9.10.2005

Sara Nelson Channels Miss Snark!!!!

Wow, what a compliment..I think.

Sara Nelson, the new Big Deal at Publishers Weekly, aka the bible of publishing, talks about that uttter and complete charlatan Kevin Trudeau in her latest PW column ( 9.5.2005 issue) She bemoans the lack of fact checking in books, and the headline is "Snake Oil Crisis".

Well knock me over with a feather but if you scroll down this blog, what to your wondering eye will appear but Miss Snark saying pretty much the same thing including the phrase "snake oil" in two posts in early July: "This Guy Gives Snake Oil Salesmen a Bad Name" and "Telling Lies for Fun and Profit" both on July 5 I think.

Sara of course forgets to mention she reads this blog daily.. I'm sure it's just an oversight and her minions will arrive momentarily bearing gifts of mea culpa...but it's damn nice to see that what we've been yammering about here in the blogosphere is finally getting some serious attention from people who are in a position to be heard by a lot of folks.

I'm not sure if it will actually lead to anything, but at least it's something in PW you can photocopy and go tape on the shelves at BN where they actually sell that horseshit bound like a book.

9.09.2005

Storming the Court by Brandt Goldstein

Every so often a piece of narrative non fiction is so compelling, I add it to the list of books I recommend to everyone, even novelists, as examples for how to create great narrative. (The list already includes works by John McPhee, Tracy Kidder, Melissa Fay Green, and Simon Winchester)

I just finished a book that is now on my list: Storming the Court by Brandt Goldstein. Regardless of your politics, this is a fascinating story of a group of law students at Yale who challenged both the first President Bush and then President Clinton on their policy of holding Haitian refugees at Guantanamo without due process or access to lawyers. If any of this sounds familiar it's cause the issues played out again when "enemy combatants" from Afghanistan were held the same way post 2001.

You know how the case ends from the subtitle, but I was still riveted by the story telling. I cared deeply about the characters....lawyers no less! and I couldn't wait to find out what happens.

This is a really good book. It's hardcover from Scribner so trot down to the local library and ask them to get it for you.

9.08.2005

Snarkistics

A Snarkling looks to write a thesis on snarkistics:

"Dear Miss Snark,Thanks for all the great info you share with us!You recently mentioned that you sell about 70% of the manuscripts you represent. On average, of those sold, approximately how long did they take to sell and with how many submissions? What was the fastest sale you've had? The slowest? Did these surprise you? When, if ever, do you give up on a manuscript? Do you then suggest new projects or directions for your clients? A new agent? "
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I have no idea of the specifics. I don't tabulate those numbers. Since I don't report to a boss (so many clients signed, so many submissions made, so many gin bottles recycled this quarter) some of the number crunches are just irrelevant for me.

I have a sense of how things are going but thats it. My standard is a novel should be at least three places at any given time if it's not on an exclusive, or the editor hasn't said "i'm taking this up to the acquisitions committe and I think we're gonna buy it".

NF book proposals have faster turn around time so I usually make sure it's at least five places with the same proviso.

Fastest is about six weeks from finished ms in my door to offer signed and on the author's desk.
Slowest would of course be not sold and I have enough of those thanks.

I do give up sometimes and usually the client retires the project. Its VERY hard to get another agent to take something on if you've had a previous agent working on it and a string of rejections. I don't think anyone who has retired from my list is represented elsewhere. My clients and I tend to part amicably (knock on wood).

Do I suggest what they do next? No. Do I listen to their ideas? Yes.

How long is too long, and how to tell

"I know as an aspiring author, the biggest hurdle to cross (or so we've been told) is getting an agent.

However, I know of one writer that's had her novel with a reputable agent (with a rather full client list) for about two years now, and no bites. I know of another writer whose agent just dumped her after 1 year (and never sent her ms off to anyone) due to her client list being too full.

I guess my question is that once you have the agent, what sort of timeline or progress should you be looking at? When is everything still hunky-dory and when should you run for the hills?

Thanks for taking your time to answer everyone's questions. You are the goddess of all that is publishing snark."

First, you LEAP a hurdle, rather than cross. You cross yourself at mass, Miss Snark gets cross about mixed metaphors, and she leaps tall buildings in a single bound.

Now, the question. Well, I have novels I haven't sold for two years. I'm amazed at how shortsighted some editors are. It's a really good novel. Periodically I ask my client if she wants to soldier on with me. She always does. I remind her that James Lee Burke was unpublished for more than 15 years at one point. She reminds me that we're not getting any younger and that anecdote is getting less appealing every time I tell her.

Now, what's troublesome about Friend #2 is that the agent didn't send the manuscript out. Is there a missing piece of information here? Was the agent asking for edits? rewrites? bribes?

My client with the unsold novel has a slew of rejection letters. Unsold does not mean unsubmitted (if there is such a word).

I'd be very very very leery of an agent who is not sending things out. We've had sturm und drang here at the blog about when to see rejection letters but if you ask for, and do not receive promptly, a list of places your work has been, and is now, that is a HUGE HUGE HUGE warning flag.

My data base management system allows me to email that information to a client in about ten seconds. I usually take a minute cause I remove the comments file before sending.

We can photocopy an entire file and have it in the Fed Ex by noon if a client asks.

If you can't get that info from your agent, the first step is to have a very frank discussion with your agent about what the hell is going on.

If the answers are not satisfactory to you, find another agent. There are one gazillion of them in New York City alone.

If you sign with an agent, and your work is ready to go out, s/he should have your work out to editors within a month at MAXIMUM. There are exceptions to this like summer, vacation, London Book Fair etc. but if your work isn't out there soon after 30 days, I'd like to know why.

Miss Snark looks up the country code for Antarctica

A snarkling in a far-flung port flings herself at Miss Snark's inbox:

"Do agents take on clients who are living in another country? I'm living in Asia at the moment and will be going to Europe soon, and I was wondering if agents ever take on clients who reside in an entirely different country.

Have you ever done that before? What kind of problems or issues come up in this scenario?"

I think there are many ex-pats represented by agents here. Donna Leon the mystery writer comes to mind. The guy who wrote Bangkok 8 lives in Asia, I think.

That said, it's not a walk in the Tivoli Garden to have international clients. Even with email, which made things a lot easier, and electronic transmission of files even more so, it's harder to actually talk on the phone and meet. It's also a bitch for the publicity tour.

I know Donna Leon comes over very irregularly to tour for her books. It's a shame, cause she's really cool and more people should know her.

The real trick is, as always, to write something really really good. Once you've done that, Miss Snark will dogsled to your home in Antarctica to sign you up if need be. And that pesky pr tour? Miss Snark will stand in for you! (gee-I hope you're a girl.)

In my spare time I walk on water

A Snarkling looks ahead:

"You write a lot with how writers find agents and how agents then find publishing deals for their writers, but what does the agent do once that bridge has been crossed?

Let's say you have secured a three-book deal for a writer. Do you take an active role in each of those three books as a sounding board for the author? Are you the one hawking the film rights? Foreign publishing rights? Or do you simply wait for the writer to finish his three books and hope he comes back to you when he's looking for a new contract?"

Once the deal is signed the real fun begins. There's all the fun of covers, blurbs, promotional campaigns, and wailing about stock. Those conversations are hardly ever fun...or short.

If there's a second book coming, you bet I read it. Sometimes I'm the reader before the editor, sometimes not.

I don't do film rights, or foreign publishing rights. Those are handled very capably by my subsidiary rights agents. Film is it's own specialized world and Miss Snark is smart enough to let people who know what they are doing, do it. Foreign rights the same.

That's not to say I'm out of the loop on that, but I'm not doing the day to day work.

Acquisition is a very small part of my job. Selling the work is a bigger one but keeping the author's career in forward motion is the biggest.

As for hoping the client's come back ...well, they never seem to leave. Unlike fish and guests, I'm glad to have them stay as long as they want.

9.07.2005

Love Labors Lamented

A Snarkling sells short and hopes for rich rewards:

"I've read that a lot of agents won't handle short story collections. Any particular reason for this? Are they harder to sell and/or relegated to the literary world? If I have ideas for novels and collections, should I look for an agent who handles both, or is it likely that the "right" agent (i.e.
compatible with me and my writing style) would be willing to work with collections as long as I have publication credits established?"

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I don't handle them cause I can't sell them and most of them don't appeal to me. Oh yea, hit me on the head with your New Yorkers, ya ya ya, but rarely if ever do you see a collection of work published only in the New Yorker.

I have a hard enough time placing collections of essays, which I love, so I figure someone else can chomp on short stories.

The tried and true way to sell short stories is to sell them to magazines first and then draw the interest of agents that way.

Some of my clients sell short fiction to genre magazines, but they do that on their own. There's not enough dough in it for me to get involved much. I generally look over the contracts to make sure they aren't getting hosed, but that's about it.

The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank

A Snarkling finds something new to worry about now that she's GOT the agent:

"I recognize that submission success to publishers varies from agent to agent. If you have Esther Newberg, you probably have a 100 percent chance of getting a deal, although I'm sure there's a selection factor here--she gets to pick winners. And I've read that some agents take on many clients throw it all against the wall of an editor's office and see what sticks.

Do you happen to know any statistics about the percentage of agented submissions that actually get deals?"
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Someone emailed me or it was in the comments line, I forget, and said they'd seen the ratio was as low as 5%. Yikes! Hard to make money that way.

I have no idea what anyone else's numbers are. Bar chat leads me to think it's a LOT higher. I know mine is. We run about 70% right now. Some of those authors have second books coming or new projects percolating, but they've had sales, and they aren't first time authors.

Five percent is just too horrid to contemplate.

I'm not sure there's any independently verifiable way to actually find out.

Save your money for bribing Miss Snark

A Snarkling worries she's going to be struck by "lightening"

"Would you suggest that a first time fiction author invest in having his/her manuscript edited professionally prior to submitting to agents for representation?"
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Do you spell worse than you smell?
Is the passive voice able to be recognized in your work?

Have you achieved climax...er...well...you know..plot wise.

It's not going to kill you to have it looked over by a squinty eyed flint lipped grammarian. But it's not a requirement.

If you've gotten a zillion rejections you might want to invest in an outside opinion, but if you know the difference between "lightning" "lightening" and "Lite Ning" yer probably gonna be ok.

Hey Big Spender!

A Snarkling is hedging his bets as he inquires:

"O Gracious Mistress of the Gin Pail, a thousand pardons for my presumption. Please grant this unworthy one an answer. Have you ever turned down an offer from an editor when you knew it was too low, and you had full faith and belief that you could get more mooney elsewhere? "

Well, I've turned down offers cause it wasn't enough for the author to be willing to do the book (non fiction-the book wasn't written) and I've turned down offers for fiction cause I was hoping, praying and sacrificing goats we'd get a better offer. Of course, the client and I made these decisions together. Agents have a fiduciary responsibility to present all offers. If clients want to take small potatoes, baby, pour the catsup, we've got a deal.

Of course if a first time novelist says "I won't settle for less than one hundred thousand pictures of George Washington spread on a king size bed at the Plaza"...well, that novelist is as they say "represented elsewhere".

It's a crapshoot. I tried to buy a crystal ball, turns out it was a testicle in Kristal ..but it turned out ok for other reasons.

!Medic! Another gin! I have a raw nerve here!

A Snarkling touches a nerve when s/he asks:
"Oh Goddess of the Gin Pail, if I was your author and I (innocently) asked where my manuscript had been submitted, would you fire me? Or would you warn me before we signed our agreement that I should mind my own business or risk a spanking? (And if I was your author, wouldn't you be working for me?) "

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Do I work for you?
No.
Not unless you want to start paying me by the hour, and writing out a W2 every year. And if you do, Miss Snark has a list of job safety requirements like a little couch for a post luncheon snooze.

I've seen this sentiment before: "your agent works for you" and it's usually followed by some sort of "don't take any crap" "crack the whip" and "show em who's boss".

Yikes.

Let's be clear here.

Miss Snark works WITH you. She's a member of your team, but in no way shape or form does she work FOR you.

She works on your behalf. She advocates for you. She represents you. She will even test your gin for you.

We are colleagues you and I. That's why it's good to know what kind of interaction works best for you (do you want rejections always sent, daily updates etc).

You're not the boss, you're not the customer. You're the writer, I'm the agent. You're the client, I'm your agent.

And if you want to know where your work is I'll tell you every time you email. I'll even tell you on the phone. I'll even send you coded semaphore messages from the Staten Island Ferry if you want, but you have to ask. I never said I didn't do it; I said I don't do it unless you ask, or unless the rejections have content. But if you ask, you get.

Submissions Heads up

I've been contemplating the thread ("ooops") that started with a Snarkling asking if agents alerted clients ahead of time about where their projects were being submitted. I said no, and got some flak for it along the lines of "why not, it's just an email".

Late last night I got an email rejection from an editor who'd had the novel for awhile. Naturally I was at my desk to receive the email and whip one right back to him with a suggestion on another book. Now, the second author was, I hope, snoozing merrily away and dreaming sweet writer dreams, while all this happened. Was I going to wait till morning? Was I going to call the author? Answer to both; Hell no.

This is my job. It's not yours. Your job is to write. Bottom line: if you have some sort of rock solid requirement that your book not be submitted to publishers who did an OJ book (of course I've seen that) or who aren't owned by Germans (that too) or who do not employ your ex spouse/lover/dog (ya, ya, and well no, but close) you gotta mention that upfront.

One of the books I sold last year was cause I happened to mention it to an editor at a party who I thought would have NO, zero, zippo interest. Turns out her publishing house was launching a new imprint and my book was perfect. There was no way to know ahead of time that I'd be submitting to her. Was I going to call the author and say "this new publisher is interested" and then withdraw the submission if the author quibbled? Again, and with fervor: hell no.

It's not been my practice to ask clients if they have such requirements, I may have to start doing so. Mostly my clients just hand me the manuscript and say "call me when you've got an offer".

Alas, poor Snarklings

A Snarkling Wordwarrior writes:

"Does anyone outside the NY publishing community write the word "alas?" For those of you who do write that word, do you actually say it out loud in conversation? I've seen "alas" only in rejection letters and in the unpublished works of fiction written by those who have rightfully received a shitload of rejection letters."
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You're asking this of Miss Snark who regularly writes 'gin pail' 'reticule' 'heaven forefend' and '23 skidoo'?

Alas is a perfectly good word and Miss Snark uses it daily. To wit:

"There was alas from Nantucket"...oh wait...never mind.

Truthfully, there are only so many ways to say "sorry charlie" in a rejection letter so we may tend to use words not in the daily lexicon of those who are not writing such letters. Doesn't mean they are mannered, effete or pretentious (well, ok Miss Snark is all that and more..alas) but just trolling madly for words.

9.06.2005

My sweet enFUNGIBLE you!

A snarkling writes:
Question for your blog. My agent doesn't send/email me rejections unless I ask for them. That is my agent's "policy". I find it annoying. My agent said if I ask in an email then she'll let me know, but rather than emailing her once a month (and worrying about the nag factor and all that), I'd rather just find out after it happens. Is this a common thing? And how often can I email her asking who we've heard from before I become a nag?
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You can write every day if you tell her you love her to pieces and you'd be lost without her. Or if you include a downloadable twenty dollar bill. But enough about my clients list of minimum daily requirements.

Your agent has told you how she operates, and how to accommodate your needs and hers. If she tells you to email once a month, she is saying "you won't be a nag if you do this."

If you email her every day ... then that's nagging.

I don't email or send rejections either. Look, I hate getting them and they aren't even for MY work. If they said something constructive like "you know Snark, you've got a client here who can't write compound sentences to save his life" or "I found the heroine to be too much like you Miss Snark for my comfort level with a YA book unaccompanied by Tipper Gore warning label" well then sure.

But mostly I get, and I'm quoting VERBATIM from the top of MY rejection stack here:

"Dear Miss Snark, Thank you for sending me Felix Buttonweazer's intriguing novel. With a modern cross culture love story and strong characters I was happy to consider it. But I'm afraid I just didn't LOVE it in a way that I need to in order to be its advocate. Alas, I must pass, but I'm sure you will find this novel the right home."


Now you tell me what purpose sending THIS drivel serves. It absolutely doesn't reference the two hour lunch wherein we talked about this novel, the characters, what makes it a "modern western" etc. It doesn't give the author any constructive help in what to change/fix/delete/burn. The editor just didn't love it enough. Great. That's helpful. It's also a damn fact of life and there's nothing I can do or say that's gonna change it.

But hey, if you want to see them, go for it. I'll run them through the copy machine till my little fingers are black with soot. But you have to remind me cause this isn't on the list of things I do every day.

In every relationship there are things that annoy you. If this is the least of it, you're home free. Think of my poor clients who must deal with a daily Snark Factor.

9.05.2005

oooops.....


My former agent told me my nonfiction proposal was "great!" Then he immediately sent it out to six large trade houses and three university presses. The only sign of interest came from a university press that had already published an earlier work of mine. It was listed in my author's bio. It didn't occur to me to say to the agent, "Oh, by the way, please don't send my proposal there. If I'd wanted them to publish my work, I wouldn't have bothered getting an agent in the first place" (which was also true of the two other university presses). It was embarrassing to get a call from the director of the press, whom I know well, and have to say, "Well, I'm really looking to place this book at a trade house." Should agents let their clients know beforehand where they are sending the client's proposal, or should clients spell out a problem like this? Or should an agent say, "I'm not sure that your book is commercial material, so I'd like to include a couple of university presses, too"? That would be a lot more helpful than "It's great!"


We've all done stuff like that. I once sent a hot diggety dog proposal to an editor cause I KNEW it was perfect for her. She'd just moved houses, was building her list, and we were going like gangbusters. Turns out one of the books the proposal cited as competition with some less than flattering words was...of course...published by this editor's new house. Ooops.

There's a lot I don't keep in my head. I try to keep pretty detailed notes. But if you don't want your book proposal to go to university presses in general or a press in particular, regardless of "should" , I'd advise saying something and putting it in an email too. I'd much rather feel stupid with a client if I have to feel stupid somewhere, than with an editor, and her boss, in a meeting.

I don't usually tell clients where I'm sending things ahead of time. I let them know post submission, and if there is any feedback.

Yay! It's Fall!

Time to get Back To Work!!
Hurray!
I've been emailing my clients to let them know their Snarklieness Quotient has just risen!
I've hauled out the date book, dusted it off, and called 16 people who owe me drinks!

I painted the blog! What do you think??

Things are going to get VERY busy here for awhile so the blog is going to be slower, and leaner.
If you have questions, EMAIL them. misssnark @ earthlink.net
I won't see it if it's buried in the comments till late late late at night.

If you're planning a trip to NYC this fall, remember the National Book Award finalists give a nearly free presentation the night before the awards. It's ALWAYS a fabulous event. This year it's 11/15
and if it is the same as last year it's held at the New School near Union Square. I'm sure I'll be yapping about this more as it gets closer.

If you're looking for a place to meet agents, the International Women's Writing Guild has a "meet the agents" panel coming up in the fall. About 10-15 agents give brief talks and then you get to meet them for about 90 seconds to pitch your work. It's not free, but it's a good use of resources.
Here's the link IWWG Writing Conference


Yay! Fall!!

Who are you? What are you? Do I know you?

A Snarkling is tired of being asked "what is a snarkologist" and asks:


Question: If I have an agent, when people ask me what I do am I allowed to say writer rather than whatever my day job happens to be?


You are allowed to say whatever your little snarkling heart desires. However, you have to live with the results and "writer" produces "what have you written" and "my agent says the Great American Novel" is only funny once or twice, and never with the inlaws.

Miss Snark used to introduce herself as Her Majesty Queen of the Known Universe but HRH Lizzie 2 got wind of that and called in the lawyers. Turns out she was laying claim to a substantial chunk of the known universe. I tried to clarify I only meant the geographical area covered in the blog The Known Universe, but lawyers ...and monarchs...have no sense of geography...or humor.

I stopped introducing myself as a literary agent at most public outings. I simply say my name and that I'm in publishing. Many agents I know do this too. One too many really rude interruptions to conversations to ask if I'll look at their work..... honest to god. I wanted to start carrying Mace for just such moments, but NYPD said no.

Do NOT Query Miss Snark

I'm getting annoyed by this, Snarklings. Well, actually the people doing it are clearly NOT true Snarklings because they aren't reading the damn blog. They must see "literary agent" and their queryometer twitches and they hit send.


Stop it.
Here's why:

1. It's stupid. You known little or nothing about what I represent and NOTHING about what I've sold. You deserve what you get if you want an agent you're clueless about.

2. It forces me to choose between deleting your query with no response, or sending you an email so snarkly you'll probably never read the blog again. I'm going to start choosing the latter instead of the former soon.

3. (I had to take it out because it was vile and pornographic and required .pdf downloads).

4. I do not use this blog to troll for clients. I have enough clients right now to keep me busy for the next few minutes.

5. I don't even take e-queries at my agency let alone here.


So, get a grip, get a clue, get a stamp, cause the only way to query Miss Snark is the old fashioned way: find her in Writers Market and send her a letter.

The Peschel Challenge to Miss Snark!

Bill asks "If you had the first 300 words of NORTH in front of you, not knowing the author, would it have passed the Snark-O-Meter? "

You really know how to find my deepest fear don't you? I had visions of some clever Snarkling sending the first 300 words of an obscure but critically lauded novel and asking what I thought. So far, the Snarklings have resisted.

That said, once you know something is published and you think it's good it's hard to look at it with fresh eyes. Here are the first 304 words of NORTH by Frederick Busch. I think they would have passed with flying colors...do you?



In a marriage, you have to tell your secret. I came to believe that. But I also came to believe that my wife would die of ours. So I kept it to myself. The marriage ended. Fanny moved on in upstate New York. I went west and south. I didn't know what to look for so I looked for work. I was all kinds of hired security in the usual dark, cheap uniform that was always tight across the chest and shoulders or too short from the tails to the neck. One way or another, I worked with a patch of skin showing.

When we were together the dog tried to look after us. Whenever Fanny cried he thumped his tail against the floor. He'd done it since we got married. Sometimes it was the sound of his tail that lifted us out of that minute's misery.

He always knew what he was supposed to do, even after Fanny left with nothing but a couple of suitcases and some cardboard boxes and a cheap urn filled with ashes. He and I were together in New York and then New Mexico and across the Southwest. We went directly west for a while and then we went south and then we headed east. We stopped on the Carolina coast. I had been a military policeman, a deputy sheriff in three counties and two states, a campus cop in northern New York, a head of strip mall security in Arizona, department store security in Portland Oregon and a guard in a private psychiatric clinic not far from Eugene. I was climbing slowing down the ladder of police work. I figured soon I would be half-drunk bouncer in a porn palace in a medium-sized city I hadn't heard of yet in a state I hadn't meant to visit.

9.04.2005

It violates every rule in the book

I just finished reading NORTH by Frederick Busch. It violates almost every rule I talked about in the snarkometer posts we did earlier this week: a dog dies in the first chapter; there's a lot of backstory; the first person narrator speaks to the reader.

It's also a very good book. One thing Frederick Busch does better than almost anyone I can think of us is use action to reveal character. He's not much for telling, despite the first person voice in a story where not much happens. He's brilliant at showing.

Frederick Busch doesn't need me to tell him he's a good writer. He's got a long list of novels to his credit and an illustrious career.
If you've never read him, you do need me to tell you.
Step away from the blog.
Log on to Powells.com.
Now.

PS He's not my client and in fact I have no idea who is agent is. He is published by Norton, that I know.

Hobbyists

A Snarling challenges Miss Snark about her post on POD and hobby writers:

How would you define a hobbyist?

It's easier to tell you when you are NOT. Herewith:


1. You have an agent; OR

2. You have sold work, for cash money, to a publisher who is not your mother and the work is available in brick and mortar stores with an ISBN number and Library of Congress cataloging information; AND

3. You file, or will file for this year, a Schedule C form with your taxes that shows income and expenses from your business of writing; AND

4. You've invested time and planning in your writing career by attending workshops, graduate school or professional development seminars and workshops, or by subscribing to, or reading professional publications like PW, Kirkus, Library Journal, Miss Snark's blog.

pssst...George Clooney sent me, wanna read my novel?


You mentioned you have a different process for selecting new clients when you are given a referral. Can you elaborate on that? And how does Miss Snark feel about her clients referring other writers to her? Does it change your opinion of a client if they recommend someone whose writing Miss Snark decides is total crapola?


There are two kinds of referrals from clients. One is real; the other -for lack of a better phrase - is pass the buck.

The first one is when clients, or authors I know, or editors, (or even other agents sometimes) send me someone and say "this author is worth considering". Well, I may be Snarkly but I'm not shortsighted. I read the manuscript. All of it. Right then. Average turnaround time is less than a week and it's often overnight. When someone does you the service of sending you a prospect, you don't sit around in your sarong and write odes to Grecian Formula One racecar drivers.

The second category come "from clients" but the client doesn't mention it . I get query letters that begin "I met Amy Author at her reading at Kepler's and she said to query you". Yea right. The correct translation is you asked who her agent was and she told you. Those aren't referrals, those are query letters with some research. These are handled just like all the other query letters but with a more personal rejection.

The difference is that I take it seriously when someone I trust has READ your work and thinks I'd like it, and do well by the author.

Does it matter if a client sends me crap? Nope. If it happened a lot, maybe, but so far so good. Clients are not eager to make their agent reluctant to talk to them for any reason, let alone for considering some other schmuck's work!

Going once! going twice! Sold the Snarkolicious Editor with the bag of cash!


Can you let us in on how you orchestrate a book for auction. How do you determine which of your author's books will go to auction and which ones won't. Why not auction ALL of them?


The very concept of auction requires demand exceed supply. In case you're wondering, agents have a lot more supply than demand. Thus, auction isn't ever going to be the norm.

That said, sometimes you get a project that is clearly going to be Big (that's the way you decide) - like President Clinton's memoirs; Mr. Clooney's book of love poems dedicated to his heartthrob Miss Snark; a really good first novel an established agent with a history of hits says is "it". Those go to auction.

When Miss Snark auctions a book, she fasts for three days and runs twice around the reservoir to get her game face on. Then she calls the editors and gives her pitch, and the deadline. Then she runs around the reservoir two more times, and eats a box of Mallomars so that when she throws up from anxiety she'll have a ready made excuse.

Then the phone calls come in, and the bidding starts. After that it's anyone guess but usually a deal is signed.

Then Miss Snark reverts to her customary sloth and goes back to blogging.

and just to be cruuuuuuel, the Snarkling pops back into the comment post to ask:

Has Miss Snark ever gotten everyone assembled for an auction and been rudely disappointed by the bids??? What does she tell the author, in that case?

yes.
Drinks on the house.
It happens. It's not pretty. We try to not have it happen. We try VERY hard.

Marketing plans


Dear Miss Snark, Some agents are now requiring marketing plans with queries. Is this the coming thing or only reserved for a few agents? Can a writer's marketing plan spell the difference between getting a book sold or not? What's your take on the practice, is it helpful or an irritant?


With queries? Really? Yuck.
For starters, the only thing I want to know right off the bat is how well you write, and who'll be interested in reading it.

Who interested readers are, and how to reach them are separate questions in case you're wondering.

How to reach those interested readers may not be something an author knows about. For example I have a client who wrote about a personal situation she experienced. Turns out about five million people are in this same situation.

The author only knows what's going on in her life. She has no clue about marketing books, and she's not hitting the lecture tour any time soon. Am I going to miss out on what could be an extraordinarily helpful book cause there's no marketing plan. I hope not!

That said, there's going to be a marketing plan for this book, and for almost any non fiction book proposal being shopped these days. The central question is, does it have to exist before I take a project on. Answer: no. I know a helluva lot more about sales and marketing than the average author and we work together on creating a compelling position for the book.'

Does a marketing plan make a difference: yes. You'll hear it called "platform" too, and you can't sell most NF books without a good one.

In your clutches..for HOW long??

A Snarkling is perusing her contract with a fine tooth comb:


Most model agreements have a clause saying either side can terminate with 30 days notice. What about a contract that says the term is for one year without the 30 day drop dead phrase? I can see this as good for the author as long as the agent is acting in good faith. Actually, unless the agent is acting in good faith, the duration of the contract seems to be a non-issue. What might be your thoughts, Miss Snark?


Ask your agent why they offer these terms. I know of several reputable agencies that do this but the reason they do has never come up during conversations in the speakeasy.

The important thing is that there is at least a way out. 30-day term clauses started cause there didn't used to be any way for author's to wriggle free of representation unless they litigated and showed cause, malfeasance, chicanery etc. Yuck. You don't want Miss Snark on your team? Ok, we're done. that was easy.

Good faith has a different meaning legally. It's a benchmark of measurable standards. It's not the same thing that you and I think of when we throw "good faith" around in casual conversation.
It's also not nearly the same thing as "effective".

I prefer to be held to the effective standard. If I'm not being effective for a client, and they are unhappy, they are entitled to say Sayonara Snarkbreath without having to show cause or demonstrate I didn't act in good faith. They can do it anytime, for any reason.

If I hold you harmless, will you hold it against me?

Miss Snark,
I'm looking at an agency/author agreement.

That author will "hold harmless, indemnify, etc."agency for all claims, blah, blah, blah. This is
boiler plate, I know. And certainly this is good for the agency, but are there ways for authors to protect themselves via insurance, incorporation against claims arising out of the publication of their book? I mean, who is paying Augusten Burroughs' legal fees and is there some kind of liability insurance if he loses?


yes. There are two things that offer insurance to authors. One is in your publication contract. Most contracts include something along the lines of "Insurance-publisher, at its own expense, shall name Author as an additional insured on any policies of insurance that Publisher, in its sole and absolute discretion, may maintain during the term of the Agreement" (text from Kirsch's Guide to the Book Contract-a book you should own).

Authors can also buy liability insurance. If you have homeowner's insurance, ask your agent. If you don't you can inquire at National Writers Union, or the Author's Guild.

Insurance is a good idea of course. You never know when some nut is going to come out of the woodwork and claim you stole her idea, you're stalking George Clooney and you are drunk and disorderly on the balcony late at night...oh wait...those last two things..never mind.

How many Nos do you get?

A Snarkling is covering all the bases to ask:

How far do rejection letters stretch? If my novel is rejected by an agent, is it kosher for me to query another agent within the same agency, or is the whole agency in effect giving me a thumbs-down?


This is a good question. I don't know the answer. Miss Snark flies solo on her broom. Most of my close collegial friends do as well. I'm going to take a flying guess that it depends on the agency (safe guess) and tell you it probably won't hurt to query another agent there. What's the worst that will happen? They say no again..well, you aren't any farther back than when you started. They cant blacklist you, or report you to the Bad Queriers Office of the Client Deportment Brigade so, what the heck...go for it.

If any of you reading have other info to provide, please step up to the mic.