12.24.2005

Follow the Damn Directions

Some of you who sent material to the crapometer missed the crucial part that says "you have to give permission for it to be posted on the blog". I tried to email those that didn't but you should double check your email to me to make sure it's there. If it's not, your email gets deleted.

12.23.2005

Crapometer postings UPDATED 2x

Synopses postings won't go up until the deadline is passed.
I need to see how many I get and how they distribute across the genre curve.
If we have 10000 fantasy and 1 crime novel, I'm going to do the crime novel first,
not last.

Feel free to ask more questions.

Question:
What's the possiblity that the Crap-o-meter will get a taste for blood again after it's first round of bone-knawing snarkism and come back for more after the 25th. I wanted to participate but don't want to be silly and write a synopsis in a day just so I can get something in that is likely to suck cause I rushed it. :)


Answer:
pretty much zero since there are 35 synopses in the line up as of noon Friday and we have two more days before the window slams shut.

Question:
Miss Snark, will the names of the Snarklings that submit be posted with their synopsis?


Answer: no, anonymous snarklings only.


--

Last word on that damn strike

Hands down best pics and story about the thankfully-now-over-transit-strike here

12.22.2005

Crapometer open for synopses 12/23 to 12/25-UPDATED

The crapometer has gnawed its way back to Snarkville and is ready to be fed.

Rules:
1. Send your synopsis to me via email only: misssnark@earthlink.net
case sensitive address.
no attachments.

2. in the subject line say: synopsis

3. 1000 words max-rigidly enforced

4. include the genre at the top of the email

5. include "yes it's ok for you to post this on the blog" at the bottom
clarifications based on question below: the entire synopsis goes up, not just highlights.

further clarification based on question below: the crapometer is voluntary. If you change your mind, just email me and I'll delete it.

6. Crapometer open between right now and 12midnight 12/25, Sunday.

7. I reserve the right to publish all, or none, and with snarky comments. By sending the synopses you agree to that.

Questions?
Ask away!!!

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

Looks like the transit strike will end by tomorrow.
The TWU regained its senses (and looked at the cost of striking would be my guess!).

I'm celebrating with a trip to Staples to stock up on paper!

Need something good to read?

Thanks to Sarah I clicked on David Montgomery's blog this morning and was reminded of why I think he's the cat's pajamas.

Here's his list of crime fiction writers that are yummy reading.
He mentions Ross Thomas...I love Ross Thomas. "The Fools in Town Are On Our Side" is still one of the best titles ever.

Anyway, click here to read the list.

When you don't need a marketing plan

I have completed my first novel, a suspense thriller (written under guidance from a writing coach and fully edited), and am taking steps to reduce rejections as I seek a literary agent.

I am having a difficult time identifying my market demographics. I had an editor do an evaluation. Her comments: The fast pace, loads of action, and Doomsday plot lend themselves to the kind of action and events in a graphic novel or comic book. It’s to the 18-35 male set what a “beach read” is to the 18-35 female demographic. The overall tone has a comic-book quality that appeals to 18- to 35-year-old males. It would translate well to the movie screen ("A cross between a Clancy novel and The Pelican Brief).


Even with this, other than a three-page list of relevant niche markets, I still have no clear marketing plan, which I believe would increase chances for acceptance by an agent. Where do I find demographics without paying thousands to a research firm? Is there fill-in-the-blanks a book I can buy for marketing a thriller?


uh. hold on here bucko.
Why are you even thinking about marketing a novel you don't have representation for?
An agent doesn't expect marketing plans for novels.
An agent wants marketable writing.
Those are two very very different things.

What you have here is "commercial fiction". That's all you need to say. In fact that's all you should say. If you sent me a query letter saying your novel read like a comic book I'd think you were pulling my leg. I'd also lose any references to writing coaches and fully edited. That marks you as a novice even though you think it doesn't. Trust me on that.

Your writing has to rise and fall on its own. A cover letter saying it's commercial fiction, the first five pages of the work, an SASE and send it out. Trying to reduce your rejections is a waste of time and counter productive. Much like a butterfly MUST beat its way out of the cocoon to have wings strong enough to fly, a writer has to beat his/her way out of the rejection pile to improve his/her writing.

The not-Western

Regarding my infamous literary Western novel, some people in Hollywood who read it years ago are once again slithering out of the woodwork because they feel the BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN audience will flock to it, particularly women who like stories about men dealing with their emotions even though these men are totally straight.

Now in Hollywood, I know how to pitch this but I have zero interest in selling the script and will not sign with a Hollywood based agency.


My question is - in a query letter would it be appropriate to tie the Brokeback Mountain audience to a novel about de facto father/son relationships among three generations of men and how they can't acknowledge their feelings even after the three of them come together after ten years, and realize one of them has to die and the other two will ever see each other again?


I ask this as someone who is about to submit a literary Western that is fully character driven - and I feel I need all the potential marketing help I can get to get over the - we don't do westerns - mantra. Plus - anyone who does 'Westerns' - is not likely to want to do this Western.


Brokeback Mountain is getting buzz not cause it's a good movie but because it's a movie about gay cowboys (and they don't even get the cowboy part right..the guys are really sheepherders, not cowhands). Unless your book has gay themes, I wouldn't mention Brokeback Mountain at all. I'd mention Plainsong by Kent Haruf, and An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg.

I'd also recommend you take a look at the first season of The Wire on DVD. In it there is a segment with David Simon talking about the pilot. He talks about overcoming the genre label. The Wire isn't " a cop show" even though it has cops as main characters. Your novel isn't a western even if it's set in the West. David Simon is utterly brilliant, and listening to him talk about that show gave me real insight in how to talk about novels. I think every writer who works in the crime novel genre should listen to that commentary.

12.21.2005

Poems!!! Miss Snark loves poems!

this is just the coolest.
A website that records and posts poems people read on their answering machine. You can see the details here
After listening I figured the poems should be less than 20 lines.
I had to abandon my favorite poem Happiness by Jane Kenyon but I found another one to read!

Thanks to the groovy guys at Return of the Reluctant for the link

Rebinding companies

Miss Snark, can you explain how rebinding companies work?
Thanks!


Actually, I have no clue. I had to look up "rebinding" to find out it was the process of creating the binding you see on school books and "library bound" books. I've never dealt with that side of the business. Miss Snark strikes out...sorry!

How bikinis get into query letters I do not know...

Miss Snark, you have to understand that people have read that scary Noah Lukeman book, The First Five Pages, and it says stuff like if there is even an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot indentation on the edge of a single page, then the agent will instantly toss the entire package, because obviously the fool supplicant is sending previously-viewed paper.

Yes I've tossed stuff that was hard to read without more than a cursory glance. I get tired and cranky and impatient with people who send me work that looks like they don't give a damn. Mostly though I try to at least recognize effort and remember sometimes writers just don't know what industry standards are.

If you write well enough, I'll let you send me stuff with coffee stains.
But the cold hard truth is that 99.9% of y'all are NOT going to write well enough AT THIS STAGE OF YOUR CAREER to get away with that.

Right now, you need to err on the side of correctness. Which means following the guidelines right down to "no typos" and "no coffee stains" and no "teeny weenie polka dot bikini indentations" either.

This is like the haircut before the job interview; it demonstrates you wish to be taken seriously.

Agents are looking for good writing. It's a whole lot easier to focus on the writing when the words are spelled right, the font is easy to read and the page doesn't resemble Jackson Pollock.

Snarkometer Update

Do I understand correctly the rules of the coming Snark-O-Meter?
1. Coming sometime after Christmas or New Year's. A short window in which to send synopsis.

2. Synopsis is sent by e-mail, no attachments.

3. Synopsis is fewer than 1,000 words. Fewer the better.

4. Miss Snark will critique individually by return e-mail.

5. No use mailing gin gift certificates or rhinestone dog collars.



Nice try bucko.
No dice.
#4 is wrong. All synopses go up on the blog. I know this might make you hesitant to submit your work, but I'm not giving one on one critiques.

#5 is also completely incorrect. All gifts, bribes and tokens of love for Killer Yapp can be delivered to the doorman between 9am and 11am weekday mornings.

Batter up


Miss Snark,

I am an MFA student. Several agents visited our program last year; I signed with Agent A.

Agent A seemed very excited about working with me. He told me he liked to edit new writers‚ work and to submit their stories to magazines. But I'm afraid that he is no longer excited by, or interested in, my work. He's had two stories of mine since late summer. He's told me they need revision before he can send them out, and that we need to talk (he's perfectly right about the stories needing work). Four times he's e-mailed that he'll be in touch in a few days or a week. Unfortunately, he doesn't follow up, though I've e-mailed back, expressing my eagerness and availability for a conversation.

What should I do, if anything? Should I wait for his call and thank my stars that I have an agent? If Agent A didn't want to work with me anymore, would he just tell me, or should I somehow give him a way to exit gracefully from the relationship? I like him, I like the work of the writers he represents, and I really like the editing he did last spring, but I do have other options. Other agents have expressed an interest in representing me (I didn't go fishing while signed with Agent A -they offered to represent me when they visited the program, or they wrote after seeing my work in print). What's more, I'd like to get these stories right and then submit them.

Also, will other agents still want to represent me if I've already been represented by Agent A, even though Agent A hasn't sold (or tried to sell) anything for me yet? One agent wrote that she was very interested but wouldn't represent me if I'd been "previously represented."

I'd appreciate your guidance.



You don't have an agent. You have someone holding your stories hostage who won't return your phone calls or emails, and isn't sending your work out for submission. Unless you regularly sojourn at the North Pole far from the reach of cell phones, it's not all that hard for an agent to call you. The fact that he doesn't is significant. He's not doing squat for you, and he knows it.

You don't need an agent to send material to magazines. Only the very biggest and poshest lit mags are more accessible via an agent. As an MFA student you just need to get your work out there so people can see it. Sure, being in the New Yorker is nice but you're competing against the world there. Smaller mags, regularly read by agents, are easier to get into and work just as well.

Get off your duff , terminate this agent who hasn't done a damn thing for you, submit your work on your own and start building your rejection pile. "Having an agent" only means something if you actually have an agent who's doing work for you. You're better off on your own than with someone who doesn't send your work out.

As for the agent who said she wouldn't represent you if you'd had a previous agent, I have no clue what she's thinking unless she has a fetish for inexperience. I have several "previously represented" clients and ALL of them are with me cause they prefer how I work and they have a benchmark to measure it against. I REALLY like that. The ones who've never had other agents sometimes don't fully appreciate all my wonderfullness.

This whole thing sounds weirdly like the baseball draft where they try and sign you up mostly to keep the other team from having access to you. You need to get off the bench and into the game.

Miss Snark's sales figures

Could you please comment, Miss Snark, on how many sales you make in a single year? I ask in conjunction with this exchange at AbsoluteWrite


Q) Tell me more about your company

A) We are bigger than a small agency and smaller than a large agency. We have about 15 people total and as of 2nd quarter, 2005 we have over 60 active conversations on going with buyers and 3 option agreements in negotiations in our screenplay division. We just sold our 4th book deal (to a publisher in England) and we are confident of more success later this year. (A 5th deal is being signed as we speak). We market to the larger and medium sized publishers and producers. We have had 5 successes now in the last 2 years (fyi: most agencies only have 1 or 2 deals every couple of years, if that.). MS: Bullshit

AAR is the professional organization for literary agents. To apply for membership you have to sell ten projects in 18 months. Reputable agents, myself included, meet that standard. AAR membership is by agent; you have to sell ten yourself. It's not ten for the whole agency.

Other red flags:

"60 active conversations" is very convoluted way to say "60 projects being considered". My guess is that it means there are six books at ten editors or ten books at six editors. If they have "15 people", even assuming only half are agents, that's less than two projects per agent. HUGE warning sign.

To use my agency as an example: at close of business yesterday I have 27 clients, 14 active projects on submission to 37 editors. That doesn't count any of the stuff the foreign rights people or the film people are doing. I sold 16 books in 2005 with two more sales that will accrue to 2006 for tax purposes. I'm probably on the low end of sales numbers; I have colleagues who regularly sell 50 projects a year and I know two agents who sell over 100. All are either one, two or three person agencies.

"second quarter" ended in June. This is December. EVERY single agent I know can tell you the status of every single project they have right now, this second, probably without looking at notes.

The biggest red flag is the continuing ongoing defense of the agency. Reputable agencies or agents simply do not do this. We sell projects. If you don't want to work with us, fine. We don't engage in endless back and forth about whether we're legitimate. We know we are; if you think we're not, well then just "foad". We can and will tell you who we represent, by name and title. We don't need to answer basic questions in a convoluted way. Legitimate agents can answer these questions by rote, in a form letter, with one hand tied behind their back and drunk. It's utterly and completely basic. ANY agency who dithers around like this is full of crap. Avoid them.

Update: I googled "Childrens Literary Agency". The first item of 24 total was a sponsored link. All the other hits were authors or discussion boards. HUGE HUGE HUGE red flag. Reputable agents don't pay to be sponsored links on google (or advertise in Writers Digest/Market/Whatever mag) . Reputable agents have websites that work (this one didn't, at least for me), mentions at writing conferences, books sold, acknowledgments pages, and at the very least in Writers Digest listings or Gerard Jones Everyone Who's Anyone. By way of comparison, I googled myself (not Miss Snark). There are 30 listings spelled wrong, 43 spelled right and 186 for my agency name.

Another Quiz ...clearly Miss Snark is frittering away time better spent on query letters

Day Two, the subway strike. Miss Snark is not not not a happy camper. Thus, the idea of a quiz on literary death was just the thing. Try your hand at this from the University of Idaho. Geeze...which one is Idaho again?

thanks to Maud for the link

12.20.2005

Miss Snark, role model. That other noise is hell freezing.

Dear Miss Snark,

I want to be a literary agent. I believe I have the people skills, the capability to discern quality, the necessary passion for literature, and the public relations experience.

However, I have no clue how to break into this business! How did you begin on this righteous and most excellent career path?
More specifically, would you recommend working up through a firm like William Morris (and subsequently signing 5 years of my twenties to them), or completing a certification program like the one at NYU?

I would greatly value your response, as there is no one in my life or family that has had similar experience.

Please, please Miss Snark, help me make the post-graduation leap of faith a hopeful and educated one...!


Wait...you need people skills to be an agent? Dang, back to school for Miss Snark.

There are lots of ways to start out. Being an agent is not an entry level job. You want a job with a publisher first. And you want to be in New York. And, I hate to say this,but you also do the certificate program while you're employed, not in lieu of a job. IF you play your cards right, your employer will pay some or all of the tuition.

First step: subscribe to Publishers Marketplace ($20/month). The job board there is what we all use.

Apply for every job you can.
Also apply for internships. Some are paid, most not but people hire their interns more often than they hire others so it's an investment.
Once you get a job or an internship THEN plan your trajectory.
Make friends with solo agents. Lots of us look for young whippersnappers to help cause someone helped us back in the puppy days.

My brethren are, in large part, nuts

Just in case you haven't seen what NYC looks like when everyone is sure they really ARE the only person who has to be at work, take a look at these from Gawker

My faves though are the utter imbeciles who are getting turned back at the bridges cause they have just one person in the car--it wasn't exactly embargoed information that there might be a strike and some contingency plans in place. sheesh. 1010 WINS ran hysterical stories about people getting up at 4am to drive into Manhattan before the 4/car rule went into effect at 5am.

Transit strikes are why we have DSL and computers. Stay home. Read a book.

Sole prop/LLC/so what

I hate to ask such an ignorant question, but why should a writer care if the agents company is an LLC or under sole proprietorship?


Money. Yours.
If an agent kicks the bucket and your money is in his/her account, even if it's a business account at the bank, and s/he is a sole proprietor, that money is considered part of her estate. Have fun getting it.

LLC means the business and the agent are two separate entities.

There are other ways to make this happen too, but you want to make sure your money is protected in case of an Act of Dog, Death or other Unfortunate Event.

12.19.2005

Contracts from agents and lack thereof

Dear Miss Snark,

a few months ago, I sent a query to an agent and last week I received an email saying he wants to work with me. We exchanged several emails about his editorial suggestions (all good) and talked on the phone, but he didn't mention a contract. Is it customary to sign a contract with an agent as one does with a publisher? If so, how should I inquire about it?

Ask "do you offer a written contract".
Many agents don't. Good ones too.
The agency clause in a publishing contract will spell out some of the details when the work is sold.

I prefer working with a written contract but it's not a red flag if agents don't offer them.
You want to make sure you ask about stuff up front though: commission rates; corporate structure (LLC or sole proprietor); termination requirements etc.

A memo of understanding (like a deal memo) you send to an agent is also a good idea if they don't offer a contract.

The Envelope please

At the risk of being the nitwit of the day and asking a stupid question, when you send a query and 5 pages, it needs to be in a large envelope, right? None of this folding into a regular business sized envelope? I am worried too much about appearances, I suppose. Give me points for having the courage to ask....


There are two kinds of envelopes that work well.
1. 9 x 12 catalog envelopes
2. 6 x 9 "half size" envelopes.

this is not a nitwit question.
If you don't know, better to ask now than discover Miss Snark has discarded you unread into the trash bin under her stiletto heel.

Rock, Queries, Paper

Hi Miss Snark- I hope you and Killer Yap had a great trip. Recently you referred to paper quality as telling you something about the sender, which made me wonder if you prefer 100% cotton as so many books advise or regular printer paper. I'm happy to send the manuscript on silk if it would make any difference in its reception, but I doubt it. I couldn't find a post in which you already covered this, but if you have, I'm sorry to ask again.

Regarding e-mail correspondence, I understand your reasoning as to why a hard copy allows for a more thorough review, but if the agent specifies e-mail should that method be used?

I'm glad one of the snarklings suggested you put all of your wisdom in a book. I imagined that's what you had planned all along. I can't wait to buy it.

In reverse order:

Miss Snark has no plans to make book, other than on the duration of the transit strike. Miss Snark likes other people to work hard to create things while she swills gin and conjures up deals.

If an agent specifies email, follow the instructions.

Now, paper.
Miss Snark loves paper. Kate's Paperie is one of her favorite places on earth. Crane and Company at Rock Center too, but in a pinch any office supply store can provide a fix.

However.
Miss Snark is not about to get started on what kind of paper to send. Yes your manuscript looks cleaner and brighter on higher brightness number paper. Yes you want to make sure your inkjet or laser cartridge is not dimming midway through the novel (or your printer wavering--that drives me nuts).

The truth is though I'll mostly read what you send if it's on 8.5 x 11 paper, in black ink with 1 inch margins in a readable font.

If we undertake a project together I'll make you reprint it to my standards, but in the query process, I don't get too cranky about paper.

Strike this!

I was sitting here multitasking when your email arrived: eating dinner, reading Miss Snark, and watching the news about the possible transit strike. Luckily I have already found four people to fill up my car, cause I have to get to work.As always your advice is excellent. Here's hoping you and I (and all other NYCers don't have any transportation woes tomorrow!)


Miss Snark has settled in for the duration. She has a 900 page biography, a slush pile, the liquor store on speed dial, and Killer Yapp for company. She does not plan to move one single block in any direction until this subway snarl is over.

The interesting thing today was how many people were going home early. The deadline is midnight tonight but no one who knows the MTA and the Transit Union and all their shenanigans has any doubt things could get weird tonight. The orange line at Rock Center was stuffed full of every kind of person in the world. It's right near the diamond district and it's always fun to see the Hasidic men try VERY hard not to get squashed next to a female on the train.

Miss Snark is now tuning to 1010 WINS to see if she's going to work tomorrow.

Big Red Flag on S. Claus Literary Agency

The top ten reasons you should not query Santa Claus:

10. Santa is very lax about responding to query letters even if you include an SASE.

9. Santa has no known street address or telephone number.

8. Santa doesn't publish guidelines for letters at all.

7. Santa is not in New York City, and in fact, only visits the city once a year.

6. Santa appears to have very superficial knowledge of editors; he lists them only as "naughty" or "nice"

5. Santa doesn't read his own query letters; he makes the elves do it.

4. While Santa appears in many books, he's never acknowledged as the agent of sale.

3. When Santa was quizzed about royalties at a recent writing conference, he appeared perplexed and responded "I'm not royalty but I am a saint, does that count?".

2. Even for publishing, Santa's work schedule of one night a year is pretty lax.

and the number one reason not to query Santa is:

1. Santa has no sales; he gives it all away.

There will be no bowing and scraping by authors, thank yew veddy much

I am focusing on entering writing competitions which would enable me to promote my novel. For example the short story competition with The Australian Woman's Weekly which in addition to a monetary prize also gives the winner an opportunity to have their novel read by Penguin.

My question is if the winner was offered a publishing contract by a publisher should they pursue an agent for representation or should they just sign the contract and thank their lucky stars? Furthermore, how interested would an agent be in representing a novelist under these circumstances?



Never EVER sign a contract without having it reviewed by someone who knows about publishing contracts. EVER. Did I convey never ever enough? NEVER EVER.

They are not doing you a favor, they are entering into a business relationship. They intend to make a boatload of money from YOUR work. Of course you get advice.

If an agent won't review it, cough up the dough to have a contracts lawyer look at it. When you talk to the lawyer, tell them you don't want them to negotiate it,just review it. That will save you some dough.

I don't care how much you want to be published, don't sign a bad contract. There are MANY worse things than being published and indentured servitude for your creative work is one of them.

Get ON with the show

I decided before I send out anything, I should find out more information about Agent B. There is very little information available on the web about Agent B. I recognize one of his clients (but this person does not write in the same genre I do.) So, what do I do next? Should I call Agent B and ask what he expects in an initial query? Should I simply send him my query, the first 10 pages, and (of course) the SASE. Should I send him my synopsis, even though it hasn't passed through the snark-o-meter yet? What are good resources for information about agents, besides the web? Other than a few of his clients, the only other information included his address and that he accepts "adult" and "literature".


Under NO circumstances do you telephone an agent to ask what they want in a query.

The standard query for fiction is: cover letter, first five pages. You can include a synopsis if you want but I don't read them unless the first five pages are of interest, AND I'll ask for a novel without seeing one (but that's just me).

You're obsessing here.

You cannot fine tune an agent search.
In fact it's better not to.
If you waste some stamps, so what. You'll benefit from the broader search if you catch someone looking for just what you've got.
Dear Miss Snark,

I saw this headline on Yahoo! News: 2006 Brings Many 'Da Vinci'-esque Books'

which includes this heads-up:

"This is the hottest trend out there," says Barnes & Noble fiction buyer Sessalee Hensley. "I think a large part of the `Da Vinci Code' audience will go for these new books."

Are you riding the bandwagon with tuba in hand or waving from the sidewalk?

Love ya! Mean it!


Sessalee Hensley is very very smart, and very very seldom wrong. That doesn't mean I have to like it.

I'm not looking for the next DaVinci Code at all. I'm not in the band, I'm no even on the sidewalk. I'm practicing my flugelhorn at the Gary Indiana Conservatory of Music, Gold Medal Class of aught five.

Miss Snark's Ironclad Rule

How many rejections from agents I should collect before I give up trying to get one. I had a draft of my novel I sent out about 18 months ago after querying around. All in all, about ten agents read my novel either entirely or in part. I got everything from "It's not for us" to enthusiastic "the manuscript made the rounds here, we loved it, but the principal wasn't enthusiastic enough."

So, back to the garret, and I cut the 160K word book to about 110K, streamlining the second act and making it, in my opinion, better. So off to a second round of querying and sending it out, and I'm still racking up rejections. Some say they love the characters but not the prose, some that they love the prose but not the characters. I'm not sure how long I should persist.

Can you help?


Miss Snark's Immutable Rule: You can quit at 100.
Not before.

There are 750 agents in New York alone. Not one single one of us has a lock on what's good, what will sell, or the next big thing. You have to query till you find someone who connects with your work. We can't read your novel if you haven't sent us a query letter.

You might look for younger agents starting out. They have more room on their lists.

Man, that just blows

Every so often, I read a novel (released by a major house) that contains a grammatical error about once every 5 to 10 pages. Dangling participles and comma splices are the most common offenders, but subject-verb disagreement isn't at all unheard of. Is this a result of a conscious style decision on the part of the publisher/editor? Or did they just figure the author was such an easy sell they didn't need to bother editing her errors out?

or they just don't know any better?

Homonyms are the ones I notice. "Breaking the car" ..argh.

It could be worse though: Moby Dick is FULL of errors many of them because typesetters ran out of the letters needed so just threw in a j for a g, or because he didn't recognize a word, so substituted one he did know. And of course, there are instances where typesetters thought parts of the novel were too salacious so "cleaned them up". All this sans author input of course.

So, dangling and splicing notwithstanding, it could be worse!

Get the Net!

Here's a similar contest by the authors/publisher of Author 101. What do you think of these contest/contract terms ?

(a) The Contest winner shall receive a standard Sponsor book publishing author agreement (the "Book Contract") calling for the winner to receive

(i) an author advance of $7,500, creditable against royalties, payable half on announcement of the contest winner ($3,750, non-refundable amount paid by the Sponsor and half on Sponsor's acceptance as satisfactory of 100% manuscript ($3,750) for the final work (the "Work");

(ii) royalties of 10% of the "Net Amount" as defined below) received by the Sponsor for the publication and sale of copies of the Work by Sponsor; and

(iii) 50% of the Net Amount received by the Sponsor from any licensing of the Work to others who shall also publish and/or sell copies of the Work or derivatives thereof.

My first reaction was 10% of Net?


Lots of smaller publishers pay on a defined net. It's NOT net after they pay everything including the marketing and advertising --but you have to make sure the "defined below" says that. It's the net amount after the discounts given to distributors, wholesalers and other special markets.

Unlike the film industry, reputable publishers do this and it's ok.

The first time I heard "net" I about had heart failure cause of course "there is no net" is a truism in the movie biz. I checked around though and it's more common than I wish it was.
You have to be super careful of wording, and you REALLY have to have an eagle eye on the royalty statements (but then, when do you not), but it's not an overt sign of chicanery like it is in LaLa Land.

Miss Snark Returns from the North Pole

Dear Miss Snark,
I was wondering...since you have been reviewing Santa's query letters, are they any better when really written in crayon by semi-literate six-year-olds rather than just seeming that way? Or is slush always slush, whether in Santa's pile or yours? ;-)

Santa doesn't have a slush pile. He accepts everyone onto his lists. You just want to make sure you're on the RIGHT list. Those naughty lists...well, let's just say you REALLYdon't want to be there. Those elves have a sense of humor that runs toward exploding underpants, red pepper toothpaste and anchovy pizza deliveries.

But if you're on the NICE list (sadly Miss Snark is not) Santa's elves are trained linguists and cuneiform experts. They have special elven lenses they use to examine letters that may be illegible to even the flintiest eyed agent. They can suss out the heart's desire of everyone under the age of ten.

Small presses and agents

I recently read in a writer's periodical that small presses accept about half of their projects from unagented writers. Do you have any idea if that figure is in the ballpark?

No. But it doesn't sound too off base or too far out in left field.
Agent submissions skew toward money; small presses are not reliable sources of that.
Doesn't make them bad choices, just not remunerative ones.