Miss Snark does Xena-phobic-Warrior Princess

Oh, Miss Snark,

I recently finished my YA novel and was all ready to start querying agents. Then I got a job in Ghana for the next two years (no kidding...I'm a teacher). How in the world can I try to get my book published from GHANA??? Should I just give up, or would a query letter from the wilds of Africa be an asset?

Dear Miss Snark,

Evil Editor made a comment the other day that made one of those question marks pop up over my head. I managed to get rid of it, but they keep coming back (usually late at night, keeping me awake with their eery luminescence and faint wood-burning smell).

Currently I am living outside the United States. Evil Editor mentioned in passing that he would consider that a strike against an author because the author would not be available to participate in book promotion. I believe you have also mentioned payment headaches
when dealing with authors not in the US.

However, I am not only willing to spend time knocking about the US flogging my work, I'm looking forward to it. Also there would be no problem paying me in dollars and I would pay my taxes in the US.

I assume these things aren't deal killers, but are they worth mentioning in a query letter to an agent?

Miss Snark gets out her atlas.
Miss Snark adds two clock widgets to her dock and adjusts them to Ghanian and Kiwi time.
Ah, the wonders of modern electrons.

I'm going to tell you the honest to dog truth.
I hardly read the stuff that comes in from overseas cause I'm just so unenthusiastic about the headaches associated with a client that far away. You'd have to write something REALLY great to get over that hurdle.

I do have clients in furrin lands, but they snuck off from here when I wasn't looking (in other words I signed them when they were in the contiguous US).

Some agents probably feel different. I KNOW I'm missing a bet so please don't write and tell me I'm an idiot for doing this, I already know that. But, it's the truth, sorry though it may be.

However, if you wish to persuade someone of your wonderfullness and you don't want to let the cat out of the baggage, get a gmail address and query with that. No give away .ca .nz .ghana suffixes to betray you. (or mac.com as one of you already has, smart lad).

If I loved the work I'd probably suck it up and sign you but it's high on my list of things I'm not eager to embrace.


Anonymous said...

As Miss Snark says, this is her personal preference. I can tell you that there are plenty of editors/agents out there who don't feel the same. I've had reasonable success in getting attention for my work from folk in the US, and I'm in Australia. You can be a little clever about it, though. I went looking for books by Australians that were selling well in the US, and then worked backwards from there: who had published them in the US? who had repped them there? etc. Of course, Ghana is probably a little trickier, but you never know. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, anyone know if Canada gets tossed into the same category of foreign or does its close promixity make it more acceptable?

Diana Peterfreund said...

Or, since prior to Ghana you lived in the U.S. of A., you must have a lover/parent/roommate/sorority sister who can be your permanent address for a bit.

I lived in Oceania for six months. Rejections came just fine to my parents house, and my mother, bless her heart, even scanned them into her home computer so I could read the awesome and terrible news over email.

Bethany said...

.ca?? Canada's a problem?

Der be no ocean -- us canucks aren't over seas...

Anonymous said...

Argh! Are Canadians considered "furrin"?

Anonymous said...

After so many years of hearing how Americans consider Canada to be "America Jr.", you're telling me .ca is a liability? C'mon! The exchange rate is almost even now!

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

I absolutely love your honesty Miss Snark.

HawkOwl said...

Hey, I have a .ca email! .nt.ca, actually, which scares even the other .ca people. Though it's not as bad as .nu.ca. But I digress. I don't care whether I can query US agents or not. What I was really gonna say is, what if the foreign author got an account with a US bank, so you could just deposit the money there? Wouldn't that take care of the problem?

Anonymous said...

I hope, then, it becomes an asset that I'm returning to the US after over two years living abroad (in Australia).

Anonymous said...

aack. This is NOT what I wanted to hear. I'm technically in the US, but let's just say remote is a word that applies. Other side of the date line. Way different time zone. Closer to the Kiwis than to Yanks. Sheesh. (I mean, I undestand Yap!)

But if the writing is great... That's what I have to keep working on, keep writing, keep on, don't give up, voice, concepts, plots, CHARACTERS (my specialty).

Deep breath.

litagent said...

It all depends on the circumstances. Foreign authors ARE a problem because the IRS has withholding requirements for people without US tax ID numbers (SS#'s to you and me). If an author has the resources to travel back and forth, or will be returning to the US, then there are no promotional issues. As for the Ghana author, your posting is two years. You need to find an agent, who must then shop the manuscript. Figure in time waiting for responses, then negotiating the contract, then add 9 months to a year production time and you're back home by then anyway. I say, be upfront about your situation, be realistic that some people will find it more trouble than it's worth, but as Miss Snark constantly reminds everyone, write well and the rest will fall into place.

Kate Epstein said...

I believe the website Agent Query is tackling this question with several agents' p.o.v.s in their symposium, online June 30.

Anonymous said...

bugger. what a bugger. okay, so what are the actual hurdles here so that i can address them? I can think of two, and kiwi already mentioned them:
1) payment/tax/tax treaty issues. (Sorry Kiwi, but I don't think you'll get around this one by just paying tax in the US. you'll need to do it properly with an US international tax number and etc.)
2) not being available in the US for promotion.
3) issues of response time, mail, telephone calls if you're in Ghana, but this is not so much a problem if you're in Kiwiland or Europe with regular mail and internet access.
Are there any others that I"m missing?
Love, an American who prefers not to live there.

RFB said...

So I guess the same advice might apply to a US writer seeking representation from a German, Australian or English agency. (Since I've about dried up all the US possibilities)

Anonymous said...

Take heart, fellow writers, there are definitely agents who take clients from abroad! I'll be querying one in the coming weeks:) I live in Scandinavia and she is in London (London is practically its own country, eh?).

ssas said...

Surely there is a publisher or two somewhere on the African continent?
Or perhaps somewhere else--England, perhaps? We Amereicans are finicky about doing business with "others"; many around the world are not.

Also, magazine editors generally have no problem with overseas writers, especially ezines. As long as you have Paypal or reliable post, you should be fine. Write some short things if it's in your heart, build a portfolio for a couple of years, and come back to your novel.

The hardest rejection I've had to write is to a non-mil serving in Iraq. :(

none said...

London its own country? Well, it does have millions of migrant workers, I suppose...and its own climate!

RedWritingHood said...

I'm Canadian and I just signed with a US agent. It can be done, most negotiations are 'North American' and I don't think Canada falls into the foreign rights category. At least that's my understanding.

Anonymous said...

I'm a .ca and I have an US agent and a US publisher. There has never been any problem with payment, tax withholding, or time and distance.

I always learn from you, Miss Snark, because until last night, I didn't know this problem existed.

Anonymous said...

"I do have clients in furrin lands, but they snuck off from here when I wasn't looking (in other words I signed them when they were in the contiguous US)."

"Hawaii, our closest ally in the Pacific." :-) I heard that was a quote from some president, but I forget who.

And Alaska and Guam ... [US territory]

Gabriele Campbell said...


I don't know about the UK but it may prove a problem with German agents because the whole concept of agenting is rather new to the German market. Until some years ago, agents were a rare species. More writers have them now but you can still get along without.

Since I mostly write in English and aim for the UK market, I'll try to get an UK agent, but I won't bother to get one for my one German NiP.

Shelli Stevens said...

Happily planted in the USA, whew. Not that it seems to be helping any. :)

Lisa Hunter said...

I'm a U.S. citizen in Canada, and it's been no problem at all to get a U.S. agent and sell a book to 1745 Broadway. The important things are having a U.S. bank account for depositing funds, filing U.S. taxes (which, as an expat, you will anyway), and being available for publicity.

I suppose it's harder, though, if you're a foreign national, rather than an expat American.

Anonymous said...

I live in Europe and have an American agent. I'm not sure what exactly gives Miss Snark the headaches, but agents certainly are reluctant to take on foreign clients. I had no success with regular queries, they didn't even bother to respond (an IRC issue, I suspect). As soon as I gave up on it, and started e-querying, I got results.

There have been no problems that I'm aware of, apart from a bit of paperwork (dealing with the American embassy and the IRS) to get the taxpayer identification number -- but that was my problem, not my agent's.

The payment issue doesn't seem to be a problem. My advances and royalties are transferred electronically.

Time zones are easy enough to manage with the help of online time zone calculators for us mathematically challenged folks. :)

Take heart. And e-query. :-)

Anonymous said...

Someone said: It all depends on the circumstances. Foreign authors ARE a problem because the IRS has withholding requirements for people without US tax ID numbers (SS#'s to you and me).(end of qote)

That's only if the person is either on US soil, (in which case they fill out a W-9) or an actual employee of a company but not residing in the USA.

For people who live and work in countries such as Canada, and are not actual employees of an American-based company, they need only fill out a W-8ben and eveything else is pretty much the same. No taxes are withheld on the author's share of the money.

Anonymous said...

People still use IRCs?

When I first started submitting, it was a money issue--IRCs cost a bundle, and are worth practically nothing. Then I heard the agent would have to stand in line at the post office to redeem it. Ack.

You can buy US stamps at the USPS website, at about 1/3 the cost of an IRC.

Anonymous said...

Well, in light of this news, I've been weighing my options. They are thus:

1) Put a paragraph in my cover letter expressing that I am geographically disconnected and I'll live in hell if it'll help my career (I'd have some good literary company there, I think. It's even more hip than Prague.)

2) Make all initial correspondence reflect a US address. Because it's always good to start a business relationship with an intentional deception.

3) Move back to the States and live in Mom's basement

4) Move to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, and hope they don't look at the address too closely, or wonder about all those stamps on the SASE.

I'm leaning toward 4, myself. I could pepper my correspondence with y'all's and references to Waffle House and whatnot, to reinforce the impression without actually lying. Plus, I hear they have nice beaches there.

litagent said...

Thanks Anonymous for clarifying the foreign national on US soil vs. foreign national abroad. You're correct.

Anonymous said...

Just what we need - another little bone to worry at and obsess over.

Miss Snark and Evil Editor are just two agents, and I doubt they speak for all on this issue. For one thing, many agents now accept e-queries and electronic submissions, and there are courier companies that provide you with a US PO Box address and forward your mail to and from the US. There is no need to mention in the query that you live on the dark side of the moon. That can come later, when agents request your work.

I started e-querying in Jan, and signed with a terrific NY agent two months later. When she called to make the offer, I advised her that she was calling Rabbitania, DarkSide, Moon and she said: 'Oh, that's okay, we do this all the time. Our clients are from all over.'

It's unlikely that my experience was the exception. It comes back to the writing, as always. Remember the Arundathi Roy [sp?]phenomenon? And she was in India.

Thank you anons above for explaining how the payment part works. Litagent above startled me with 'withholding requirements'. Brought all sorts of nasty stuff to mind.

Anonymous said...

I recently asked Miss Snark the same question, and this perhaps explains her references to New Zealand. Miss Snark's response was honest and helpful, and other Snarklings posts have been equally helpful. It's all good information for those of us who find ourselves uncontiguous to the United States.

And given Xena Warrior Princess was filmed in NZ and stars a NZer, the title of Miss Snark's post is really quite witty.

NL Gassert said...

Ouch. Anything outside the contiguous US is less than desirable? Thanks for Anonymous who pointed out that leaves us folks in Hawaii and Alaska and Guam out in the cold.

But I bet there’re also writers on American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Marianas Islands and the US Virgin Islands and the Midway Islands, Wake Island, the Johnston Atol, Baker, Howland and Jarvis Islands, Navassa Island and the Kingman Reef.

The US is a lot bigger than most of her citizens know.

who lives in Hawaii and writes about Guam

Anonymous said...

I'm an Australian with a US agent. It's no big deal. The US government withholds 5% of my earnings and I pay tax on the remainder at home. Every big publisher and agent knows how to make sure this is done.

I do travel to the US whenever I'm needed to do promotional stuff.

Gerb said...

Two comments -

First, it seems to be harder for an American author to sign with a Canadian agency/publisher than the other way 'round as non-Canadian authors don't earn subsidies for the publisher.

Second, I'm certainly glad I never knew enough to be worried about the overseas hiccups when I went hunting for agent/publisher. I blissfully found both from far, far away. It can be done. Just has to be the right connection.

Overseas writers, don't give up.

Anonymous said...

I always say up front in queries that I live on the other side of the world...Apart from one Australian agent who balked (and said so, up front), I've been asked for full manuscripts following queries by quite a few U.S. agents (who I queried with dreaded IRC's), so it obviously wasn't an issue for them.

Anonymous said...


Those agents probably spotted you the postage (unless it was truly ungodly) rather than stand in line at the PO to redeem those IRCs. These days it's so easy to order and calculate postage from the USPS website, I'd never consider spending $3.20 on an IRC that isn't even good for the $.63 that I need.

Kathleen Dante said...

I'm based in Asia and it doesn't seem to be a problem for my publishers and agent. The Internet is a great leveler of time zone barriers.

McKoala said...

Tax should not be an issue; many people living outside the US are paid by US companies and there are systems to allow for this. DH can advise - he's a US and international tax lawyer. Hopefully one day that head full of obscure knowledge will be of use to me! Maybe I should mention him in queries... I have been published in x and x and I come with my own tax lawyer.

Anonymous said...

For those who are concerned about this, you can always get a mail drop in a US location. Then the mail drop people forward the mail to you wherever you are.

Sharon Maas said...

My experience:
I was living in Germany when I found a UK agent. She made several foreign sales and there was no problem with receiving money, except for a couple publishers (France and Spain) who wanted me to fill in some double-taxation forms. A minor hassle.

Now I live in the UK and am querying US agents, I have had a few requests for full and martial mss. I'm quite prepared to travel to the US for promotion should that situation arise, and I will cross the tax-bridge when I get to it. I'm sort of assuming that if I get a US agent they will have a UK sub-agent and the money will go through them, the way it does with my other foreign publishers.

On the other hand, I did receive one rejection from a US agent - could she be Miss Snark being Xena-phobic? Hmmmm.....

Anonymous said...

Dear Miss Xena-phobic-Warrior Princess Snark,

I'm still clueless. I don't understand what are the headaches and bothers with having a client outside of the contiguous 48 states. I've read the comments--it seems there are several possibilities:
1. communication. You hint that this might be a concern when dialing the telephone--having to check time zones. But many authors (like me) would jump to answer the telephone, even in the dead of night (and we have all different kinds of work habits so that we could overlap times naturally!). And when we're not "available," we have voice mail. And then there's that spiffy thing called e-mail. Doesn't all of this make communication easy?

2. payment. Some mention issues about paying non-US citizens, or paying anyone living outside the US, or whatever. But as Nadja pointed out, the US is a bigger place than the contiguous 48--so we're here, US citizens on US soil and payment isn't a problem. NO added tax burdens, etc. National banks and all. So this can't be the reason for the line at 48 states.

3. promotion--of course you would sell a book if you took it on. You are the most glorious agent in the world. So of course the author would have to assist in promotion. Would it surprise you to find out that lots of people who don't live in 48 contiguous travel regularly to the mainland? Promotion wouldn't necessarily be out of the question. Or even a hassle.

So I'm clueless about why the reluctance for submissions from other interesting parts of the US and world, unless it's just a knee-jerk reaction.

It reminds me of redlining, only by literary agents rather than mortgage lenders. And I think it's wrong, masking an unhealthy prejudice.

We can't all live in the 212--you wouldn't want us all there!

I appreciate your candor, but sincerely hope you will examine your phobic propensities. Snark is good. Geographic prejudice isn't.