8.24.2006

Miss Snark is closing up for a couple days

She's going to float in a sensory deprivation tank of gin.
She's going corral the Crapometer at Coney Island.
She's going to Lake Como in Italia to stalk her beloved.

maybe all three.

In her absence the blog is dark.
No comments either, sorry.

Back next week.

Use this time to polish your crapometer entries and read the snarkives.

Rx for your Crapometer stress levels

Dear Miss Snark,

When do you anticipate that the carpometer will start?

I want to submit 15 seconds after the start time, or maybe earlier.

Thanks, a VERY devoted follower



I'm pretty sure I mentioned this before but perhaps you were busy buying gifts for your favorite Snark Supplier.

The crapometer is somewhere around the end of NEXT WEEK which is also the END OF AUGUST, which is also a big fat holiday weekend (get the idea??).

I will tell you when it opens. I will tell you in advance, like 24 hours ahead.
The "window" is twelve hours.

Got it?

Quit fretting. It disturbs Miss Snark's wa.

DO NOT SIGN what you don't understand

O Most Snarkful One,

I've just signed with a major NYC agency and understand that they now own 15% of me for as long as their lawyers shall please. But since the contract specifies that my "Work" includes all copyrightable material, articles, stories etc, does that mean that if I write something for a magazine my agent now gets a piece of it -- or only if they placed the article themselves? And if so, should I expect them to rep all my freelance writing -- or will that merely annoy them? With all respectful obeiences, pranams (i had to look this one up) and curtsies,


Ask your agent. I don't have the contract in front of me and this is definately something I'd need to read before offering an opinion.

I only take a piece of the work I sell, but my wording in the contract is that I represent only one specific work, not all of the output.

And why you signed this contract without knowing this is beyond me. Agents are not annoyed by this kind of question when they want to sign you up. They are VERY annoyed by people who don't understand the terms of their contract before signing.

"why I wrote this" in a query letter

Hi Miss Snark,


I've written a YA mystery novel with an African-American narrator and takes place in an upper middle class setting. My impetus for writing this was noticing the lack of "fun" YA novels (i.e. Gossip Girl, Princess Diaries) with African-American characters. Most of the YA novels that focus on African-American characters concentrate on the lower end of the economic spectrum with plots revolving around growing up in foster care or having to deal with drug dealers. This is not to diminish those books but I feel there's also a need for lighter fare like the African-American version of Sweet Valley High. (Okay, go ahead and laugh but I and my friends spent a TON of money on those books 15-20 years ago.) (Miss Snark NEVER laughs when someone combines the phrase "I spent tons of money" with "book")

My question to you is whether this motivation has a role in the query letter I am preparing to send out to agents.

From your blog, I know you emphasize the writing of the submission over that of the query letter even though some of your colleagues feel differently. I wanted your thoughts on whether or not to mention the specific target audience, here the overlooked upper class African-Americans, in the query letter. Could it give me an extra hook that might set my submission apart for consideration? Or is it too much like pandering? Thanks in advance for your thoughts on the matter.



LOTS of people write "the novels they want to read". I hear that all the time. That's what you're doing. If anyone is stupid enough to think there is no market for this book you tell them to google Tonya Lewis Lee. Mentioning this is an underserved market is a good idea. I'm always looking for those.

911 Clue call

Many agents' listings in Literary Marketplace stipulate "Queries only." I've written a bang-up query letter, but I just know that the scintillating, witty prose of the actual novel is what will get it sold. Any harm in ignoring what the agent says she wants and sending one or even three gripping sample chapters?


No, none at all. You don't want an agent to think you can read do you?

8.23.2006

Publicists

Dear Miss Snark:

Frequently, my day begins with a user query which sounds suspiciously like a sales pitch. Yet another member of the general public has written an absolutely wonderful book! Unfortunately, since said member of the public is published through a small press (at best) or self published (more typically), they believe that they just need to find the 'proper public relations firm' to promote their book and then it will obviously find its audience -- or at the very least, a firm will be able to convince their local Chain Bookstore(tm) to start selling their masterpiece.

And by the way, the firm should be able to get them on Oprah as well, please. Or reviewed in the New York Times. Preferably both.

Oddly enough, while there are numerous directories of public relations firms online, few list 'promoting independently published books' as a specialty. So I usually forward them to Mediabistro's Freelancers Marketplace or to the Independent Practictioners Alliance Directory which are the only online directories I have found with publicist contact information.

Are there any other directories that I should be pointing these writers to? I have been told that The Writers Market includes such a resource, but we do not have a copy within our resource center.

Many thanks in advance for any guidance you can provide.



Well, I'm looking at the 2007 Guide to Literary Agents from Writers Digest that has a whole section on book publicists. List price is $26.99 but I bet the library has it if you want to just look.

I know the folks at Murder Must Advertise keep a list of pr folks who deal in mysteries. I'm guessing the other genre folks do too.

Good publicists run $2000 a month, six months minimum usually. Any publicist who promises you Oprah and the New York Times is lying. You can quote me.

You're so vain, you probably thing this book is song about you, don't you don't you?

Miss Snark,

This question may be either too lame or rare a situation to have answered, but I will try none the less:

My novel is partly based on a song by one of my favorite bands. Anyone who reads my novel and is familiar with the lyrics of the song could easily make the connection. (Both invlove VERY strange events/people so the similarities could never be considered a coincidance) If the book is ever published could this get me into trouble? The band is smaller and I doubt it would ever be noticed, but if it were, could it lead to problems?


What kind of problems?
You mean copyright infringement? No. Just don't use the lyrics verbatim (and even then you've got some wiggle room).

Legal trouble? Is the song about where you hid Jimmy Hoffa's body? Ya, you got trouble then, starting with one of the guys who reads this blog (yo, Gambino!)

Aesthetics? Dunno. Is it a good song? Is it the local equivilent of Louie Louie?

Personal problems? "Honey..why's is the band toilet papering our front yard?"

Odor problems? Look I'm not gonna tell you the song stinks, but some reviewer might notice.

There are all sorts of ways to have problems with novels. Basing it on a song probably isn't in the top five. Even with a bullet.

Bookscan

Miss Snark,

how does one find stats on book retail sales? Is there a certain web site that literary agents use to look up how many copies of a book were sold? Does anyone have access to this information?


As always, thanks for your snarky advice,

Bookscan.
Would that it were on the web, I'd be glued to it daily.
Sadly, it's a subscription based service and it's VERY expensive.
One of my secret goals in life is to find someone who has access and become VERY close friends with them.

Publishers have it. The New York Times has it. Michael Cader has it I think.
I don't.
If anyone wants to buy it for me, let me know. I've got a left arm, a dog, a grandmother, two shysters and a pair of Cole Haan black pumps to trade.

Unfinished novels

Miss Snark,

You have mentioned in your blog several times that seeing the end of a book is very important as it is often the hardest part to write. Have you ever been so excited by someones writing, and so convinced of their brilliance, that you offered representation after only a partial? (The purpose of this would be to scoop them up before soemone else, just like if Clooney offered to marry you. Surely you would say YES before even going on one date with him) I don't think this would ever happen to me, I am just curious.



Well, Mr. Clooney arrives fully formed. Your analogy is more akin to an arranged marriage with Mr Clooney when he was fourteen. Devotion only goes so far-there would have had to be a substantial amount of cash involved for me to have agreed to that proposal.

I've not succumbed to that temptation. Others have, and much hilarity ensued. I'm glad to send "yes I'm still interested" notes on scented paper (no caustic comments about what kind of scent) via the footman for as long as it takes but no offers of Snarkly Representation till that puppy has stopped chewing shoes and is ready for obedience school.

Once you're on my client list you get more focused attention; I start counting you as "unsold" and pretty soon as "unsold for more than a year" and that kind of thing makes me look like Howard Hughes in the latter part of The Aviator.

If someone else snatches you up in larval stage, more power to them. I know how I work best.

Miss Snark Does Not Embrace Reality--she sneers at it

Dear Ms Snark:

After four successful nonfiction books -- one a Literary Guild alternate selection, and another a True Crime Book of the Month -- I keep running into the phrase "writing fiction is different than nonfiction." I find this interesting since many of my readers say "Your books read just like fiction." However, I've had no luck with fiction.

Could you please offer your views on the differences between fiction and nonfiction. I do recognize the obvious that one is true and the other isn't. That starting nonfiction means you already have the beginning, middle and the end as opposed to a blank future when starting a fiction work. That your characters are pretty much developed, and you are limited to report only the truth, and not embellish it.



Well, I'm open to contributions from the Snarklings on this one.

One difference is you can see into a someone's thoughts and feelings with fiction whereas with non fiction you can deduce that only from action. This sets up the delicious nuance of intention and execution.

You can also have people change and develop in fiction, whereas in real life "that's how he is and you aren't going to change him" is a staple of Cosmo advice columns (and also a good rule to live by IMO).

Fiction has to make sense; real life is often so perplexing as to defy explanation, thus the popularity of Dr. Phil et al.

And in fiction, you can kill people. That's damn appealing.

Marcia Yudkin, Marketing Wizard

It's Wednesday, so it's Marketing Minute day! Here's what arrived in today's email from Marcia Yudkin, who is a marketing consultant:


Robert Mankoff, cartoon editor of The New Yorker, which he understandably calls "the best job in the world," once set out to find a cartoon that nearly everyone who had any sense of humor would find funny.

He sent what he thought was his own very best cartoon to 2,000 men and women, asking them to rate it from 1 (completely unfunny) to 10 (extremely funny). About 80% rated Mankoff's cartoon 7 or above, which delighted him. Yet some respondents gave it a 1.

Mankoff threw up his hands, calling this item "the most highly rated cartoon for funniness that I ever did, or (sob) will probably ever do."

His survey has implications for your marketing efforts.

Whatever target market you're aiming at, its members differ from one another, having diverse personalities, varying educational and cultural backgrounds, diverging tastes or lifestyles and disparate values. Therefore, they won't all interpret what you present to them in the same way.

It's foolhardy to aim at universal praise or acceptance. So long as you have enthusiastic advocates, ignore those who think you're incredibly off the mark.


The same goes for novels of course.

Marcia Yudkin offers a free weekly marketing tip. You can subscribe here

She writes well and she's got good ideas; check it out.

"I'm Big in Japan"***

Dear Miss Snark,

How does one go about proposing a translation?

There is a very popular series of fantasy books in Japan that have sold millions of copies, but no English translation has yet been made. Does a translator include what publishing data may be had from the book and the Internet along with the submission and query letter? Is there any other information, such as the original author's biography or a list of the other books in the series?


You've got the cart in front of the horse.

Translations are arranged by the publisher who buys the foreign language rights (in this case English is the foreign language).

The publisher or author of these popular fantasy books has a foreign rights agent. That agent shops those books to American publishers of fantasy. The American publisher acquires the rights, and hires the translator.

I attended a very instructive presentation on literature in translation about two years ago, and one of the things mentioned was how hard it was to find good translators at reasonable rates. If you're really serious about making this happen, contact the Japanese publisher, or their foreign rights agents and offer to do a translation on spec.

If you approach a US publisher or agent without owning the rights to the work, you will be treated like a crackpot.




***

Life is what happens when you're making other plans

Dear Miss Snark,

About a year ago now, flushed with recent short fiction publication success, I managed to give a 30 second pitch to a Big Name Editor at a writer's conference.

She sounded enthused and asked to see the novel. I admitted the novel was a WIP, and she said she wanted to see it when it was finished.
Fast forward over the past year, during which life happened and while I made progress, I did not even come close to finishing my novel.

Currently I'm in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy with complications and even if I make it through this okay, shortly after the new year I'll be dealing with recovering from a major illness, tending a newborn, and also caring for my toddler full time.
Obviously my nitwit behavior was in pitching before I could put my money where my mouth was, but my question going forward is this: At what point does an editor's request for a manuscript expire?

I mean, let's say that I pass the 2 year anniversary of the pitch before I manage to complete my magnum opus. Will I look like an even greater nitwit when I mention in the cover letter that the material was requested such a long time ago? (I know not to give excuses, just to say something like, I apologize for the delay, here's the manuscript you requested at X writer's conference 2005). Or should I not mention the meeting at all because the editor will not want to work with an author who has such a long timeline?

Your Snarkilicious Wisdom would help me very much,


Two words: Patsy Cline. Rent the movie Sweet Dreams to see what I mean.

If your work is good, we want to see it. We are avaricious beasts and we want to represent good work. There is a nice man toiling away in a garret somewhere who has been on my radar for YEARS. I thought about him every now and then. I didn't contact him, figuring if he wanted to send me stuff, he'd know how to find me. Well lo and behold last summer, what should turn up by an incredible wonderful marvelous book. There were some structural problems, which he's working on now (and you'll notice we're at the year mark..again).

But, he can send me stuff till he's dead or I am. He's that good. I don't care that he's slow. I want a great book.

When you contact the editor again you can say something close to what you wrote to me and she'll understand you're not a slacker. Even if you are, if you write well enough, all is forgiven.

While Killer Yapp is available for babysitting, the opening sequence of Who Framed Roger Rabbit is in fact a documentary of KY's last adventure with the diaper set.

Pub Credits turning sour


Miss Snark,

Long time reader, first time email. (you're listening to too much talk radio) A few years ago I had a novel published by a small publisher in the Mid-west. At the time, there were no fees asked, but since then that publisher now asks for a "marketing fee" that I refuse to do.

My desire is to get published by a large publishing firm and to aqquire an agent for my second manuscript. In my query letters, should I include the previous published novel and the positive reviews it received or avoid any mention since now looking into the former publisher would look like a fee-paid POD?



I've got two clients with this situation. With the first, there was enough other stuff to talk about that I left it off (book sold). With the secon, I phrased it as "Author has a previous book, title, published by Slumgullion Inc before they changed to a fee based publisher". That book just sold.

Both approaches work but I vote for the second so that IF an agent googles you she will have the correct info in your query letter. I'm sorry to say this, but I assume the worst and never give anyone the benefit of the doubt in query letters. One too many people pawning off iUniverse print runs as publication credits has made me quite quite skeptical of everything.

8.22.2006

Can I give up yet?

Dear Miss Snark,

I have queried every agent I can find who accepts fantasy-genre submissions for my first novel. I have recieved 28 rejections so far. Of the agents rejecting me, 13 had seen a partial (3 requested a partial after getting the query letter, the others all required a partial as part of the initial query). I have 8 more agents out there who haven't gotten back to me yet. After so many agents rejecting my work after having actually read part of it, is the writing pretty much on the wall for me? No agent gave me any feedback, except for the standard "not right for me" or "I'm not the right agent for this" phrases. After 13 agents reject your work after reading a partial, is it time to conclude that one's book is just plain crap and will most likely never be picked up by anyone? Or should I still cling to some small ray of hope?


You need some beta readers or a crit group.
Something is clearly wrong if you're not getting anything beyond "not right for me".
You might take a shot at the crapometer coming up, and avail yourself of the info in the previous crapometers in the Snarkives.

I was young, I needed the money...

Dearest Miss Snark:

I'm working on a freelance piece about books by famous authors that they wish they hadn't written. Basically, stuff by famous authors done under pseudonyms (Dan Brown did a humor book under the pseudonym "Danielle Brown"), old random stuff by famous authors (a book on Space Invaders by Martin Amis) or just really old stuff that looks pretty foolish now ("How to Talk to Just About Anyone about Anything" by Barbara Walters.")

Any spring to mind?



Miss Snark is busy dusting her rubberplant so she turns this one over to the accumulated wisdom of the Snarklings!

Any contributions for our querier?

Yo, Kidd, wanna hang--out?

Dear Miss Snark--

I cringe to behold the awesome box office of "Pirates 2" and the ubiquitous Jack Sparrow pictures being used everywhere to market everything. Because my nearly finished ms includes a few scoundrels on sailing ships. I'm afraid that by next week agents, editors, and
everyone else will be permanently sick to death of pirates.

Should I avoid the "p" word when querying? Should I excise it from the text as well? If piratical characters are soon discovered lurking in the pages, is the project automatically toast?

Thanks for the clue,



I remember whan "Talk Like a Pirate" day appeared on my radar; an editor bought a book of all things pirate, and I thought it was a hysterical idea. Then there was Dodgeball with the pirate character. Then I saw another pirate book sell, now Jack Sparrow.

On the other hand, pirates have been around for some time now so I dont think it's a fad so much as a rediscovery of an old favorite.

You may indeed run the risk of pirate fatigue but if you've got something new, unusual or imaginative in how you incorporate pirates, I think you'll be ok. There's always room for ho ho ho's, and bottle of rum in publishing.

Nitwits of the day: YOU?

The crapometer is NOT open yet.

Do NOT send entries until you see a post that says something akin to SEND NOW.

The previous post was to let you know how it's going to run this time, and give you time to polish your pearls of query.

Notice the paragraph that says "end of the month"? yea, that one, the one you missed reading.

I've been nice to the folks who've messed up so far.
I'm getting less so.

Also, I will post a demo entry closer to the actual day so you can see format examples.

8.21.2006

The 3rd Irregular Crapometer!

Your comments on how to do this were very helpful and it also gave me something to think about when people asked REALLY stupid questions at the book signing I attended tonight.



It struck me that it might be useful to see BOTH cover/query letters AND first pages together. I'm firmly convinced you have either a good query letter or a good first page but never both. Let's see if that holds up.

I can't critique all gazillion entries. The last writing contest almost killed me and KY was left to answer the phone for two days while I recuperated in a sensory deprivation tank in an undisclosed location.

It may be illuminating to see how the actual slush pile works.

Therefore:

Entries are to be a cover letter and first page. It should be from a work of fiction or memoir. Non fiction is acquired differently, so this crapometer will not be helpful for you. It will also not be helpful if you write children's picture books, or early reader books. It WILL be helpful if you write middle grade, or YA books.

Entries are a maximum of 750 words. You can divide it any way you choose, but if your query letter is too brief, there's a chance I won't even read your pages. The word count will be observed carefully but not cruelly. If you clock in at 751 I won't disqualify you; 800 however, yes. YOU are responsible for your word count. I use MS Word to count.

Entries must be sent in the body of the email. No attachments. Subject line: 3rd Irregular Crapometer Entry (or something similar enough that I know how to classify it)

Entries will be acknowledged and given a number in a return email. Hang on to that number, it's how you will be selected and posted on the blog.

I will do 100 entries. By "do" I mean I will read 100 entries in the same way I read my slush pile. I will post the entry and my comments. Several entries will be chosen for "partials" which in this case will mean a further 750 words or so. ONLY those selected will get more than the "slush pile review".

I fully expect we'll get more than 100 entries. To accommodate time zones, we will limit it to a 12 hour open period. I will give you advance notice. It will be at the end of August. Early and late entries are disqualified.

We will choose 100 from the incoming pile by some random number generator method, the details of which are in the hands of Card Shark Snarque and his devoted poodle Hope Springs.
His decision is not up for review or second guessing.

I STRONGLY urge you to take out all the italic and bold you use. I beg you to take out all the auto formatting you use. Fixing those just ate up time.

Cover letters must include "Dear Miss Snark" and some sort of closing: "love and kisses", "cheers", "you stink" something. You don't have to sign your name.

Your first page should be the first page you send with your query. If you haven't learned how much I hate prologues and epigraphs before this, well, you will now.

For the sake of the exercise, I will NOT auto strike any entries for "I don't take stuff in this genre". However, just a reminder: I'm clue free about SFF and most of romance.

Any questions?

Crapometer!-UPDATED

Well, we're closing in on the Crapometer. Last seen riding the roller coaster at Coney Island screaming "I was robbed! I was robbed" (shortly after seeing the results of this ) NYPD has dispatched the canine unit and the beach patrol to track it down, leash it and stuff it on the F train back to the 212.

Now comes the question: What do you want the crapometer to crunch?

Cover letters?
First pages?
Synopsis?
Something else?

There was an abundance of entries last time. Reality has intervened and there is going to be a limit on how many will get read and posted. Rather than just telling you, I'm asking for your ideas on how to make it open to people across 24 time zones fairly and how to choose or limit the entries.

Have at it!

Email is fine,
comment column is fine.
Skywriting at Coney Island, also fine.



UPDATE: i've got it figured out. Your comments were very helpful. More to come

Comments on this are now closed

Paid critique sites

Your Snarkiness,

Any thoughts on the critique site thenextbigwriter.com? If you submit something on here, will it hurt your chances of getting published by a real publishing house? Is there real potential to get valuable feedback from others, or should I put my energies to better use?


What you do to get your ms in shape to go out in the world is your business. I do NOT want to hear what you did to prune, fluff, fold, or polish the thing. Much like I don't want to see Miss America getting ready for the swimsuit contest.

If you elect to join one of these PAID critique circles, have at it. Don't tell me when you query. I'm certainly not going to ask you.

Whether it's valuable is too subjective to know. The reviewers listed looked like they know how to write given they have pub credits.

I'll bet there's a thread over at Absolute Write on this, or things like it.

MySpace, LJ, blogs, links-signatures

Take a quick look at your email signature.
Got a link?
Is it to your blog or your website?
If it is to your website, which page?
Is it the first thing you want ME to see?

If it's to your blog, do you really want me to see your post on panic that you can't write worth shit?

Clean up your act when you go out in the world electronically.
You're not limited to one email account, and you can change signatures.

If you put a link on your signature, and I'm sitting here on hold with Verizon, or watching KY tap dance with sunbeams, I may very well click it.

Do NOT shoot yourself in the font by showing me your inner most anxieties.

More on PR cause y'all are fretting again

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm an as yet unpublished writer and your blog has been wonderfully eye-opening for me. When I was reading "No Tipping" about book promotion, you said that agents expect authors to do lots of pr, including traveling, which I'm aware of. But I, as a full-time college student with three years of school left to go, can't easily leave for longer than two or three days. Since I would more or less be limited to local events or things like email and websites to promote my book, would that be a deterrant to an agent when deciding to represent me or not?


Most pr is done locally, and a lot of it is by phone or electrons. Massive, weeks-long book tours are not the norm. Yes, they happen, but most first time novelists don't do them. If they do, they're set up around your schedule. There's a clause in your contract that says so.

I don't expect clients to disrupt their lives to the point of death/divorce/flunking out. I just want them to be eager to do the things they can, and be WILLING to do the things I know need to be done. The can-do attitude is what I'm looking for.

Don't worry. Write.

8.20.2006

Wee Queries

Here's the deal. I'm a snot nosed (26) nobody fantasy writer. My absolute number one desired agent's assistant requested three sample chapters a little less than a month ago. I sent three chapters (1, 21, 32. I know what you're thinking, but they let me. And those are three freakin' cool chapters). After two sniveling follow up emails I received this from the assistant.



Dear Mr. SnotBoogie, **

Your work is with Miss Snark at the moment. She is off on holiday for the next two weeks but we will be in touch with you on her return, if it is ok with you. She has got a lot of reading to get through - I am sorry to make you wait so long and thank you for your patience.



Best wishes,

Killer Yapp



When Killer first requested chapters, she said "we"will look at it if you send it to "us." So here's my question, should I assume that I have made some progress? Did I only make it to the mega agent because her assistant read the chapters and passed it on? And if I am at a stage beyond the initial screener, what are my odds at this point?


Not good if you keep nagging her.
The fact you sent two (and I quote here) "sniveling follow up emails" in less than a month would put you straight in the not quite right for me stack of recycling. Lay off.

Now, as to "we". We agents, and that means everyone in the office including the rubber plant speak in the royal we. It also tends to be a girl thing. (no feminist emails PLEASE--I didn't say I think it's a sign of nitwittery, it's just an observation). It doesn't mean a thing. Don't try and read "we leaves" to see where you are in the pack.

Right now you need to quit focusing on your dream agent and get cracking on more query letters. You might be surprised how fun it is to have more than one person thinking you're WEally Wonderfull.

And Killer Yapp doesn't read the slush. He guards the Rolodex.





**SnotBoogie is homage to David Simon. David Simon is a god. If you don't know his work, you are missing out on the best work in TV. (You can also get it on NetFlix)

Mini-ha ha

Dear Miss Snark:

I have an agent -- a swell fellow who recently sold my first YA novel. I've been working on a few other projects, and recently completed a story that crossed the finish line at 12,000 words. Way too short for a novel, or even a novella, and too long for most short story markets, which of course pay abysmally anyway. Is there any point whatsoever in sending this new work to my agent? Would you want to see such a story if it was written by one of your clients? Or do
you want to stick only to those things that are truly salable?

Thanks very much.


Once you are my client, I want to hear about pretty much everything. In this case, traditonal outlets aren't going to work, but you never know when some clever editor will say "we're putting together a triptych of three authors and we need a 12,000 word piece by next Tuesday." Or, more likely, your agent will combine your 12,000 word Mini with other pieces from clients Alice Cooper and Steve Ausin and next thing you know: Austin Mini Cooper is born and it creates a whole new trend.

Agents are looking for ways to make money. We like grist for the mill. Grind on.

Geezer Lit

Dear Miss Snark,

Yesterday, I read on an agent's blog (not one of your listed friends) that no one wants to publish a first novel by a 70+ year old because even if the publishers would want more books from that author, they would not want to risk waiting until he/she reaches the age of 80. Thus, she implied she would not handle anything by a senior citizen. Is youth only now an unwritten criterion for acceptable first novels among many agents and publishers now?

As if young writers do not suddenly drop dead or lose the spark.

Tell me it ain't so.



Sorry, it's true.

It's even true here. One of the things I look for is whether a novelist will be a good investment ie will s/he be earning for a number of years to come.

I don't ask people's ages, and if I truly loved a book I'd take it but yes, I'm sorry to say, it's a consideration.

Yes, I know it's unfair. That doesn't mean it's not how the world works.

Yes, I know young writers drop dead unexpectedly but the key word there is unexpectedly. If you are 70 I hope you'll have many more happy and productive years. Actuaries tell us "many" will be about 12. At 35, "many" is 50. All things being equal, knowing you can't read the future, which would you choose?

None of that means you shouldn't write, shouldn't query, and shouldn't work toward your goal. The fact that it's harder for you doesn't mean you give up. If you're 70, you learned that lesson a long time ago, right?






Geezer Lit defined here

Penny Ante shenanigans

Miss Snark,

I am a successful Wardrobe Consultant. Along with my private clients, I have written fashion articles for various FL publications.

I came up with an idea to write a series of fashion books. Agent X liked my query letter and asked for a proposal. I used Michael Larson's "How to Write a Book Proposal as a guide."

I recently rec'd it back with edits and suggestions. Mostly my writing was not critiqued - just the proposal structure. After speaking with Agent X; the agent interested, she said she is still interested but wants my proposal to follow their own guidelines. She said she's not a fan of Michael Larson. For $30 they will send me a copy of a proposal they sold. She said if she wasn't interested, she wouldn't have taken the time to ask for the proposal and taken the time to speak to me. What is your opinion?


$30 huh?
What a crock of shit.

Agents who ask you to buy things aren't agents. They are retailers.
There's a big difference.

No tipping

Dear Master Snarkitect of Career Edifices:

Evil Editor snarqued (no TM) a line in my query about building a platform to sell my novel. I was thinking of "have a web site, newsletter; do public/school appearances, interviews; hand out bookmarks, covers, business cards; have a presence in non-traditional sales outlets," and etc. Snarkeological evidence reveals that I meant "promotion." EE's critique marooned me in the Snarktic circle of query language.

I wanted to express, "I will not sit and await checks. I am your promot-inator. I do not feel pain or pity or remorse. Program me and I will not stop until Sarah Connor knows my title."

Has your Tipping Point ever moved toward a good expression of "willing to promote" in a query, or are such statements begging for a swift spray of Snarkicide?

-shivering until returned to the sunny Snarkipelago


Ahoy there sailor on the wine-dark sea!

It's the other way around.

I presume you're going to do all that. That presumption remains in place right up until you shoot yourself in the Odysseus by saying something REALLY stupid like "what? I have to leave home?".

It's one of the questions I ask before I sign you up here at Snark Central. You don't have to know how to do it; you don't have to have a website in place yet, but when I say "you know you'll need to be out supporting this in a variety of ways", you're not allowed to scream, grasp your breast in agony, and faint dead away.

Chances are if you're a first time novelist, you don't know much about promotion. That's ok. I know a GREAT coach in Denver who, when not reading 84 poems on this blog, is teaching authors how to get attention; and, I'll work with you to get stuff in place. You have to be willing, and by willing I don't mean complaining about it, dragging your heels or in any way shape or form expressing anything but utter delight in the joys of pr.

You can address this in your query letter by saying "I know authors have to be a big part of the promotional effort on a novel, and of course I'm ready to step up to the plate and hit this one into the grandstands. Babe Ruth, stand back".