4.29.2006

Style sheet with 'tude...just the way Miss Snark loves it

I believe "as you know, Bob" is from that most wonderful of writing style sheets, the Turkey City Lexicon. It's full of hilarious yet dead-on comments about the common mistakes we make in writing. Every new writer should be required to memorize it.


oh my dear dog, that IS funny. I do remember this now, one of many many fun and wondrous places I've surfed to.

Read it.
Know it.
Use it.

Cause, as you know Bob, Miss Snark, does like her partials to be piled into a festering, fungal, tenebrous, troglodytic, ichorous, leprous, synonymic heap.

Why People hate self-published authors

Right under the link about a realty company that blows dead goats over at Making Light this morning is this:

why-people-hate-self-published-authors

I wish I could write this cogently.
I may just memorize it and pretend it's original when I say it next time I'm asked about this topic. Copyright doesn't apply to like..speech, does it??

Miss Snark may be icy, but her pace isn't glacial

Dear Miss Snark,

I've been signed with an agent for approximately a year. He submitted my manuscript to only one major publishing house and nowhere else. After a few months, the editor requested revisions but offered no contract. I completed the revisions and my agent has resubmitted them to the editor. Great, right? Okay, well in walks my writer's neurosis...

When I queried him about submitting my manuscript to other houses, his response was he didn't want to burden his editors with too many submissions all at once and that my manuscript would have to wait until the work he has already submitted has either been contracted or rejected.

In summary:

One Year
One Manuscript
One Revision Request
One Resubmission
One House

Is this normal operating procedure, or am I the nitwit of the day?

Thank you so much for your time.


How the hell is that agent earning a living?

Burden his editors?? His??

I figure editors are sitting at their desks every morning at 9am with nothing to do and it's my sworn duty to help them get busy so they won't get fired. Sadly, some (ok, all) editors don't see it quite that way but you get the idea.

Let's take a look at my most recent fabulous novel, a mystery.

I print out the manuscript.
I work up a cover letter that tells the editor how fabu this book is (this is where Miss Snark feels your query letter pain).

I call about 12 editors who buy this kind of book. We chat. I pitch. Being smart, they say ok.
I send.

Now, I generally don't send more than one ms at a time but there are exceptions. The difference is I don't wait a YEAR for someone to decide AND I have different kinds of projects with different editors. And the bottom line is, I'd send sixteen projects to one editor if they wanted.


I'm VERY VERY skeptical this agent is effective. Time to start looking around at his competitors to see who else is out there.

As You Know, Miss Snark

Miss Snark-- I am currently revising my novel and am feeling a little stuck. I was wondering what your thoughts of dialogue in fiction are. When is it too much? How do I know when I have too many words coming out of my character's mouth and not enough coming out of my own?

I don't want to belabor the story with too much description--I intend for my novel to be a "fun" read for teens. I've looked at the dialogue and taken a great red marker of doom to it--I've cut all dialogue that doesn't directly affect the characters or their situation and I've made sure that the dialogue that is still in the text shows the characters. Even so, I'm tempted to add chunks of description that I'm afraid would be superfluous just so I don't have too much dialogue. Am I being paranoid? (no, obsessive. Paranoid is when you think someone is out to get you)


What is your opinion on this? I know this is more of a writing question than a submitting one, but if anyone knows what kinds of things make a book not work, I figured it would be you.


I tend to like dialogue more than exposition for moving a story along right up until "As you know Bob". AYKB (which comes from the estimable TNH at Making Light, I think) is exposition badly disguised as dialogue. "As you know Miss Snark, a literary agent is someone who represents an author to sell manuscripts to publishers, and they earn 15% commission".

You can disguise it as "holy moly Miss Snark, you're only going to get paid IF you sell this? What kind of socialist enterprise are you running over there at Snark Central anyway??" if you're clever.

I think more authors err on the side of too little good dialogue. It sounds to me like you're heading in that direction. You might invest in a set of fresh eyes with a critique group. Or give it to a kid. That's your target audience. See what s/he says.

Bibliographies for novels

Dear Ms. Snark, I am, like many others, a wannabe novelist attempting to get my first novel published. I wanted to ask you what you think about bibliographies for novels. Initially, I just thought that with many novels based on solid fact and research, it might be a good way to help point readers in the right direction if they want information about a particular subject covered in the story. The second concern for this is more recent: I've been following Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown's travails in the British courts for allegedly plagiarizing two (alleged) 'non-fiction' books (awright, I admit I have issues with considering 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' anything but the most egregiously dishonest pretense at 'non-fiction' there is) and I wonder if he might have avoided some of this if he'd only included a bibliography. My novel, like Brown's, plays with history and speculates here and there, and I've already included a brief piece in the back delineating what was taken from established history and what I simply screwed around with - but I also cover a few subject areas I *know* people are going to want to know more about. Not too many novels include bibliographies, what is *your* opinion?


Dan Brown's book could have come attached to your own personal librarian and it wouldn't have helped him one little bit. In case you think that lawsuit was about anything BUT trying to pry loose some of the money that book made, here, let me hand you a clue napkin to mop your fevered brow.

I think a bibliography for a novel is last century. This is the stuff you'd put on a website now. Just for starters you can update a web site easily and old editions of your book won't then be saddled with outdated info. Plus you'll save wear and tear on the personal librarian by not tattooing an ISBN above her spectacles.

If you put this kind of info on a website you're much more likely to get caught up in a google search about something OTHER than your book, and that can help draw new readers to you. A bibliography in the back of a book won't be of any help that way at all.

Plus..it's a NOVEL. You don't have to source a novel, you can make it ALL up. Even if you're Dan Brown.

Yes, this IS a hot suggestion

Dear Miss Snark,

I have a, probably nit-wittish, suggestion.

Given some of the, albeit minority, feedback recently, I'd like to propose that you nominate, say, May 1st as Hearts and Flowers (Be Nice to Nitwits) Day. After all, May Day celebrations have their origins in the Roman festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers.

You could show up in your Bunny Slippers rather than the usual stilettoes, and adorn the blog with kittens and puppies. You could, regardless of the apparent depths of nit-wittery, you could reply to each question you choose to post with a most mellifluous (there's a word that is getting a lot of mileage recently) and helpful reply. Call out no nit-wits, but stand as a good samaritan to all of us aspiring writers who have strayed from the path of research and common sense. You could choose not to approve any comments that are not equally redolent of sugar, spice and all things nice. Perhaps award virtual hugs for the "best" questions.

It might be quite entertaining. (Or I might be quite foolish...)

I am one who has learned much from your blog, appreciate your mix of advice and fun, and also recognise the difference between meanness and "snark".

Keep up the good fight, and thanks for what you do!

Yours Sincerely,
An Entertained and Educated Snarkling.


Miss Snark could also set her hair on fire.

4.28.2006

Do you love me? no, really, do you?

Miss Snark--

You've explained how important is an agent's enthusiasm for a project. Other than what she says, how can a writer gauge an agent's enthusiasm? For example, do you respond more quickly to full ms's about which you're more enthusiastic? If Agent A takes 3.5 weeks to offer me a contract and Agent B takes 12 weeks, it seems logical to presume--the agents' status being equal--that Agent A is more enthusiastic about my work.

no. It could mean that A can run her own contract offers and B has to get approval. It can mean that B ran out of ink or is getting her contract updated, or she's busy swilling gin with Miss Snark.

It's impossible to give you any sort of concrete index by which to measure enthusiasm. It's like trying to measure love. You can tell which projects have captured my enthusiasm because they are the ones I yap about most to colleagues and friends. They tend to be the ones that generate the most email babble back and forth to authors. Of course, there's no way you can know that cause all you see is the email I send. You have no way to know if it's more/less than anyone else.

I do suggest though, that like love, you can sense when the thrill is gone. You have to be careful not to become an insane psycho clingy love monkey ("do you love me..do you really love me?? Prove it!!") but pay attention to your antenna which are pretty good barometers of love, and enthusiasm.

4.27.2006

Writing well is not a comparison, it's a standard

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm interested in finding out how many submissions various publishers and agents receive versus how many titles or authors they actually publish or accept. I believe market guides used to offer this sort of information, but I'm coming up empty handed. Any suggestions on where I can find this sort of thing? I want to let others know how stiff the competition is, and be able to quote real statistics.


There is no reliable way to measure the acceptance ratio at a publisher because there is no reliable measure of what's pitched. Do you count manuscripts received? Do you count each version? Do you count pitches that fell so flat the editor said "ix-nay on the rap-cay". Do you count things as published if they are bought but not accepted? bought, accepted and not published?

And that's just publishers.

I can give you an idea of how many written queries I get: 100 a week. I can tell you how many (roughly) fulls (1) and partials (3-maybe)I look at. I've only taken on two new projects since last October. That's a pretty fierce rejection rate..and that doesn't even count the nitwits who e-query me.

And none of it counts the clue free who e=query this blog.

Sufficient unto the day is this: we ARE looking for good work. Write really really well and you won't need to worry about who else is there cause you'll rise to the top of the heap. The fact that there is a lot of other stuff out there is no indication of the quality of that work. Most of it is dreck.

Plagiarism is my worst nightmare

The recent revelations of beyond-reasonable-explanation similarities between two novels reminded me of the earlier brouhaha about Bear Bryant's Funeral Train..discussed here previously.

In both cases, a flinty eyed reader caught the similarities between two books and sounded the alarm. Much kerfluffle ensued, all of which you can read about (endlessly) in other places.

Here's what my colleagues and I are saying: thank dog it wasn't me.

We all read things, fall in love, sign them, pitch them and sell them.
Unless we'd actually read the stolen work we'd never know if a project had (as they used to say about certain kinds of scofflaws) "taken liberties" with the concept of original work.

There's some question about the role of the book packager who handled this book deal, but all I can say is again, thank dog it isn't me.

Nitwit of the Day!

One of Miss Snark's colleagues has forwarded this gem to her.

Dear Agent Amazing:

I was wondering if you could read this query and give me some pointers.
This is for a second book I've written and I'm having trouble getting agents interested. This sample query you're about to read is the fifth or sixth re-write I've done. My book has a lot of twists and turns and I'm having difficulty explaining it in one page or less. Thank you for your time and patience.

--(redacted but not unknown!)



Don't write to an agent asking for pointers on a query letter.
Not ever.
Never.


If you need help with your query letter there is a place get that. It's called a writer's conference. Go to one. Go to several.

If you don't want to go to a writer's conference, get a book on writing query letters. Then read the damn thing.

This is the the kind of letter that makes agents look like Yertle the Turtle before he was King of the Pond: withdrawn, moody, bitter, and snappish.

Exclusives...will they NEVER learn?

Hi, Miss Snark, I know you've answered (many) questions about exclusives before, so I hope you won't mind one more. (Please?) An agent requested a 3-week exclusive on my manuscript. Since so few agents have requested my manuscript, I agreed to the exclusive and sent it off yesterday. This morning, though, another agent sent me an email requesting the first 3 chapters on a "temporary exclusive." What is THAT?!! (And why "temporary" and not permanent, indelible . . .?! I am at the bottom of the slush pile here, what kind of trick are these agents pulling on me?!) Either way, do I tell her that the manuscript is being seen on an exclusive basis elsewhere for the next 3 weeks, but that when I hear back, I will send it to her? Doesn't this imply that I'm waiting for a rejection from the other agent -- and hence, probably from her, too? And by letting her know that someone else has it on an exclusive, are the odds in my favor that she will tell me to forget it, I'm burnt toast and she could care less? As you can see, the bottom of the slush pile is getting to me . . .



Well, only because Miss Snark has already taken a beating for being mean to poor little old writers this week will she refrain from pulling out the Nitwit Cape and tying it around your neck.

What did Miss Snark tell you about exclusives? Quick, no looking at the Snarkives.
Yes! That's right....

EXCLUSIVES STINK!

And they really stink when you think only one person is going to ask, and you send it off, hoping Miss Snark will NEVER find out...and then lo and behold the Slush Pile Imp sends you a second request. I guarantee you that a third is arriving shortly.

Now, since you've been (a nitwit) NOT SnarklySmart about this, yes you have to write to Agent B and fess up that your great masterpiece is currently in the hands of the competition. And then you send it to her on day 21 after you sent off the first one to Agent A.

And I have no idea what a temporary exclusive is unless it means time specific. Always be clear how long an exclusive lasts if you ignore Miss Snark and agree to one. Open ended exclusives don't just stink..they cause the death of small defenseless forest animals every single time you grant one. Bambi is on YOUR conscience now!

4.26.2006

Be Miss Snark...final entry

Ms. Roth,

Miss Snark is just thrilled with your wonderful proposal! Upon reading it, she exclaimed, "Just when you think you've heard everything!" and fainted dead away. Your unique vision has truly captured her attention! She cannot wait to begin pitching to studio executives; I believe her exact words were, "I would love to see their faces if I brought them this."

Please excuse any smudges on this letter, as my paws are a bit unseemly at the moment. While swooning, Miss Snark unfortunately knocked over one of her Ming dynasty vases. The paramedics say she'll be fine, and that head wounds usually look bloodier than they really are.

Our people will call your people to set up lunch once Miss Snark has been released from the hospital, which should be in a week or two. On a more personal note, do you know if the fine people at Treble Heart Books have ever offered a contract to a poodle? I have a few stories of my own to tell.

Kisses!
-Killer Yapp

Staying Power

Dear Miss Snark,

On April 17, you posted an entry called "Yes, some of it's dreck, but no matter," about clich├ęd plots. In that entry, you said, "I actually just read a very fresh and original voiced work that I passed on cause the novel itself didn't hold together for me."

I'm not sure what that means. Can you explain it a little more fully, please? (I get the "fresh and original voiced" part, LOL; it's the "novel didn't hold together" part I don't understand.)


Without commenting on the actual book, I can say that the plot was weak. It was sort of like being a in a conversation with a really good looking guy; you're so caught up in his yumminess it takes a while to dawn on you that he's not too bright.

I have learned to never put the book down after the first read and call up the author to beg them to sign. I wait a week and read it again. Then we talk.

I have novels here that each time I read them for a re-write or editorial changes or something, I'm reminded how good they are. That's one of the things I really look for: staying power. Do you want to read it when you know what happens.

Miss Snark chided for cruelty to...well...animals I guess

Author's name. ISBN. Title. Lampooning a real human being on the World Wide Web. I don't know Miss Roth or her work, but seeing another person, even the foolish and ignorant, vilified in this matter is truly sad, and unprofessional.I've loved this blog. Please tell me this is a marketing ploy, Miss Snark, and you haven't gone from clever to cruel.


whaddaya mean "to" cruel? Like I've been nice before? You must have been reading someone else's blog.

This person wrote me this exact email. I emailed her back and said "You know all these emails go up on the blog, right?". And she ANSWERED, and said "yes, if you can't help me maybe someone else can".

I redacted her address and phone number and email. She didn't even have sense enough to say post this without that. Sometimes the ice cold bucket of disdain is the only thing that brings someone to their senses.

The thing is, she didn't query my agency, she queried THIS BLOG. At some point, you get what you ask for and this honey, is it.

No of course it's not kind. No it's not nice. Yes, it's cruel. So fucking what. This is not nursery school and you don't get a certificate for participation and a hug for remembering to flush the toilet. Bobby Knight throws chairs; I throw words. If you don't like it, go play for Notre Dame.

Be Miss Snark (beverage alert)

Dear Ms. Roth,



Thank you for your query letter. I have decided to overlook the fact that you did not post your e-query to the designated address of uranitwit@wtf.com. Your story of necrophilia and bestiality sounds horrifyingly at odds with Christian, Jewish, and every other type of mainstream religious belief. I would also say that you have expanded the genre of paranormal romance--expanded it to new lows, that is. I sincerely hope that the only reason Father Greeley heard anything about this book is that you went to confession after writing it.



Please send me the original and every other copy of the work that you have. I will hire an illiterate person to set fire to all the copies. The ashes will be sent to Grandmother Snark's farm for use as fertilizer. On behalf of all humanity, I must ask you to never set pen to paper again. Failure to comply with this request may result in the dispatch of a fierce (yet impeccably well-dressed) poodle to your address, which you have so helpfully supplied me with.



Sincerely,

Be Miss Snark....the email contributions!

Dear Ms. Roth,

I apologize for not answering you sooner. Your query appears to have been lost in the mail for more than 15 years! Despite this, I wanted to offer my belated congratulations on the adaptation of "Rainbow Dust" into a movie. "Ghost" was a tremendous success at the box-office. I applaud your decision to change Zeke's character from a "spectral mentor" to a banker seeking revenge. Good choice.

Best,
MS




And finally someone notices, there is NO PLOT!!!

You don't really talk about what *happens* in your novel.I was particularly struck by the fact that you describe your audience's reaction to readings of your prose, when your prose it*not* what gets translated to the big screen in a movie adaption -- itis the plot of your story. My advice would be to focus on what happens in your story. When doing this, I would advice that you try to put yourself into the mind of the agent reading your query, and ask yourself: Reading just what is on the page, do I get a feeling for what is happening in the story, and what is fascinating about it?

Be Miss Snark...more

This is not an entry, but rather a comment from someone who doesn't have a blogger account. I just wanted to point out the following, taken from Ms Roth's entertaining testimonial on the Treble Heart Books site:

"Working with a small publisher involves managing your own publicity, but that fact is more than compensated for by not having to deal with literary agents."


We're such a troublesome lot, I agree. All these complex directions: no email queries; books must have plots; spell names right! Honest to dog, you can see why someone would want to avoid us...right up until the time someone says "movies make money".

4.25.2006

Be Miss Snark!

Are you tired of getting "not quite right" rejection letters?
Are you pretty sure you can write better ones, or at the very least, helpful ones?
Ok, here's the challenge:

This is an email recevied two days ago. In 100 words or less, tell me what YOU would say.
Comments column is fine.
Email to me is fine. Put "be Miss Snark" in the subject line.

First prize is an hour with my slush pile.
Second prize is two hours.

Have at it:




Dear Ms. Snark:

I hope you will be interested in representing film rights for my 64,000 word 226 page softcover novel Rainbow Dust, (ISBN 1-932695-15X) published in October, 2005 by Treble Heart Books, a small press. Lee Emory, my publisher, will negotiate with you if you are interested.

Father Andrew Greeley offered his endorsement: "It's a charming, fascinating book."
An English reviewer commented: This is a tale of Christian forgiveness and Jewish beliefs of atonement and redemption."

The setting, which shifts from rural Florida to the Cape Cod area in the 1990s is classified as a paranormal romance. However, reviewers comment that I've expanded the genre. They praise the novel's strong imagery and suggest it would transfer to vivid screen action.

The novel interweaves the lives of two people who need each other, even though one is alive and the other dead. Margaret, a depressed 27 year -old college instructor is truly only half alive, while Zeke, a deceased cowboy and rancher, resonates with psychic energy.

Margaret blossoms under Zeke‚s tutelage as he relates his adventures as well as his misdeeds. Zeke is based on a friend who was a stunt rider for films, then an animal trainer for the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Later, he owned a cattle
ranch. My audience laughs during my book signings as I read selections describing Zeke lassoing an alligator. They lean forward as I describe him breaking a horse by blindfolding it and leading it into a stream. They gasp with dismay–even revulsion–at his shameful stunt with a bull that cost him his rodeo job. Almost always, the question arises and creates a lively discussion: is Zeke a delightful rogue determined to release Margaret's repressed passion for love and life
and bring her to self-realization? Or is he an insufferable, selfish adventurer. Could he be both?

My novel begins when Margare's marriage proposal is interrupted by a sharp command roaring inside her head. "Don‚t do it, girl! Don‚t say yes." Initially, Margaret fears the disembodied voice she alone can hear. But gradually, her spectral mentor's enthusiasm transforms her into an alluring, resolute woman capable of facing danger and surviving a heartbreaking crisis as she learns the truth about Zeke, frees herself from his influence, and embarks on a new, independent life.

May I send you a copy of Rainbow Dust to consider for film adaptation?

Thank you.

Eleanor Roth
(address, contact info redacted, proof positive Miss Snark has one shred of mercy left..but only one)

4.24.2006

Query brochures, dog help us

Dear Miss Snark

Just wondering how you would feel to get a query brochure in the mail
instead of a query letter?!


I think I got one of these, but I don't remember it. I hate fill in the blank postcards but I understand that writers do them cause they are getting frustrated with "not right for us" form replies.

The thing I notice here is that the writer is confusing query responses and memorability with effectiveness. First thing I'd want to know: did this get her an agent? If it did, I'm not going to argue with success, but I will say that gambling on being the exception, betting against the house is the same kind of mindset that keeps Las Vegas in business.

I will also say that lots of times people think their query letter is what is holding them back. That may be true, but more often it's their writing. A good query, a trifold brochure, a partridge in a pear tree is not going to rescue uninteresting, tepid or boring writing. (this is NOT a comment on this person's writing...I don't remember what the writing was)



Forget the gimmicks. Write well.

Query Letter Softward is a Waste of Money


Dear Miss Snark,

This may explain the duplicate query letters.


Oh dear dog, Miss Snark faints dead away after reading this site. I can pick out three logic failures in the ad copy just on a quick pass through.

If you are thinking of buying this: don't. If you need to know why I think it's a waste of money, scroll down to the posts on form query letters.

If you really really need a form query letter: here, you can have this one for free:


Name:
Title of Book:
Category:
Word Count:

Tell me in 200 words who the main character is and what happens to him/her in the first 50 pages.

Tell me if you kill any animals in the first 50 pages (if so, take my name off your list).

Tell me if any of your work has been previously published. Tell me who published it and what year. Leave this blank if you don't have it. It's not a deal breaker.

That's it. Include five pages of your work, and we're good to go.



This is pretty much standard form for any agent.
NOTICE: this is for educational purposes only. Please, do not take this as an inviation to query Miss Snark. All equeries to Miss Snark are answered by Killer Yapp with a toothy grin.

4.23.2006

Bring me the Dotted Line

Dear Miss Snark,

Thank you for the great advice and entertainment that your blog provides.

Here's my question. I know that you said before that once a writer signs with an agent, she should notify the other agents who are looking at her work that the manuscript is being withdrawn from consideration, and this should be done in a timely manner.

I recently signed with a great agent, but I have not yet received my copy of the contract with the agent's signature. Do I wait for this to arrive before withdrawing the ms from the other agents, or should I go ahead and e-mail them? I'm the cautious type, and want to wait for my copy of the contract, but I also want to let the other agents know asap that the work is no longer available to them.




This isn't virginity. You can do it again if it doesn't go well the first time. Email the agents straightaway. If the agent you sign with has a mental breakdown, enters a convent, or gets crowned Miss America without sending you a contract, you can always go back to the first runner up.

Remember however, I'm an agent. I'm very very biased about reading stuff and suddenly finding out you've signed with Miss Fabulous over on Mad Ave. I usually ask if anyone else is reading something when I ask for a full and I know I'm taking my chances if I don't jump on it right away, but man oh man I hate those "sorry, Snarky" emails right AFTER I read all 400 pages of your masterpiece.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

From the ad on the back page of the Times Book Review today:

Origin of Mystery
by Richard Heim

Author reveals troubling parallels between society, government today and 1843-45 NJ, multiple slayings and the hanging of two innocent men, and exposes universal root turmoil, hatred and misery. Also reveals thesis of remedy for vast majority secretly waiting to be forced back into emotional vulnerability; reclaim authentic self.


My Only Son
by Maria Clement

Joey, an only son, never dreamed that his actions would so affect the life of his mother. In the early hours of the morning, she witnesses Joey's arrest by federal agents. This heartrending incident is only the first of many surprising revelations.


A Place to Belong
by Paul Miller

A Place to Belong follows a young boy's search for self-worth and faith in a cruel world. Through a mystifying journey from coast to coast he endures the depths of despair and finds that life hangs by the simplest knowledge through the kindness of strangers.



This is the ad copy for books on the back page of the Times Book Review today -a page that isn't free by any stretch of the imagination. This is the exact same kind of writing I see in my slush pile. Before you get all bent out of shape at how stupid agents are for overlooking your work, make sure your writing doesn't stink. This ad copy sux. Of course it's "published" by Authorhouse--they only writing they care about starts out Pay to the Order of AuthorHouse.

I guess it was bound to happen

Page 7 of today's New York Times Book Review section is a full page ad from iUniverse for a book I saw two years ago in my slush pile.

The ad copy says "I sent it out to agents. No one responded". That is a bald faced lie. I not only responded, I sent comments AND she wrote back with revisions, and I responded again. I knew I couldn't sell the book. That's a far different cry from "no one responded".

Publishing may be screwed up and agents aren't perfect but it's clear to me that the purpose of this ad is not to sell Meg's book but to get other people to sign up with iUniverse.

Other points of note: retail price for the book: $26.95 (paper)
Amazon rank yesterday: 500,000+
Amazon rank today: 6,415

Yes, Your agent is talking about you

Dear Miss Snark,

here's a question that you may not think qualifies me as nitwit of the day but I'm too ashamed to ask my own agent.


When you meet with an editor, presumably over pails of gin, to discuss your clients' work, do you just talk about the work at hand or do you try to pitch the whole package? Do you say: "Oh, my client Snarky Snarkunderling is not only an excellent writer, but she is also soooo easy to work with, lavishes me with gifts and I know she will be fairly prolific. We will all win if you sign her on this magnificent book and seven others." or do you just say: "It's a good book, buy it now" and then return to your gin.

If you do pitch the whole package, what kinds of things really matter to you and editors?


yours truly
Snarky Snarkunderling

p.s. when you do go out with an editor for pails of gin, who pays? Just curious


They pay. Miss Snark foots the gin pail bill when she takes clients out for a night of revelry but editors invite and pay for Miss Snark's boon companionship at the bar.

When Miss Snark is in full tilt boogie sell, she's been known to mention all sorts of things. The quality of the work is largely unstated ...an editor can rightfully assume you will not be pitching something you think is drek. We talk about where this novel fits on the list, in the market, and potential for subsidiary rights sales: foreign rights, movie deals, and anything else that Miss Snark thinks she can talk someone into. We will talk about whether the book is right for hardcover or trade paper original. We'll talk about who can blurb it and where it's market strengths are (is it perfect for BookSense).

If an editor is concerned about a particular issue, whether a client is easy to work with, openness to editorial direction, of course I talk about that too. I'll bring out pictures of their kids, dogs and testimonials from Mom if I think it will help.

Magazine submissions

A question for the lovely Miss Snark:

What are your thoughts about magazine submissions? I have been told by some that agents do not handle magazine sales, and I have been told by others that agents most certainly do handle magazine sales.
Who is right? Some, or others?

Bottomless pails of gin to you for your excellent advice, and packs of Rottweilers for Killer Yap to intimidate,

Clueless in Montana




Well, everyone is right. Some do, some don't, and a lot of it is timing. I, for example, do not normally handle any magazine submissions. However, I just sold a wonderful gem of a book that screams first serial rights, and the book won't be published till 2008. I will be getting all sorts of things out to magazines for first serial consideration for this little book because it will help the sale of the book AND it will make some early money for my author while we wait to earn out the advance.

Normally I suggest my authors do magazines submissions because most of them pay in copies rather than actual filthy lucre, and Miss Snark is fond of filth....um...that might not quite be the right way to say that.

I know other agents do send to magazines cause every time I talk to magazine editors they tell me they know which envelope to open first based on color. I guess some of the posh agencies have a color scheme. Miss Snark and Killer Yapp are of course fond of poodle-white. Address labels in the shape of a pink tam of course.

Novels on the web

I've had several novels published on the Internet and would like to pitch them to agents. Would they be reluctant to take them on because they have been published on the Internet?

Your subject line in this email said "ebook rights". We need to be clear here: publishing on the internet is NOT publishing an e-book. Don't get all hot under the collar till I explain.

E-books are a specific subsidiary right of your "publishing rights bundle". E-books are downloaded to your ebook reader, or some other form of like your blackberry. Putting something up on the internet is NOT the same as having an ebook. You know this cause you know that Miss Snark's blog is not an ebook.

What you're asking is if you "publish" your novel to a website will agents still be interested and have you surrendered any of your rights. Answer: maybe and maybe.

Agents are interested in quality writing. If Stephen King sends 500 words to the Miss Snark Writing Contest, I can guarantee you people will be interested in publishing it despite that first appearance.

On the other hand Random House isn't knocking on Miss Snark's door begging her for world rights for her pearls of wisdom (fools! fools!).

Quality, quality, it's all about quality.

If an agent finds your work on the web and offers you representation, and sells the work, the fact that it's been published on the web does have an affect on which rights can be sold. I always forget which ones (it's in the audio bunch I think) but that's what contract review specialists are for.

Bottom line: when you query an agent, don't say the work has been published because it hasn't in the sense that agents use the word "publish". Do tell her/him it's been made available on the web.

Marketing plan for fiction

Dear Miss Snark,

I just read the submission requirements for a newish, small genre publisher, and they want a marketing plan to be included with every submission. 1) I know authors have to promote themselves. Is this requirement going too far or is it the wave of the future/present? 2) To what extent does a potential author's marketing plan affect the publisher's decision to buy? 3) How much money do publishers expect an author to spend on marketing? I don't expect to ever make much money writing, but I'd rather not go into debt with it either.

Sorry to ask so many questions, but once I started they all came pouring out.


First, you said genre, so I'm going to assume fiction. Marketing plans for non-fiction (also meaning platform) is absolutely the norm with all publishers great and small. However, fiction is a Norm of a different color.

The first thing I notice is you said they want it with submissions. Yuck. I'd look to make sure they have decent distribution before I'd lift one well-shod toe. By decent distribution I do NOT mean "available on Amazon and through Ingram and Baker and Taylor". That is code for "we're listed and someone can order it at the store but we don't have any sales muscle".

You want to see the actual word "distribution" or "wholesale". You want to see a website that offers booksellers information on how /where to order. If the website is ONLY directed at consumers, you know you're gonna be on your own to move this puppy.

It's quite normal for me to work with marketing and publicity folks to promote a title once it's been accepted for publication. I do that every day of the week. I might discuss an author's rousing success in the market place when I pitch a book to an editor but I've never written a marketing plan for a piece of fiction as part of the submission process.

As for how much to spend, there are a lot of ways to build visibility without spending a lot of dough. The trade off is time. You spend one or the other but not neither.