1.21.2006

Clickety Flack

Dear Miss Snark

I just saw your updated submission policy on your blog. Keep us snarklings informed of how many people actually attempt to use the email. It will give the rest of us hope that there's more chance of submission with the morons swimming in the pool.


I've been told by the Official Snarkling Link Tester that the site actually exists, but in truth, I thought I made it up. (yes, Miss Snark Frey-ed herself).

I don't know how many people click it, but it would be fun to know, I agree.

Miss Snark is Morally Offensive!

As the Founder of theNextBigWriter, I was content to sit this one out. That is, until I read the latest posts, which are potentially illegal if not morally offensive. So here's a different perspective on all of this. Thank you Elizabeth Raye btw for one informed opinion.

theNextBigWriter lists its benefits and fees for all to see. There is no gimmick, no surprises (In fact, I ran the idea by Victoria Strauss before the site was even launched and she had no objections). We have many paying members (many of whom have come from free sites) who enjoy the mix of services that the site provides.

In return for $39.95 for a yearly membership or $4.95 for a monthly membership you receive:

Unlimited posting of your poems, short stories, and novels

Guaranteed feedback

A site rank which provides one data point on how your work compares to your peers

Access to several competitions including one that provides short story and poetry writers with an opportunity to be published (we just published our first round of stories last week). The top novel on June 7 also receives $5,000. Now, you can argue with the methodology, but it's consistent for all writers.

The potential of receiving reviews from Star Reviewers, including Pulitzer nominated reviewers, award winning poets, and other successful professionals (Star Reviewers are given to the top writers but we are expanding them to others shortly).

Access to a friendly, helpful community.

Is the site perfect, no. But we're only three months old and getting better every day.In addition, you do retain all rights to your work and our membership policy is the best on the web at ensuring this.

Some of the free forums mentioned above do not even have a policy that spells out how the rights to your work are protected. I checked out the free services, have nothing against them and have used other free sites before, but they just don't offer the same level of benefits and service. In fact, two of the free services posted above are limited to 25 members. So how does that help anyone?

I also wanted to make it clear that we are not a showcase site. If editors or agents want to come and pay a visit, fine. But that is not the goal of the site and nowhere on theNextBigWriter will you see the word agent or editor mentioned in that context. Which is why Jo Bourne's comments were so off-the-mark.

Nevermind that without permission she took it upon herself to lift an excerpt from two novels-in-progress and publicly critique them totally out of context (an argument can be made that her actions were a breach of the fair use doctrine of copyright law). Both stories (in my humble opinion) happen to be excellent work but both are still, as she would have known if she had spent any time on the site, works in progress.

Using feedback from the site, the authors alone will determine when they are ready to be sent out, not Jo Bourne. After all, theNextBigWriter is a tool to help writers achieve their potential. It doesn't promise perfection in the work posted. So Jo, if you truly want to be helpful, why don't you join the site as a free reviewer, actually read the stories, and then provide some real feedback.

Lastly, I want to talk about the oft quoted line that "money should flow towards the writer." This is a true if a writer is giving up the rights to their finished work. It is valid because someone expects to make money off the writer's work But it is perfectly acceptable to offer writers the choice to purchase services that will advance their writing career. MFA programs, writing schools, writing software, Blog subscriptions, writing magazines all charge writers. theNextBigWriter provides another choice for writers. Whether you decide to exercise that choice is totally up to you.

Regards, Sol Nasisi
Founder and Director
t
heNextBigWriter

So, it's morally offensive to critique work thats posted on the web?
Is it morally offensive to critique Miss Snark's comments trail?

If it is, Miss Snark joins the offensive line. You post stuff on the web in a public space, don't bellyache to me if you don't like what people say about it. You want limited access, make it members only.

Suck it up fella.

We're only 15% of the avaricious blood suckers you think we are

Mademoiselle Snark,

Speaking of Hollywood scouts and other altruistic vultures, can you explain to me how some agents operate so damned quickly when it comes to turning late-breaking news stories into book deals?

During the great deluge of Hurricane Katrina, I could see how a high-profile figure like Anderson Cooper would seize his day in the spotlight to secure a million dollar book deal, but what about situations like the West Virgina mining tragedy? How soon do agents wait before contacting the wife of the lone survivor about writing a book on the experience? Or better yet, the wives of the men who died? What's the protocol, or is there any?Do the parents of kidnapped CSM journalist Jill Carroll already have a book deal in place before knowing the final outcome of her immediate situation?Just yesterday I read about Ariel Sharon's memoir being sold. The man's in a ^*%ing coma! I find it astonishing when I read about news-worthy book deals that happen before the story has begun to peak.

I really would enjoy learning more about your perspective on the matter.
Thanks.


Agents are a lot of things, but ambulence chasers isn't one of them.
The folks you want to take to task here are journalists.
They are the ones phoning up the widows and orphans.
We don't do that.
Why would we?
We only sell the stuff that's written, we don't actually write it.

Ariel Sharon's memoir has probably been around for years and now there's renewed interest in it since he's clearly at the end of his life.

Agents may hang upside down in the closet over night with our wings folded over our eyes, but we're not bloodsuckers. We're their agents.

ok, I do NOT get this

I'm rooting around in my mail today and open an envelope addressed to the agency.
In it is a form rejection letter I sent to someone about two weeks ago.
No note.
No comment.
No twenty dollar bill.

Not even a picture of Mr. Clooney.

I've gotten these "rejection returns" a couple of other times. What's up with this?
You think I'll realize I've made a horrible mistake?
You think I didn't mean to send it the first time?
You think Killer Yapp was doing the mail and I didn't actually read it your query?

Any and all insight into this very odd occurrence is appreciated.

Obsession by Calvin Snarklein

If 90 days minimum for a full manuscript to a publisher, what's the minimum of a full manuscript to an agent sent 12-15-05? I'm obsessing over email and mailbox and having difficulty working on wip. I need out of my misery!

Snarkingly yours.




Your start date is 1/3/2006. Everyone in publishing is on vacation, or saying they are from Christmas through the New Year. Count forward 90 days (unless the agent's website says differently) -- 4/3/2006.

Miss Snark Scores...or not

Miss Snark,

this is a bit off the beaten path, but I think somewhere on the blog you work with composers and such, so...I've seen some agents' sites that say they agent musicians as well as writers. What kind of music is this? I have a piece for conert band I'd like to get published, and I was wondering if these were the people to turn to, or if they really only do 'pop' music. There's very little I can find about the symphonic music publishing industry, so any insight would be great.

Music publishing isn't like book publishing at all. The money is handled much differently and very few scores are actually published and sold compared to the number of music CDs.

Most composers I know publish their own scores. With the new computer programs its pretty easy. They license performance rights for it off their websites.

I don't know a single agent who works in publishing who also handles publishing of music. Books about music, yes, but not scores.

If you need to find out more about this, check out the American Music Center

1.20.2006

Dr. Snarkenstein

*trumpets blazing*
The full-time (maybe, if it works) Crap-O-Meter.


Miss Snark is afraid.
Very afraid.

Love your writing, hate what you've written

Miss Snark, what is it with editors saying they love you, love your writing, want you, would like nothing more than to publish your next book, but don't like your current idea? I thought it would end once I had my first novel published, but it hasn't and I'm getting a bit sick of hearing this. Is it that they have a fixed idea in their heads that you should be writing something in particular, or is it just another one of those 'let her down gently' phrases?

This is the part of the industry I hate a lot. It happens more than you think. That it happens at all was really horrifying.

"I love your writing but don't like your current idea" can be just that. I've got a couple people who've queried me with probably three novels at this point now. Great writers. I just hate the book. It's usually too violent or icky or has subject matter that I find gross. So I say "love your writing, hate this book, got anything else" and they cough up another novel, and I read it. This can go on for donkey's years I think.

Now, the other part of that is when an author published a book and we're working on the second one. This only seems to happen when the second book is optioned of course. The writer goes completely off the rails and writes a book that is near and dear to his/her heart. It's completely different from the first novel. We all love the writing and hate the book. Trust me, these are NOT happy conversations and threats of death and dismemberment are whispered far and wide across the landscape.

My point of view (biased of course) is to suck it up and write something your agent loves. You probably should not follow this advice quite as closely as I want you too cause I have a greedy little mercantile heart and my reaction to "but this is my art" is "art fart, gimme something I can sell, the dog needs a new tam".

Yes publishing is a business but the product can't be measured by a simple yardstick. Would that it could; widget production sounds mighty good some days.

So, take cold comfort that you're a good writer. And don't plan for this "I love your writing but not your idea" to ever disappear. Sadly, it's a fact of life. And as things go, it's probably better than "you suck, go develop an interest in the aerodynamics of kites".

More on movie deals

Dear Miss Snark,

How in God's name does the whole book-proposal-to-movie-rights train get going? I've heard of sub agents in LA, and publishers putting manuscripts in the hands of movie types, well before books are ever published. Talk to me like I"m four years old. Suppose yesterday you accepted my engaging non-fiction proposal about an autistic scientist who spies on the Soviets during the cold war while solving an ancient Biblical code. How do I get my money?

What part of "pay no attention to this" in my last post about movie rights was unclear?
You really do not want to dwell on this.

But, if you insist, here goes:

Yes movies get optioned before books are sold.
Those evil gnomes in Hollywood are always scouting for new projects and they will make nice with the person who opens the mail, runs the xerox machine, answers the phone, or all three at every publisher they can.

Said openerrunneranswerer gets money, giftage, all sorts of swag for passing projects along. This is not considered criminal behavior, all appearaances to the contrary.

The evil gnomes have job titles like film scout, development assistant and the like. They are paid to find things, particularly things that no one else has yet but everyone wants. They don't want to be the only one with something no one else wants of course, that would be too risky.

Once they read this (or skim), they call the book agent. Who send them to a her film agent. Who gets the evil gnome's company to fork over OPTION MONEY. This gives them the exclusive rights for a possible film deal for a certain amount of time. When the time is up, they can renew (yay) or not (boo). They can also give you even more money when the project goes into development, goes into casting, goes into principal photography, gets released.

Once something is optioned, the evil gnome's company generally loses all interest unless the book is a huge hit, or some bankable person gets interested. Gangs of New York was a throwaway property till Martin Scorcese got interested. In Her Shoes was never a throwaway cause the book did so well, but the project needed bankable Cameron Diaz on board to get made.

But, honest to god, this is not a place for you to focus energy. The reason is because you have ZERO control over this. NONE. It's not a rational industry either. Things get optioned but not made for reasons that absolutely defy logic and reason. It's like high school cliques crossed with offshore bankers: Who's in, who's out, what's cool, what's not, and the unbearable agony of not wanting to make a mistake, all overlaid with lots of money ...that's the movie industry.

Chicken Soup for the Snark Soul

I think BookExpo America is a lot of fun. It's targeted to book sellers, but authors can go there to pitch books and do some networking. I brought a book proposal and got 15 names of acquisition editors interested in my book subject, which I then was able to share with a my eventual agent and get my non-fiction published.)If you go bring an extra suitcase. You can get a LOT of free books.


NO NO NO
Do NOT go to BEA to pitch your book, I beg of you.

Sure, go to network (cause with 16,000 people there you're sure to meet just the right person) and go for free books (cause you're a buzzmaker and when you say "oh I loved this book" to your friends they go buy it) but do not go with the idea you'll pitch your book.

The people who staff the booths at BEA are NOT EDITORS. They are the sales and marketing folks, maybe some pr folks, and an author or two (thousand) signing books and meeting BOOKSELLERS.

The people with booths at BEA (cost for a booth is running 8 grand I think right now) want to meet booksellers. They want to write orders for books, and generate buzz for their current list.

And just to make sure we all know who's who, your badges are color coded.

People in booths at BEA barely want to meet agents let alone writers.

There are panel presentations that can give you some good ideas about how the industry works and what people think is the next big thing but unless you plan on pitching your project to an editor in a room full of people after s/he's made a presentation...the very thought makes me faint.

I remember last year at BEA I was waiting at a publisher's booth to meet with the acquisitions editor (the publisher isn't based in NYC so they'd asked to set up this meeting). I was standing around yapping with the sales manager when a fellow with an author badge walked up.

Of course he interrupted us thinking I was "just staff". Of course he proceeded to talk about his book, going so far as to pull out a three ring binder with the manuscript. The sales manager, to his eternal credit, did not cut this guy to shreds. He very kindly said no, this was not a topic they published at all. The author was very insistent that "Paul Smith" over at Smith Publishing told him this publisher was just the right place for his book. I think he said that twice. The sales manager (who ain't a highly paid successful guy for nuttin') reached over to the binder and said he'd be glad to pass the material along.

No! said the author, he'd only brought the one copy.

The only thing that saved this guy's life was that the acquisitions editor walked over and said she was free now and we went off to discuss my books on her list.


Now, I KNOW you'd never do this, and certainly the person who sent the email above didn't say to do this so everyone just ramp down.

The fact is this DOES happen all the time, and because it does, it poisons the well for everyone.

I pretty much blame good ol' Jack Canfield (whom I adore and have had many happy hours of conversation with in years past) for authors going to BEA. How he placed Chicken Soup for the Soul at BEA has taken on the patina of legend now. Trouble is Jack and Mark Victor Hansen went to BEA 20 years ago. It was a LOT different then, and they also struck out 160 times before hooking up with HCI.

Please please don't go to BEA with anything on your mind but learning. Leave your manuscript at home. And if you see Miss Snark in conversation with anyone, interrupt at your peril.

1.19.2006

International Reply Coupons

Good morning, Miss Snark,
I read your comments about including a sae. What about International Reply Coupons? (for those of us who have the inconvenience of living abroad). My submissions still seem to end up in the bin (no replies) or 2 replies emailed. One magazine employee stuck the IRC to the outside of the envelope so I had to pay to retrieve it from the post office!

Guess how much I hate IRCs?
no, guess again...more.
No...MORE.
You're close, but still not close enough.


IRCs mean you have to go to the post office. Then you stand in line.
Then the clerk is clueless, has to call the superviser and they still are clueless.

Suck it up. Buy a stamp.

Step on up and fork over your cash-updated

Speaking of putting one's work on the web, this morning an email arrives from a writing friend. Guess what?

Another site where you can pay to have your work read.

The site is very professional looking. Maybe they are legit and maybe they just want to help, but you have to be consistently rated high by the other members and then, if you're lucky, you get chosen for a review. (I checked the Snarkives, didn't find that we'd talked about this one before, but I coulda missed it.)



For $39.95 you can have "someone" review your work.
They only need a thousand people to make a fair chunk of change for lifting the template of another writing site and making it sound like this is a good use of your time.

Maybe it is, I don't know.
My general sense is that you learn to be a writer by writing, and reading books that have been published, not reading other unpublished writers on the net (although I learned a lot from reading the synopses so maybe this will work).

It seems pretty straightforward without too many snake oil claims but I just glanced at it.
If anyone sees anything weird, let us know.

Addendum: The comments thread on this is wandering quite far afield from the usefulness of the site and has descended into name calling that isn't even redeemed by being funny. Comments are closed.

Celluloid Dreams

Hi Miss Snark:

Talk to me about film rights. My agent recently sold my manuscript (hurrah!), and everyone who has read it (and those who bought it) thinks that it's viable for the screen. So what happens now? I know that my agent mentioned that people will contact us after seeing the PM announcement (one already has), but what else happens? My agent has a co-agent who handles film, so does she take it out to all of the studios and production companies? Do we wait until the book comes out? Do we solely send it to those who have expressed interest from the PM posting?

I'm just trying to wrap my brain around the process and figured that you'd have valuable insight! (Oh, and maybe we can convince Clooney to co-star! Drinks for everyone at the premiere!)



You turn your face away from the siren call of Hollywood and do not ever think about this again. EVER. Film rights will break your heart. Trust me.

Leave it to your agent and your film agent. You're completely out of the picture here. There's no we in this at all. There's nothing they are going to ask you for other than a signature on the deal.

Lots and lots of books are "oh this would make a great movie". Some get optioned. MANY MANY fewer get produced. Thinking about this or worrying about it is like worrying that gravity will fail. Yes it could, and does in certain very far off places in the universe, but it doesn't mean you don't have to shave your legs today, ok?

Don't think about any of this. Go write your next book.

That thump you hear is Miss Snark's head on the monitor

In my query letter, should I say that I wrote the book in 3 months to indicate that I believe I can churn future crap out as quickly? Or should I not leave myself open to the inevitable: spend more time on it so it's better crap?


No
Yes

Conferences

Dear Miss Snark,
If the first novel is finished, money is a slight issue, and I have no idea (besides reading books from the public library and fine websiteslike yours) about the querying process, is pinching my pennies for a conference like this worth it?



and this

On to my question: what do you think of conferences, especially national conferences? Worth the mula for writers or not? Pure torture for editors/agents? Overblown hype?

Some writer friends and I were debating the merits of the national RWA conference vs. the Romantic Times convention. Some said agents/editors prefer the RT convention because it's more relaxed.


The NYC conference costs $495, and it's limited to 45 authors and they screen who gets in. The editors are all with major houses, and it sounds like if you've got something good they can introduce you to an agent. Those are all very good things.

It's going to set you back a wad of dough. Is it worth it? I can't answer that. It could be the place you get a wake up call, or it could be a place you really connect with an editor. Only going there will answer that question.

Which brings me to the Romance writers conferences. I know agents who love them. I know agents who go regularly and have found clients there I think . I hate em. I can't stand the fact that there's hardly any screening and people who have no clue are led to believe or hope that all they need to do is perfect a 2 minute pitch to interest an agent in their work. That's utter bullshit. You have to write well. I don't care if you are George Clooney's plumber's sister in law with a key to the cabana, if you can't write well I'm not signing you up.

I did a long tirade about conferences earlier in the blog.

They are a good place to meet other writers, and perhaps critique group members, and maybe some face to face with an editor or agent. Mostly though in those little 15 minute pods of time, I don't remember my own name at the end of the day, let alone yours.

Are conferences worth it? the only way to know is to go. If you're going to one though, that New York one looks pretty good.

Another Failed Applicant for Nitwit Status

Dear Miss Snark,

I believe that I qualify for your coveted Nitwit of the Day award. Here's my situation.

It has been well over 3 months since I submitted to Agent A. Per her original guidelines, it states that response times for full manuscripts is 3 months (which would put the approx reply date at 1/8/06). However, with the holidays, I wanted to give her extra time. (today is the 19th...a big eleven days extra. try not to think of this as a lot ok?)

Well, today, I took the plunge and wrote a polite follow-up email, also offering to send a new SASE, since I'd been unaware of the then-pending postage increase at the time that I sent the material. (See? I send my SASE, darn it!) I clicked send and surfed over to her site to see if she has any news. Low and behold! She's changed the response time for full manuscripts from 3 months to 4 months!

Oy! So, to make a long story just a little longer, is it your professional opinion that I've totally blown my chances at having Agent A represent me and I am now public nitwit number one?


And why oh why do you think this qualifies you for Nitwit of the Day??
no no, you'll have to try MUCH harder to be in the running for that coveted honor.

First, despite all indications to the contrary, this is not a game of "gotcha". You did all the right things. She's changed her website to reflect the fact that she's behind on her reading.
You've offered a new SASE (which is really beyond the call of duty so it earns you further disqualification from nitwittery, sorry)

Give her another month. I'm behind too, I'm not sure exactly why but I can't seem to get caught up to save my life.


Spawn and other acts of Dog-UPDATED

Dear Miss Snark,

My situation is this: My first book is due out next year, and my publisher is now considering my second one. Contractually, the publisher had the right to hang onto the novel exclusively for four months - I've now been waiting more than twice that long for a decision, and I've already done two sets of revisions on the ms. My editor has now come back to me and told me that they want a third re-write.

At this point, my agent and I discussed asking for a development fee, which is what I got at about this stage on the first novel (and without an agent, I might add). However, before we could do anything about it, my agent disappeared off the radar because she's due to have her first baby. She's a lone operator (like yourself) and won't be back at work for at least another four months.

Is it okay for me to muscle in there and negotiate for the development fee myself? I did so on my first novel, before I had any representation. And if I do manage to get the fee, does my agent still get her 15% cut, since she won't have had anything to do with obtaining the money? Finally, if it's okay for me to get the fee myself and keep it all, is it also okay for me to ask the publisher to send the cheque directly to me, to save a four month wait before I recieve it?

ok, so have you actually talked to your agent about any of this?
It seems to me that she's not oblivious to the fact that she's pregnant (although one never knows...Agnes of God may in fact live on Central Park West these days).

She's not dead. And her brain isn't total mush. And this isn't exactly swinging hay bales in the barn. You can be in a lot of weird places negotiating book deals. Maternity wards don't even raise an eyebrow on the weirdness factor scale.

As a professional woman it is HER responsibility (not yours) to make arrangements for her absence. This is not an unplanned health crisis or the unexpected death of her pet rat Templeton. No no.

This is a business and while we all make allowances for death and dismemberment, you've got more than five minutes to plan for maternity leave.

If she's leaving you high and dry so to speak, you need a new agent. And fast. At the very least you send her a letter that says "yanno honey, leaving me here in the dust isn't exactly my idea of representation so take a hike and I'm keeping the dough."


Now, what the fuck is a development fee?
That's not publishing talk; that's movie talk.

If a publisher wants to buy the rights to your next book, they offer you a contract with a certain amount of money upon signing and upon delivery and upon acceptance.

If you agree to their terms you sign the contract.

If this is the negotiation for a second book, you don't rewrite nuttin' till you have an agreement in hand. Almost all contracts that have second book options only require an outline, or a detailed synopsis or some other abbreviated format. They have a certain period of time (30-60 days) to say yes/no and then you are free to show it around and collect better offers if you don't like what they threw down.

Right now though, you need to ask your agent what the fuck she expects you to do while she's off work.

You can't just boldly go ahead and do stuff or she IS legally entitled to money no matter what. And besides you don't want to come to blows with the new mum; you just want your book sold.

The Snarkling responds:
the reason I can't talk to my agent about this is that she's *literally* disappeared off the radar. She was due to go into hospital at the end of this month, but she just went silent in the middle of an email discussion, and since there's no response to emails or phonecalls at her address now I think she may have had to go in early, probably with no warning. I don't know what her original plans were for this period - she just said she would still be available on email as much as she could. So now I'm kind of stuck...All Hail the Snark!Clueless Author


ok, just on the off chance that she's dead (sadly this happens) or truly and completely incapacitated (this also happens) you need to wait for a little while before firing her.

Yes it sounds heartless to fire someone when they have an illness or a new baby or something along those lines, but this is a business. Your job is not to provide her with income. Your job is to write. Hers is to sell.

If she's made no arrangements for someone to call and let you know what is happening, you wait a decent amount of time (a month) and ring again. Send a letter AND an email. You don't threaten her. You just inquire how she's doing and who's handling the biz in her absence.

This is a business. As a woman in business I expect to be treated with respect. Part of that is that I will not treat my business like a personal fiefdom, with people on hold till I can get back to work. If a man did this when he had a heart attack, you'd expect someone would let you know he was ill, and what to expect next.

Yes shit happens. REALLY BAD STUFF. That doesn't mean you don't deal with it. And if you don't, it's not unreasonable to expect your clients will make arrangements to go elsewhere.

You wanna call Miss Snark a nitwit?

Have at it.
But you have to at least be funny about it.

Nasty comments can be half the fun, but things along the line of "anyone who misses what makes James Frey's book important should read the book. Or any book" both miss the point and are singularly lacking in style and zest as far as insults go. Maybe your mother wears Army boots and you think that IS the height of mockery.

One, I have read the book.
Two, opinions differ. You think the book is great, go for it. Defend your position. Call Miss Snark a nitwit for missing some factual points if you want, and we can roll around in the mud and blood and vomit till the plane lands.

Just saying you think i'm a nitwit so I must be is well...nitwittery.
Oh, and I erased the comment.
I'm not having a good enough day to put up with crap.

Need pix, got pix, trade pix!

Miss Snark, Do you have any suggestions as to what publishers to try for a picture book by a first time author. I would appreciate any information you could offer.


Pictures of what?
Pictures of giant squid off the coast of New Zealand?
Pictures of Killer Yapp absconding with the Sunday roast?
Pictures of Miss Snark in the embrace of George Clooney?

ok, ok, I know what you mean. You mean picture books for young readers.

Go to Writers Market. Look in the index of publishers by subject. Look for Picture books. Then look for publishers who take unagented submissions.

Of course, I'm a literary agent. Big surprise that I think you need an agent.

This answer applies to anyone else who wants a recommendation on where to send work.
No exceptions.
Unless of course you have photos of KY absconding with roast. I need that for the civil trial.

Giant Squid Posts Come in Threes!

ok, this is surreal.
I've had 1038 posts on this blog is six months or so.
I've never mentioned giant squid before today, so today I mention it twice.

In the mail (I swear this is true) a friend sent me...taaa daa...a stuffed squid.

Now, the reason she sent this has nothing to do with the blog. It's a long running joke with some of my girlie co-conspirators.

It seems Miss Snark found herself on a date with a man who wanted to attend the cinema. Well Miss Snark likes popcorn and Junior Mints and a good action flick as much as the next chick so she said "sure".

first warning sign: no refreshments appeared.

first mistake: not objecting when man selects seats in back row

second warning sign: empty theatre

second mistake: accomadating the fellow when he wanted to move to the far end AND sit so that Miss Snark had a wall on her right side and behind her.


third mistake: no electric cattle prod in handbag

fourth mistake: waiting till he tried TWICE to read Miss Snark's tattoo using the Braille method before standing up, stepping smartly on his ankle with a stiletto and walking out of the movie.

fifth and final mistake: telling friends about the event. They've never ever let me live it down.

We call that guy "the octopus". And today, a pink squid in the mail...cause now that I have NetFlix I "might need some company watching movies."

sheesh. friends. what would I ever do without them.

V is for Visible

I've sometimes heard that with nonfiction it can help your chances if part of the book first appeared in magazine articles that you wrote.


yes, very true.
fiction too.

Getting your work out there is good.
Getting paid for it is good too, but not as important.

1.18.2006

Wholesale price..the new giant squid of publishing

Miss Snark, recently a nonfiction agent told a member of another board that "most" book contracts are going to royalties of 10% on wholesale price. I was surprised to hear this; I can't imagine either agents or authors going along with it. In your experience, is this the new trend



First there is no such thing as "wholesale price". The only price that is ever printed anywhere is the retail price and all prices to wholesalers and others are discounts based on that retail price. The distinction is important. To wit:

$20.00 retail price. This is the price printed on the book, that you pay at the local indie store.

$10.00 WalMart's price to you. This is what they charge you when you buy your books with tires, a case of cough syrup, a cake, three gallons of gin, and an electric cattle prod.

Wal Mart gets a discount of 55% off the retail price. They sell it to you for 50% off the retail price. Of such small sums, in great volumes, is a fortune made.

Now, the indie store on the corner where you buy your books, talk to the owner, and pet the cat that reads Proust, that store owner pays a 48% discount off retail for the books she sells to you at full retail.

Now in case some of you aren't good at math, I'll just tell you: the indie store owner pays more to buy it from the publisher, than you can buy it for at WalMart. Naturally some of them take umbrage at this.

Anyway, what does this have to do with how royalties are counted.

Well, lots.

It used to be they paid you based on the number of books sold. More books, more money. Yum yum, sign me up for that.

Well, as you can see, paying you $2.00 for a book sold at the indie store means the publisher keeps a decent chunk of change:

RETAIL: $20.00
LESS: $9.60 discount taken by indie store owner (48% of $20)
EQUALS: $10.40 gross to publisher
Less: Commission to author: 2.00 (10% of hardcover retail price)
Equals: $8.40 first net to publisher.

You sell enough of that you'll make some dough.

Now: look at the Wal Mart equation

Retail: $20.00
Less: $11.00 (55% discount given to big box store and HIGHER)
Equals: $9.00 gross to publisher
Less commission to author: 2.00 (10% of hardcover retail price)
equals: $7.00 first net to publishers

well, it didn't take long for publishers to realize that authors were not absorbing the pain of box store discounting so they changed how royalties are calculated.

They started factoring in the discounts.

Now it's 10% on retail price for books sold at standard discounts
and 6-8% for books sold at "steep discounts".

And some of the smaller publishers pay you a percentage based not on retail price but on "net"... the price they get after the discounts are taken.

The only way to figure out if its a good deal or even acceptable is to run the math.
I do it with every offer.

This has been going on for years.
It's industry standard now.
Doesn't mean we have to like it.

And the reason there is no "wholesale price" is cause the price changes for each wholesaler depending on what discount they get: its not a standard number. Discount is the piece of info that lets you calculate how much they paid per book.

No No NO!!!!

The 2005 Guide to Literary Agents (Writer's Digest) suggests one page of synopsis for every 25 pages of book. Ack!I've done four verions of my synopsis so far. They range from 1 paragraph to three pages.


Yea well those clever little elves at WD don't have to read the damn things now do they?

Considering that most manuscripts I have weigh in between 200-500 pages I gotta tell you: NO.

LESS is MORE.
Repeat after me: LESS IS MORE

Synopses are mostly horrible to read. For proof see Crapometer #1 - #99.
They don't have conflict, character development, much humor (serial scrubbers aside of course) or suspense. That's ok though; they are not designed for that.

BUT given that you know this is going to be a tedious read, just do me a big fat favor: make it short. 1000. Words. Or. LESS.

You think you can't do that? Trust me, you can. And you SHOULD.
Long synopses, unless you are writing bodaciouisly long books are stupid.
Don't do it.

Repeat after me, in fact, let's all chant: Less is More. Less is More. Less is More.

My title is Snark of all she surveys of course

About a century ago (back on 10-02-2005), under the heading "When am I really rejected?" you answered questions from a writer whose agent seemed to be suffering from deflating enthusiasm after only seven rejections.

In part, your response ran:

Unless those 7 rejections you‚ve got are the top of the pyramid at each publisher (and my guess is they aren't), you've got a ways to go before you've talked to even half.

Figure you can talk to about half, cause you can‚t really pitch someone else if his/her boss has already said no.

I am facing a similar situation after a similar (though slightly smaller) number of rejections. My question is, how can I tell how close to the top of the pyramid I've been pitched? The titles I see on the rejection letters seem quite impressive (Executive Editor; Senior Editor; Vice President & Executive Editor), and I'm guessing that we've been going in at a high level. (And I might add that all of these people seem to know my agent personally, so she isn't just flinging the manuscript at the highest target she can find.)

On the other hand, every corner bank has at least three Vice Presidents. What do these sorts of titles imply in publishing, and does it tend to be consistent from house to house?

Thanks for snarking,



It's consisent mostly.

VP and Exec Editor is someone who is still taking on clients (big names mostly) but has earned a lot of dough for the house and thus is now a VP (this is where the 3 vp in the bank rule is seen). This is pretty much the top of the pyramid. Head of imprint, publishers, also are top of the pyramid.

Exec Ed is a long term, successfull editor who is acquiring, and also supervising. Mostly a top flight rejection here too.
Editor at large fits here too.

Senior editor is acquiring and editing. Mostly I don't ask any other senior editors to review things if one has said no.

Then there are editors, associate editors and assistant editors, who are not editorial assistants. Got that? ya, me neither.

These are the ones who can be queried again if one of their ilk says no, but not if the senior editor they report to (or anyone higher) has said no.

There are editors, and former editors who pop over to this blog periodically. I'll be glad to hear their input.

Are you all INSANE?

Just finished my novel and was told about your kickin' site (shameless bootlicking). When is the next round of the crap-o-meter and how do I play?


Not that my boots don't appreciate it but have you taken leave of your senses?

If you look CAREFULLY at the dates the crapometer got off its sorry ass and actually did some work you'll notice two things: Christmas, Summer.

This leads a Smart Snarkling (that would be you) to realize that the amount of work required for that marathon is not able to happen while Miss Snark is actully doing..ahem...work.

See, here's the thing. I actually do this for a living. Clients expect me to answer their phone calls and sell their manuscripts. They expect me to kick and scream when editors don't get back to them. This all of course takes time. Barring cloning my sorry ass self, there's only one of me to do this.

However, if you arrange for Miss Snark to 1. win the lottery; 2. clone herself; and 3. stop caring whether her client's work sells we'll run the crapometer 24/7.

First Publication Rights, the giant squid of books

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me that magazine publishers are much more concerned with this (first publication rights) than book publishers currently are.

Every site I've seen telling writers that they've given up "first publication rights" by posting on the Net (and that's usually how they word it, Miss Snark) refers back to magazine and literary journal submission guidelines. I don't know if that means book publishers just haven't jumped to the conclusion that "on the web" = "published" yet, or if it's simply a difference between types of publications.


Book publishers buy the rights to publish in various forms, and languages, and geographies.

First North American rights is for a book sold in the geography of North America.
First serial are rights for magazines to print pieces of the book before publication of the book.

Electronic rights are the rights to publish in ebook form.
Notice there is no "first" in front of e-rights.

Book publishers mostly don't care if it's been on the web, as far as I can tell. They care if it's been in book form, or pieces of it have appeared in print in magazines.

Magazine editors who are competeing directly with the web care a lot more.

There are lots of reasons not to put your novel on the web but losing "first publication rights" for a book isn't even on the list.


as to the giant squid: pieces of giant squid wash up as debris so people talk about them all the time but no one has, as far as I know, ever seen one alive and zipping around in the darkest depths of the sea.

Yes, a Lazy agent is worse than no agent. Here's proof.

Dear Miss Snark,
A question, or three, from the far reaches of the Learning Curve.
First, do agents call up editors to pitch their manuscript before sending it, or do they just send the manu out? (A)

I received an email from my agent, saying "what do you want to do with this?" He was forwarding an email he received from an editor of a highly regarded publishing house re: my novel. Among the comments: "blisteringly good read", and "if changes are made to my satisfaction I'll go with it." I sent an email to the editor, via my agent, essentially to the effect that I'd love to work with him. I also explained my thinking behind some of the scenes he wanted changed--just to be sure he understood what I was trying to do. (B)
No word for a month. I emailed my agent to see if this was normal, and if not, would it be worth it to check with the editor to be sure he got my email? He said, "I'm not going to push him." (C)
After another month I received an email from the assistant to the editor, via my agent, that the editor was passing on my book.
Several months later, my agent emailed me that he'd decided to end our relationship. He'd sent the novel to five editors. Two had passed, and three had never gotten back to him at all.
I'm glad to be rid of him. But I have some questions.

1. Will other literary agents refuse to have anything to do with my novel because it's been "exposed"?

2. I think I know the answer to this, but...I'm haunted by the thought that maybe I should have emailed th editor myself to find out what happened. Would this have been unforgivably bad form?


oh boy. (A) I always call ahead but that's not always a reliable indicator. Some editors say "sure send it" cause they just don't like saying no. I hate that. Those are the ones who never get back to you. I don't work with them for very long.

(B) You didn't make the changes did you? You just sent an explanation of why the scenes were right? Your agent fell down on the job if he 1. didn't tell you to rewrite the email; 2. sent it; 3. is surprised the editor passed. When editors say they want changes you have two choices-a. describe the benefits of kite-flying; or b. do it. Explanations of why they are wrong and you are right are filed under a for aerodynamics.

(C), I'm troubled by the idea that your agent said "I'm not going to push him". Frankly, that's our job. Being pushy (in a very nice way of course) and prodding those lazy ass good for nothing ...err...wait... I MEAN to say over worked and under appreciated editors. Anyway, my job is to yap at their heels till they say yes or no.

However, on to your questions:
Yes, you'll have a harder time shopping this novel around if it's been seen already. That's just a fact of life.

No, you should not have emailed the editor directly. You should have done the revisions or said no. The fact that your agent didn't explain that to you is indicative that s/he wasn't doing her job.

And, I don't let my authors talk to editors till after a deal memo is done. Authors have been known to say things like "i'm so glad you're interested I can't believe you're paying me for this can I come over and wash your car instead of getting royalties what do you mean Miss Snark said we'd walk if you didn't pay us fifty thousand dollars I'm sure she meant we'd pay you" kind of things.

From your description, you had a lazy ass agent. Find a better one.
How to tell? Sales.

Oprah stealing from our youth!

Dear Miss Snark,

I watched Oprah yesterday to see what her new book was and heard about her essay contest for high school kids. I went to the Oprah site today to check it out (out of curiosity) and read over the application form. At the bottom, both student and parent are asked to sign a waiver giving Harpo Entertainment 100% copyright to anything submitted to use any way they chose.

I was wondering;would that allow Oprah's company to republish these essays in book form and not have to pay these kids anything? That doesn't seem fair to me, especially if some of the
essays are from kids who didn't at least win the trip to Chicago.

Also, what if some of the students want to use their essays to apply for college credit or scholarship programs? Would having Harpo own the copyright hold that up in any way?
I've already written about this in my blog and was wondering what you think.

This is an example of "works for hire" which essentially this in although the pay is "you win the contest if we pick you".

As a practical matter I can assure you that if you don't win the contest, and you use the essay to apply to the Snark School of International Relations, the copyright police aren't going to hunt you down.

Mostly this is so if they use the essays in the magazine, or on the TV show they don't have to get separate permissions or pay you.

And if she did publish any of them in book form, I'd guess the royalties would go to charity anyway. The accounting on that would be insane.

I pity the poor producers who are reading those essays. I have a feeling my slush pile looks Nobel in comparison.

Confession is good for the sold

Dear Miss Snark

I recently signed with an agent for my latest novel, which I had not submitted anywhere before she took it on. A publisher is reading a partial manuscript of another novel, however, and is taking a long time to decide whether they want to see more.

I haven't mentioned the other novel to my agent, and I haven't mentioned my agent to the publisher, because they requested the partial before I had an agent. Should I do anything here? Or just wait and see what happens? I have been wondering whether the publisher might be more inclined to read the whole ms if they knew that I have representation.

Any thoughts?


Uh ya. Fess up at once to your agent. It's not a problem but it could be. With any kind of luck you'll sell both and THEN you'll be in the pickle barrel. It's very common for a publishing contract to require that you neither publish another book before the one under contract comes out or for some period of time thereafter; and to have an option on your next one.

You don't tell your agent about this till after she's done a deal memo and you will be sent to the corner with a dunce cap AND no gin for a good long time.

It's not a problem for your agent; s/he's not going to be annoyed if you tell her NOW.
And she might be able to get that lazy ass publisher off her sofa and over to the submission pile to read your masterpiece.

F your Font

Miss Snark,

In a dream universe, what would be the best font and size for you to get an MS in? Times 12? Arial 12? Courier New 12?

Also, you said 80k is the minimum for a first time novel... what's the maximum?

PS: Be careful sharpening KY's fangs, last thing we need is him to take a bite out of the mailman carrying my query.


Quit worrying about this. I mean it. I don't give a rat's ass about perfect font. Can I read it?
That's all. Now, the best way to figure out if I can read it is: can YOU read it? Ok, don't trust yourself? Give it to your spousal unit; can s/he read it? Not enough? Before midnight tonight take a page to your librarian. Can s/he read it?

Quit obsessing about your damn font. Obsess about your writing. You can send me drivel in Geneva 10 and I'm not going to take it; and absolute wondeful stuff in Helvetica 12 and I will.

There's no maximum. It depends on what you're writing.

Just write well. I can fix everything else.

1.16.2006

But but..what if they tried to call while I was phoning for CPR???

Dear Miss Snark,

Okay, here's the deal. Early in December a publisher emailed a request to review my manuscript. So I hopped up and down and sent it off. I decided to wait until the first of February to contact them if I hadn't heard back.

But lo and behold my server company had a melt down. My email as well author site were down for four days (granted, two were
weekend days). GOD ALMIGHTY, what if they tried to contact me?

Should I contact them now and say "Just checking in 'cause my server went boom" or do I just wait until the end of the month? I mean the holidays probably slowed 'em down and stuff, so they probably didn't finish it yet, but, Guh.
Y

es, I'm a quarter of the way into my next novel so I'm not completely paralyzed by this.


Go to your kitchen.
Get the calendar off the wall.
Bring it to the computer.
Now. Look at the day you circled in red. The day you sent the ms off to the publisher.
Big cheers.
Now, along with me count.
one
two
three
four

and keep going

sixty five
sixty six

until you get to 90.

90 days is the MINIMUM amount of time for a full length novel.
Considering there was all that holiday madness, you really should count to 114.

However, Miss Snark understands your pain. She doesn't feel it, of course, but she understands it.

On day 90 you may email.

Now, as to whether they've tried to contact you
1. on a weekend during Christmas
and
2. ever

the answer is no, and no.

Don't worry.
Even if hell froze over here in New York and they DID try to email you with an offer, they aren't going to let a little Cyberian wilderness get in their way; they'll try again. We understand server meltdown. We may want to write with foolscap and a feather quill, but we don't. We have trudged into the 21st century grudgingly, but we ARE here...sorta.

When to Query

I have a novel that is almost complete and there are three editors who have requested it. One has gone as far as to request it while it's still a WIP. She's read two installments. I know this doesn't mean a sale, far from it, but I'd like to know if it's too soon to query an agent? It's children's lit. Thanks.


Now is good. Include the names of the editors who are looking at it in your query letter so an agent knows you aren't just whistling Dixie about people being interested.

If it's a kids book I assume it involves snot, underpants and fart jokes? Why do those still amuse me? Only in books of course; I ride the subway too often to be amused by those things "en flagrant delecto".

A short sortie into fiction

Dear Miss Snark,

I recently queried an agent who claimed to like my writing but said my 48, 500 word novel(la) was unsaleable. I believe her, as it’s her job to know these things. So what is the minimum length for a saleable novel these days?


novella? or novel?
novellas are a bitch to sell.
no one in their right mind does that (oh wait, there are some exceptions but few and far between).

Novels run 80,000 words at least. Any less than that you gotta have 16 point fonts to make up enough pages for a book people want to pay $25.00 for

Yes there are exceptions but this is the general rule.

Why Agents are Thin Lipped Humorless Party Poopers

Dear Miss Snark,

Here's a query, one I wrote for fun several years ago....

Cheers,



Miss Snark
Top o' the Line Literary Agency
Avenue of the Universes
New York

Hi there Miss Snark,

How would you like to represent a future Noble prize winner in literature? I am sure you would! Actually, I can't promise I would win that prize because of all the politicing involved, but I can promise you that anyone who represents my novels will make a bundle of money and become quite famous in his own write (get the pun?). And that could be you!!!!!!!!

In all seriousness, I have just completed a novelistic work of fiction that not only is going to shatter all box office records, but is going to be a major semenal work in literature. The title is THE GODS OF THE BRIDGES AND THE WOMEN WHO CROSS THEM I am sorry that I am not able to provide a synopsis, because it is too risky. There are idea thieves out there, maybe even in your office. You see, I have surmounted all the genres and created one of my own that I call "fusion fiction". I am in the process of copyrighting this new genre. However, one hint (are you ready for this?): the novel is written entirely in the future indicative tense!

Now, Miss Snark, I know your are chomping at the bit, and would like to read the novel like IMMEDIATELY, but first, please send me a pre-paid DHL postal packet for delivery of about 5 pounds of manuscript. To help you save on your freight expense, I have printed the manuscript singlespace, and on both sides.

Hey Snark, here's to mutual fame and fortune!

(signed)


P.S. I'd save this letter for the history files.
P.P.S. Don't worry about that blood splotch smear on the other side of this letter, that's just a squashed mosquitoe

Ok, this is funny, right? yup, hilarious.

The next letter is from a man who included "reference letters" from US Senators (form letters responding to his letter about the book) and the information he wanted $50,000 from Simon and Schuster for them to convert his website into a book. He wanted to leave the website up and convert it into a paid site...but generously offered S&S a cut of the take.


This is funny, right? yup, hilarious.


Too bad both of them aren't jokes.

Which leads us to why agents seem to be humorless in their query letter responses. More than half the time, you aren't joking.

This is your idea of FUN?

I've done a few drafts of my novel and it is very close to finished. I'm going to let it sit until summer, then rework the first chapter and send query letters. I really want to post the novel on the internet between now and this summer. For fun. For feedback. For it to have a little life while it waits for the querying process.So is there any reason for me NOT to do post it, given that you told this person to query on?


Fun? Feedback?
from whom?
Feedback is valuable only if you know the source.

If that's your idea of fun, here's my address, I have some tile that needs grouting and Killer Yapp needs his fangs sharpened.

You'll recall that the first poster had taken her novel DOWN from the net and was now querying. Putting it up there while you're just starting out isn't quite the same. The last thing you want to do is have your writing sound too familiar in a query letter these days.

"Miss Snark is not the boss of me!!"

I needed a laugh, boy did I need one.
So of course, one of the Snarklings stepped up to the plate.

I think this might have been in the comments section earlier? or a partial of it?
I don't care if this is the second third or tenth edition published, I laughed and it made me feel better.

Thanks Jen!

Pay Attention

If you're new to reading this blog, there are some things you will not know.
I think they're obvious, but I'm wrong.

First, don't query Miss Snark.
Ever.
No.
Under no circumstances.
If you can't figure out the reason for that, read the archives.

Second, don't send me email you don't want on the blog.
Ever.

The function of this blog is to answer questions.
People email those questions to me.
I answer them on the blog.

I do not undertake private, one on one, helpful Q&A emails.
Ever.
It's an inefficient use of my time.

And if you think Miss Snark is being cold, nasty, and hard hearted,
you're right.

To Finish or Not To Finish?

Here's my question: Once I get that proposal package on my agent's desk, do I finish the novel? Or do I move on while she tries to sell that project, and write another proposal for the next novel I want to write? I mean, I've got ideas, no problem. I just don't want to waste my time writing books she can't place. Nor do I want to become a "proposal writer," either.

Finish the novel.
Frst, if she gets an editor on the hook, you darn well better have a novel to send or you're toast.

Second, you'll only learn how to write by writing and/or you only improve by actually writing. Finishing a novel has its own particular set of problems, and the only way to master them is to actually finish. You need to finish the novel for your own professional development if nothing else.

Third, you can't ever look on doing your writing as "wasting time". Even if a book doesn't sell, it's not wasted time if you learned how to be a better writer. It's not the most productive time maybe, but it's NOT wasted. Writing is not an efficiency art. You're not Henry Ford and your book isn't coming off an assembly line. Some of the best work you do will be after "wasting time" staring into space thinking of how that body got in the armoir when the door was nailed shut.

Literary thrillers

Dear Miss Snark,

My novel has been described as a "literary thriller" or a "literary page-turner" by writers with more experience than I have.

The first term seems vague, and I can't shake my preconceived notions about what "thriller" means. The second term seems too obvious. (Who's going to buy a book that isn't a page-turner?) I've seen both terms in marketing for books from The Egyptologist and The Rule of Four to Atonement and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

Supposing an author's novel is literary and has elements of a thriller (which I gather to mean exciting plot points). Would she describe it as such in a query letter, or would this designator cause agents to roll their eyes and pass?



Literary thriller is a perfectly acceptable designation for a novel. "Page turner" is a cliche, and solely reserved for the lads in the marketing department who are writing copy for airport bookstore buyers.

A thriller is generally a book in which you know the stakes and the stakes are big (think James Bond saving the world) and the action is fast paced. Not so much whodunit as will he do it.

Agatha Christie did not write thrillers. Neither does Scott Turow or John Grisham.
Ian Fleming wrote thrillers. Really really good ones.

Soup and Nuts

Miss Snark,

I plan to search for an agent soon to pitch my small series of how-to books that I’ve written. I am also half-way through my first novel which is turning out better than I expected. If an agent decides to handle my how-to series, would I use him/her for the novel as well? Do agents usually handle one or the other or does an agent stick with a writer as long as the writer is producing publishable work? I’m asking so I don’t step on anyone’s toes with these two different projects.


I handle fiction and non-fiction and most agents do. If an agent sells your first book, you ask him/her about the second. Mostly they'll take it on, sometimes not, particularly if it's WAY outside the area of the first one (like yours).

The strategy here is to have an agreement with the agent the gives you two things: a way to get out of the agency agreement, and a specified limit to what s/he represents.

My contract gives you 30 days notice, for any reason. I also take on one book at a time, but generally, keep representing clients for further books.

Query only one of these at a time though.

An eye on the bottom line

Miss Snark,

What's with so many agents asking for 50 to 100 pages included with a simple query letter?As someone who doesn't have hundreds of dollars to spend on mailing queries, is there any way to sidestep sending whole chapters before an agent has even shown an interest?


Agents do that? Boy, not me. What a waste. You can normally tell within five pages if you want to read more. 50-100 pages is a partial, not a query.

I don't know any way around sending what's asked for. Look for the folks that want e-queries. Make sure you only send a #10 SASE with 39cents postage, not an envelope to return the whole thing.

This is a biz, there are expenses.

Why you can skip over the best sellers

A Snarkling has a conniption:


(Quoting Miss Snark) Should I skip over the latest Sue Grafton or Robert Parker? (yes) EXCUSE ME? Read Robert Ludlum David Morrell, Stephen Hunter, John Le Carre, David Baldacci James lee Burke Lee Child Tom Clancy Harlan Coben Stephen Coonts Robert Crais Jeffery Deaver James W Hall Nelson DeMille sheesh these gin drinkers:)



You're missing the point. Those writers have established careers, or they are dead, or BOTH. Yes they write well but they aren't trying to break in to publishing.

When you are trying to sell your first novel, read debut novels. See what editors liked about THESE to give them a shot. Yes James Lee Burke is the best writer working in the English language today, and yes its good to read his stuff, but he's working on a multiple book contract and his agent just sends them the next book (ok, not exactly but yanno, you get the idea).

You'd do much better to read the books in "Best First novel" categories than any backlist.

1.15.2006

What IS so bad about James Frey?

So then tell me what's so bad about what James Frey may or may not have done in his memoir? It's his story. Are people just pissed because it's billed as non-fiction? Would he have been wiser to write it as a novel? Is the label that important?


First, this is the scandal du jour. It's fun to talk about. It's drugs, sex, rock n'roll with a guy nobody likes. What's more fun than watching an arrogant prick get taken down for lying about such stupid stuff? Doing 1099s? nooooo Reading the slush pile? noooooooooooo.

Frankly, I think it's the degree of the lie. Yes people remember things differently. Remembering you've gone to jail if you haven't is either:

1. symptom of a severe mental illness
2. a very very strange way to distinguish yourself from the pack.

The thing about James Frey is his "memoir" is supposed to make you think he was at the botttom of the barrel, stinking of offal, drenched in blood, sweat and vomit, and thus his journey OUT was a challenge worth reading about and respecting.

It becomes a whole different matter when you find out there's not that much to respect since he not only wasn't in jail, he wasn't stinking of offal, he made up the story of his girlfriend's suicide and now seems to think there's something wrong with people being more than a bit taken aback by it.

I read a wonderful memoir by Trudi Chase called When Rabbit Howls. If I found out that book was faked, I'd be heartbroken, cause I saw personally how she inspired people with mental illness, and I thought she was courageous beyond words for going public with her story.

James Frey is mostly just the Scandal du Jour and lots of fun to talk about.

The interesting thing to watch is if Sean MacDonald and the very very very smart people who run Penguin USA keep Frey's next two novels on their list, and if he keeps his film deals alive.

It's all gossippy fun till we start talking money.

Linking to this blog

I hope you don't mind if I linked to you on my fledgling blog...everyone needs a little Miss Snark.

I get a few of these every week, and it's really very nice. It's absolutely ok to link to this blog (even if you do so cause you think I'm a total nitwit. )

I'll try to surf over for a visit, but I don't get to time to do that very often.

More on Book Packagers

Hello Miss Snark,

I'm an editor at a packager. A while back, you had a question from an author about how work done for a packager (or any kind of work-for-hire) looks among writing credits. Earning my eternal gratitude, you said that work-for-hire can only help a writer.

I wanted to take this one step further. My company develops our projects in-house (we specialize in children's fiction series), and once a project is deemed sell-able (or has in fact already been sold) the time comes when we need a good, reliable, talented writer to attach to that series. But trends being what they are, more and more publishers want us to hire authors who have an established body of work--talent they can trust.

Of course, this often leaves me in a bit of a Catch-22. In the past, writers used to gain experience and amp up their writing credits by doing work-for-hire. Authors who already have experience, having published their own work, don't necessarily want to do work-for-hire, no matter how much creative control they might be given. But it's hard for me to "sell" a newer author to a publisher, who wants to see experience, and it's difficult for me to find parties with experience who are at all interested.

Now, Miss Snark, you normally work in one direction: taking an author's work and finding the right editor. Recently I've been trying to do the reverse: contact agents and find authors. Unfortunately, many agents are less than receptive (not all, some have been fabulous!). Of course, I completely understand that original work is more prestigious than work-for-hire. But isn't there a flip side as well? Work is better than no work. And I can't help but feel that hiring an established, talented author is good for everyone: the writer has work, their name out there on more projects, and the publisher is happy. And a happy publishers is a happy everyone else.

So, here's where my question comes in:

What are your thoughts on editors approaching agents this way? And what's a good way to get an agent to be receptive? I'm really curious to hear your snark-filled opinion on this one.

Thanks so much for your time!
~A dedicated snarkling
(wait...can I be a snarkling if I work for the other side? I really hope so.)


Of course you can be a snarkling! Snarklings are readers of the blog. It's an opt out feature: you are until you demonstrate you are something else, like a nitwit. So far, so good.

Here's the scoop on book packagers. I can't make much money with them, so they're pretty much at the low end of the priority list. My authors are merrily typing away on books that will generate ongoing revenue for them (yay) and me (double yay). Stopping to do a work for hire piece isn't my first choice.

That said, kids book writers are a different kettle of fish. They can do more books cause there are fewer words (it's not a direct ratio at all though....it's HARD to write fewer words).

If you're looking for writers I'd look in groups with lots of writers first:
Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators,
Authors Guild,
Freelance Editorial Association,
Womens National Book Association.

I'm all for writers doing this, but I'm even more in favor of me getting paid.

Snark on Suspense

A few of us are having a discussion on what makes a suspense story work.

Most have said pacing, a sense of urgency and/or danger with a story that finishes up within a fairly short amount of time with the hero and heroine working together to stay alive or vanquish the threat.

Others claim it can encompass more than one book and be told over a longer period of time.

We're hoping your wisdom can shed some light on this discussion and we can stop kicking the gin pail in frustration.


Miss Snark has the answer you're seeking. It will solve all your problems with this and clarify every single obscure point. Ready?

Tell you tomorrow.

More on Bizzaro!!

A cupcake Snarkling who lurks in the 212 with Miss Snark (although she doesn't know it!) reports back:

I interviewed Chris Genoa author of Foop! and one of the Bizarro authors
and he explains it:

Here and also Here


These Synopses questions will not die!

Miss Snark,

I am researching agents and requirements as I prepare to submit my novel. Several times I have come across the following line regarding synopsis "Please submit a short synopsis."

Is a short synopsis 250 words or less, 500 or less, 1000 or less or simply 2 pages instead of 3? Any clarification on this would be appreciated.


A short synopsis is two words.
oh wait, that's just MY preference.

Two or three pages, 1000 words or less.
Some people submit tomes that are just an index of events. "Short" is more like a prayer that you don't have more synopsis pages than sample pages in your query.

Book Packagers

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm in-process of auditioning for a book packager for a Young Adult book and think I have a very good chance of landing the contract. If I do, I'd like to find an agent quickly because I know absolutely nothing about contracts and the work for hire might begin immdediately.

I also just completed my first YA ms and am ready to start shopping it around.

How do I approach this? Do I query an agent primarily on the book packager contract and in the second paragraph put in my pitch for my YA book? One well-known agent wrote in her blog that if you have an offer in hand, it is appropriate to CALL agents. While I feel uneasy about this, I would not have a lot of time to shop around for agents after being offered the work for hire. My other option, I guess, is to send out e-mails with "offer in hand, need agent" in the subject line.

Do agents consider book packaging deals as a lesser deal than an offer on a regular novel and are therefore less likely to offer representation? What is the best way to approach this?




First, if you get a work for hire contract it's an entirely different kettle of fish than a publishing contract and Miss Snark despite her fabulosity will be useless to you. You need a contracts lawyer for that. Hie thee over to National Writers Union and Authors Guild and take a look at what they say.

Second, you can use your book packager writing as a credential when you shop your YA novel. Agents are glad to see someone else paid you to write; it bodes well that you're not a total innocent.

However, most writers who write for packagers are not represented by agents. That's cause they get paid by the job, and there's only one job.

More info on book packagers is at their trade association website.

Leggo that ego


Dear Miss Snark,

Last year, I spent some time reading submissions for a publishing house. In Australia, queries aren’t usually the ‘done thing’ – rather, a ‘would you like to read my manuscript’ letter accompanies the partial/full. Thumbing through scores of these letters, I began to notice a theme: many writers believe they are unquestioningly brilliant. The frequency with which I read the words ‘this will be the next Harry Potter’ was alarming.

An editor at this house was disappointed that she once read such a letter, written by someone who actually wrote the words ‘next best thing since sliced bread,’ and promptly threw it away without reading the MS, which became a runaway success. Apparently the author was right.


Posts like ‘Where’s the nearest fallout shelter’ have made me curious... 1. Do you get this inflated-ego thing often, and 2. do such claims turn you right off? 3. In your experience, are these writers ever spot-on when they tell you their novel will be a best seller (or are there 4. simply scores of delusional nitwits out there)?


1. too often
2. yes
3. no
4. more than scores

the only time I don't throw it away is when it's clear the writer is being sardonic. I have a client like that and it's fun to talk to him but neither of us are think he means it.

My really really good writers are always looking forward, never back. They see the things they can't do, rather than what they can. My job is frequently to say..yanno bub, yer damn good at this.

Agents are from Venus, Authors are from Pluto and beyond..ok, not really, but dawg, it's light years

Dear Miss Snark:

First of all, your generosity is so appreciated. Not many (snarky or not) would take the time you take to share your publishing world knowledge. Thank you.

Here's my predicament:
I've been fortunate to find an agent who wants to represent me in my fledgling writing career. Needless to say, I have been riding high ever since her call in October. While our relationship is young and via the telephone and e-mail worlds only, I feel like we connect well and have similar goals for my writing career -- this we did talk about, in depth. Simply, I like her. But I don't know if she's doing what she needs to be doing, and I don't know if I'm doing what I need to be doing. I don't question her ability to sell -- she's had some measurable success.

I guess I wonder what my expectations should be. She's really only had my final (after some revisions) manuscript since early December. She's told me of a couple of editors she's sent it to, but I feel like we have too much "quiet" between the two of us. I fully admit that part of that quietness is me thinking I need to give her enough time and space. Is my inexperience with an agent making me too docile? How pushy is too pushy? I don't want to be a wimp, but I don't want to be too aggressive, either. What should a healthy agent/writer relationship look like? Should I just relax and let it develop into whatever it's supposed to develop into? Any guidance will be appreciated.

Thanks. For everything.



oh boy.
This reminds me of all that talk about how men communicate differently than women. Despite the fact that most agents are girlies, I think we tend to communicate like men. "I told you I loved you once; if the situation changes I'll tell you".

Our version is "I took this on, I'll sell it and let you know when I do. Go write something fabulous in the meantime."

I have an author who emails me more than once a day just to shoot the breeze. He's funny enough that I don't mind, and we "talk" about all sorts of things. I'm also in the middle of a big negotiation for him, so I've got biz to talk about regularly too.

I have another client that hasn't heard from me in three months. She doesn't like to hear "nothings happening; rejections piling up" so I don't email her to say that.

It's ok to be ill at ease about this. It's all new. But what you need, absolutely NEED to do, is talk about this to HER. A quick email along the lines of "can you let me know once a week, once a month, once a decade" how things stand even if nothing is happening.

It sounds like she's sending your work out. It takes a while for editors to read stuff. I think you're ok. Try not to fret any more than you absolutely have to.

What to read, what to read!

I've spent many years reading just exactly what I wanted to read. I won't even let friends press their most beloved books on me, because my to-read shelves are sagging with books by Ross Macdonald and Fritz Leiber books. (time to clean house!)

But those dudes are dead, and Miss Snark tells me I need to read *new* books. Books published this year (pretty much).

Fine, I say. I put aside the book I was reading and I started Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (It's good, too.) MS: uhhhh...

But I have a question about the next one. What sort of new books should I be choosing? Award-winners? Books by first-time novelists? Bestsellers with rotten reviews? Books from the publisher I hope will buy my own book? Should I skip over the latest Sue Grafton or Robert Parker? (yes)


If you are trying to get published for the first time, read first novels, published this year. If you are writing mysteries, go to Sarah Weinmans's invaluable blog Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind and look at her right sidebar. Read those too.

Read every Edgar Award winner, every year. Read the finalists in a couple categories too.

And of course, read this blog. That just goes without saying, right?

And am I the only person in the world who didn't like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Morrell? (err..Norrell, sorry)

Check please!

Dear Ms. Snark:
"What about a writer requesting split checks is so offensive? It seems like the easy and bankruptcy proof thing to do, but according to an earlier post, you would drop a client like a hot potato if he or she made such a request."


Indeed. First, mostly agents don't go bankrupt. They die. That's the reason you look for someone who is set up as an LLC or a corporation--so the agency can survive the death of the agent.

But, indeed, why not make it simple and just request the publisher send you your check separately right at the start?

First, and from a totally selfish point of view, I won't get any of my expenses paid. Ok, that's not reason enough for you, I can hear you scoffing from here.

Second, it's easier for you to have one payer at the end of the year (ie me) than 50 small ones. Yes, you'll get a check from the publisher. What about all those small ones from the foreign rights sold in Bhutan, Peru, Nigeria, and Rabbitania? All that money comes through my coffers, and you get a 1099 at the end of the year.

Still not good enough? Smaller publishers know you get two checks, and they pay me, and forget you. That's an 85% savings for them for as long as it takes to figure it out.

Still not convinced? Then we're probably not going to agree on a lot of other things as well, and we'd not be a good fit to work together.

Bottom line: this is how I run my biz. It's pretty standard. If you don't agree with it, no worries, mate, but also, see you later WallyGator.

Science fiction..that's not science memoir is it? I'm aFREYed to ask


Is it still considered science fiction when you write about science that is not fiction?


The reason I ask is because I don't want my novel to be considered sci/fi.

I think one of the requirements of science fiction is that the science be real. When the science isn't real it's called fantasy. I could be wrong, but I know we've got experts on this reading the blog. Set Miss Snark straight if needed!

If you don't want your book to be science fiction, call it commercial fiction. And what the heck is wrong with science fiction? Some of the very best writers, and biggest sellers are in that field. Plus, they have a very very cool Society of SFF Writers that really does yeoman's work.

Miss Snark reassures a snarkling

Dear Miss Snark,

Would it be a waste of time to query a novel that hasbeen posted on the Internet in rough draft form? MyMS has been through almost three years of revision since I first posted it on the Web, but I have to admit the main arc of the story and my major characters have remained pretty much the same.

When I first started the thing, I was just writing for fun and didn't give it much thought. I guess I also figured posting a rough draft chapter by chapter was not the same as presenting a complete and polished novel to the world. But I've read a lot lately that makes me think I've used up my "first publication rights" on this dinky website - and I feel like an absolute fool.

Have I doomed my novel for all time? Have I just wasted three years of my life (and several hours of my writing groups' time) on something no respectable publisher is going to want to touch? Please weigh in, Miss Snark. If you saw something in a query letter about a work being posted online, would you immediately pass?
(The rough draft has been taken down, by the way. Even on archive.org I can only find its first chapter. But I realize my work has still been "out there" - and under some people's definitions, been published.)



Well, let's start with the fact that I've sold novels that were first partially published on e-zines, or websites. So, clearly, my first reaction isn't pass.

And you've got some confusion in terms here. There's really no such thing as "first publication rights" at least in books. There are first serial rights which are rights to publish something in abbreviated form before the book is published (think of book excerpts in Vogue for example).

There are editions of books...the same content but in a different form (hardcover, trade paperback, mass market, large print are all edition forms)

What you might be thinking of is when people publish something on their own and then want to sell the rights to a big publisher. That's a second edition of a work. I don't touch those, nor do most publishers unless the first edition sold a lot. (There are quite a few posts and comments about this buried in the Snarkives).

Bottom line: you're ok. Query on.