What is it with directions?

It's bad enough half the population won't ask for them while driving the wrong way down Mulhollend looking for Knotts Berry Farm...but why is it when you HAVE them you can't follow them??

Miss Snark..yes, she's in the slush pile again.

First, of course some nitwit didn't include an SASE..he "preferred" email. Yea, well I prefer a higher credit limit at Saks but it doesn't mean I get to buy those Chanel pumps now does it?

Second, don't start your cover letter with "Hi My Name is Chip and I'll be your Querier Tonight". I know your name and I know you're writing a query letter. The fact you don't realize you don't have to spell out every last detail bodes very very poorly for any kind of elegance in your writing.

Third, please I beg of you, don't compare yourself to John Grisham, Dan Brown, Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, Truman Capote, JD Salinger, or doghelpusall GOD ("this book is divinely inspired!"). I don't care if you KNOW it's true. You know your kid is the best looking grandchild in the family..doesn't mean you say so at family gatherings.

Fourth, please do not tell me your novel will appeal to women who watch Oprah. Women who watch Oprah like things that Oprah likes. Unless Oprah picks your book for her book club, those women aren't even gonna hear about it. And unless you are Oprah, or her mom, you haven't got much of an inside track, so just move on to more rational ideas.

Fifth, leave off all the references to how carefully you researched my website and list. I swear the people who are the most strident about this are the ones who get some really basic stuff wrong: my name, my address, my gender...yanno the stuff that's really hard to find out since it's on the first page of the site.

Sixth, try not to send your query in an envelope that looks like an invoice. Sure, I open it, but then I'm so annoyed I just don't even want to read it. Why raise the barrier higher than it already is? You don't look savvier, more professional or like a better writer if you send your letter in a company envelope. You look cheap and insecure.

Seventh, when sending an SASE, you'd be very smart to fold the gummed flap to the opposite side before folding it. More than one envelope has self sealed in the mail cause it's humid as hell in NYC right now and we don't air condition the mail box...silly us.

Eighth...any novel that is "red hot" cause it's about the vagaries of George Bush is an automatic pass. George Bush is going to be out of office in two years. No one is going to give a rat's ass about him after that.

Ninth...don't send anything shrink wrapped. I assume it's junk mail and throw it away.

And that's the nine innings for Team Snark tonight.


Gina Black said...

Anyone driving down Mulholland Blvd to get to Knotts Berry Farm needs to get a new Thomas Guide....

But my question is: when sending an SASE, you'd be very smart to fold the gummed flap to the opposite side before folding it.

Wouldn't the gummed edge just stick to whatever else it was in contact with? Or am I missing something here?

Jim Winter said...

Following directions?

Hell, I had a scare tonight when I thought I queried Barbara Bauer.

(It was another Barbara B., but yeesh! Gas prices are scary enough.)

Anonymous said...

Whoa! I was just going to ask the same question gina black asked about the SASE. This scenario begs for the prepaid post card.

Would a piece of wax-paper separating the glue on the envelop (unless one has a self stick with a peel off strip) from another sheet of paper do the trick?

Kanani said...

Re: Comparing our book to a well known author:

There's a writer...can't remember his name, but he's the one that wrote that tiresome movie "The Notebook," who generously shares his first query letter on his website. He compared his book to several well known works of fiction. He said this was to help the agent know how he writes, and also to help them get a handle on how to market it. Similarly, I went to a seminar by an agent who encouraged everyone to do the same. She also said it was to ensure 'platforming' and to assess the marketability of a book.

I find this a bit daunting. When I tried to do the same with mine, I just couldn't. I've read so much, from non-fiction to fiction, that I just couldn't come up with one that I could really compare it to, or in the words of the agent, "what other books I'd see it next to on a shelf."

Anyone else run into this?


Anonymous said...

Not that I think everyone is kidding (although I was certain inspiring writer was -- felt kinda bad about that!) but don't you think the guy that says he'll be your querier for tonight was kidding? I myself thought it was pretty funny...

ssas said...

Oh man, I have the most embarrassing story about meeting JD Salinger....

Never mind.

Anonymous said...

Re: the gummed flap. This is why the Lords of Envelope Manufacturing invented the peel & seal envelope! No more licking, no humidity induced self-sticking.

Ray said...

On following directions:

Had a high school English final that had as its first direction, Read all directions before starting.

The last direction was to sign the test and hand it in for an automatic A. The others had students doing various things involving physical humor. Touching nose to blackboard was in there, as I remember.

Why not use the self-sealing envelopes for the SASE? They aren't all that expensive.

Anonymous said...

Kanani wrote about comparing our books to some well-known authors.

I've found some agents specifically ask for this--but more in the vein Kanani notes-where does it fit on the bookshelf, not I write like a modern-day Jane Austen. I've deciphered this to mean-if you know of 10 other books out there already with a similar theme/premise, setting, etc. you need to say how yours is unique. Or if you fill a gap where readers of certain books would likely flock that you can clearly identify, then mention it.

But I'm staying clear of this aspect. No comparisons. Safer. Thank you very much. Miss wonderful agent can fill in her own comparisons readily enough.

litagent said...

On the comparison question, it's one thing to say that your book is in the spirit of x, y or z; quite another thing to say that you're the next 'insert name here'. The first gives people a reference point for positioning the book, the second is arrogant at best and stupid at worst. One Dan Brown (or Stephen King, or Danielle Steele, or whomever) is enough.

As for envelopes, I LOVE the "pull and seal" kind -- the ones with strips covering the adhesive. No licking and no inadvertent sticking together.

Anonymous said...

I've read it's OK to say: "My novel would appeal to readers who enjoyed X and/or Y." Of course, claiming you wrote the next X or Y... why, priceless.

Kitty said...

Shrink wrapped?!!?

What on dog's green earth do people send to you, Miss Snark, that has been shrink wrapped?

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

In my case, as my surname begins with Gott..., isn't the proper answer to "Where would your book sit on the shelf" be "in the fiction section, between Gots... and Gotu..." ???

Anonymous said...

I figure the shrink wrap was to prevent the querrier's nonself-sealing envelope from, well, self-sealing. -JTC

Anonymous said...

What other books I'd like to see my novel next to on a shelf?

"Coping with Compulsive Spending" and "So You Just Won the Lottery, Now What?"

Anonymous said...

"Seventh, when sending an SASE, you'd be very smart to fold the gummed flap to the opposite side before folding it. More than one envelope has self sealed in the mail..."

Another good reason to invest in the peel-&-stick envelopes.

Kanani said...

Thanks for answering my question.

Here's an example of what I was talking about: "Like Romeo and Juliet or The Bridges of Madison County, however, all great love stories need tragedy and separation, as well as love, to fully touch the reader, and their story was no exception." (This is from a well known published writer. I won't say his name. I don't read his book, but I have looked on his website where he generously gives his perspective --not necessarily a bad thing. But personally, I found this to be a bit preachy).

In reading more about the query letter, it seems that you have so little space that the words are best spent telling the agent what the book is about, and what challenges are driving the protaganist.

astrologymemphis.blogspot.com said...

Miss Snark, I'm sorry to disagree with you on this point, but I must. You may hate it if we compare our novels to another novel, author, movie, etc., but because you're anonymous, we don't know when we're querying you. Some agents prefer that we compare the novel to something else. Jillian Manus of Manus & Associates (and I think you'll have to admit they're a fairly prestigious lit agency) writes on her website under Information for Authors that she finds the comparative pitch "very helpful," and makes 80% of her sales that way. She gives several examples, including:

A Thousand Acres: King Lear in a cornfield.

Clueless: Emma meets Beverly Hills 90120

Cold Mountain: Gone With the Wind meets Faulkner.

I still think the best bet is to do your research to find out what a particular agent prefers, and write the query based on those preferences.

Jude Calvert-Toulmin said...

> yanno the stuff that's really hard to find out since it's on the first page of the site.

Hur hur :)

HawkOwl said...

Shrink-wrap? Exactly what came shrink-wrapped?

Anonymous said...

Kanani - Comparisons to other authors...

I've read that you can compare the genre (ie, my sappy romance is similar to Nick Sparks sappy romance, The Notebook.)


My sappy romance is the best thing ever, sure to sell as many copies and make movies like Nick Sparks The Notebook.

Is that true - are genre comparisons OK?

patricia said...

Re: Writers comparing their works to others

Don't forget J. K. Rowling. I can't tell you how many writers I've met who've told me their current ms is as good as Harry Potter, will be the next Harry Potter, will blow Harry Potter out of the water, ad nauseum.

I just sent a query to an agent--a NYC agent. What if the glue on my SASE flap seals shut? Or the stickum on my stamp comes loose and he thinks I didn't send postage? Will he send my query to the Snark-O-Matic Confetti Maker and Vegetable Shredder(tm)? (The perfect gift for agents, editors, and coleslaw makers--it chops queries and cabbage finer than the cookie crumbs that collect in your keyboard.) Here's hoping I at least get a few points for not comparing my book to anyone else's.

pacatrue said...

I just had to add for the record that I thought, "My name is Chip and I'll be your querier tonight," pretty damn funny. I have a feeling Miss Snark doesn't spend too much of her time in cheap chain restaurants. I was required to say that to every single table when I was a waiter at Shoney's a good 12-13 years ago.

Anonymous said...

What if you don't think your writing compares to anybody on the planet? At least earth. Then shouldn't you just skip the whole similarity thing and be original or try being original.
I don't mean doesn't compare because its so dog gone great but because your weird and you write weird shit because its what you want to read.
Crawling back to my hole...

Nicolette said...

Yes, count me with those who were amused by Chip.

Anonymous said...

I think when the humidity is steaming envelopes shut, someone's fuse gets a bit short.
Not a good environment for opening your query with a joke.
Note to self:
Query in October, or maybe April?

Kanani said...

Comparisons aside, Nicholas Sparks's biggest sin is that he's so handsome. Really. Is there no justice in this world? Someone who is that good looking not only writes books that catch the falling tears of millions maudlin readers, but is also good looking to boot. AND he's a good hubbie and daddy too? Slay me if he does laundry.

It just isn't fair.

But still, he is no George Clooney.

HawkOwl said...

To the last anonymous - if you think your work doesn't compare to anything else on the planet, either you haven't read enough, or what you're doing is so bad no one would consider publishing it. And if you think you're "weird" and you write "weird shit," chances are, you're putting on a "look how weird I am" act to get attention, and your "weird shit" probably sounds fake and overdone. One of the many probable reasons nothing like it gets published.

Sal said...

kanani quotes a well-known, published writer, who says, among other things, "all great love stories need tragedy and separation."

I was pretty sure I knew which well-known, published writer kanani quoted but decided to Google search for that phrase to confirm my memories.


Anonymous said...


Don't you think you were a bit rough on old anonymous? I thought he was expressing a legitimate frustration. We're all learning here. Your reply seems unnecessarily hostile.

Kanani said...

I'll answer to the person who couldn't compare his work to anyone else's. And perhaps Hawkowl's writing can be compared to a writer that swears a lot.

What writers do you gravitate toward? Do you read writers who tend to come from a specific region, such as Southern writers, writers from the American West, etc. What genre do you lean toward?

If you just look at your shelves, you'll find that you probably have a tendency to choose certain types of books. For instance.... I have a book case devoted entirely to poetry. So poetry, as you can imagine, plays a key role in my development as a writer. But going further... what this? Ah... volumnes of Stanley Kunitz and Mary Oliver.

Then going to my other shelves, you'll see I cut my teeth on Wallace Stegner, Thomas Farber (shaggability ratinng 8+), Harriet Doerr, Steinbeck, Edward Abbey and Barry Lopez...amid others.
And that's not even counting the photography books.

So the writers I choose delve into emotional content in natural settings. Which coincidentally, is also how I write.

I'd never compare myself to any of them, but in my mind, they've inspired me tremendously.

HawkOwl said...

HawkOwl's writing can definitely be compared to a writer who swears a lot. I think HawkOwl's writing uses "f***" more than "the." However, in this case, it was Anonymous who said "weird shit," not me. I'm just repeating what s/he said. Was I too rough? I don't think so. It's not like I said "you're an idiot and you need to die." I just said the obvious, that either his style of "weird shit" is published and he hasn't looked for it enough, or it's not and there's probably a good reason for that.

And as for the "I'm so weird" act, it's very high-school-dork and gets old very quickly. Truly weird people don't think they're weird. That's what's weird about them. People who tell you they're weird, more often than not, are just trying to act weird to attract attention.

Anonymous said...

zxmpso said...
"Note to self: Query in October, or maybe April?"

very nice :)

However, since an average agent-reading time could be around three months, an October-sent query would be read in January, and a January-sent would be read in April---and it follows that if you wanted a query read in October, you'd have to send it now (July) and the SASE would end up being steamed and stuck anyway. Of course, the best course of action is to clearly state on the outside of the shrink-wrapped, large, looks-like-an-invoice, unicorn-stickered envelope that "this query should be read in October." That way, your letter would definitely find its way to the very top of the pile, to be read today! without any wait! And add rainbow stickers, too, since unicorns like rainbows. Everyone knows that. Oooh! Avoid the whole steamy-sticky-SASE scenario by sending your stellar query letter in a dry-ice cooler package---that's sure to be noticed immediately, what with the "open immediately, contents may spoil" label! Especially for all of those "hot topic" manuscripts that must be published this season!