blogger) about being bored with serial killer plot devices. On the
one hand, they do seem overused, but on the other, stories featuring them
continue to be published.

We writers constantly hear that we should write for ourselves and not for
the market, and many crime writers (along with readers) continue to have a
morbid fascination with serial murder. Obviously the more creative and/or
understated the better (as in "The Lovely Bones"), but where do you
personally draw the line? Do you think other agents and editors share your
boredom, and are thus less likely to accept serial-killer books? If so,
isn't there an implication that writers should in this case adhere to the
market?


Do not, repeat NOT, think of what Miss Snark likes or dislikes about content.
You have heard "write for yourself" and that is good advice.

That being said, you DO need to bring something new to the table. Fresh perspective, fresh vantage point, fresh vision. So, yes, I'm bored with serial killers. It's cause they all seem the same and I want something new. If you bring me serial killers told from the perspective of the goldfish, and you make it work, you've got me.

The cover letter comes into play here. If you say "my book is about serial killers" even if the writing pages are good, I'm less likely to bite. In fact, not likely at all.

BUT if your cover letter says, "it's about serial killers and this is what's new fresh exciting and is going to keep you reading SnarkieBaby"...then I'm gonna read.

But in general you must write for your own vision. If you want to do serial killers, do it.

Horrifying as it is, and I know this will come as a severe shock to you, Miss Snark's taste is not the taste of the world. It should be of course, and she's working on implementing that, but so far, it's still in negotiation.

Fact checking...yet again!

Miss Snark has been a voice in the wilderness about non fiction fact checking for lo! these many posts. NOW comes a companion in the quest.

Jessa, whom we normally know as the Bookslut takes time away from her reading couch to rattle them pots and pans. Recently she discovered that cookbooks aren't checked either. No one makes sure two tablespoons wasn't transcribed from two teaspoons, let alone 2-3 minutes became 23 minutes for boiling beans.

This is nuts.

Do we REALLY want to be this sloppy?

We should be ashamed of ourselves as an industry for being so cavalier about what we sell. If Ford Motor Company did this, the damn Justice Department would shut them down.

Our product is books and while we like to think of it as art and all that stuff, in the end, particularly with cookbooks for godsake, people want to use the damn thing.

Let's get off our asses and check this stuff.

I volunteer for all the drinks books, dessert books and the love potions.

Let's do the Math


Dear Miss Snark,

I am an unpublished novelist who has been querying agents for more than a year. Three weeks ago I received my first manuscript request from an agent, and tonight I found an offer of representation from said agent in my mailbox. You can imagine how excited I was.


He didn't call you? or talk to you? or email you? It just popped into your mailbox like publishers clearing house sweepstakes?


Unfortunately, paragraph 12 of the agency agreement reads (in part): "The Author agrees to provide the Agent with $475 exclusively for marketing the Work in the form of check, money order or other postage costs."

Weep.


Gee...glad he doesn't want blood or anything.

Ya, no shit. I'd be weeping too. Then I'd reach for my abacus.

For ease of doing the math in my head tonight figure your manuscript
is 500 pages. To run it through the xerox once is about $15.00. Add sales
tax here in NYC of just under ten percent. That's $16.50 for cost.
Figure he messengers it to an editor somewhere in the 212 and he is
in the 212 also. $20. That's $36.50 a pop for costs.

If an agent can't afford to shell out $36.50 to send a manuscript out, I have only one small tiny question: why's he in business? How's he paying his Verizon bill? His ConEd bill?

oh right...those guys are important. the author isn't.
ok. I get it now.



The contract goes on to explain the money will be accounted for in a log the author receives
quarterly, and in the event of an advance of greater than $10,000
the Author is fully reiumbursed. The contract is also clear that unused marketing money shall be returned to the author in the event of contract cancellation, blah, blah.



So, if he gets you a small deal, you pay for it?
Oh I like this idea.
I bet it's a moneymaker.



What makes me sad is I found this agent on Publishers
Marketplace because he sold a book in May that is similar to mine. The agent included press clippings of his recent book and film sales with my mailing.


He had press clippings about a book he just sold?
From whom?
Notices in Publishers Marketplace don't count.
If you're a member, you can post anything you want.

Miss Snark's clippings files tend to be pr for books that are published and that date is generally a YEAR after the sale. Unless he's in the Hot Deals column at PW?




Sad and deluded, the acceptance letter taunting me, I'm considering telling this agent he may represent me if the up-front fee portion of the contract is scratched.

I can hear the desperate unpublished novelist speaking in the above paragraph, and I now ask you for a reality check.

He asked for money up front / He sold a novel similar to mine last month.


I'd be interested to hear what he says about excising #12.
Have you ever talked to him?


What should I do, Miss Snark?


Well, you're gonna do what you're gonna do.
I think his business practices err on the side of exploitation.

Standards and practices in the world of agenting are clear: Authors do not pay Agents.
Agents remit to authors.
If expenses are charged to an author, they are to be paid only when the work is sold and the money collected.

Not only is he billing you ahead of time, you only get it all back if you get more than a $10K advance. There are a lot of novels that sell for less.

One of the first things I'd do is find out who his clients are and give them a bell.
Maybe he's legit. Maybe he's just weird. And maybe Miss Snark is secretly Carrie Nation.

Let me know what happens.

8.03.2005

One last crap shoot...only cause it's a dire warning

This crawled into my email box.

Dear Miss Snark,

I found your agency listing at Publisher's Market Place, and visited your web site. Both your agency and your web site have the professionalism I have found lacking elsewhere.


oh really? you mean my mom's site? and the woman who gave me a job out of college? and my two dearest friends? Look lady, you've just insulted my colleagues. I may think some of them are halfwits, but only *I* get to say it.

Never ever, and I mean EVER start a query letter with a slap in the face to another agent. It's just downright fucking rude. And if you think it's true, it's still rude.



At Publisher's Market Place, I noted your sale of the novel "XYZ", by Joe Smith to Big Publisher and thought you might be interested in representing my current work. Below, please find the details of my novel, "(Novel Title)" If you're interested, sample chapters, detailed and expanded synopsis, or complete manuscript are ready to be printed and mailed.


Make sure XYZ has more than passing resemblence to your novel. "I noticed you sold Forrest Gump so I thought you'd be interested in my crawfish cookbook" is funny...and not unheard of in the slush piles.


TITLE: "Novel Title"

GENRE: Heroic fantasy.

WORD COUNT: About 120,500 words---completed

EXTRA INFO: The novel combines the feel of Author X's "Novel" with a mix of Writer Y's "Story," a romp with a philosophical twist.

DESCRIPTION/SHORT SYNOPSIS: Five years ago, Horras Radenkin hired Gilran Kisfeld to recover the Starfire Gem. When Gilran learned Horras intended to use it to unseat the Duke of Larian, he threw it into a turbulent bay. Bent on revenge, Horras murdered Gilran's wife and daughter while Gilran looked on, magically paralyzed. Now, Gilran has something else Horras wants: the secret to claiming the throne of Waredia.

Gilran is haunted by his inability to protect his family. The last thing he wants is to be king, so he devises a plan to pass reign to a nobleborn friend. But when Horras kidnaps a blacksmith who knows Gilran's secret, Gilran must decide whether to rescue the blacksmith or save the country from a tyranical ruler -- by claiming the throne himself.

AUTHOR BIO; PREVIOUS PUBLICATIONS: I've completed several novel writing courses through the Writer's Digest school, and coauthored a nonfiction software book published in 1999 by XYZ Publishing Company.

CONTACT INFO: Feel free to call or email any time: 800-555-1212 rings my cell phone, and my email address is myemailaddy@nowhere.com

Sincerely yours,


This is an interesting format and one that appeals to my love of organization. If I sold this genre, I'd read on IF you don't have that opening paragraph.

I'd toss this if you did: I don't like the attitude, and good writing is a lot but life is too short to have more than one snark in the stable.

Love and kisses,

Is it crap...Cover Letters...Final Entry



Dear Miss Snark,

Hello. Sorry to trouble you but I just wanted to pitch you my crime thriller, Danny Dreams Of Guns.


If I ever, I mean EVER see you do this again I will track you down, duct tape you to a chair and make you chant "I AM somebody" accompanied by Up With People, the Reverand Jesse Jackson AND Tony Robbins. Then I"m telling Dr. Phil.

Get it?
Never start a query letter like you're chopped liver.
Miss Snark is a vegetarian.



Danny and Christina. Danny and Christina. For years, they've dated, fought, broken up, gotten back together and then started the circle all over again. But now that he's been framed by the Sicilian mafia for a murder he didn't commit, she has to risk her future to save him from both death and the FBI.


and we should care..why? He sounds like a jerk. She sounds only slightly better.
I'm rooting for the Mafia.



As for myself, I grew up in New Jersey but have lived for the last decade in London. I work as a freelance journalist and write occasionally for [a tiny little news service you've never heard of]. I'm also a member of the Foreign Press Association and have a long-ago stint at Newsday under my belt.


That's nice. Does it have anything to do with the novel at all? Or maybe you're inviting Miss Snark to London. If so, first class Virgin Air, leave the tickets with the doorman Mr Henry and I'll be there this afternoon.


If my logline sounds interesting, I'd be more than happy to send you a copy of the manuscript or a synopsis with some sample chapters. In any event, thank you for your patience and attention.


well, this is the best part of the query.
Sadly, (since I was really hoping for that trip to London) this would be a pass for me.

Give me some meat baby. Make me care at least a little about these folks.

And why is the Mafia framing this guy? Is it the classic Hitchcock common man in unexplainable peril, or is Christina really the love muffin of the Mafia Capo who wants Danny to die like a dog for putting his sticky hands on her firm young flesh....Miss Snark needs a shower.

This ain't the Associated Press and Dragnet motif time. Just the facts isn't gonna cut it.

You've Got An Agent..now what

Comes this from a Snarkling:


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?


May June July
If she sent it out in May she'll be hearing back from folks soon.
You can email her and say "im dying here, any news"
and yes, it's always ok to ask where your ms is at any given time,
and who's said no already.

It's YOUR work. Agents should keep you generally informed of what they are doing on your behalf. Some agents say rather boastfully that they forward every rejection letter to authors. I think those agents have part time jobs as sadists. Not every rejection letter needs to darken your door...but if you want to see them, of course, they should be sent.

While you're waiting, get off those tenterhooks and start making friends with writers who will be useful to you when your book is sold. Go to readings. Go to fan conventions. Introduce yourself to writers and tell them how much you like THEIR work. Don't introduce yourself as an unpublished writer. Once you've met someone its much easier to meet them a second time and when you're going to be published you'll have made some good initial contacts you can exploit.

Networking and building friendships is NOT speed dating. It's inefficient but if you know a better way to do it, Im all ears.

And keep writing. Not just the sequel but short stories. Get your name out there. SJ Rozan was where I heard about that idea and I tell all my clients to do it.

Once you sell the book, you'll need to start gearing up for publicity and marketing so use this time now to fertilize your garden with...well...ok...nevermind.

Why Miss Snark Hates E Queries

From the cheap seats comes this call from a Snarkling in training.


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?


How long did it take you to write your proposal?
Are you SURE you want someone to spend only 11 minutes looking at it?

Cause, if all you want is speed, baby, I can speed read with the best of them.

But, if perchance, and think this over carefully, you want an agent who actually reads things carefully, looks up a few things herself, thinks more than one minute about it, and THEN reaches an opinion, Miss Snark might be your pail of gin.

That's not to say those people who take e-queries are hopped up ADD unfocused flim flam artists. Several of my most respected and dear colleagues take e-queries. Some ONLY take e-queries. Frankly, I have no idea how they do it.

A second consideration on my part is format. I write MUCH differently for this blog both in diction and in format than I would on paper.

Publishing remains a paper based art form. Ebooks haven't usurped the mass market paperback yet.

You have to put it on paper at some point, and write for the page at some point. Why NOT before you go to the big dance with a pretty girl like me.

I'm not much on people who value speed over form. If that means you won't query me, it's probably gonna be ok for both of us.

Why You Are Not Wasting Your Time When You Read Blogs

I subscribe to the Writers Almanac daily email. It gets me in the mood to face the day. From today's email comes this:


Walter Kirn said, "My advice for aspiring writers is go to New York. And if you can't go to New York, go to the place that represents New York to you, where the standards for writing are high, there are other people who share your dreams, and where you can talk, talk, talk about your interests. Writing books begins in talking about it, like most human projects, and in being close to those who have already done what you propose to do."


When I first started the blog there was more than one raised eyebrow with "don't you have enough to do already/" kind of comment.

I'm sure you've probably said the same to yourself: "dang I should be reading/writing/grouting my teeth"

The blogosphere, both readers and writers therein, are a lovely way to talk about something we all love ...Me. ...oh wait, I meant to say books.

So, don't kick yourself for reading this, or any of the other great blogs out there.
You're just fueling the fires of passion.

And now, back to grouting my teeth.

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.

8.02.2005

Is It Crap...Cover letters...double hockey stix


Dear Ms Snark,


That's Miss Snark to you bucko.

I am contacting you in regards to seeking representation for my completed, 108,000 word Contemporary Women's Fiction manuscript. A STATE OF GRACE is a story in which a woman travels to South America to escape the demons of her past and search for her true self, only to discover she was looking in every place except where the real answers lie in her heart.

"in regards to" ...about
"seeking representation for"...about (trust me, I know you know I'm an agent)
"in which a woman travels" ...a story about Grace's Amazing trip to South America
"to escape the demons of her past".....oh I give up.

You're using every cliche in the book.
I look for fresh and original writing. It's hard to cough up new ways to say "the demons of her past" but you'll just have to.





What if you thought your life was like a Sandra Bullock romantic comedy and suddenly it smashed to pieces like a dropped glass of Moet? How would you react if you discovered your husband was having an affair, your boss had filed for bankruptcy and you lost your job? What would you do if your best friend told you he's in love with you and has been for years? Flee the country, of course.


Well no. I'd call Jerry Springer and ICM and get a book deal after my chair throwing practice.
But..that's just me.

This actually might be sort of interesting maybe..and it's got some humor so I'm perking up here.



Determined to leave her troubles behind, Grace Winter embarks on a journey to South America to discover a new culture, and hopefully, a new Grace. Armed with ten kilos of chocolate, dry humor and a bad sense of direction, Grace finds smelly trekking boots, Bus Bingo and designer suits do not always mix. On a mountain climbing expedition romance leaders to disaster, and Grace finds the past can catch up with you, even on the other side of the world. Is life a romantic comedy or a hellish episode of Survivor? Grace is about to find out.


HERE"S YOUR LEAD!!!! Get rid of all that crap above and start with this. Heck this is about all you'd have to say for me to read the enclosed 3-5 pages.



I have worked as a freelance travel writer and lived and traveled in South America. A STATE OF GRACE is my first manuscript and currently I am working on other manuscripts- FOUR SEASONS and a trilogy EXPECTATIONS. I am an Australian author living in Canada.


Permanently? It matters. Geting PAID when you live in a furrin country is a bit of a trick. Miss Snark is on a first name basis with bankers who delight in taxing you for living in odd and strange locales like ...Canada.



Thank you for your consideration and time. I'd be happy to send you sample chapters and synopsis or a complete copy of the manuscript for your review. I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.


Insert here my usual rant on closings. I've typed it six times. No more.

You saved the game in the third paragraph. More in that vein, and if your writing shows that flair, I'd read on.

Is it Crap...cover letters...#10 with a bullet


In 1994, being a cop in a dying New Hampshire mill town may as well mean
enforcing the law in 1974. Working-class families are just beginning to
recover from the 1990-91 recession, and police departments haven't yet begun
to reap the technological and personnel benefits of the Community Oriented
Policing Services Act. So, when a serial killer begins to target the
disillusioned teenaged girls in fictional Mapleton, NH, the police are
almost as limited as the citizens as they bear their fears, frustrations,
and failures.


Yawn. Yawn. Yawn. You know what's interesting? People. Action.
Describing the sociological situation of a fictional town in New Hampshire makes me want to reach for the gin bottle. (Well, a lot of things make me want to do that..but you get my drift).



BLOOD AND ROSES is the story of three law enforcement officers whose lives
go on, despite the chaos a serial murder case wreaks on themselves and their
community.


here's your lead. Get rid of that crap in the first paragraph.
"Law enforcement officers" ...Cops
"whose lives go on"...well, ya. All of us have lives that go on unless we're the victims.
This is muddy thinking. It's muddy writing. Tell us very very clearly WHAT impact the serial murders have. Do they drink too much? Do they become workaholics? Scientologists?..or worse..literary agents?



Truman Johnson is the divorced father of two troubled teenage
daughters; how far will he go to ensure they don't become the next victims?

Richard Butkis knows the victims because of his work as the high
school resource officer, but will he stretch himself to the breaking point
between protecting his students and protecting his wife from her own threat?


Finally, Monroe Phelps is the detective assigned to work the case with
the NH State Police Major Crimes Unit. Is the state detective the right man
to help her repair her self confidence in time to solve the case?


I hear the theme music from As the World Turns here. So far you're asking us to care about people we don't know and who appear to be steeped in melodrama.

"her own threat"? that makes no sense. She's threatening herself? Is she on a ledge somewhere? Can I push her off?

"repair her self confidence" I'll fix her self confidence. I'll put her on the ledge with Mrs Phelps.

Go read some Alan Furst for a look at when things REALLY mattered. He writes about Europe at the start of the Second World War. He's crisp and clean and utterly brilliant.


Ultimately, BLOOD AND ROSES looks at the other side of a major case: the
personal stories the media wouldn't see, but which are nonetheless as
critical as cops' professional experiences in driving the choices they make
on the job.


Have you been under a rock? All we see is personal sides of cops in murder mysteries. I think Law and Order was an anomoly cause it DIDN"T show the personal sides.


I have worked as a freelance writer for the last four years, publishing over
100 articles on technology and related issues for law enforcement trade
magazines. BLOOD AND ROSES represents my first attempt to publish a novel.


Well, unless you intend to put a printing press in your basement you aren't ever going to publish a novel. You mean to say "this is my first novel". A publisher publishes. You write. I snark. If you want to be the publisher, you shouldn't be querying me.

I absolutely hate it with a passion when people say they want me to publish their novels. It makes me think they don't have a clue about who does what.

Is it small minded? Probably.

Lots of my snarks are small minded. That's cause I care about small details. I care about words and how they are used. If you don't, that's ok, but we ain't going to the dance together.

Is It Crap...Cover letters..pont neuf


Miss Snark, Literary Agent
Mayor Mike's Metropolis
Bahamas

Miss Snark:


whoa. What happend to "Dear Miss Snark".. this isn't a letter from my draft board is it?
Dear is like "how are you"...I don't really care (yes I do) but it's social nicety (I care a lot).


Detective Samantha Driscoll's personal life is looking up, and her professional life is business as usual until a killer starts murdering politicians in her city, one by one. Her twin brother shows up the evening of the first murder, warning of a disaster. But Sam doesn't realize how much she will be affected until the killer irrevocably changes her life.


Hot diggitety dawg. Dead politicos!!! I like this killer.
Oh wait. I bet I'm not supposed to.





"A Life Unraveled" is a story of suspense revolving around two detectives' search for a political serial killer. Detectives Sam Driscoll and Billy Chambers catch the case which turns into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. The detectives are running out of time, and the killer continues to raise the stakes. He won't be satisfied until Sam becomes one of his many victims. But Sam is no one's victim.


oh yawn yawn yawn. this is different from EVERY single mystery involving crazed killers...how?


"A Life Unraveled" is a 68,600 word suspense novel that would appeal to fans of J.D. Robb and James Patterson.


you might want to say "highly commercial fiction" rather than James Patterson. He sells a lot but he writes like shit.


This book is the first in a series involving Detectives Driscoll and Chambers. The series will follow them through their cases and personal lives, pulling the reader into their world.


From what I've seen, I don't give a rat's retainer for these two. Why should I care? Hell, I'm cheering for the killer!


Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you. You may recycle all materials sent.


You've got a lot of room here to give us some salacious enticing details on these characters. Write about someone compelling. Give me DIRT!!

As it stands, this one is coming right back in the SASE with a "sorry not for us" in crabby handwriting on the margin.

Is it Crap..cover letters.. part huit..part soy.



Miss Snark, Literary Agent
Mayor Mike's Metropolis,
Bahamas

misssnark@earthlink.net


Why is Miss Snark's email here? You weren't planning to e-query her were you??
NOooooo you weren't. Why? Miss Snark doesn't like that.
More important for you, she doesn't read them.
Her website says so.
Follow the directions.


Dear Miss Snark,

Single mom Cassidy Richards never dreamed going home would open the door to her past -or answer the question that has haunted her for the last five years. Who the father of her son is.


yowza. There's a concept for Lifetime TV.
Who the father of her son is wins tonight's award for Clunkiest Sentence of the Day.
Consider: Who is the father of her son?




That's the premise for my recently completed manuscript KEEPING EMMAS SECRET an 80,000 word contemporary romance that follows a young woman who discovers that coming home can bring out a world of possibilities and the love of a lifetime.


Emma may have a secret but what she needs is an apostrophe. Keeping Emma's Secret.
Spelling mistakes make me very crabby.
I want to know why she left, and why she's coming back? DNA tests? Running from the law? Kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a pod person?

What someone does is much more interesting if the why of it is interesting too.



When Cassidy Richards returned to the family ranch, she never dreamed that the home she'd been left in her parents will would already be occupied - by her high school crush turned foreman, Matt Johnson. But when puppy love starts turning into the real thing, and the Texas nights start getting longer and hotter, Cassidy is torn between the man she has always wanted and a promise she gave her sister five years ago.


Miss Snark lives in New York City. She's jaded. She's hostile. She rides the subway in 90 degree weather. She finds someone in her house, she's gonna shoot first and ask questions later.

So far, I'm not reading anything interesting or compelling. It's like a police blotter recitation of facts. Why should we care about Cassidy? Who is this hooligan living in her house? Where's the sister?

And if I never see the word "puppy love" used again I'll be happy. It's almost as much a cliche as "longer and hotter".

You need to get some Texas salsa in this!!



Matt Johnson has lived the past six years with the knowledge that he slept with Cassidy Richards one night and when he opened his eyes the next morning, she was gone. And now he's convinced that a baby was conceived that night. But Cassidy's not done turning his world upside down. Now she's insisting that not only is Zach not her son, but that she never slept with him. The only other answer to that equation is not something Matt is willing to admit, especially when he realizes he's falling for Cassidy all over again.


"has lived"...argh.

Consider: Matt Johnson knows he slept with Cassidy Richards one night only to find her gone the next morning. Now he's convinced the baby is his. Cassidy says Zach isn't Matt's kid and whats more, he's not her's either. She not only never slept with Matt, she's not about to start now. Matt's not sure what he regrets more. Thinking he lost her or knowing he never had her.


But when the truth comes out, Matt finds himself caught in a position that could very well destroy the love he's been waiting a lifetime for.


too bad the fate of the free world doesn't rest on it.

Look...I've read this story one thousand times. Mostly in 8th grade when reading romance kept me busy between soccer practice and snark lessons. It's not good enough to be good enough. To get my attention you have to show me something MORE interesting.



I am, as of yet, unpublished in the Romance category but I have been an avid reader of romance for fifteen years and believe I have captured true romance in KEEPING EMMA'S SECRET. I have been published for such accomplishments as artwork and poetry, and also worked as a newspaper reporter.


leave all this filler out. If you write well enough I don't care if you've been dropped here from Mars. BUT you have to entice me with the story.



Enclosed please the first three chapters and a SASE. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Miss Snark now bops you on the head with a cluestick. Don't DO NOT send three chapters and an SASE UNLESS that's what the instructions say.

Send what they ask for: a cover letter and three-five pages is what "query letter" means. Query letter and first three chapters means just that.

this one comes right back to you with a "not right for us".
But...if Matt turns out to be gay and Zach is really the love child of Princess Diana and Donald Trump..well, then I'd perk right up.

Is it Crap..Cover Letters ...part 7


Dear Miss Snark,

Name the top 5 spectator sports. No particular order. Go ahead.


I dare you? uh ok...agent bashing, blogging, street brawls, NYC politics and ..um...the Republican National Convention?

Oh dear, Miss Snark's provincialism is showing.


Football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey --don't say NASCAR. Say
figure skating -- third ahead of both ice hockey and NASCAR -- a mass
market of thirty million. The same affluent women watching skating
buy books. Middle grade girls devour Silver Blades, though it is long
out of print. Women gobble Alina Adams' skating mysteries to the tune
of tens of thousands of copies.


notice your use of eating verbs to discuss books: devour, and gobble.
Are you hungry?
Now, let's talk about what you just told me. First, you're telling me that figure skating is the third largest spectator sport in the country? Are you counting television audiences?
Or is this people going to the arena to watch games. Cause if it's going to the arena to watch games, I want to see source material for this claim. You can't just tell me this and expect I'll believe it.

And then there is the logic gap of thirty million people watching figure skating translating to book buyers.

You're over reaching here. This is a novel. You don't have to present a marketing plan in your cover letter. Tell me what the book is about and what kind of readers will like it. It helps to compare it to books that are front list, or recently published. Publishers aren't too fond of the out of print book market cause they don't make any money off it.

Introducing On the Edge and Elayne Smith telling her own story of the
vicious world behind the spangles and fluff of international figure
skating. On the Edge is a 65,000 word sweet, coming-of-age novel
aimed at the young adult market. On the Edge can stand alone or lead
off into a series of seven. Three sequels are written with a fourth
in progress.


vicious world...sweet coming of age novel?
I feel like my head just hit the ice.

You'll notice you're not present in your cover letter here. It's like you're talking about someone else. Are you having an out of body experience? Maybe it's cause you're hungry.





Puberty has hit 17 year-old Elayne Smith like a runaway Zamboni. She
loses her jumps, her pairs partner--her confidence. Olympic gold was
never so far away.

Enter bad boy Alexandr "Sasha" Klukov, an Olympic contender in
singles. Handsome and wicked, he says he's her friend. But friendship
with a skate-crazy virgin can't be all he wants.

Sheltered by doting parents and the demands of elite athletics,
Elayne must learn to make her own decisions--to find her own
motivation. Will Elayne fulfill her talent's promise or will first
love distract her from her goals?


Ya ya ya. This is exactly what everyone else is writing in coming of age novels. So what if you can do a double axl? What you need now is a triple to get my attention. There's nothing new here that makes me want to read this. I bet there's a happy ending too. I vote for the Zamboni to return and crush everyone.


My web site Private Ice is the largest skating fiction site in the
world and provides an excellent promotional platform drawing over
30,000 unique visitors per year. I am a full time, freelance
journalist, mostly in technology, with credits in national consumer
and trade magazines.



Whoa Nelly!!! You left this for last???
You might want to lead with this. Seriously.
It's what makes editors drool.


Please request the On the Edge manuscript and series synopses if the
concept piques your interest.



Can you sound any MORE like a fund raising letter? Probably not.
Consider: Thank you for your time and consideration. I know you want me to read/request/beg for the manuscript. Like really good writing, you don't have to spell out the obvious.


Get yourself into this letter. Don't be afraid to use I. (You can be afraid of Miss Snark if you need be fearful of anything..she's used to it)
But...really, you're going to have to write something more interesting than boy meets skate meets date meets fate to get my attention.

So...whose life IS it anyway?

From Publishers Lunch and a host of other places in the blogosphere comes the news that Augusten Burroughs author of Running with Scissors, and publisher thereof, St Martins Press are gonna be guest stars on Court TV as the family sues Burroughs for not making it all up.

Now, lest you think "Dr Finch's family" are all a bunch of money grubbing losers, think about this: one of your siblings writes a book and lays bare every horrid thing you did to her/him/it AND the dog. And makes a pot load of money. AND gets a movie deal. If Miss Snarks sibs did that, she'd be hauled off to the hoosegow. Don't think they haven't tried.

Writing about something makes it public. Changing the names for "privacy" is a half assed measure at best.

If Miss Snark mooned the president of Harvard at commencement it wouldn't take much for people to connect the dots (so to speak) if Grandmother Snark wrote about it even if Miss Snark were rechristened Miss Martha Stewart.

Newspapers employ people who's full time job is to check the facts in the newspapers stories BEFORE they run. Several people have lost their jobs recently because they played fast and loose with the truth.

Newspapers, even those "of record", wrap fish the next day. Books last a LOT longer. And are held to lower, if any, standards.

Which leads me back to the question I asked in one of my first posts: who's fact checking this stuff?

And if anybody is thinking of phoning Grandmother Snark to ask for prurient details, the number is 1-900-REJ ECTN

Is It Crap...The Cover Letters...part 6

A Snarkling writes:

Miss Snark, Literary Agent
Mayor Mike's Metropolis,
Bahamas

Dear Miss Snark,
To prove that I could be just as cutting edge as my punk rock friends, I moved to New Orleans. I lived there for a short lifetime of three months. That was ten years ago. I had tricked myself into thinking that I could outrun myself and my own lame attempt at a yuppie-like existence and make a new life there, full of art and creativity. I wound up in the back of The Casbah, a B rated strip club on Bourbon Street. The suits were gone. I reported in to work in nothing but a G-string and a pair of heels.

(Book Title) is a memoir of my struggles with addiction and recovery from alcohol, cocaine, men and food. It is 50,000 words in length and is a completed manuscript, professionally edited and ready for publication. The market is readers of biographies, memoirs, recovery and self-help books and young female fiction readers ages 18-30.

My book begins in New Orleans and humorously details my life as a drug-addicted, alcoholic stripper. It follows my downward spiral into multiple addictions and back up toward a partial recovery, while giving flashbacks into my childhood and adolescence. After a tragic incident, my codependency puts me into a mental hospital and my eating disorder forces me into treatment, after which I finally find a path to recovery.

Recently there have been several popular books in this genre, including: Smashed by Koren Zailckas and Dry by Augusten Burroughs. My book is different from these, in that it covers more than just one addiction. It is similar, in that it addresses my life with a touching, yet amusing approach.

I was a member of the former Rabbit Hill writer's workshops headed by Duncan Alderson and am a current member of the Literary Guild of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I volunteer in various twelve step groups and at a safe house for abused women. I also volunteer in a halfway house for recovering women where I am often reminded of the horrors of addiction, but am constantly challenged to find a humorous way of dealing with the subject.

I would like to send you the full manuscript of (Book Title) at your earliest convenience. Thank you for your time.





Ok this is really NOT crap.
It's good.
Sadly it would get a not right for us cause it's NOT right for us - I don't do this kind of book but it wouldn't be code for "it's crap".

Nice work.
Make sure the writing rocks.
You've got pretty much one shot to wow them.

Is it Crap...Cover Letters, part 5



August 1, 2005


Miss Snark, the Literary Agent
Mayor Mike's Metropolis
Bahamas

Dear Miss Snark:


I am seeking representation for my 70,000 word "Alien Underworld" styled erotic futuristic fantasy entitled Beautiful Death.


Ok..what's Alien Underworld styled?
Is that what you're calling Miss Snark's new hairstyle?
She TOLD Mr Pigtail not to use the blow torch.

Back to the query: erotic and futuristic are NOT categories. Well, erotic is but unless you're writing an erotic novel you want to lead with what this is: fantasy.



Without hesitation or mercy, Isabella Thanatos, First Marshal of Athens, kills monsters spawned by a mutating virus introduced by aliens fifteen years ago. Contaminated by an experimental vaccination, she is now transforming into a monster herself. In her search for answers, she is hunted by the Pantheon and the darkest monsters of the Underworld alike.


This is fantasy. You better tell me what's wrong with monsters. Some of my dearest clients actually speak Klingon.
It must be late: I read that as "fire marshal".



Death belongs to Hades, and he scares her more than the monster growing inside her.


what? Does this follow from the paragraph above? Is Death a dog that belongs to Hades?
Is Isabella pregnant or is she channelling Ripley from Alien?



If you are interested, I will gladly send you a synopsis and partial selection of chapters. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!


Enclosed please find: always send writing. Always.
Thank you for your consideration is enough.
I bet you're not going to like what I have to say so we can skip the obvious suck up.


We've seen a synopsis dump in previous queries. You've taken it all out. Moderation in all things of course. We need to see some of WHAT is going to happen and again..why I should give a damn.

Miss Snark appreciates brevity and loves a woman of few words, but you've got some room to manuever here.

More in this case would be better.

Is it Crap..Cover Letters...Four



August 1, 2005



Miss Snark
Mayor Mike's Metropolis,
Bahamas

Dear Ms. Snark:


MISS Snark. Miss Snark is relentlessly NOT PC.
If you know someone uses Miss or Dr or Great Grand Poobah, use it.
Otherwise Ms is fine.




I have perused your webpage extensively and would like to submit "Executive Lunch" for your consideration. Please find included both a synopsis and the first three chapters per your guidelines. Here is a quick teaser from Executive Lunch


You're bringing me lunch? Yum. Oh wait. you mean it's a ....novel? Book proposal? poem?
tell me what it is upfront. Otherwise I'm clueless as I read the teaser.

And I hate hate hate that "perused your webiste extensively" only cause it either means I'm so damn witty you bookmarked me, or I was so damn unclear you had to read the thing six times to figure out what I wanted.

Generally we both know you're the writer and I'm the agent. We know you've got pages and you want my attention. You can skip to the good part right away: whatcha got??



Sedona is given the opportunity of a lifetime: play an up-and-coming executive with all the trappings of wealth with someone else footing the bill. The catch: find out who is stealing computer equipment and charity checks before the criminals find out that the program is being debugged. Unfortunately, Sedona is better at writing computer code than deciphering political vitriol, and if she doesn't compile the clues quickly, her tests won't be the only things dying. By the time Sedona puts two and two together, the man that hired her has disappeared and her friend Turbo, able to put together a clue or two himself, is also gone. It's time to change the name of the game and soon, because if she doesn't, her friends will be shut down for good!


What's with these names!
And what the hell are you talking about here?
Give me six sentences of less than ten words that tell me WHO is doing WHAT to WHOM and why why I should give a rat's ass.

Start with telling me it's fiction so I don't panic.



I have a few credits; they are listed below. Please feel free to email me if you would like to see the full manuscript. If you have questions or suggestions, you may also email them to me. An SASE is included for any reply if this is more convenient. Thank you for your time.


they are listed below? List them here. I'm not going to email you. I'm going to write you a nice note. I don't give out my email address to anyone unless I want to see more than just a partial.

Consider: My writing credits include (being brave enough to submit to Miss Snark's blog). An SASE is enclosed. Thank you for your time and consideration (and the home phone number for George Clooney is underneath this page).


This needs work. LOTS of work. Query letters are a bitch to write. Writers tend to drop a synopsis into the center of it forgetting that characters and why the reader will care about any of this is more important.

Is it Crap...Round Two..the cover letters -3


Dear Submissions Editor


You wrote this to cause me great anguish right?
Banish those words forevermore.
Write:
Dear Miss Snark,
Always always ALWAYS the correct name.




The protagonist of my mystery novel, Jane Wilkinson, is a private
investigator with a unique viewpoint: Kinsey Millhone meets Carl Jung.


Ok, I don't understand this but maybe it's cause I've never read Carl Jung.
I know who he is, I have an idea of what his work was about but past that...this comparison doesn't work for me.


Jane is a private investigator specializing in missing persons, but
considers reading her true passion. She reads at every opportunity and
her choice of books is eclectic. Over the course of time she has noticed
that whatever she happens to be reading parallels her life. Her husband
says this is just coincidence, to which Jane responds that keeping an
open mind in order to detect and use these coincidences helps her solve
cases.


And...this is exciting ..how?
I want to read more ..why?
Reading books (despite Miss Snark's profession) is NOT exciting.
It's like watching someone play a computer game: DO is better than watch.



Jane is just starting a new book, Doris Lessing's "The Golden Notebook"
when she is hired to find a missing girl. In this, Jane's first recorded
case, she decides to conduct an experiment to demonstrate to herself,
and to her doubting husband, that her coincidence detection theory is
valid. Throughout the case and her reading, she writes down the
synchronicities she finds between the two. Jane soon discovers that the
missing girl is planning to use herself as bait to set up a date-rapist
so she can charge him with the crime. Jane has no sympathy for a rapist,
but with the insights she gains from "The Golden Notebook" she prevents
the young woman from taking an irrevocable step.


blah blah blah synopsis. What's the problem?
Who's the bad guy?
Why will we care?



This is a finished novel and the first in a planned series featuring
Jane Wilkinson and her theory. While there are no direct quotes from
"The Golden Notebook" I have described scenes and ideas with the
emphasis on Jane's response.


yea copyright issues suck. How many words?
Planned series? Let's get the first one aloft before we get the next bird on the flight deck.


I am currently a stay-at-home mom living in Ottawa with my husband and
two children. A short story of mine won the 2004 Scene of the Crime
Short Story Contest and was an Honourable Mention in the 2004 Audrey
Jessup Award for Best Short Crime Fiction. This last is a contest
offered by Capital Crime Writers, a mystery writer's group based in
Ottawa of which I am a member.


The only thing worth mentioning is the contest stuff.


Should you wish to read all or part of "A Week In The Life Of ...a Jane
Wilkinson Mystery"


Ok, you win the prize for the worst title of the night. Or is it a joke and I just don't get it?


I would be delighted to send it.


Of course you would. What did you actually send? Never send only a cover letter. Send writing pages. Agents want to see how you write the actual work. Even if it's just five pages, send them.

There's nothing here that makes me thing "oh boy I want to read on"
No zip, no pizazz, no sex, no violence, no literary agents being taken to dinner by handsome gentlemen...

The only good news is that terrible query letters usually come with great writing. It's like a law : the better the query, the worse the writing. I live to see the exceptions.

8.01.2005

Is It Crap..Round Deux...the cover letter-2


I am sending this query in regards to CITY OF ANGELS. It is a complete paranormal romance of 100,000 words set in present day Los Angeles.


in regards to? do you talk like that? I bet not.
How about "I'm querying about CITY OF ANGELS".

complete paranormal?
I bet you mean it's finished.

word count and location-good.



Kate Seymour leads a routine life. She gets up at dusk, gulps down a little blood then dashes off to work the night shift as a detective for the Los Angeles police department. Life holds little excitement, her job is routine and so is her boyfriend, but things change one dark dawn when she comes home to find a sexy vampire named Lucas reclining in her La-Z-Boy.


ok, I'm liking this. It's funny, it's off beat..



Lucas has chased the monster responsible for his wife and children's death for a thousand years. The man responsible for turning him from a king into a creature of the night has come to Los Angeles and Lucas is determined to destroy him. He requires Kate's assistance to finish the task. Complicating matters are his tender feelings for the auburn haired vampire, emotions that he cannot act upon.


Why can't he act on them? No Vampire Viagra prescription?
So far we've got Kate, and Lucas but nothing about the BAD GUY!!!
Unless you have no antagonist (a bad bad bad choice) you'll want to mention him! Evil is Enticing (Miss Snark has a tattoo that says so).




Although she is wildly attracted to the mysterious vampire, Kate notices the number of murders has increased since Lucas arrived in town. She suspects he is behind the crimes. Lucas must convince her that the vampire responsible for his own misery is the same one wrecking havoc now. They must learn to work together before it is too late and the world is destroyed by an evil not even a vampire can comprehend.


Ya ya ya...drink blood, unrequited love, save the world. What happened to the funny offbeat stuff?? You're going to need something more zippy to break out of the pack here.




CITY OF ANGELS placed second in the 2002 Winning Beginnings contest sponsored by the VFRW. I am a current member of Romance Writers of America. I graduated with Honors from UC-Santa Cruz with a degree in History. My article on research was included in the Writer Books current release, The Romance Writers Handbook. Currently, I am working on another paranormal romance.


The only thing worth mentioning here is that contest. All the other stuff is just filler.



Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.


No in advance, I'm reading it now. Thank you for your time and consideration (and if you look under this query you'll see tomorrow's winning Lotto numbers) will do just fine.


All in all, not bad.
Those first pages need to be great.

Is it Crap...round 2..the cover letters

After the day Miss Snark has had, anyone brave enough to send her fodder for the Crap O Meter deserves a prize.

Name
Address
Address

Dear Name of Agent:

You know to get this right, right? Not "Ladies and Gentlemen" Not "Dear Agent"
and REALLY NOT "Dear MR Snark". Miss Snark snarls when her femininity is maligned.
If you do not KNOW, you have no business querying.


When Skye Williams finds lingerie hidden under her husband's side of the bed, her very average, very normal life erupts into a series of startling events. Her best friend's husband dies, she's roped into coordinating an all blue wedding, and she discovers her husband isn't having an affair after all, but he's gay. Then the police decide that her friend's husband was murdered and her friend is their prime suspect.


oh blah blah blah. What happened to those short fun zippy sentences??
You don't have to outline the damn plot!

Consider:
Skye Williams finds lingerie hidden under her husband's side of the bed. She discovers the other woman is a man. What Sky thought was a nice normal life turns into murder. Her best friend is the suspect. What's a nice suburban photographer to do? Solve it of course.


Now she's divorcing, she's dating, she's trying to find a career, and she's got to solve the murder before her best friend is arrested.


The strength of cozy mysteries is never ever not EVER the plot. It's the people. Trust Miss Snark on this. Tell us who the people are and why we'll like reading about them. (This rule doesn't apply to everyone.)


IF IT'S NOT ONE THING, IT'S A MURDER, is a 78,000 word cozy mystery written in a chicklit tone.


oh good, you've got the title and the word count, the genre and category. This is good. You'd be surprised how many people don't even tell me if it's fiction. Plus the title is cute.


In the second book of the Skye Donovan Photographic Mystery series, LET SLEEPING DOGS DIE, Skye lands a contract shooting calendar photos for a national chain of pet stores. But when the owner of the doggie talent is killed, Skye's life is thrown into chaos. The investigating detective is her on-again/off-again lover, Scott Madison, and he's threatening to close down her shoot until he finds the killer. If that doesn't happen soon, she stands to lose her biggest job ever.


I hate this second book stuff. Just mention that the characters have series written all over them.

I worked in retail advertising for 20 years and have extensive experience with commercial photographers as a stylist, layout artist, and project manager.

Ok, ya, so? You need to mention WHY that is important: ie Skye will know whereof she speaks.
to wit: My 20 years experience in retail advertising and experience with commercial photographers give Skye depth and expertise.


My first book (Name of Book) was published by Medallion Press in May, 2004. The second book (Name of Book, also by Medallion Press) will be on the shelves in November, 2005.


Are these part of the series? Are they mysteries?


I have enclosed a synopsis and three chapters for your consideration, and an SASE for your reply. Please recycle the partial when you no longer need it. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


I hate wordy sentences. Concise: I have enclosed a synopsis and and SASE. (We know you want us to consider this and write back). Thank you for your time and consideration.
No "I look forward to hearing from you" cause chances are..you don't.

Don't print it in ten point tiny type.
Don't print on any color paper but white.
And for godsake don't print it in fun cute type.


All in all, not the worst thing I've ever read by a long shot.

Writing trumps all though, so make those enclosed three chapter just as good as you possibly can.

oh just step on my heart and grind your heel in, why NOT.

There are those out there in the cold cruel world of writers who take great sadistic pleasure in breaking Miss Snark's tender little heart.

Just tonight, as she daintily plied her trade in the slush pile (Monday requires over time on this) Miss Snark found a WONDERFUL query. Fabulous concept. Mordant humor. Miss Snark actually smiled...a rare event at 9pm on Monday.

Then...she saw it. First one, then another. Then the third.
Typos Snarklings.
Not one, not two..MANY.

It just was so DAMN disappointing.

I don't want to have to copy edit a manuscript. I don't want to have to double check every word, every time I read a draft.

I don't want to do it so much that I wrote this hapless author a letter that required an asbestos envelope and should be read while wearing asbestos underpants.

Copy edit your stuff.
Please.

Is it Crap...part...next

A Snarkling writes:

Here's my first page. Have at it. I've appreciated your helpful commentary on the others. Maybe you can do the same for me because I'm getting entirely too much of the "not right for us" commentary (though not entirely).



Soon she'd have to resort to wearing sunglasses, Madeline thought. The camera flashes popped all around her like firecrackers on the fourth of July. But that was nothing. Being photogenic was the least of her problems at this moment. The race for governor was young and she already had to make her first concession speech. Now that was a problem.


you lose me right off the bat with "being photogenic was the least of her problems. It makes Madeline sound like someone I'd hate, like the "don't hate me cause I'm beautiful" shampoo girl.

The race for governor was young and she already had to make her first concession speech? Huh?? Last time I looked, there are only two election days: primary and general. The race for governor isn't young on either of those days. Presidential contests have primaries and thus "early days" ... but governor?


She squinted and turned it into a wink at the nearest reporter. He happened to be right at her elbow, pressed in by the crowd.


and she's winking at reporters. I hate her more.


"There's more than one way to skin a cat. Time for Plan B, so hold onto your hat," she said. As an exclamation point to her statement, she lit her face with a genuine smile. Let them put that in their pipe she mused. At least the comment drew plenty of chuckles.


skin a cat? Plan B? hold onto your hat? argh...cliches all!
She's "musing" in the middle of a crush of press people? I bet she's not.
she "lit her face" with a "genuine smile"...the construction of this sentence makes her "genuine smle" look calculated. When you put those phrases together it sounds like parody.


"What's thiis? The Dr. Seuss school of political campaigning?" St.Cyr from the Boston Globe quipped back.


In the crush of a press group, there's quipping and winking? Not in any press scrum I've seen.


There were laughs all around. Laughter was good. She joined in. It wasn't all bravado, but she wasn't sure how much longer she could stay on this ledge before she fell off - or maybe even took a leap. She needed to get off the convention floor.


huh? she's on a ledge on a floor?? Metaphors should illuminate a situation or person, not make you bring out the slide rule to demonstrate the physics of ledges and floors. This metaphor is like talking about the inner taste of chocolate in vanilla ice cream...it's confusing as hell.


"What's Plan B?" Another reporter called out.


I'm guessing Plan B is to get off the floor.
At this point, if I'm reading this and thinking that, you've lost me.


Then the avalanche of clamoring to know everything started in earnest. Madeline turned to her campaign manager, Sarah. They didn't have a press secretary yet and boy could they use one right now. Standing surrounded by all manner of media circling like buzzing bees on a flower, her hope to make a quick exit after the speech looked dim. She prodded Sarah to say something. Since the speech went so well she preferred to leave on that high note and not say another thing if she could help it.

"Peter John Douglas won. We lost. But this is only check, not check mate." Sarah delivered her lines, albeit in a monotone.

Madeline turned away. Trying not to laugh or cry, she wished politics were as clean and simple as chess. Not that she was about to get squeamish now, but sometimes she herself had a hard time believing she was in this ridiculous game.


I'm confused, I hate Madeline, and there's a lot of cliche description here.
I'd send this back with a not for us.

And of course, the limits of this exercise are that Madeline could get shot on the next page by someone who hates her use of cliches and her muddy thinking too.
If so, I'd perk right up!

ya ya ya..yer mama wears army boots

Via the puurrrfection of GalleyCat
Comes Adam Langer's roundup of Seven Deadly Sins of Critics.

Number four is where Miss Snark elevates an eyebrow:


(4) THE FACT-CHECKER-WITH-TOO-MUCH-TIME-ON-HIS-HANDS CRITIQUE. Granted, when I was writing Crossing California, I should have recalled that one needs to travel south, not north, on Kimball Avenue to get to Zanies' Comedy Club. I fixed this error in subsequent editions, but whether it was a valid topic for criticism is another story. In similar fashion, Elliot Perlman, author of Seven Types of Ambiguity and the forthcoming collection The Reasons I Won't Be Coming, writes that the film version of his novel Three Dollars, for which he also wrote the screen adaptation, was criticized for getting a street address wrong. "It's this kind of sharp, incisive film criticism that's made the Australian film industry what it is today," Perlman says.


Ah yes, the "Yes I was wrong but it's awfully small of you to notice and comment on it" school of thought.

Getting facts wrong drives me crazy as a reader. I've never gotten over Ann Rule's basic errors in Dead by Sunset.

I'm reminded of James Cameron's "insane" insistence on reshooting scenes in Titanic because the propellers on the ship were going the wrong direction.

Getting it right down to the smallest details is important for two reasons. First, as a reader, if something leaps off the page to me as a mistake (Ann Rule getting the name of a highway wrong) it breaks my concentration and pulls me right out of the story. Second, it makes me less trusting of her other facts. It's a hallmark of craft to get the details right. I respect that attention to detail.

Ann Rule writes non fiction. James Cameron was recreating something that actually happened. Does the same standard apply to fiction? Can you get it "wrong" if it's all made up anyway? I wonder if that's one of the reasons the late Ed McBain rechristened New York City for the 87th Precinct books. You can make the Hudson flow "wrong" if it's not the Hudson and it's not New York. Not that he ever did of course. I just made that up to illustrate my point.

Is it fair game in a review to point out an author's mistakes? You bet. Is it fair game to draw conclusions about the writer's skill and the success of the book from said mistake? Yea it is. If you don't like it...spend less time complaining and more time fact checking.

7.31.2005

Is It Crap...cover letters.

This week let's take a look at cover letters.
If you'd like to send yours to me, send it in the body of the email. Attachments require endless html reformatting.

In the email, you must tell me it's ok to publish it on the blog.

I'll leave out your name, your title, and anything that personally identifies you unless you say it's ok.

Email: misssnark@earthlink.net
all lower case, earthlink is very sensitive about cases.

I may not post all of them if the response is overwhelming.

What did you pay for Harry Potter?

Grandmother Snark is poking me with her parasol for asking what someone paid for something, but I ask for a reason.

I prevailed upon a young friend (cash and control of the remote was involved) to let me read her HP6 this Sunday. I noticed the retail price was $29.99. I also noticed it broke my toe when I dropped it after falling asleep on page 47 so I assume the thing wasn't cheap to ship.

Retail price doesn't mean much these days. I wonder what the price really was for people who coughed up cash. Dig out those receipts! Let me know!

Is it Crap...part 6


I held the lingerie up by its tiny straps. It was a froth of cheap, bubblegum pink nylon with little round doilies of gold lace over the nipple areas. With matching lace ruffles around the legs. Open crotch.
Not mine.
"I will kill him." The thought formed slowly and the words were whispered behind clenched teeth.
"Then, I'm gong to kill her." I didn'teven know who she was, but I was damn well going to find out.
Blood pounded in my head and I felt sick to my stomach. A little dizzy. Then I realized I was hyperventilating. I sat down on the unmade bed and tried to breathe normally.
It was hard because this wasn't normal.
I knew what normal was. It was my life - until now. When the nausea faded, I looked at the evidence of his unfaithfulness again.
Outside of being wrinkled, it didn't appear to have been used. At least it hadn't been laundered from the condition of the papery tag sewn into the back seam. I fingered the tag and squinted at the information printed in English, Spanish and French. Nylon/acrylic. Hand wash, line dry. Size XXL.
XXL? Craig Williams, my husband of nineteen years, was having an affair with a fat woman. I cringed at my attitude. There was nothing wrong with being fat. My friend, Lily, was plump. I was carrying a few extra pounds myself. Nothing wrong with it. Besides,XXL didn't necessarily mean fat. She could be big boned. Or tall. Maybe statuesque.
She was probably a freaking Amazon goddess.
In my bed. With my husband
That certainly explained why we rarely had sex any more. Craig was having Amazon-sex with his voluptuous mistress instead of Pygmy-sex with his five-foot-two-inch wife.
"Skye?" Craig's voice floated up the stairwell to me. "I'm home."
I froze like I'd been caught sweeping dirt under a rug. I glanced around the room, searching for a place to hide the offending lingerie. What the hell was I thinking?  I didn't need to hide the damn lingerie. I wasn't the one who'd hidden it under his side of the bed.



Not crap at all.
I like the "not usual" motif of the other woman being XXL. I'd keep reading for sure.

And for all you eagle eyed Snarklings out there, yes I know it's not perfect, but our question today is : "does it survive the 85% crap pile", NOT "is it ready to go to a publisher"

Is it Crap? part 5

A very very brave Snarkling offers up this:


"Success does have its privileges." John Connor smiled to himself as he looked over the cheering crowd. They waited anxiously to hear what the young pastor of the fastest growing church in Texas had to say. Pastors twenty years his senior hoped to glean something from his words that would help them see their churches grow, even if they couldn't experience his phenomenal success.

John didn't disappoint. "Many of you want to know how to make your church grow like mine has," he began. "My first suggestion is to put it in an area that is about to have a population explosion." He smiled at the laughter that rolled across the auditorium. Connor knew that many people attributed the growth his church had experienced solely to the population growth in the Southwest Dallas area, and most not very kindly at that.

Having disarmed his critics immediately, Connor continued, "But if all you have is a building, you'll never have a church, let alone a growing church. You need to make sure that you build the church on the foundation of Jesus Christ!" His voice became more intense. "While the growth in numbers is exciting, what is even more exciting is to see how each member is growing and being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ."

Connor then went on to explain that he saw his success not in the huge numbers of new members, but in the changed lives of his new members. He told of a young man with four arrests in the past and even now on probation that turned to Jesus because a friend invited him to a Youth Activity. Forty people including his father and a teacher had turned to Jesus because of his influence. "One person took the initiative to talk to a friend he cared about in spite of legal and drug problems and God has worked a miracle in forty-one lives." He turned and pointed to a young man sitting on the platform. "Excuse me. Mike, including me and that friend -forty-three lives." The crowd demanded that Mike stand and John urged him to acknowledge the crowd."You're not finished yet, are you, Mike?" The camera for the giant screens zoomed in on Mike as he smiled shyly and shook his head.

John waited until the applause died down. "Mike told me earlier that he isn't finished because God isn't finished. As you look at your own lives, how many of you can say that you're living as if God isn't finished yet?" John's words echoed throughout a hushed auditorium. For too many people, those words hit closer to home than was comfortable..

He continued to tell of lives changed, marriages saved, children reclaimed and a community of Christians who were excited about what God was doing. The light on the podium changed to yellow just as John began winding down.

"I'm a science fiction fan and I saw a DVD recently called "Galaxy Quest" They faced impossible odds and prevailed because they were reminded of their motto. I leave you today with the motto of the crew on "Galaxy Quest" 'Never give up, never surrender.' When the odds are against you....." he pointed to the crowd to get them to respond; a few did. "Never give up, never surrender. When the devil is attacking....," he waited for the crowd and they responded with,
"Never give up, never surrender."


This writing illustrates the critical importance of your cover letter. In the email that came with it there is no hint of WHAT this is: fiction, non fiction, a call to arms at the local church.

If I read this without any clues, I'd think it was a non fiction guide to building a church. If it's fiction, there's a LOT of TELLING rather than showing for example: "Having disarmed his critics immediately, Connor continued" rather than showing us the critics different response after hearing him speak. And: "For too many people, those words hit closer to home than was comfortable" tells us rather than shows us.

And if it IS fiction, I'd be hoping it's supposed to be funny cause otherwise the idea of seriously quoting a movie that is a parody of Star Trek would elevate Miss Snarks carefully plucked eyebrow.

This would be a no from me.

Is it Crap?..part 4

More brave snarklings step up to the plate.


Trina kept to a quick, purposeful stride as she moved away from the house she'd hit. Anyone watching would think her an apprentice sent on some important task. They couldn't hear her pounding heart or feel the damp sweat coating her palms.


The first stentence pulls me in.
The second sentence makes me want to hit you with a hammer.

"anyone watching-they couldn't" takes the story away from an intimate sense of me right there with Trina, to feeling like a part of a removed, very much larger audience. I look for writers who craft work that sucks me right in to the tale and make me feel I"m there as it happens.

Look at the difference when you keep us WITH Trina:

Trina kept to a quick, purposeful stride as she moved away from the house she'd hit. She wanted anyone watching to think she was only an apprentice sent on some important task.





She hadn't taken everything, just enough to feed her family and buy two more weeks worth of medicine for her mother as long as Fence paid a fair price.


This is a very long sentence when you are trying to buld tension. I'd put it in the middle of the next paragraph too. That keeps the tension building instead of taking time out for a news bulletin.





Glancing around, she wiped her hands down her trousers, drying them. The jewelry rested in a hidden pocket under her tunic. No one would find it by accident.


When it's rewritten, see the difference:
Trina kept to a quick, purposeful stride as she moved away from the house she'd hit. She wanted anyone watching to think she was only an apprentice sent on some important task.

The jewelry rested in a hidden pocket under her tunic. No one would find it by accident.She hadn't taken everything, just enough to feed her family. Food and two weeks worth of medicine for her mother --as long as Fence paid a fair price.


Her pace slowed as she swung by the chain-link fence surrounding Ceric's only spaceport. She ran her fingers along the metal links, enjoying the faint ticking sound. In the distance, a spaceship roared to life. It leapt off the
surface in a bright flash of light, followed by a roll of thunder louder than the strongest summer storms.


Here''s the clearest contrast between what you're writing, and what I'd look for:

You: Her pace slowed as she swung by
Me: She slowed her pace as she swung by


Trina stopped.

She stared at the ship until it became a backward shooting star in the light of day. Her gaze pinned on the fading light, Trina forgot about the jewelry burning a hole in her chest and about the possibility of pursuit. Though the doctrine told her machines would steal her soul, still the sky drew her.

She'd taken the test. Everyone had one chance to join the space guilds as part of the contract between spacers and colonies; one chance based solely on their abilities.



This is genre writing and as such it is doubly difficult task. Not only does it need to be well written, it has to observe the forms. Like haiku. Like schooling figures in ice skating. Like dressage.

This would be a no from me.