9.12.2006

Nitwit of the Day!

Miss Snark,

A response to entry:
"This doesn't suck completely but it needs more work than I'm willing to chaperone. This is a form rejection cause I think you're at least three to five drafts away from ready. I'm not signing up to read that many drafts and encouraging words tend to create pen pals."

If a given manuscript needs a few more drafts and is not worth more of your time, wouldn't it behoove you to tell the writer exactly that in a real-life rejection letter? Rather than regurgitating the vague "I am unable to represent you at this time" or "isn't quite what I'm
looking for" responses, wouldn't a SPECIFIC reason help to avoid the "pen pal" syndrome? Seems it would save you AND the author precious time.

(And no, I'm not a frustrated writer. Merely a layman who recognizes a whine blog when he sees one. Are you as honest with those seeking your representation outside the blogosphere? Perhaps you should be. Lest we forget, the end is a pound of their flesh and food on your table.)


Leaving aside the last paragraph for the moment, why would you think spending time on critiques, and reading the same pages five or six times, is going to save ME time?

If you think writing "a specific response" is fast or easy, you are a nitwit. And no, of course I don't give honest responses to query letters. 'This is a mess' isn't an appropriate response to someone even when it's true. That's exactly why I run this blog and the crapometer.

It took 37 hours to run 100 letters through the crapometer. I get 100 letters a week at my agency. I'm not paid by the hour. I'm not paid to help you. I'm not paid to be your writing coach and I'm sure as hell not paid to be nice to you.

If you think that is whining, so be it. You're not the first person who doesn't understand much about how this industry works.

81 comments:

Ryan Field said...

"encouraging words tend to create pen pals."

Reminds me of that annoying friend you run into at a bar who just doesn't know when to leave.

People certainly are needy.

Barbjn said...

"...no, I'm not a frustrated writer. Merely a layman who recognizes a whine blog when he sees one."

What planet is this person on?

The MS Blog is usually helpful, truly snarky, sometimes caustic, often inspirational, occasionally discouraging, and very frequently funny as hell.

But whiney?

Never.

type, monkey, type said...

Really, what is the difference between "this is 3-5 drafts away from ready" and "this is a mess"? How is one more helpful to a writer than the other? The first might give the writer a little boost; the second would make her feel like shit. But why do you need to know?

If you are REALLY a writer, you get a rejection (form or otherwise) and you do more drafts or move onto the next project until you get an acceptance or you die. Right? "Do 3-5 more drafts" is not helpful. Obviously you do more drafts.

If you are truly getting close, the agent will be interested. If the agent is interested, she won't be shy about telling you so. I'd rather have a true indication of interest than an ego boost any day.

TMack said...

Riposte to Snark 'n Field.

Yes. And many unpublished writers (yes me) who don't really know what the hell is involved in getting published, aren't interested in being penpals, aren't emotionally needy, find the crapometer extremely useful AND agree wholeheartedly with NitwitOTD's comment.

- Hooey Anitwit

P.S. RE: That annoying friend.

Just excuse yourself and visit the little boys room. No one is paying you to be nice. Oh right, life is different than the snark-infested publishing world. People certainly are passive aggressive. SNARK.

P.P.S. Did I just get the word verification "bgawn" for a reason?! Ha.

Dama Negra said...

Perhaps form rejections stating that the novel still needs work? As easy as using another form rejection but, you know, it would be a little more helpful to writers.

Louise Marley said...

This is great! Miss Snark can leave it to those of us writers who also teach to be "kind" and "specific." I want my agent to do business, not hold hands.

Janet Black said...

Telling a writer that he is several rewrites away from completion should be enough comment.
He/she composed his/her complaint more clearly than his submission.

Sue said...

First off, Miss Snark, formatting of the blog is "improving." I now see all components of the right side. Alas, only a fraction are in their rightful positions, the remaining components are either at the bottom or spead across the page. If I were doing HTML, I'd say a tag was misplaced or deleted.

As to this query -- huh?

I'm not sure what some "writers" expect out of life (or agents or editors) but I suspect it's not acceptance of their work but "affirmation of their talent."

Get a grip boys and girls. REAL writers learn to evaluate their own work. They learn how to step back and objectively judge what they've penned. They learn this by taking classes, actively participating in critique groups, reading a lot, evaluating what works and doesn't work in what they read. They don't learn this overnight, but through hard work.

Get yourself a wise reader if you are starting this process. Listen to your audiences honest opinion. (ALLOW them to BE honest.)

And, if you can't learn from others, try this: Write. Finish the work. Hide it under the bed for six months. Take it out and read what you wrote. Chances are good you'll discover what sucks about it. If you don't find anything that sucks, either you've arrived at some level of expertise or you can't read.

mcswilligans said...

Miss Snark:

I need a private writing coach. You seem to know what you're doing. I can't afford to pay you but I'll give you a cut of my next bestseller.

I'll be in touch.

Eric said...

Perhaps it's last night's whiskey. Perhaps it was yesterday's date that led me to said whiskey. Perhaps it's the fact that I had to come in to the office during my recovery from both...but any way I look at it....

Miss Snark, you really let this fool down easy. WAAAYYYY too easy. Nitwit would be a promotion in this case.

What next? Demands for you get off of yer lazy hump and write the query letter for 'em. Hey, while you're at it, finish the final forty K of their manushit as well.

Friggin' nitwits. ranty rant over...let the healing begin.

Bernita said...

In the immortal words of Patrick Nielsen Hayden,
"This is stupid. Now I have stupid all over me."

Virginia Miss said...

mcswilligans: too funny! needs a beverage alert

kitty said...

Nitwit needs to accept that while writing is creative, publishing is a business. When I realized and accepted that, I knew not to take the rejections personally.

Anonymous said...

If a given manuscript needs a few more drafts and is not worth more of your time, wouldn't it behoove you to tell the writer exactly that in a real-life rejection letter?

If Miss Snark did say that in a rejection form and the writer went through a number more drafts, there's no guarantee that the new improved manuscript would fit Miss Snark's requirements. New writers can get pissy at standard rejection notices, so imagine how annoyed they be at Miss Snark potentially leading them on. No writer should be submitting until it's been read at least twice by someone not afraid to say what sucks in it.

bookfraud said...

this strikes me as somebody who is a "leader" in the "customer service industry" whose mantra is "the customer is always king!" and who obviously knows nothing about the publishing business.

which is why i wonder if this person is telling the truth about not being a frustrated writer. why the hell else would one care about agent letters sent to frustrated writers? nitwit has had several manuscripts rejected, i guarantee it.

and i agree with the above poster that you let this person down way too easy, miss snark.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, thank you for all 37 of those hours!!!!!!!!

A form rejection stating that the novel still needs work would be lovely and helpful for writers who know enough not to keep trying to engage the agent. That would be us Snarklings here. For the agent, I think, it's like (well, it's sort of like) when someone comes to your door selling magazines. If you start explaining why their magazine selection is a bit too quirky and high-priced, they may leave politely--or they may wedge one foot in the doorway and stand there arguing with you while dinner burns in the oven. Best solution for the agent? Don't open the door. Litmag editors have to be careful with this too.

Maya said...

This post and the comment trail hit home with me. I attended a critique group last night. It was made immeasurably more difficult by the fact that the weakest writers wanted to argue every point made by other writers who were offering sincere (and appropriate) comments.

Yes, the group leader should have taken control of the situation. And, no, that didn't happen. When one poor soul was being berated by a writer determined to defend her own work, I finally asked if she wanted the critique or not.

Everyone wants validation. After being told that your manuscript is a work of art by your mother, SO and best friend, it's hard to hear that it still needs work. And, frequently, agents and editors are the ones who must deliver that unwelcome message.

No matter how you dress the rejection up, it won't change the message: Your manuscript isn't ready for publication yet.

At that point, the writer has four choices. He can suck in his gut and go back to work on improving the manuscript (and seek help to do so), he can quit writing, he can blame the agent/editor for being a philistine or he can go straight to PublishAmerica where they'll be happy to tell him he's the next F. Scott Fitzgerald in exchange for several thousand dollars.

former editor said...

I don't see the point in giving reasons for rejection, especially with a lot of stuff that comes in as slush. I worked as an editor and I can't tell you how bad some of it was, so bad, in fact, that words could NOT explain where to start. Sometimes I was left utterly speechless after reading it. It would take a course in writing to explain it to some of these folks, so why bother?

On the other hand there were stories that were close, but they were the same old, same old. Nothing new, nothing fresh. The writing might have been good, but it wasn't a story that grabbed me.

Another mistake writers make. They follow all the rules so that when you read the story you can point out every place where they kept to every rules, so much so that they just killed the story and any life it had in it. They refused to take risks, the refused to go deeper.

A lot of this you cannot explain to people. They haven't been writing long enough to understand it.

Anonymous said...

It drives me nuts when I hear fellow writers complain that agents aren't giving them feedback. (These writers often believe that agents owe them some sort of critique when a partial or full is requested because, hey, they spent all that time and money printing and mailing the ms.)

When I was querying, I preferred those "not right for me" form rejections because then I didn't have to bang my head against a wall when Agent #1 said, "Loved the characters, hated the writing," and Agent #2 said, "Loved the writing, wanted to shoot your protagonist."

katiesandwich said...

WTF? That's what I said when I read this moron's inquiry.

Anonymous said...

Agent Kristin Nelson blogged about this subject earlier this year. She mentioned that providing thoughtful feedback on a writer's submission takes A LOT OF TIME. And sometimes there's nothing "wrong" with the book, it just isn't her cuppa. Then there's the problem of writers who email her asking for clarification or more input or whatever.

Agents owe us the courtesy of a reply, even a scribbled "No, thanks" on our query. They don't owe us a critique. That's what critique partners are for.

Anonymous said...

In addition to all the other sensible comments here, presumably an agent has no idea whether the complete stranger who's querying them is capable of understanding what changes need to be made, let alone of making them. As a struggling-to-get-published writer, I can assure you that telling anyone "this is about 3 drafts away from finished" would GUARANTEE another query from them in a few weeks' time, and probably another a few weeks later, and another, and another. We've all been told that tenacity is important and never to give up...

Jodi Meadows said...

Janet Black: I am the writer of the submission (number 83) from which the quote came. I am not the author of this whiney letter. I would have signed my real name and not lied about who I am.

To the writer of the letter: Get a grip. If you're not the writer (which you aren't, since I am), Miss Snark's comment was not aimed at you. If you aren't a writer at all, then you'll have a harder time understanding that the comment would have been fine by writers, except of course the ones with entitlement gnomes sitting on their shoulders.

Hey, I think I see one on yours!

December Quinn said...

Okay, anonymous nitwit, here's a question for you.

There were a few COM entires MS liked that we Snarklings did not. There were a few we liked she didn't.

What if a writer sent a query in for a work and got back a letter saying, "You need x number of rewrites"?

They'd probably do them, right?

But what if another agent would have read that same work and loved it, and the rewrites done by the author--because the advice to rewrite is rather non-spricific--ended up removing or changing the very parts of the story that Agen #2 would have adored?

Taste is subjective. Agents don't have time to write detailed critiques.

Join a critique group if that's what you need.

amiguriken said...

I think this has all been said before in multiple places, but it seems to bear repeating:

The problem with a form rejection that says "This still needs work" is that then people want details. They want to know what needs work and they want to know how to do it.

Furthermore, a statement of "This still needs work" will probably be interpreted as interest in the work and will encourage writers to query again after a draft (or less).

When an agent rejects your manuscript, unless she states otherwise, she wants that to be the end of the correspondence. The last thing she wants is to write something such as "This still needs work" that will lead an author to think that she is interested in reading a later version.

Anonymous said...

"isn't quite what I'm looking for" IS specific enough from an agent. It's not the agent's job to respond with anything more than that to unsolicited queries.

Form rejections move the process along faster for the agent and for the writer.

If the writer gets only form rejections, hopefully s/he will eventually back up and realize the writing is not good enough. A smart, serious writer will do that. That's what separates the pros from the wannabes.

The next step is to find out what it'll take to improve the writing. Again, a smart writer will know what this step is.

Ben W in PDX said...

Unfortunately yet another example of people's sense of entitlement. "I wrote this and I'm doing you a favor sending it to you. Oh, if for some ODD reason you don't like it, you owe me an explanation."

Whatever happened to being thankful for someone's precious time? Being honorable by saying "hey, thanks for reading this, I understand it may not work for you, but I appreciate you taking the time to read it."

See what happens when you kill chivalry? ; )

overdog said...

It says "Miss Snark, the literary agent," not "Miss Snark, the babysitter."

It's the writer's job to turn in a professional manuscript. It's not the agent's job to teach them how.

BuffySquirrel said...

ha ha ha

Specific responses just encourage the little blighters to respond. Either they want more feedback or they want to tell you why you're wrong, oh so wrong. Reading Kristin Nelson's form rejection, I was struck by how carefully it was written to avoid giving the recipient any hook onto which to hang a reply.

Anonymous said...

OK, This is a DIFFERENT anonymous...not like those other ones.
I just returned from a writers' conference and I have to tell you it is not EASY giving feedback to the writers who need 4 or 5 drafts. HONEST!
(Scene: hotel bar)
...What do you MEAN my character's name is impossible to read? She SPOKE to me...I CANT change it...I can't cut ANY of the 600,000 words...they are ALL important...What do you MEAN you don't understand my 456 subplots and interweaving themes they come STRAIGHT from the bible...I WANT to start with a dream. ALL my chapters start with dreams...AND THE WORST?
It was great meeting you. What's your email again? I'd really love to continue this conversation.
(Exit - me pantomiming insanity while fleeing)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

When I first started submitting, I wanted some feedback. I expected some. After all, my business functions best when I answer clients' questions, and I carry on an extensive email and postal correspondence with clients and interested persons.

I asked an agent whom we all know and love (or hate, as the case may be) why she rejected me. Not only did I learn that it wasn't polite to ask, but my email was summarized on her web site and misrepresented. She did not post my exact email. As she said, it would have opened her up to a lawsuit. I suppose that was wise; I am litigious when I'm in the mood to be. But it allowed her to say what she wanted without reference to what I actually wrote.

I will never do business with this woman. She is not of my sort. I would have been happier being ignored.

I run my business in an ethical and kind way. I do not shoo away or ignore stupid questions. I don't even see them as stupid, just uninformed. I spend time with my clients, potential clients, or the merely curious.

I don't get the volume of mail most agents do, but it's significant enough, say half of what Miss Snark gets. Most of those are orders processed through an online site. They don't come to me. So I have the luxury of only dealing with specific questions or comments.

I think it's in an agent's best interest to cultivate talent. But they must make the decisions as to when and whom to encourage.

I've done much better with agents and editors since. Some of their comments have buoyed me up when I'm on the bottom, or stopped me from chucking it all over the side to feed the sharks.

I'm in a period where I am sending out material, but not with all my heart and soul. My energy is going to more important, more necessary things. The agents and editors who've been encouraging have my appreciation. (Hey guys and gals at LUNA! You're superior!)

I regret my encounter with Miss Big Name Agent. Still, I relearned lessons. People do not communicate on the same level. Tone of voice and intent can be misconstrued. And time brings its own recompense. You can be an offensive twit only so long before others notice and it effects your business.

The other half of this is that agents don't owe us anything. There is no social or contractual obligation to be polite, and being an agent doesn't mean they have any sort of business sense. Besides, agents don't usually have to see you. It's easier for them to forget you're a living soul.

Pepper Smith said...

"wouldn't a SPECIFIC reason help to avoid the "pen pal" syndrome? Seems it would save you AND the author precious time."

Erm, no. This would be viewed as an invitation for a conversation. Newer writers often work in a vacuum, and will grab at any hint of help. You admit that you're not a writer but merely an interested layman. You have to be on this side of things to understand how that works.

Specific feedback requires time. A lot of time. You have to read and think about what was written before you can give specific feedback. That's what critique groups are for. By the time your work gets to the querying stage, you really ought to have it in a shape that will attract an agent's interest. You should be getting specific feedback from beta readers before you ever think about querying.

Ryan Field said...

Yes. And many unpublished writers (yes me) who don't really know what the hell is involved in getting published, aren't interested in being penpals, aren't emotionally needy, find the crapometer extremely useful AND agree wholeheartedly with NitwitOTD's comment

Sounds like penpal material to me.

Anonymous said...

"I think it's in an agent's best interest to cultivate talent. "

It certainly is. But if you're getting a slew of form rejections, you might have to examine the possibility that you're not talent.

Almost anyone can improve their writing with time and effort, but the hard reality is that not everyone can improve their writing to the extent that it's actually publishable. Determination and hard work help, but they're not an interchangeable substitute for ability.

Anonymous said...

The Incomparable Miss S and KY

This person is way off! I am a frustrated writer, and I have become a huge fan of Miss S because snarkisms offer positive information not just moans about how stupid and tiresome all wanabee writers are. As for the crapometer it is clearly one hell of an undertaking, and personally I've been gobsmacked by how much I have learnt just reading through the responses. Gripping stuff.

Snark on!

Yours sincerely

Talentless and happy.

--E said...

Dear Wannbe Authors,

When you get form rejection after form rejection, it means your story and/or prose isn't engaging. Or maybe your query letter sucks.

If an agent thinks your writing is pretty good, but the book just isn't their cuppa, they will often (not always) say so.

If the book is generally engaging but they think it has more flaws than they want to deal with, they will often say encouraging things (e.g. "This one isn't for me, but please try your next book with me").

If the book is great but they don't represent this kind of book and wouldn't know where to sell it, they will almost certainly say so, and possibly recommend a couple of other agents for you to try.

I come to these conclusions not as someone with inside knowledge, but as an agented writer who has seen seven friends' first novels published by major NY houses in the past six years, and several more friends sign with major NY agents (in the past three years, so no books out yet).

All of those friends got form rejections first, and then started getting more specific rejections, and then finally got offers.

Agents really do want to find good books and help them to be published. They just don't want to waste their time with books that are nowhere near ready. They ain't book doctors, and they ain't writing coaches (though at times the act of agenting involves those skills). They are experts in finding books that are likely to sell, and in shepherding those books through the complex process of finding a publisher.

Bugwit Homilies said...

Look, just be happy that there is an agent out there that is willing to give guidance to would-be writers like us. Agents and publishers aren't exactly falling over themselves to do that.

37 hours to critique 100 queries! That would be fine if Miss Snark didn't actually need to sell manuscripts and play United Nations between publishers and writers!

There are professional editing services out there that will do what you are asking. Critique Circle, writer's groups, and workshops are other ways of getting the same education.
See Miss Snark AFTER that. Repeat if rejected.

Steve G said...

Miss Snark, I love you. After reading the above comments, I would be afraid of saying anything less.

Anonymous said...

Too bad this person couldn't simply ask the question instead of deciding everything in a judgement call.

When you get hordes of queries and you're new and fresh, you want to help, but eventually you learn that the pile grows faster than your replies. You simply can't reply to every one - not if you want to get the rest of your day job done too.

As a writer, I appreciate feedback, but I don't expect it, anymore than I expect that said agent will be my New Best Friend. (No, I couldn't say that with a straight face, thanks for asking.)

Helen Ginger said...

Yes, it would be nice if every agent you queried gave you advice and a critique in your SASE. Yes, it would be nice if every author you read would provide a back page laying out how he/she wrote the plot and researched, etc. and how you could copy it. Yes, it would be nice if every writer you know took the time to critique your work (including all re-writes) and give you typed notes. But it ain't gonna happen. No one has the time or the inclination.
Take classes, read books, practice, edit, re-write. It's what we all have to do.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Anon,

Did I ever suggest to you I really hate anonymous posts?

You assumed things not in evidence, as Perry Mason might say.

I've only gotten one form rejection in the past year. I get some sort of comment, usually a comment with some detail. Sure they're still rejections, but that editors and agents comment tells me I'm close. Or, I hope it tells me that.

I wasn't complaining. I'm stating a business fact. One stays in business by cultivating clients. I realize there is a world of difference between selling books and selling authors. But, I cultivate my clients. I want them to stay with us, to buy from us again. I treat them as if they were friends even when I think they have poor taste in shoes, smell a tad funny, and need a shave.

So, my posts ramble a bit lately. I'm working on it. (Swallowing pill; refocusing on computer screen). Still, I think it was clear that I wasn't complaing about my rejection slips.

snarkaholic said...

"I think it's in an agent's best interest to cultivate talent."

Agents and publishers don't need to cultivate jack shit.

There is plenty of talent (even at less than 1% of the total) out there seeking them.

Jo Bourne said...

OK. I'll admit it.
I got stuck picturing ...

>> Lest we forget, the end is a pound of their flesh and food on your table <<<

which struck me as grim and cannibalistic, even for this business.

M.E Ellis said...

UGH!

Writing a rejection letter is horrible and HARD. I'm still doing the personal kind of rejections, but I can understand why the form email is chosen.

Just about makes me want to cry when saying no to a submission. It's not fun making someone feel dejected.

I crit each piece I recieve because I have a lot less coming in than an agent, obviously. I offer help and advice. Most people, though rejected, are very grateful for my opinion.

Some people aren't, and write back having a go at me for having the gall to point out where they may improve, in my opinion.

The day is soon coming where I'll be pasting form rejections into the email. I don't deserve abuse for the time I take when I don't have to. But then again, as one writer said, 'I didn't bloody ask you to send me a crit.'

Can't win.

Some subs remind me of the X-Factor contestants...

:o)

Grendel's Dam said...

Miss Snark is spoiling us. She's more than gracious to send a form rejection. Today I got my own query letter returned by an agency, adorned with a rubber-stamped "Regrets and best wishes!" And many never return the SASE at all.

jnuxwzhn said...

Dear Nitwit-

Miss Snark can be encouraging and specific here on the blog because this writer is not, after all, really querying her.
(And because she has a soft, nougat-like center).
In real life, though, this calls for a form rejection because someone who queried her has her real address.

Okay, let's play pretend and have her send out about 100 thoughtful little customized rejections a week.
Maybe if she dropped this blog she'd have time.
Or gave up sleep.
And we can pretend this wouldn't lead to lengthy exchanges of correspondence.
(Sure.
Hell, writers don't respond to encouragement, or want people to expand upon or defend or just explain again any comments on their writing.)

Let's pretend a writer would just take the personalized comments and run with them.
Let's even assume the re-writing is a really productive exercise.
(As opposed to my own cat-with-a-ball-of-yarn experience: fix one thing and break two; repeat until immobilized.)
No, this hypothetical writer creates a stronger, better, but unfortunately still "not right for me" submission.

After all, improving the work doesn't necessarily mean that this new, perfected version ends up being to a specific agent's taste.
So 3-5 drafts down the line the writer could get yet another rejection from the agent, when they've been good, and read all those useful comments, and followed all the directions before resubmitting?
I dare guess that you would have a very annoyed writer, who would feel led on and then dumped.
And rightly so.

"This is not for me" IS a specific message.
As is "Please send me your next work," or "My list is full," or any of a half-dozen important variants.
Presumably the form rejections sent by Her Awesomeness refrain from overt cruelty, crude humor at the expense of the submitter, or other deliberate efforts to cause pain.

Oh, and the writers she doesn't accept?
She's not getting "their flesh (ugh!) and food" for her table.
(But read that fine print closely folks.)
Any manuscript she doesn't accept AND sell makes her nothing.
My own guess is also that probably few manuscripts she has rejected have ever gone on to make anyone any money.

But that is a question: how many writers or works that you have passed on have gone on to make good elsewhere?
Is this a real category?
The Big One That Got Away, or What was I Thinking?
Not cases where you just didn't move fast enough, but actual turndowns.
Is it just part of the job (crystal ball went down that day) or pretty rare?

Cudd said...

I think Sue said it best when mentioning that writers care too much about having their talent confirmed.

Provided the agent isn't feeling extremely generous with her time, I see four ideal responses:

1) Love the book, let's sign a deal!
2) Book's great, but it's not me.
3) Book's not promising. I'm not investing any more time in it as is.
4) Book's very promising. I'm willing to give you a second chance with an improved version. (with more information following if necessary)

To which the proper response is:
1) huzzah!
2) That's a really good sign, so who else to query...
3) Damn. Guess I need to take another look at this project and figure out what's lacking.
4) Ooo... so what did she want me to work on?

I don't understand why people want tons of different variations of #3. No matter what, the agent isn't interested in buying it within the foreseeable future, and that means you probably still need to work on it before it will sell. And the agent's not going to have time or motivation to really help you with it, so you might as well leave her alone and find a critique group or something.

If being gentle in the response is what helps her sleep easy at night, why be angry at her for it? It's not her job to help you make a good product, only to sell it once it's made.

Anonymous said...

Dear NitwitOTD,

Since you seem oh-so-much nicer than Miss Snark,may we start sending our queries and mss to you?
I have 24 novels that have been rejected by one vague regurgitator or another. I think it would behoove you to read them all, if only to enrich your life. Since we'd both like to avoid the "pen pal" syndrome, may I have your phone number? That would save us both precious time, especially since I'm hoping you can provide specific responses on all of them by Oct.1. May I also have your home address? I'd like to stop by and see how you're coming along. Thanks so much for being such a sweetie! Talk soon!

Fledgling Snarkling said...

This reminds me of the group I'm on... 5 members all queried the same agent (she had an open call for our genre) so we figured, why not?

The first of 5 posted her rejection letter. It was quite nice, a mix between 'this isn't for me' and 'this has potential with the right agent'. We were so happy for the writer!

Until the second, third, fourth, and fifth (mine... damn, I was hoping the longer wait meant she liked my sub!) were the same letter!

The OP was lucky he/she had the chance to sub to an agent - regardless of the genre/word count - and get an immediate response. Nitwit, as others have said, isn't the word for the poster.

delilah said...

"Balls!" said the queen. "If I had two , I'd be king."

No problem for the person writing this letter!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Right on, Miss Snark! You rule the airwaves!

feisty said...

Join a critique group and get on with your life. You'll learn a lot and your writing will grow. No agent is going to take the time to tell you what's wrong with your ms.

Anonymous said...

You-whoo! "Lord of the Hunt", from Forward Motion! Is that you again?

If so, you're now a nitwit squared. This is exactly what we were all trying to tell you last week, isn't it?

Chumplet said...

Yeah, we writers are approval whores. We want some agent or editor to say, "Oh, yeah, baby, you're the best. But, hey, why don't you use Oil of Olay instead of Mary Kay, you'd do so much better."

Then we'd argue, "What the hell is wrong with my makeup?"

Then it would turn into some big argument....

rick said...

Maybe I only submit to contrarian agents.

After querying thirty agents last year, ten asked for pages (3 chapters to 100 pages). They all rejected it. Sniff, sniff.

On the day I received each email rejection, I thanked them via email for their time (and really meant it) and asked each for one specific thing I could do to improve my novel.

Call me a nitwit, but six of the agents responded, giving helpful advice.

I don't expect or demand a response, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to politely ask.

My MUCH IMPROVED novel will land on two of the agents' desk who responded next month. I am profoundly glad for that extra effort on their behalf regardless of whether they take me on.

My only concern now is, after reading Miss Snark's response and all the comments, am I on those agent's shit list?

-rick

Anonymous said...

I've done a lot of freelance editing.

This means that a LOT of people - mainly bare acquaintances or friends of friends - feel that it's appropriate to ask me if I'll read their latest masterpiece and give them a full critique and suggestions. They never suggest paying, or anything like that. They obviously think that a) they're doing me a favour by giving me the chance to read this work of art, b) I did editing for the sheer love of it, and c) it won't take long.

It does take long. And the reading itself is the least of it. If you've done a lot of this stuff, you can usually spot the main strengths and weaknesses in a manuscript quite quickly. But addressing those coherently, clearly and tactfully takes plenty of time.

And I didn't edit for the sheer altruistic love of it, or for the laugh. I did it to pay the rent.

Why should Miss Snark take this time away from her actual clients and her actual business, in order to give it to writers who aren't in any kind of business relationship with her?

Anonymous said...

Well, now see, I do understand what you are saying, here. Succinct is always best. Spare the dignity.

blaironaleash said...

As far as the agent is concerned, a writer is a supplier, not a client. Having worked both in sales and purchasing, believe me there's a world of difference in the level of obsequiousness required.

Anonymous said...

I'm the same anon who was bitching about people expecting me to critique for free, and I just wanted to add:

There are a lot of people out there (none of them in the publishing industry) who for some bizarro reason feel that those who are in the publishing industry - agents, editors - should be expected to work for free on demand, and that it's somehow ungrateful of those professionals to feel that this isn't a good idea.

Would you phone up a random stranger accountant, demand that he look over your taxes and tell you (for free) what you're doing right and wrong, and then call him a whiner if he said he didn't do that? What about a random stranger dentist - would you walk into his office, ask him to give you a check-up for free, and then get stroppy when he said no?

If you wouldn't, then why do you have a whole different set of expectations of Miss Snark and her business?

Natalia said...

You know, when I first started reading this blog, I thought, wow, "Miss Snark sure is snarky, blah blah." Then I sat there attempting to read the Crapometer for three hours, and by the end of it, I understood completely.

By dog, I was reminded of cringing at the nitwits in my old writing group, the ones that babbled on about Viagra and yet still somehow insisted, no, DEMANDED, that their work be accepted and lauded and fawned over and all those nice things. Constructive criticism went over their heads. They actually snarled at the others if a suggestion per a new draft was made.

And I thought, a person who has to put up with that every day of her working life is allowed to issue form rejections.

Diana Peterfreund said...

A little off topic, but I just wanted to comment on the "form rejections mean you aren't doing it right" misconception.

Sometimes form rejections aren't any kind of value judgment at all. The beauty part is that you don't know -- it could be anything from "this sux" to "not marketable" to "not my cuppa" to "I'm clearing my desk before the holidays." I got form rejections on the same manuscript that got offers from other agents. I got detailed rejections from manuscripts that I'm embarrassed now to think I ever submitted.

There's a mistaken belief that moving from form rejections to personal rejections means your improving. Though it may, it may just as easily mean nothing at all.

I prefer the form reject. Less time spent analyzing something that may not end up being helpful.

flannerycat said...

"What about a random stranger dentist - would you walk into his office, ask him to give you a check-up for free, and then get stroppy when he said no?"

I agree completely with the don't-ask-for-free-critiques camp. But this is stretching it just a bit. The rejected writer who wants a free crit has already had contact with the dentist--in essence, he's already had a free, cursory exam, and the dentist has said, "I can't help you." THAT'S where things stand when Rejected Writer says, Yeah, but why not? What's wrong with my teeth? I know you have paying patients out there waiting for your time, but can't you look at the X-rays again and write me a "quick" report on the problem?

Not to pick apart your metaphor, Anon! We're in the same situation--I teach fiction writing and also say no to people requesting crits. I just want to point out why things didn't look quite so clear-cut to the guy who wrote, albeit kinda rudely, asking a question that's been asked (though not, heaven forbid! by Snarklings) many times before.

Janet Black said...

Miss Snark (apparently) said: "This doesn't suck completely . . ."

Yanno, if she said that about something I wrote I'd be patting myself on the back and buckling down to making revisions . . . so that next time she'd remove 'completely.'

David de Beer said...

They learn how to step back and objectively judge what they've penned.

Not necessarily. Most of the time, yes, it should be true, but it isn’t always true.
There are plenty of people who cannot handle honest criticism, but I am not referring to them.

Sometimes – for whatever reason – a writer has problems with a story. He finds himself re-writing, editing, cutting, adding and basically worrying it to death, to the point where he gets so stuck in a “worry” state, that he finds himself unable to formulate an objective opinion.

Yes, there is the theory of sticking it under the bed for 6 months, or so, that could work. Mostly, a sounding board of some kind is preferable, someone whose opinion you trust.
Ezra Pound was often a hel to Yeats, Shelley and Keats read to each other.
King and Koontz use their wives. Now, I have not yet seen a publisher who stipulates that they hold the approval of one’s spouse in high regard, but these two might have a claim to make, if they cared to.

Actually, the most interesting point here was this:

but I suspect it's not acceptance of their work but "affirmation of their talent."
(also by Sue, so no, I am not actually in disagreement here!)

This is something I think agents and publishers should be more honest about with writers – “We are purchasing THIS particular story, we are not contracting YOU.”

When I sold my 1st short to a magazine, it took about a week for the disbelief to wear off. Then, they also took my 2nd short I sent them.
Then, they rejected the next three, and requested a re-write on a fourth (which they eventually took after I stopped sulking and did as they had asked. They were right and I was wrong)
Bottom line, that was a valuable lesson – you sell a story, not yourself.

Another mistake writers make. They follow all the rules so that when you read the story you can point out every place where they kept to every rules, so much so that they just killed the story and any life it had in it.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I. "random stranger" "random goat" "random random" and "random dentist"?

What in the name of all that is Holy to Grammarians means this?

Do you mean to say "any stranger"?

Do you mean to say, "a stranger"?

What do you mean to say?

Random as used in the phrase "random stranger" is well ... just .... poor grammar. By implication a stranger is met by chance, the exception being a meeting by appointment. After the appointment you may find the stranger to be strange, but he is then an acquaintance, though on a limited basis.

So STOPITYOURGIVINGMEAHEADACHE!

II. Authors are clients of Agents. Authors are providers to publishers. You're wrong. I'm right. Submit!

The distinction is based on relationship. Agents represent authors. Hence, authors are their clients. Publishers buy an author's wares. Hence, authors are their providers. In my business I have both. To those who merely buy from me, I am a provider of old paper and books. To those who use me to build their collections, I am their agent and they are my clients. Get it bub?

III. Form rejections convey no meaning other than that the agent or publisher didn't want to buy what your wrote. So "amen" to what Diana wrote -- mostly. If an editor or agent sees something worthwhile in your writing, they are more likely to comment. But a form letter means "no" and nothing more.

IV. It's ok to be an "approval whore."

Bernita said...

Yanno (TM) the most important line is "this does not completely suck."

M.E Ellis said...

What's wrong with my teeth?

Ahahahahaha!


"I'm submitting my teeth for your perusal. Please ignore the chipped enamel, the yellow stain of nicotine, and the manky mould on the back molars. I'm sure an editor could get them sparkling clean in no time!"

:o)

Thin Red Lion said...

Someone has been swilling from the bucket of Clue-B-Gone!

I'd love to know what this individual does to earn a crust so I could go and tell them how to do their job. ;)

Ryan Field said...

Diana said,

"There's a mistaken belief that moving from form rejections to personal rejections means your improving. Though it may, it may just as easily mean nothing at all."

This is not off the topic and it's a great point you made.

.25 life crisis kid said...

Um... sometimes people who think they are super smart are just totally dumb. Hence this guy.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, Flannerycat; your analogy does fit better than my original one! My point was just that nobody ever expects other professionals to do free work for people who aren't actually their clients - but, for some reason, they expect it of editors and agents, and they get all outraged and flouncy at the idea that this might not happen.

Of course it's lovely when editors and agents do decide to give free, detailed feedback to non-paying non-clients. But the idea that they should, and that anyone has the right to take them to task for not doing it...

And I'm still trying to find a coherent reponse to the questioner's idea that the best way to avoid entering into dialogue with a rejected writer is by entering into detailed dialogue with a rejected writer. Holy cow.

Anonymous said...

"Authors are clients of Agents."

And agents cultivate their clients. But people submitting queries, partials, and fulls are not clients. Until an agreement is signed to begin the author-agent relationship, agents owe writers nothing. I'd rather my agent cultivate editor leads for my manuscript, not writers she knows she'll never take on.

a different anon

Anonymous said...

Think of it as applying to college or grad school. You don't expect schools to send you a letter telling you why they didn't accept you, do you?

Anonymous said...

Random as used in the phrase "random stranger" is well ... just .... poor grammar.

So? I'm very well aware of that. I'm also off duty. I spend large parts of every day concentrating on getting sentences absolutely perfect. Online, sorry, but no.

I don't pick apart other people's posts for grammar and punctuation errors. Please give me the same courtesy.

leuxaji said...

I have a lot of sympathy for MS and her comrades after reading the Crapometer. Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

It seems to me the problem here two simple facts that questioner is not understanding: It is an agent's job to sell work. It is the WRITER'S job to produce saleable work. To this end, once a writer has been told his/her work is not ready for representation, it is the WRITER'S job to change that. Not the agent's.

Once you do get Miss Snark representing your work, you want her to have lots of time to sell your work, which she can't do if she's holding hands with everyone who sends her mediocre sample pages.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

It occurs to me that the solution is not an agent, but a critique group. So, wutcha do when yuz want comments on ur writin' fur good ur bad is send it off to Crapometer.blogspot.com. We unz will a be tellin' ya.

And IF this pixie princess has ever miffed you, put you in a sit, or other similar state, feel free go mosey over and be mean right back. Chapter 16 of Dragon Sword be up now, ya ken?

We need fresh blood and fresh submissions. We're really quite nice, and most of us sip our tea with our pinky raised, and our fingernails are clean.

Kim said...

OK - if I recieve a rejection addressed specifically to me, is it any less of a rejection than the ones addressed to Dear Author? And I mean, that's the ONLY difference in the rejection.

Nope. Still rejected.

Do any one of them owe me an explanation?

Nope. Just send me back my SASE so I know where I stand. Then way I can move on the to the next agent, or project, or whatever.

If it's not for them, it's not for them. Period. Move on. When enough say 'no, thanks' it's time to sit down and really look at what you've submitted. Or better yet, by then, you should have something else ready to go. Throw the first manuscript in a drawer and forget about it. When months have passed and it's covered in a thick coating of dust, bring it out and look it over with a fresh eye. Chances are you will cringe when you read it and thank dog those agents had the good sense to reject it.

Janet Black said...

That nitwit comes into the store where I work - I'm convinced of it. Nothing is ever his fault. He bought the wrong item - that's not his fault. He misplaced his receipt. Not his fault. He wants to return it anyway, even though he used it. That's not his fault either. Hey, isn't the customer always right?

NO.Go away.Stop whining.Grow up.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, to the anons complaining about being expected to edit for free, I am with you!

I'm an editor, but also an MFA grad, and so have a lot of writer friends who have writer friends who all want to know if I'll "just take a quick look and let me know what you think."

No! No I won't! I finally started quoting prices to friends to read their stuff. I haven't gotten a request to work for free since.

MC said...

as an editor I made the mistake of trying to be friendly and write thoughtful rejection letters to submissions as a matter of good PR.

The "pen pals" never stop. Everyone wants to take me out for coffee...if they could just find one person to mentor their work (ME!).

I can't do it anymore - none of them seem to realize that there are hundreds of them a week. I could spend the rest of my life having coffee with people who are not publishing books. I need to spend time with the authors I've already contracted.

Ahem, sorry just needed to vent.

I'm in love with you and this blog

xoxo