9.06.2006

Before you forget-Updated

Give me some of your thoughts on refining the crapometer stuff.

I know we're not going to do 100 again. Probably 50 in 3 days is my limit.
We're not going to do them at the very end of August again either. I sort of forgot that getting ready to go back to work would take more than five minutes.

If you've got any ideas, I'll be glad to hear them.

Meanwhile, I have to go sell something.

Update:
Some very good suggestions have rolled in. Thank you for those.

Here are some points to consider:
1. No this wasn't supposed to be fun. Reading slush isn't fun, getting your query letter eviscerated isn't fun. This is akin to KY learning to walk on busy city streets. Not fun at all but a good skill to have so you can get to the park and supervise the squirrel war.

2. We aren't going to do this once a week. Have you all lost your pea pickin minds?

3. I'm not going to charge you money for it. A couple people emailed with that idea. I appreciate the sentiment but ..yanno..no.

4. I can't screen stuff. Screening is almost more work than posting or commenting.

Ideas I like a lot:

1. Posting without comments first, let you guys take a swing, see what you think of it, then post a snarked version. I may in fact do that on the next 25. (If you're one of the 25 and you object you should email me).

2. Requiring a pass word/code in the subject line that would indicate you'd read the instructions and weren't quite the newbie dewbie do that thought Mrs Nark lived here at Snark Central.

As to fictional novels, I may have to cut you some slack. I got a press release today from a publisher and by dog,"fiction novels" was one of the things they published. I was laughing so hard KY admonished me since he had a hard time stalking the pigeons with so much guffawing going on.

100 comments:

Mrs. Brain Bomb said...

If you want to reduce your number of entries perhaps you could focus on one genre.

Anonymous said...

How about you have them post the genre in their subject line (uh, commercial fiction doesn't count). Then you can randomly pick a set number in each category.

zornhau said...

The crapometer is incredibly useful. Thanks.

Since you asked for refinements:

It's more useful to focus on what works, that what doesn't.

Most of the time a terse "Lost me here" would suffice - let the rest of us work out why in the Comments.

Where a submission hits all the right buttons, that's the moment to tell us why.

Anonymous said...

Hows about automatically disqualifying anyone who doesn't use "Miss Snark" in their header?

This isn't just out of bitterness at not getting picked, it teaches the valuable lesson of doing research on your agents before submitting to them.

Anyone who'd taken 10 minutes to look through your previous crapometers would have picked up this tidbit.

Anonymous said...

How about quartly? Maybe 4 per year. As for timing, I think you know what works best for you.

Maybe you can do Query letters as one, synopsis as another, first page, a character outline, a goal or plot outline, etc.

stay_c said...

As wonderful as it is to get the personalized feed back, limiting it to 50 is probably better for reading through all of it.

(But all of it does make me appreciate what you put up with every day too.)

A Good, Bad, Ugly ranking would be nice too. It's sort of being done in the titles this time.

srchamberlain said...

I think you were entirely too generous with your disqualifications. "Dear Ms. Snark", "Dear Agent", or lack of any greeting at all would signal to me that the writer wasn't exactly a regular reader around here, let alone someone who could follow a very simple set of directions. And I think that made a lot of Snarklings angry, in addition to undoubtedly making Miss Snark breathe gin fire.

I'd also eliminate anything with more than three or four typos.

I realize that this would require you to actually read every submission--maybe a Snarkling assistant to help?

And if you had such an assistant, maybe the person could do a little content pre-screening as well? Automatic disqualifications:

1. "fiction novel" (or "fictional novel")

2. people who have a fundamental problem with sentence structure (see Crapometer #68)

3. issue novels (Crapometer #64)

4. whatever system would eliminate #25 and #17 before you ever had to see them

I guess the basic point is that no one besides the authors of these unfortunate pieces probably needs you to tell them that these are bad ideas. So my two cents is that they're not among the most useful Crapometer entries. The mistakes are entirely too obvious.

I'd volunteer to be your Snarkling bitch if I wasn't in such a frenzy to submit for the next round.

Anonymous said...

To consider:

Reading the query and first pages is the most informative to those looking at the Blog. (I learned quite a bit) Might I cajole you into doing one every week!

How to choose? Maybe you could open the crapometer door a fraction on a predictable schedule. Have us hopefuls send you a one-paragraph “plot pitch” then you can choose a candidate--one who gets your name right--and give the lucky bugger a secret code to reply with the full query. Just my 2.346 cents.

stunned by 100 said...

Miss Snark,
Because you keep getting slammed with so many of the same problems, from "Ms. Snark" to "where's the plot?", I could learn from any number of submissions plus your wrap-up at the end. Twenty-five would be a gift. My only concern would be: in 25, would you still find submissions good enough to say yes to? Because we learn just as much from those too.
So...if you did 50 over the course of a couple of manageable weeks--but posted them all at once--I'd be ecstatic. A thousand thanks, however you do it. This is so useful.

kaytie said...

I noticed many queries fell apart in the paragraph that is supposed to capture the book in a compelling way, either by summarizing or by leaving out plot.

"Fiction novel," other mistakes of agent name and gender and extraneous life material aside, this hook is what should get the pages read and thus is the most important part of the query.

Perhaps focusing on this one paragraph would prove useful. Writers would get practice in succinctly conveying their story and you'd only have to look at a few hundred words (max) at a time.


But if you're asking about streamlining the process on your end, I'd say the random numbers and the window of opportunity worked pretty well. It was fair, so long as it wasn't a total pain for you to do.

Malia said...

I would suggest doing a quarterly crapometer (one month to organize, one day for submissions, eight weeks to respond) once a year. Receive "x" amount of entries (no repeat customers) and answer one a day (taking weekends off, of course). I can't imagine what the past week has been like for you -- you truly are Queen Snark.

~~ Malia (obviously in a parenthetical mood this afternoon)

-sry said...

Although I enjoyed the buzz leading up to it, and while I found the FAQ threads to be hilarious, I must say, the actual Crapometer was a let-down.

I've never read one of your Crapometers before, so I didn't know what to expect, but I expected at least half as much entertainment value as I'd found in the preliminaries.

The reason I think it was lacking in lustre was the obvious way in which this overwhelmed and then exhausted you. It was supposed to be fun for you, too, wasn't it? Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought the whole point was for us all to have fun here.

Next time you do this--if you ever do it again--I'd say not to limit it to 50 but rather a Top Ten. Yeah, ten. I sent in an entry and yes, I was a little disappointed not to get selected, but I felt the random number process was a great and totally fair means of selecting which entries to review. Still, I was disappointed to read the results.

I surely would have quickly cheered had your energy level for the reviews been at your usual Snarky Meter Rating of 10 (on a scale of 1 to...umm :-))

I don't care how desperately everyone and his brother and sister wants to be Snarked by Miss Snark, I'd rather Miss Snark retain her snarkiness--and sounds as though Miss Snark would rather as much, too! If we really want to be reviewed by a literary agent, then gee, I hear it's still a free country! We can send in a real sample of our "professional-quality writing" to a real agent in a real life submission. Your Crapometer should be reserved for flights of fancy.

My 2 centavos (or 20 argurot or 50 yen or...)

-sry

Maria said...

I think that possibly 30 to 50 total over say, a couple of weekends would be really great--here's the example:

weekend one: you open for submissions for 8-12 hours and take 10-15 random submissions and critique.

Then us snarklings WILL LEARN from the mistakes we see. WE WILL NOT repeat the mistakes on the next weekend/open opportunity.

The next weekend (few days later/whatever):
You open the email sub for 8 hours and select 10-15 more. Critique and post.

Snarklings will STUDY and LEARN before sending to the final submission period where you again generously take 10-15 and post.

The only thing I wonder about is how difficult it is for you to do the randomized picks and if your email server will go down as 4000 people try to email you in an 8-12 hour window. You're probably going to get 500 to 600 emails each time. :>)

Even if you only did two time periods rather than three, there will be lots to learn from it.

Did we say thanks yet?

Stargazer said...

Thanks for all your hard work, Miss Snark.

Don't throw the Crapometer at me but could this be a regular feature? Say, one a week?

Virginia Miss said...

How about critiquing one (or two if you're in a generous mood) per week (the letter and first page combo)?

You could ask for monthly or quarterly submissions, then randomly select one to evaluate each week.

Rachel Dryden said...

This is just my personal opinion, but you've made it beyond clear that you are Miss Snark, not Ms or Mr or Agent. People who read your blog faithfully know this about you. I was pretty upset by the number of people who obviously weren't regular readers of your blog. Perhaps in future you could disqualify for addressing you incorrectly? Just a thought.

Also, I wouldn't give so much notice. You gave nearly a week, which was too much time; I think it allowed a great number of people who really don't know anything about your blog to hear about it and jump on the bandwagon. How many of these people will stick around after the Crapometer? I suppose it's possible that many will, so in that case I could be wrong. I just think that in future giving 24 hour or even 12 hour notice should be plenty of time. Obviously you weren't hurting for entries, and that would reward the people who follow the blog faithfully ahead of those who are just coming for the critique.

I am not trying to sound elitist or snobbish, just realistic. I hope that comes across in this post, if I sound snooty I apologize.

Anonymous said...

This is by far the most practically useful version of the crapometer.

The number of entries is less important than the reasons for which they are chosen. "I am looking very closely at cross-genre right now" is solid gold. That comment hints at the shifting intersection between demand-side saleability and writer-side inspiration, otherwise attributed solely to luck (too sour grapes to be true) or talent (too aggrandizing to be the whole truth). That market mood <-> current supply intersection is visible to the sales side of the biz but invisible to the production side until too late. The 12-18 month publication cycle makes current trends irrelevant to writers who might be able to "draft," in the race car sense, on them. As DaVinci and Potter have re-proven recently, sales are improved when a core trend can be fan tailed into broader appeal, or draft-niched into reliable submarkets. This seems to me the core issue that baffles the 90th percentile of the almost-pubbed, especially those who are thinking "career ladder" rather than "break out." Given the lottery-scale odds on a first book, "drafting in" on a safe-bet trend looks like a good way to improve the odds.

"Great writing that I can't sell" is the worst form of rejection. "I am looking closely at ..." is what I want to see more of.

I also love seeing the "I would stop reading here" point.

-kd

nyvpo said...

You should have prizes, with the grand one being a date over martinis with you.

You can wear a paper sack over your head if you're concerned about your identity.

Suzanne said...

What do you think about reading 200 a year? You could have a quarterly crapometer of 50 entries each, and each person is only allowed to appear in one of them - no double dipping? Still do the lottery each time, from among those eligible to enter.

Also, you could limit participation to people who have at least COMPLETED a first draft of a work of fiction (since non-fiction is evaluated so differently).

I liked having the query letter and first page both included, and 750 words seems about the right length.

Thanks for doing this! You can't understand what a tremendous help it is to have a professional opinion anonymously rendered.

Kate said...

Maybe some kind of auto-reject for things like "Dear Ms. Snark"? That should weed out quite a few entries, while soothing the feelings of those who followed all instructions but still didn't have their numbers come up.

pookel said...

Maybe you could make it a weekly feature and only do one entry at a time? Then you could let people submit year-round and you wouldn't have a flood to deal with all at once.

Chumplet said...

Yes, that was quite the frenzy, wasn't it?

Perhaps 'mini-crapometers' at regularly spaced intervals? Sort of a cross between your format and Evil Editor's, where he has a queue and dips into it at his own pace.

That way, everyone would EVENTUALLY be satisfied and you wouldn't be overwhelmed. You can pick, a predetermined number of entries every month, and we all have to wait our darned turn.

I'm pretty sure the 500 you received must have drained the query pool just a bit. Of course, I could be wrong.

In between crapometers, you can answer those endless questions at your leisure.

Of course, I'm just being selfish. This way, you'd eventually get to my entry which didn't make it.

BertGrrrl said...

Miss Snark-

I'd say first off that scaling back to 50 is a good idea. People seem not to quite get that you're doing this for free, out of the goodness of your (otherwise ice-cold) heart & in the interest of improving queries for the overall good of mankind. It's asking too much to of you "do" 100, in other words.

I haven't been reading your blog very long, but I was a bit shocked that the majority of the Crap-O-Meter submissions I skimmed had glaring problems ("fiction novel", no plot synopsis, rambling why-I-wrote-it stuff, etc). You've covered all that, and more, plus provided links to other resources.

And yet--to be fair to writers--this query stuff is *hard*! I write copy as part of my job, but turning out a descriptive for a full-length novel in such a limiting format is nearly an impossible task--especially if you eliminate sales-speak ("New!" "Improved!" "Smells Better!").

The fact that--unlike yourself--most agents want *only* the query at first compounds the misery. I sent out 10 agent queries last week, 4 were query only, 2 wanted 1 page synopss as well, only 4 wanted any sample pages at all.

Creative writers aren't copy writers. But even highly skilled professional copy writers such as myself--okay, even bozos-who-know-Quark such as myself--are flummoxed by query letters.

I can see why the publishing world is in love with categories & genres. Easier to say "I want Romance, YA and Chic Lit only" than deal with the hard-to-categorize stuff--easier for a writer to say "It's a 90,000 word Historical Romance" than try to pigeon hole literary work with layered plots, complex characters and no one at all *dead*--or even with such bad sea sickness they wish they were dead--on page 1.

So maybe you want to do 2 Crap-O-Meters, one for query only, another for 1st page.

I just think all of us need help with queries. My guess is that there are thousands of perfectly good books out there that will never find publishers because their authors can't get a grip on that first weird marketing step. As you've often pointed out, if the query sucks badly enough, the agent won't even get to the pages, even the minority that *have* pages to get to.

Thanks, by the way, what you do here is very cool.

Anonymous said...

1. You could choose 50 candidates and 50 in reserve.

2. Automatically disqualify anyone who opens a query with:

Dear Ms. Snark
Dear Sir/Madam
My fiction novel

Then you could move up reserve candidates as needed.

Early January might be a good time. Those who are suffering from post-holiday depression and get chosen would either get a mood elevation or an opportunity to revise their New Year's resolutions. Those who are suffering from post-holiday depression and don't get chosen will feel worse, but that would happen anyway.

Anonymous said...

Dear Miss Snark,

Since you already have quite a library of submissions (the 25 left plus all those that didn't get chosen), why don't you just post your critique of one or two of them periodically when you get a chance instead of doing scads of them at the same time? It would be much easier on you--an ongoing, laid-back crapometer whose submissions are already closed. Your readers are so loyal I don't think you'd even need to notify anyone when you were going to post their query.

Just a thought.

Thanks for everything!

Feisty said...

Refining Crapometer stuff? I have no idea what you mean.

This could be due to a brain malfunction. Or something else.

Clue gun, please!

Ben W in PDX said...

Since you are doing us quite a favor, you should pick your slowest time of year to do this. Over the holidays? July? Whatever.

Randomly choosing which ones will receive critiques is good.

As to number? Obviously we benefit from your critiques but I respect the time and energy it takes for you to do this (for free) so whatever you're comfortable with you'll get no complaints from me : )

one of the 359 said...

I thought it was excellent and really well organized considering the number of submissions. I'd like to see first timers get a shot (namely me), weeding out those who have had feedback before, either at this site or Evil's. I have no idea how this could be managed however.

another thought: limit the entries from a particular genre perhaps? Seemed there were a lot of Sci-fi/fantasy entries.

Learned so much though. Very grateful to you for the investment you've made in us all.

spy scribbler said...

Wow, I don't know how you did all that. I'd feel beyond overwhelmed if I'd had to do that. Thank you! It is very helpful.

I propose that you win the lottery so that you can take a couple months resting on a beach, and then come back and devote all your time to us, your selfish little snarklings who want every morsel of your attention. :-)

But aside from what we want, we know we can't have all your time. So whatever you have time for is a gift for which we'll be thankful!

Anonymous said...

Maybe limit your subs to 100, and out of that, have your screener choose 50 that he/she thinks will show a variety of issues from a variety of genres: adequate query but no plot(seems like you had a lot of those this time), interesting sounding story, but poor pitch, poor query and great pages, and visa versa.
Thanks for the time you dedicated to this, Miss Snark. Even though I already have an agent, I learned a lot about what others are writing and what makes for attention-getting openers.

slave2themuse said...

Dear Miss Snark:

I've been a lurker on your site for awhile now, but I wanted you to know that as helpful, informative, and entertaining as your site usually is, watching the crapometer was an amazing education all by itself. I've learned so much (I'm currently shopping for an agent for my YA novel) and felt like I've made great strides just by reading all the letters, pages, and comments. So thank you. I feel like I just attended a writers conference!

Rik said...

Glad to see you're recovering from the torture, Miss Snark!

The lottery system was very fair. My only suggestion is that you limit the numbers to around 30 next time around, as you were making the same comments on the entries time and time again.

Or how about a plot workshop - supply a plot for inclusion in the query letter in 200 words or less. A lack of a plot was one of your commoner comments.

Oh, and bar all future references to oranges. Please.

thraesja said...

Perhaps try narrowing your window of acceptance. Say a couple of hours instead of 12. If people have to make a special effort to remember to send their entries at a particular time, you may eliminate some that just can't be bothered. Though I guess this might penalize people in time zones far from New York. And those stuck in painfully long meetings.
I'm not sure whether more warning time before a cropometer would increase or decrease the truly crappy crap. People might have a few more days to polish their queries and edit their first pages, but then there is more time for less than devout readers to see the "contest" and send in their drivel without reading past entries. I want there to be less drivel competing with mine.
Hmm, verification word: povbad. A caution to take to heart.

Anonymous said...

100 is way too many. I think folks can learn lessons from 50 -- or even 25 examples. How about 20 four times a year? And/or how about limiting the number per genre as well? I can only stand so many SF/Fantasy queries.

The Rejected Writer said...

You could just do it once a year, at a time when the pub business is slow (last week of Dec/first week of Jan comes to mind). You could also come up with something other than random selection as a means of finding the stuff.

Perhaps a group of dedicated snarklings, or even some of your fellow (generous) agents could help cull through a couple of limited open submission times that then just wait until your designated Crapometer time. (It's not like prospective authors aren't accustomed to waiting!) What then is given to you for the Crapometer represents "the best" or at least the most worthy of comment of submissions.

This would give you (hopefully) only a few "show, don't tell" submissions, some that are really amazing, and some that never should have been committed to hard drive. This sort of spectrum would give you more room to comment more fully and would give your readers more/better information from you as an agent.

As with any idea like this one, the devil is in the details (as opposed to the editorial office). I would think that picking the time(s) of the Crapometer - at least in your own mind/calendar if not publicly - would come first. This would be followed by securing some help from either snarklings whose input here you've appreciated/admired/respected and/or good-hearted and generous agents. Finally would be setting up the submission times and guidelines.

Not all that difficult. The only trouble I see in it is that we snarklings would inherently cause a reduction in your gin intake by virtue of you not getting the onslaught of crappy submissions.

lizzie26 said...

For your sake, Miss Snark, limiting it to 50 submissions (I'd even say 30) is a good idea. MY head was spinning after reading just five of them!

Other than that, just having the query and the first page seems good.

What you're doing for writers is terrific.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Two ideas:

Do the Crapometer the week between Christmas and New Year's, when the world shuts down anyway and we're all online, looking for some excitement.

Second: Maybe if something's been through Evil Editor or another such site, the writer should skip the Crapometer until the piece has been seriously reworked. It becomes a waste of time for us all if we're going over the same stuff ad infinitum. And yes, I do use words like "ad infinitum" in real life. What can I say; I married a geek.

Suggestion said...

Maybe something like 5 random entries a week? You could open a crapometer email account specifically for it, and one day a week, post 5 random queries.

Anonymous said...

You could do fewer entries more often, say, ten a week. But don't make them go onto "waiting lists," post a time when the queries/first pages can be entered and a time when they cannot, and the first ten into your mailbox make it. Also, there should be a rule: If you make it, you must wait 3rd Crapometers until you can re-enter.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I'd suggest, instead of queries, that people write back cover copy, no more than 150 words. Because, essentially, that story capsule is what you want to include in your query anyway. Boil the story down to 150 words of plot, motivation, and conflict (similar to Dwight Swain's two -- or is it three? -- sentences in Techniques of the Selling Writer, though he uses less than 150 words of course).

After that, Miss Snark could decide whether to still ask for a page, or maybe even boil that down to the first paragraph. Or, for fun, how about first lines? Of course that doesn't tell anything in the long run, since you can have a killer first line and then launch into backstory, but it could be a fun mini-Crapometer exercise.

BCC and first page, or paragraph, is how a lot of folks shop for books, right? I know I do when it's an author I don't know or hasn't been recommended to me.

Just a couple of thoughts. :)

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see some smaller crapometers that are genre specific...I have found this go round to be very helpful but perhaps if you did one every couple of months, and you gave maybe twenty a good going over...just my thoughts...

Anonymous said...

I'm cribbing this from comments on one of the queries (I looked but couldn't find it just now): Maybe you could define a few "auto-reject parameters" so that the sample isn't bogged down by submissions to "Ms. Snark" and such.

Anonymous said...

In no particular order:

-Pace yourself; don't try to do it all in one weekend. Waiting won't kill us--no really, it won't.

-Limit the number to whatever you can handle comfortably--we're grateful you do this at all.

-Set up a separate gmail account for the crapometer, so the entries can sit there awhile and not clog up the miss.snark account. Or give someone else access to it to pre-screen and organize for you, so all your time goes to critiquing.

-Be ruthless about DQ'ing those who don't follow instructions--and don't replace them from a waiting list

Anonymous said...

well, I'm one of the (un)lucky ones, depending on your point of view, who didn't get Snarked this time.

Would you be open to doing 10 or 20 per week of the ones you received for this crapometer? That way you don't burn out and we get the free advice we so desperately yearn for.

Pepper Smith said...

100 is definitely too many. I stopped paying attention to what people wrote before very far in. I do not know how you do this day after day with your regular slush pile.

I don't know what to suggest other than maybe giving yourself a few days to go through them before posting next time. That way you can work at them at your leisure and then put them all up at once or something. We have to wait to hear back on regular queries anyway. So long as the rules clearly state that you're not going to post them for X number of days after the submission period, maybe folks will give you a break and not pester you about them. Maybe.

Eika said...

While I appreciate you doing the crapometer, and no matter what time frame, I'd like to suggest this: Take as long as you want, make the requirememnts whatever you want. But please, next time post all the submissions.

Or, failing that, change nothing.

jude calvert-toulmin said...

> Give me some of your thoughts on refining the crapometer stuff.

Please, lovely snarklings :)

> I know we're not going to do 100 again. Probably 50 in 3 days is my limit.

You've done brilliantly and helped a lot of people. Even 50 in 3 days is a lot. I think 50 is a good number though, it's enough. How about running the results over several weeks and every weekend posting 10? That way it doesn't take over your weekday routine. I know, it means working a bit on weekends but I would guess that's not an alien experience for you as you're obviously a grafter. 10 at a time is a good number to digest over the following week as well. Also, it gives your readers something to look forward to at the end of every week, for a few weeks.

Anonymous said...

I think the format (750 words for both query and first page) was fantastic. Definitely review fewer, though. I was overwhelmed reading them - I can't imagine what it was like on your end.

Thank you so much for doing it. I really learned a great deal from reading your comments.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

There were many useful comments, but I'd like to see the next be a review of first chapters. That would mean that you could only accept five or ten. There'd be a lot of disappointed Snark-lovers. But, I believe we'd learn more from a few well critiqued first chapters.

On second thought, pick one really great one; one exceptionally bad one; and one on the average side.

Stretch the submissions over an unspecified period. Just say, "They're open until I find the examples I wish to use."

Everyone should understand that your choice is final. Everyone should understand that you won't send out rejection emails. You'll just make your choice, and we'll live with it.

It's not that you critique our work. It's that we see things from which we can learn.

When I hang around critique sites, the problems I see all center on turning "average" writing into word-music -- I mean slightly cluttered writing into smoothly flowing words. Well written and well spoken language is music.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Miss Snark do the entries at her leisure? No more Labor Day Marathons.

She could open a time frame for entries, perhaps on a monthly basis. And then she could select a few from those and educate us with postings whenever she feels like it. It's not like this is a contest where all the entries have to be rated at once.

Greg said...

First off, many thanks for the Crapometer--it's much appreciated, and, I'm sure, helpful to everyone.

I found it to be quite well-run; I don't really have anything to suggest. Random numbers seems to be the most fair way to decide who gets snarked.

Not sure if you wanted to do anything w/ the 359 people who submitted but didn't make the random cut… it might be worth considering if there's a way to prioritize those on the next crapometer (full disclosure: I was one of the 359.)

overdog said...

You're international, Miss Snark. You can't personally snark everyone in the world, as much as you may want to.

What about one query letter, one first page, and one synopsis per week (or month--hey, you're busy)? No deadlines, but you'd have to keep throwing all the entries into the randomizer, whatever that is. (I picture one of those big cranky basket things they used to use for bingo.)

Not everyone will get their entry snarked, but everyone will learn.

Harry Connolly said...

It might be easier to do two or three at a time more often--like every other month or so.

Michele said...

How about having people vote on the fan-run crapometer site for the top ten every month.

Then you take a snark at those ten?

Anonymous said...

My submission didn't make the cut, but getting it ready to send in was a great exercise. Maybe next time let people send their stuff in through the twelve hour window like you did last time, but have the dice pick only fifty. That way, just as many people can participate, but you have only half the number of critiques to do. So simple, there must be something wrong with my logic.

Marva said...

What? No comments?

The 50 limit would help you keep your sanity. Of course, we'd all like to have the input, but we also don't want to kill you.

I thought that the combo of the cover letter and one page was a good way to show the good writers how to write a better cover and the crappy writers how to get an agent to at least read that first page.

The comments on all the entries were educational for me.

Thanks for doing this.

Eric said...

Post some without your professional comments first and let the Snarklings fly without the benefit of knowing where you stand. I thought the majority of the Snarklings gave good crapometer, but there seems to be a few who just ride your tail feathers, Miss Snark.

Thanks very much for all you've given us here, by the way. The entire show was helpful and oh so entertaining.

Poet with a Day Job said...

Wow. This is so great. I was of course too chicken to send my own query and pages, because they are simply not ready and there will be no whine before its time. But I'm really addicted to this process and SO GRATEFUL for it (no matter how many people hate all caps) because I have learned more about writing in three days than perhaps all two years of my blasted MFA put together.

Selfishly I wouldn't change a thing, but maybe waiting until winter, when the snow's higher than cars and you can't bear to leave the apartment is more conducive to this cuddle-under-the-covers kind of work. Also cutting back to only the first lucky 50 submitters would suffice.

I have a few burning questions: Do you remember everything you read? Does it haunt you like a bad pop song?

RainSplats said...

I didn't like seeing people making the same mistakes repeatedly.

Suggestion: Have an ongoing snark-slush pile (query + pages) that you delete once a month. Post 1 entry w/ your comments per week durring the month.

Submitters will have time to refine their entries before they resubmit the following month.

Submitters should include "crapometer" in the subject line so your mail client can sort them into their own folder.

This won't give everyone a fair shot at having their own work critiqued, but we can all learn from your comments.

Writerious said...

A few ideas:

1) Whether you do 50 or 100, feel free to space them out over time. I'd have no problem reading those entries over the span of several weeks.

2) After announcing rules such as "never say 'fiction novel'" or, "That's MISS Snark to you, nitwit," word length, format, etc., a small cadre of snarklings could do an initial pre-screening and dump those that don't follow the rules, then randomly select from the remainder, thus lightening Miss Snark's workload.

3) The same snarkish cadre could, if the general community requests, sort the remaining entries into broad genres and randomly pick equal numbers from each genre. This would balance the entries without adding to Miss Snark's workload. Miss Snark might even tackle one genre per week.

Jim Oglethorpe said...

I was too overwhelmed to read all 100 of them. But I learned a lot skimming to the ones that were good examples. I agree that doing a couple a week would be idea. Give us something to brighten up our lives! Oh, and thanks for asking.

HawkOwl said...

Flash Crapometer. Whenever you feel like crapomeasuring, post "crapometer open for ten minutes" (or an hour, or whatever works for you). Submission guidelines would be always the same. Either people hit the blog during the ten minutes and happen to have their Crapo-ready submission handy, or they don't. Then just do the first three valid entries you get. Put all other valid entries in the Crapo-slushpile. Whenever you're in the mood, grab one at random and crapomeasure it.

Personally I'd also find it easier to read if the comments weren't inserted in the query itself. It's your blog, but I wouldn't mind having a chance to form my own opinion before I hear yours.

Thanks for doing this, anyway.

December Quinn said...

I can only echo what everyone else said, and I'm so glad I'm not the only one who thinks entries that don't follow gidelines should be DQ'd.

Open subs. Pick random numbers. Post the ones that followed guidelines.

Do not post the ones that used an incorrect opening, or did not write a proper query but sent only a paragraph in an attempt to get you to read more of the work (RWA does this with their contests-if you've single-spaced your synopsis, for example, to get more pages in under the 50-page limit, you're disqualified), or whatever.

A glance back at the COM entires posted at the weekend shows at least 17 entries out of the 75 done would have been culled just for that. And that's just checking openings and obviously non-query queries.

no suggestion this time said...

Although mine wasn't chosen, I looked back at my email and realized I'd accidentally put "Ms. Snark" in the greeting. It's not necessarily lack of knowledge of the blog; it's simply that it's my habit to address my queries to Ms. or Mr. and I made a mistake.

RainSplats said...

Before your eyes glaze over....

"Once a week" means you read and comment on ONE entry per week--that's just four entries per month.

Breathe!

Lorra said...

How about you do 50 and ask the snarklings to give specific comments on any that get to the partial stage. Invite the now critiqued partial-submitters (choke) to go back to the drawing board, rewrite and resubmit in two weeks.

At that point, everyone could jump into the fray or heap on the congratulations.

It would be a great learning experience since it would emulate the real process, i.e., try, try again.

Talia Mana said...

I think the crapometer is wonderful but my eyes glazed over trying to read all the entries without any sort of guidelines or index.

I don't see the point of doing 1 per day that's what EE does, and clearly MS is an original

I like the idea of:
- fewer entries (20-50)
- a key to each entry e.g. 1 - 5 stars in the header line and YA, SF, NF etc to denote genre
- highlighting specific information such as indian lit is hot, cross genre fiction is hot etc (maybe a faithful snarkling could summarise all these into 1 separate post)

On pain of death people should be instructed only to send polished work that they think is ready for publication and a query letter that they are happy to send to an agent, not a half formed letter that they want MS to "improve" or complete for them

if people want incomplete work or queries looked at, or queries that are in draft form they should join an online crit group.

i think it would help if MS includes a list of resources on her blog:
- where to find online crit groups
- examples of great queries

Maybe we could also include links to interviews with agents that describe trends e.g. what's hot, what they want from their writers (such as a platform) or MS' own version of what's hot. Now arguing against myself this may not be a role for MS and may be better left to writers' forums.

JM2CW

This might cut down on the entries that were painful to read.

LindaBudz said...

First and foremost, thank you! We hear so much about what slush piles are like, it's great to see it firsthand. Don't know how you agents do it.

I'd like to see you continue to pick through the entries you got, a few each week. (Yes, that would eventually include mine.)

For those entries that were obviously submitted without much thought or preparation or without following the "rules," you could just say "pass" and I think by now most of us would get why. That way, the more carefully subbed ones could get a closer read and some more in-depth comment.

Very educational!

Terry said...

I really enjoyed reading the entries and somehow, I got the feeling that Miss Snark took at least some pleasure in being able to say what she thought instead of having to go the 'polite professional' route.

My number was one off from being picked, and I looked at my query and just about died. Thank goodness it wasn't picked, because no matter how many correctly addressed emails I've sent, somehow, writing a "real" query letter triggered the unforgiveable Dear Ms. Snark. I know better -- my fingers, apparently didn't, and I never noticed it until yesterday.

On the bright side, that same query got me 2 requests for partials from my A list agents.

I think Miss Snark is the one giving up her time -- she should decide how many and how often she can stand to do this -- and I think the random number and submission window is fair. As far as disqualifying before the fact -- dunno. Given how many ugly queries she has to get a day, I'd have no problem with the 'dumb mistakes' being part of the roster and kicked out at whatever point she'd kick one out if it hit her desk. And yes, that would have been me. But I'd have learned to proofread better. I do read directions! I've been known to obsess over directions when a comma makes something less than perfectly clear.

Liane said...

How about keeping a list of the month's posters, and randomly select five or so on the last Friday of each month?

You can announce in a post to your blog a list of those posters who have been randomly selected to participate in this month's crapometer should they care to.

You might have to set a condition of how often a single poster can participate to give a fair shake to all.

The only persons who may object are the anonymous ones who don't have the balls(or ovaries)to 'fess up to their work.

Alternatives said...

Since I'm one of the five alternates dangling on the rope for this crapometer, I would love to think that in the future, not following the rules would get my adversaries -- I mean fellow writers -- kicked the hell off the mountain. But I'm not that cruel. Really I'm not.

WitLiz Today said...

I think you should do away with the crapometer all together. 95% get snarked, which is ok when it's the real you doing it, but adding a gallery of snarklings showing teeth but no heart is a problem.

I also think getting your bloomers into a tangle over the formalities of the greeting is a waste of time. Dear Ms Snark, Miss Snark, Mrs Snark, so what? What is this? Romper room?

Label, Mabel, Schmabels. Don't stress yourself over genre labeling. I say big Fing deal. There's just so many labels floating out there now, that half the population of the US will go senile trying to remember them all.

Oh yeah,and bad idea to let the peanut gallery comment first before you do. I'd say it was a good idea in theory, but in practice fuggedabout it. Not after the eviscerations I read from this particular gallery.

Miss Snark, do yourself a favor, relax over a ton of gin, and let the Colleges, Writing workshops, and yes the lazy writers do what they need to do to get the mechanics going. It is hard work!

You can't do it for them, and lord knows you've tried.

Writing is hard work friends! Damned hard work, and having your hand held once a year, won't be the cure-all for all the mechanical problems I saw in these entries.

However, that being said, if you love writing and I think most of you do, then you'll do the hard work, and go closer to home to get fixed what needs fixin'.

Sherry Decker said...

Re: 'fictional novel' - I thought novels WERE fiction and anything else was non-fiction; it's like saying, 'true non-fiction.' Redundant.

xiqay said...

Dear Miss Snark,

Thank you for the Crap-o-Meter and your hard work helping us clueless nitwits and devoted snarklings alike.

1. I liked the random number generator and selection process.

2. I think fewer selections (e.g. 50) would help save you from the strain of relentless slushpile snarking.

3. I like the idea of genre being included in the subject line, too. If you required the subject line to be simply Crap-o-meter, Miss Snark, genre [thriller], then you could have an auto-reject without reading the submissions to weed out those who didn't read your requirements. This would also simulate real-world responses!

4. I liked the one-week notice--and so you pull in some who are not regular readers of the blog. This will increase your readership in the long run!

5. Please don't shorten the time window for submission. You don't need to do this because you can use the random selection process to limit how many you review.

6. I liked the query-opening combo, especially when there was a disconnect between them and you pointed it out (great query, crummy pages; or vice versa).

7. I also loved the insider bits (looking for cross-genre; etc.).
[Same with EE, who noted on his blog how a large number of queries includled the words "backdrop" and "struggle." ]

When we get to see your slushpile, we begin to see how our work stands out (or not); when we hear your snarky voice, we get invaluable information about quality, quantity and first-impressions.

You're a saint-a snarky one, but still doing good works! Thanks again.

Elektra said...

I'm willing to hand over the keys to the COM gmail account if it means more snarking. :)

Talia Mana said...

I agree with a previous poster NOT to let fellow snarklings have first crack at the queries. That is what crit groups are for. If people are intereted in that then we could set up a separate group for that purpose.

MS has "special" expertise and i value her opinion. As for the snarklings - let's get real (as Dr P would say) the same people who submitted these, how shall i put it, queries of "variable" quality would be the same people commenting on your query.

some of the people would have excellent knowledge and skills and helpful comments. but some of the snarklings need a clue gun and quite frankly their comments would be at best misguided and unhelpful.

i would rather have fewer dissected by the expert MS. even 10 queries would be a great gift and enormously helpful

Talia Mana said...

I hope MS doesn't mind me mentioning Elektra's blog

If anyone is interested in having other snarklings check out their first chapter or query then Elektra's website is the place to go (see her post above mine). She runs the "other" crapometer and leaves it to the readers to make comments and suggestions.

Soooooo for those who have suggested getting others to read the queries I suggest you hotfoot it over there for an informal crit group.

Anonymous said...

"Writing is hard work friends! Damned hard work, and having your hand held once a year, won't be the cure-all for all the mechanical problems I saw in these entries."

OR for all the mechanical problems in the above quoted material!

Anonymous said...

Dearest Miss Snark - Your efforts here were absolutely heroic. It was utterly fascinating to get an insider's peek at what you do every day. My dog, what a job!

Please, however many entries you select and whenever you post them - don't burden yourself by preselection. Just keep displaying them at random with no "knockouts", since that best reflects what your real slush pile looks like - misunderstood, confused and hopeful no matter how clear your instructions try to be.

Just put your "I'd stop reading here" mark on each submission as you go, the way you might when you send back a "no thanks". Comment only on what you read up to that point that turned you aside.

It's a wonderful education when you wade through the entire submission with comments - but deep down I suspect that agents don't really do that on the job. They just read until they get bored enough to reject. Queries don't normally get read right through unless they're good; that's a big lesson for writers.

I think perhaps you have been too kind with us (did I say that?)by commenting on the entire submission.

Snark on, brave lady.

Your fan

Problem Child said...

The only suggestion I haven't seen here is to have Snarklings submit their 1 sentence "elevator pitch." Then Miss Snark can choose the ones that sound most interesting for query + first page full-out snarking.

srchamberlain said...

OR for all the mechanical problems in the above quoted material!

*snort*

KLCtheBookWorm said...

I was disappointed to lose my chance to be snarked when other commentors said an entry was at Evil Editor's or in another crapometer. Otherwise, I like the lottery system just fine. I don't really have a feasible way to make rejecting those already commented on entries work, except to call on an honor system.

stunned by 100 said...

May I vote for NOT disqualifying anyone who addresses his or her "fictional novels" to Ms. Snark? First, I bet the "Ms. Snark" salutations are meant to suggest letters to actual agents who would rarely use Miss. Second, the Crapometer is designed to mimic a slush pile, and this week we've seen that a writer can write a dumb query and still get a second chance if the pages sing. If that's real life, I'd love to see the Crapometer keep reflecting it.

May I also vote for not letting the comment tail precede Miss Snark? With all due respect to the tail, many of whose members are thoughtful and generous, an author could be in emotional tatters by the time Miss Snark comes along. (Unless...hmmm...would the tail overall be a little kinder if it had to go first?)

MissE said...

"I realize that this would require you to actually read every submission--maybe a Snarkling assistant to help?"

Ooh, pick me! Pick me!

srchamberlain said...

Oh, stunned by 100...

Read this post: http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8115089&postID=115621421525620547

"Cover letters must include 'Dear Miss Snark'"

If these people can't follow a very simple instruction from Miss Snark, what in the world leads you to believe that they'll follow them on another agent's website?

Sorry. This is nitwittery.

mkcbunny said...

I thought I should clarify that I didn't mean to suggest Miss S. should screen everything. [Eee gads, no!] The idea was that the initial pool would be about the same size of this round, but Miss Snark's time spent on writing up thoughts and posting would be less, 30-50. Even 50 sounds like a lot. I think 25-30 would be fine.

Bella Stander said...

My suggestions (few of them original):
1. Set up a separate gmail account for Crapometer entries.

2. Give a one-day notice & a 12-hour window to send in entries. This automatically cuts down on # of entries & gives precedence to regular readers who, most importantly, will have polished work ready to go. All they'll have to write is the query letter. If people had time to come up with brilliant entries--some multi-stanza--for the Humerus Poetry Contest (for which I remain eternally grateful) and the short-story contest in 24 hrs, they could crank out query letters in that length of time.

3. Automatically DQ entries that don't follow the rules (i.e., "Dear Ms. Snark").

4. Do the Crapometer at slow times, BUT WHEN YOU'RE NOT ON VACATION--say July/August and late December.

5. Post the entries in batches of 5 or 10 every weekend or two. Depending on the # of entries you get, you could do them all over a period of months, or use random picks over a few weeks.

6. Don't screen for quality or genre. It's quite educational (if occasionally mind-numbing) to see the vast range of writing ability and self-delusion out there.

As ever, I am awed by the time & effort you put into this blog, and your generosity in doing so.

Anonymous said...

I second the suggestion that submissions should be put up for general reviewing. We could give an A, B or aaahhhhh! ranking. Miss Snark could then devote her valuable time to those entries the rest of us think show promise.Could turn out to be messy but what the hell. (Note to authors: Vote early and vote often.)

A. M. said...

How about a game of SURVIVOR?

Contestants first send in a brief story description, 3 sentences or 50 words max.

Those who get picked ("there's a plot!") get their 1st pages read.

Those whose first pages make the cut get their query critiqued.

Frequency? Whenever HRM Misssss Snark feels like it.

helen said...

Miss Snark, you've gone way beyond the call of duty here and it's been enormously enlightening - thank you so much! Here's my tuppeneth-worth: while I think it's very helpful to learn from the mistakes of others, some of the material you've critiqued here is (sorry, can't find a way to put this politely) absolute crap and really not worthy of your time at all. How about starting with 50 entries next time, but not bothering to comment on the ones where the writer is clearly beyond help? I reckon that way you'd only be doing maybe 30-40 actual critiques. The queries and pages which are "nearly there" are actually much more instructive anyway.

Termagant 2 said...

Yanno (tm/pp), the frequency with which Miss Snark does this is entirely up to her & the demands on her & KY's time. I'd like to see it more often, 'cause I learned quite a bit. But I don't feel led to suggest any set frequency.

Now that we're almost done, though, it would help me immensely in drafting the Dread Query Missive, if Miss S would explain the aspects of a GOOD query and tell all of us Snarklings the required elements every scan-able query should have.

That's my 20 rubles.
T2

Elektra said...

Oooh, I love the idea of Snarkling Survivor.

Stuart said...

This is probably too late to submit ideas, but how about hand pick 10 of your most faithful here to weed out the obvious rejects?

The thing I love about your site is that it's aimed at people trying to get published (ie people not at the "you need to join a critique group" stage of their writing career). Sure most of us are nitwits, but at least not students in a beginning writing class. :)

If you had a Snark Cadre to do a first cut, it'd save your snarky eye (and snarky time) for the entries that have a prayer of getting published so we can better learn about how to craft our queries/submissions.

Even so, I learned a lot from the non-obvious cut entries. Thanks again for giving us your spare time.

Anonymous said...

The crapometer works as is. Your comments kick butt. I love the humor, the snippy-ness, the frustration...it reads very real.

You could do the same service to all of use with fewer entries (say, 30 to 50?)... There are a lot of patterns that emerge quickly.

As for me, I look for queries and/or pages that really set you off (positively and negatively)...looking for "do this" info, as well as "by dog, DON'T do this" info.

Anonymous said...

Please don't eliminate entries with "fiction novel", "Mr. Snark", or typos. We're all human, after all (KY excepted)

...and by dog, reading 'wtf' kills me. I love imagining your palm smacking your forehead...

Susan Boyer said...

The Crapometer is enormously helpful. Thank you so much for investing so much time in a project that benefits writers, but (I'm guessing), not really you so much.

The most instructive thing to me, the other 358 that didn't get selected, and the hundreds of others that chose not to enter, is seeing what does and doesn't work. (I know, duh.)

I seems to me that I would get more out of it with fewer examples. As others have noted, patterns emerge quickly, and there are so many that they all run together. It would be less work for you, and just as helpful to me personally, if you randomly selected entries until you came up with 3 each of the following to post: Those you would request partials on, those that were close, but no enchilada, and those that seriously need to hang out with the Junk Yard Dog Critique Group for a while.

This way, we can really study a few examples as opposed to reading them in volume.

Also, I think it would be instructive to work with one genre at a time.

Thanks again for your time, energy and the expense you must have incurred on all the extra gin.

Anonymous said...

I imagine you've deleted the entries not selected, but what if you held onto them and used those for the next three or four Crapometers?

You could do them whenever you damn well please; you wouldn't have the hassle of getting hundreds of e-mails in 12 hours; each person would eventually get his/her shot at being snarked.

Susan said...

A little housekeeping suggestion: please don't include things like "a partial for sure" in the posting header. It gives the game away before the Sharklings even start reading. Better, I think, for us all to wade in with an open mind.

(okay, I just saw my typo above, but decided to leave it that way. Sigh, the trouble with the electronic age--our typos, Freudian or otherwise, too often vanish into the ether.)

Anonymous said...

You could post them all, sans comments. Then give us a few days to look them over and make our own comments.

When we see your comments, we can compare them to our notes.

Is it possible for you to rank the ones you like best?

Manic Mom said...

Shorten the time limit for those of us who REALLY want it. I would get up at 1 a.m. to send my submission in.

Use the entries not chosen this time around for the next round.