"Suck it up" ---Miss Snark

Dear Miss Snark:

I haven't been able to find the answer to my question in any of my books about querying agents or online, so thought I'd humbly ask the knowledgeable and esteemed Miss Snark. My literary fiction manuscript references a popular 1970s book in its content, and also in my title. I have a short quote from that book that succinctly captures the theme of my novel, and I'd like to include it when I send my first 5 pages, or a chapter (if requested) to an agent. But is this something that is not done? And if not, how do the quotes/poems you often see at the beginning of the books get included?

Jonathan Livingston Seagull flies again?
One hopes not..but on to the question.

You can include anything you want but wasting space on a quote you didn't write that describes the over arching theme is just that...wasting space.

We're not settling in for a long luxurious read when we pick up your pages. I'm reading this to see if you can string sentences together with a degree of élan and style; if you have something interesting to say; to see if your fashion evangelist cat starts to proclaim the coming of the Lord and Taylor on page three.

Save the quotes (and the dedication page, the preface, the must read prolog that explains chapter 30) for the full manuscript. Start with page one. Then add pages two three four and five. That's it.


Anonymous said...

Ok, Miss Snark, a related Q then: when you're asked for a larger partial of say 50+ pages, then is a title page (with epigraph) permissible, or again do you just wanna see "Chapter 1" as the first page in the pile?

Kate Thornton said...

"...to see if your fashion evangelist cat starts to proclaim the coming of the Lord and Taylor on page three."


Oh, Miss Snark, you have made the grim halls of the Department of Defense ring with stragled laughter this morning. Thank you!

michaelgav said...

For those of you too young to remember, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" was a monstrously popular fable that hit big in the mid-'70s and inspired a terrible movie, an equally terrible Neil Diamond song, and countless hordes of ministers and priests quoting from it as a way of making themselves seem hip and with it.

Think a Dr. Phil story told from the point of view of a Prospect Park pigeon.

I read it during a single 45-minute high school chemistry class. My thinking was, even if this IS a fable featuring sensitive birds, it has to be better than the periodic table.

I was wrong.

Tattieheid said...

Save the fancy stuff for after you have acquired an agent and ease the pressure on Miss Snark's gin pail.

It's your writing they want to see, not somebody elses.

Then you can discuss it with your agent and publisher.

The agent that asked for the partial may have hated the work you want to quote from and this could colour their reading of your manuscript.

Keep it simple.

The quote might float like a bubble touched by a faerie dust in a gentle breeze.....or, just as easily, sink like a lead brick in a balloon.

Anonymous said...

:editor hat on:

Just put in the fifty pages of the BOOK. However perfect your quote, prologue, thank you to Aunt Murgatroyd for the apple tarts and sweaters, I ain't interested. I want to see if YOU have writing I want to buy.

Chances are the full impact of that pesky quote won't be apparent until you're more than fifty pages in, anyway. Don't waste page space or my time.

When I ask for the FULL, then put in what you want, final draft, as chances are that's what's going to the copy editor once I'm done with it.

archer said...

to see if your fashion evangelist cat starts to proclaim the coming of the Lord and Taylor on page three.

You owe me a grande redeye.

Don said...

Hey, I loved JLS. But then, when I read it I was in 5th grade. I also loved Illusions. Then, when I was in college, I read some other Richard Bach and realized that he actually believes this stuff. It put me off his writing forever.