Hello, Miss Snark here...

Dear Miss S,

I posted these questions on Writers Net a couple of days ago and Ann Crispin referred me to your blog. Ann said she would love to hear your response.

What might turn an agent off if and when he/she makes THE phone call to ask to represent a writer?

Herewith some of my least favorite responses to "Hello, Snark here, wanna go to the dance with me on Saturday night?".

1. Who?

2 It's about time. What took you so long?

3. Ok, let me get back to you. Six other agents are reading this and I want to pick the best of you.

4. Well, ok, I guess. I have a list of questions for you. Have you ever sold anything like mine?

5. Did your really like it, no I mean really? What did you like best? Are you sure? Do you think "thwap" is really a verb? Maybe I should change chapter three before you send it to anyone.

6. Ok, let's set up a regular schedule for you to keep me informed on what you're doing for me. And fax a copy of the offer to my lawyer and accountant. They'll be in touch with changes.

7. I'm leaving the country for six months, but don't worry, we have satellite phones in Antarctica.

8. This is great, just great. My mom and I will be in New York next week to meet you. What day is good for lunch?

9 Well, I'm just not sure if I'm really ready to have editors see this. I'm still working on it. I'll get back to you.

10. Oh! I signed with Kristin Nelson three weeks ago, and she sold my book. You didn't see it on Publishers Lunch? Sorry.


Anonymous said...

The only one of those replies to your phone call that I might stupidly say is, "Who?" Because sometimes when the phone rings I'm ten million miles away and my own mother has to remind me who she is.
Maybe this is typical of writers; we can really be spacy. I hereby apologize for all of us.

Miss Snark said...

Not a problem. If I have my head in a novel and the phone rings on a Sunday, Im equally likely to say "who??" as well. Usually of course it's for Killer Yapp anyway.

Anonymous said...

Why is wanting to meet with an agent a turnoff? It makes perfect sense to me.

Do you really expect a writer to accept your offer right there on the phone? I dont see anything wrong with telling an agent I'll sleep on it and review the contract.

You're the one always reminding us that this is a business.

Anonymous said...

your Killer dog Yapps on the phone? you're kidding, right?

Anonymous said...

Am curious.

What are the top ten things you LOVE to hear when you call?

McKoala said...

I'm with Ann! Was about to ask that same question!

Miss Snark said...

Dear Anon:

Let me help you remove that stick from the rectal-cranial inversion. This was, as some knew right off the bat, intended more as a humorous comment than a list of immutable rules.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

What if for a health reasons a writer couldn't talk on the phone? Would you handle it by email? Talk to their mommy? Husband? Goat? Would you conference in Instant Message?

Probably doesn't happen much, huh? But, I've been worried about this. Some days I just can't talk on the phone. I'm in bed and not fit for human discourse. And, sadly, some weeks those are the majority of days.

Besides, I'm a paranoid psychopath, and my first reaction when the phone rings is to get out my High Standard Olympic Special and blow that thing away!

Ok, I made that up. I confess. But my question is a serious one.

Oh, and can we please go back to unmoderated comments? I'll be good. Honest I will. Except on Tuesady. I'm never very nice on Tuesday.

Stacia said...

How about these?

"Oh. I was hoping Donald Maass would call first."

"Great! I think we should spend a week together discussing changes we should make to the book, and exactly which publishers we'll send it to, and how I want you to describe it to them. OK?"

"Actually, I changed my mind. I want to turn the book into a screenplay. Will you help me?"

"Great! Maybe you can get those morons at (major publishing co.) to give this another look! I told those jerks they'd be sorry they rejected me!"

"I got tired of waiting, and published the book myself at iUniverse."

"I'm really insecure, so if we're going to work together I need to be able to call you for reassurance at all hours."

"Sine you're my agent now, and we're, like, best friends...do you know who Miss Snark really is?"

Anonymous said...

Rectal-cranial inversion? I love that. I'll use it the next time I need a day off. "Sorry, I can't make it in. I've come down with rectal-cranial inversion and I'd be just useless in the office today." Gah, if only everyone so afflicted would stay home.

Elektra said...

Which leads me to a question--do any of your clients ever mention Miss Snark?

Anonymous said...

I just love the Letterman lists, especially when they apply. :D


Anonymous said...

Admittedly guilty of #4. Luckily he took me on anyways. :)

(and I'd love to see 'weirdest things prospective clients have said to Miss Snark')

s.w. vaughn said...

Oh, man... I actually DID say "Who?" when the publisher called to accept my book...

In my defense, it was the middle of a weekday and I'd been taking client calls all day, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out which client this was and which book she was talking about.

At last I realized she was talking about mine. *blush* Fortunately, they decided to sign me anyway -- spaced-out authors are easier to command, after all. :-)


Anonymous said...

How about "oh, Miss Snark, huh? Soooo, what are you wearing, Sweet Cheeks?"

Greta LaGarbeaux said...

Hee haa hee! Thanks, Miss Snark, you always tickle me ivories when you get satiric.

I am posting the following on my combination phone/fridge/document shredder, forthwith:

What to say when Miss Snark calls:

1. Omidog! What an honor to hear your voice!
2. How gracious of you to call. In person!
3. Well, this is fantastic. But I must tell you that at this very moment I am in correspndence with, incredibly!, Agent BigGuy and Agent HotShot and Agent LuluBelle -- you know them, I'm sure -- and they've been so kind I would feel churlish to accept your fantastic offer until I have had a chance to talk to them personallly; they deserve to be let down gently, don't you think?
4. What can I do for you? Whatever you want, whenever you want it. Silver gin pail? Poodle couture?
5. I trust your impeccable judgement in all things, even the value of my modest scrivening.
6. Tell me what you think I need to know. At your convenience, of course.
7. I am at your service any hour of the day or night. Here are six emails, three phone numbers and a fax line where you can contact me.
8. I tremble to ask, but might you send me an autographed picture? My ailing six-year-old godchild would be so grateful.
9. I have 10 or 20 extra copies of the manuscript lying around the house. Can I send them to you? How about some lovely commemorative stamps?
10. No other agent exists, nor will exist, for so long as you care to cast your gaze my way.

Miss Snark said...

wait,... satire?
I was gonna cut this out and include it with my rejection letters "just in case".

Anonymous said...

"Ok, let me get back to you. Six other agents are reading this and I want to pick the best of you."

That's the one that bothers me. What if I've got two non-exclusive full mss out there; if one of them calls with a yes, I would like to wait for the second, and see what happens. What's the etiquette here? I don't want to offend the first comer, but why should I immediately jump?

Anonymous said...

I'm having a hard time telling if this is meant to be satirical or not. It's pretty much the exact opposite of much of I've read or had agents suggest I do.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Okay, I will admit I have actually told one writer, who made vastly uncalled for remarks concerning my integrity, only last week that anyone with his view of the publishing industry needed to consider a cranio-rectomy as a medical necessity.

Anonymous said...

Craniorectomy is possible (my day job is in health care) but I don't see it done nearly often enough.

Now for the other list: things authors really would rather not hear from agents (I may not make it to ten, but here goes):

1. I don't think this book is a good fit for any Terran publisher, but why not send it to Schlock House and see what they say?

2. Oh, hun, I'm sorry, but I don't take calls on Tuesdays, Thursdays or weekends. I have a life, you know.

3. I realize you asked me to sell this book, not edit it, but attached are thirty pages of revisions.

4. I'm sending your MS to True Dreck Publishing. I don't think it will compete with my book I sent them.

5. So sorry. I can't represent this book. The hero is (tall--dark--Asian--divorced--a cop--fill in the blank).

6. Hate to send this as a group e-mail, but as of next week I'm only agenting for a select group of clients. Your names aren't on the list.

7. Sorry but I'm not agenting anymore. If you need to find me, contact my agency, who knows my e-mail address at the Ashram in Nepal.

8. I contacted Sewer Publications and the ten other places I sent your novel, but they all lost it.

9. Drat! Tess Truehart left that publisher, so I can't get any feedback on your six-month-old submission.

10. (wow, guess I had ten after all) I don't really like this book, so let's send it to SuperDumb House in case they have a hole in their schedule.

And no, I haven't heard (all) of these, but unfortunately, a fair number.


WagerWitch said...



Sorry - I just had to wipe the keyboard clean and on a laptop, that isn't easy.

Anyone else have a Dr. Pepper to replace the one that just spewed all over?

*Mumble Grumble... Teach me to read with a mouth full.*


Lady M

Liz Jones said...

Do you have any objections to:
"Oh, Wow, for real? Really? Where do I sign?"
That thunk you hear in the background is just me, knocking my head on the wall, since I know that none of the cool kids get all hyper-enthused and make complete idiots out of themselves when they get agent offers.

But I can't help myself. Just call me a dork and hang up... (slinks off)

Lizzy said...

When I quickly read the word "inversion" I thought it said "insertion" which was a very confusing mental image.

Yasmine Galenorn said...

Well, I managed to avoid the 'don'ts' when she took me on as a client, but when my agent called two weeks later to tell me she snagged a three-book contract for me, I'll admit to having screamed into the phone as I jumped around the room.

I then apologized for deafening her, but she just laughed and said "No problem, I'm glad you're excited about it." And then, we got down to the nuts and bolts of discussing the contract.

Anonymous said...

This got me wondering. So, say you've just read a full manuscript from someone, and it's fabulous. What happens next? Would you call them that day to offer representation, or sit on it for a few weeks, or show someone else for another opinion? Once you do call the author, would they usually say "yes" right away or would there be a lot more discussion? What kind of questions do you think a potential client should be asking at this point? (Assuming they've already done their research and knew before they queried that you've sold books like theirs and are an all around superstar.)

Anonymous said...


I'm sure I'd be screaming if I was in your position too!

Anonymous said...

Damn-it. No wonder the book is taking so long to find a home.

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming that 'how big a percentage of the carrot do you want?' would also be considered somewhat rude.

In Rabbitania we are always concerned about the size of our carrots.

Lizzy said...


I understand that in Freuditania they are also always concerned about the size of their carrots.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes a carrot is only a carat.

Anonymous said...

Really I don't think I carrot all about the size...