4.13.2007

Soup and nuts

Dear Miss Snark,

I’m in the process of writing a celebrity soup-and-stew cookbook. It will feature the favorite recipes of many big time stars. For example, it will have recipes for Groucho gazpacho, Red Buttons red bean, Chuck Norris chicken noodle, and Robert Goulet goulash.

I need one more soup recipe to finish out the cookbook. Since you’re such a humongous superstar, it would be swell if you’d contribute a recipe for any of the following soups:

- Snark snert (as you no doubt already know, snert is also called erwtensoep, and is a split-pea Dutch soup).
- MissSnark MineStrone.
- Snark shark fin.

Would you be willing to share one of your yummy-in-the-tummy soup recipes?



Sure no problem! In fact here is the recipe for all three!

Ingredients: one phone, one Andrew Jackson, one dog.

Dial phone.
Answer door
Surrender Mr. Jackson.
Divide into bowls.
Give one to dog.
Enjoy the other.



You are a newcomer to this blog if you think Miss Snark uses that room with the locking white cupboard for anything other than storage.

Kurt Vonnegut obit

In the words of the snarkling who sent this link to me: the perfect obit

Cats with valets

Guess who Killer Yapp is voting for?

Thanks to Kristal for the linkage

Snakes in the rain on a plane in NY terrain

An agent just asked for my first 30 pages--yay! I sent them as soon as I got the message, exactly as he asked for them--yay! Only problem: my internet connection is dodgy, and sometimes it will show in my email program that the message sent, but it didn't really send. It's rare, but it has happened twice. I didn't send a receipt confirmation with the e-mail--I'm not that much of a nitwit, but how soon is too soon to check if he got the pages? I'm not trying to rush him or anything--just want to make sure he actually got the e-mail.

THANK YOU for all your help and advice!


Y'all revert to this amazingly insane "what if" motif when you start querying. Like a kid at the zoo who asks "what if the snakes escape and eat me". The answer "that won't happen" isn't reassuring cause the kid doesn't have enough life experience to know snakes won't eat you even if they do manage to tunnel through plate glass in a split second.

You yourself know the chances your email didn't arrive are remote.

You are obsessing cause you are excited and care a lot about this.
You'll drop dead of cardiac arrest if you don't manage your adrenal flow.

Take a deep breath.
Look at the CALENDAR.
Count 30 days forward.
If you haven't heard back in 30 days you send an email.
If he didn't get it, he'll ask for it again.

Word to the wise: an email asking "did you get it" is a HUGE red flag for people I don't want to work with. Sit on your hands, climb Mt. Everest, get a grip, do what it takes but please be cool.

4.12.2007

Pre-nitwittery questions (ha)

Dr. Miss Snark,

I've got a finished novel, I've queried agents, I've sent out partials and fulls. I've had all the usual ups and downs that go with querying and submitting, and I've got a couple of agents who seem interested in representing my novel. If one of them does take me on, I want to avoid auditioning for the nitwit of the day award, so I thought I'd be a nitwit here instead of in front of someone who I hope to have a long term business relationship with.

So, if you don't mind, I'd like to as a couple of questions.

1). If an agent takes me on, I have a few ideas about publishers which might be good markets for my work. Is it appropriate for me to say to my new agent "You know, I think we should start with Editor A at Publisher X and Editor B at Publisher Y, because they're bought stuff similar to mine in the past," or should I just keep my mouth shut and let my agent get on with it?

2). When agents are submitting work to publishers, are they stuck with the "No simultaneous submissions" rule like us lowly mortals, or can they send work to multiple publishing houses at once?


1. Ask your agent if she wants your ideas. I don't, mostly. Mostly it means I have to explain why a publisher is wrong for your work. I'd rather focus on selling it to the ones who are right.

2. When we send things to one editor it's called a red hot exclusive and they have about 48 hours to read it. We ALWAYS send things to more than one house. It's really hard to build up buzz and get an auction going if you're going one at a time.

Yes, yes we have a nitwit!

Dear Miss Snark

Firstly, I am fragile today as my boiler has broken down, so please be gentle. (Miss Snark sees your vulnerability. It doesn't stop her from skewering you of course, but she sees it)

My question is this; I had a short story published in an anthology, and was spotted by an agent from a BIG literary agency. She took me out to lunch, asked to see more work which has taken me 5 months to complete because of The Sims.

I have finally sent 3 chapters of a new project she wanted to see,and she said she would read it over the weekend - she is very very very good with communication normally. It's been 5 days minus the weekend. She must have read it. Whats taking all the extra time? Since we have a sortof relationship, does that mean I shouldn't worry too much about the delay? Do other people at the agency need to read it to? Do they need to leave it to stew on a cooker for a while before letting me know what they think?

I know you normally say 30 days min but I do have a relationship with her right? Do you take this long responding to clients? She did say she'd read it over
the weekend? Am I just stressing? *Munches cheese and onion crisps*

I love your blog by the way. (we'll see about that my pretty)



Ok, let's review some facts here:
it took you five months to write three chapters.
She's had the three chapters for five days and you're wondering if you should call her?
Have you lost your fucking mind?

DO NOT FUCK THIS UP.

You have the interest and attention of someone who likes your work well enough to call you up, ask for it, and sit around waiting for you to tweak your commas for five months without calling you up and harrassing you. Look, she's got a mortgage to pay and a dog to feed. You think the dog eats leftovers??

DO NOT CALL HER.
Do not write to her.
Do not think about her.

And in case you're wondering there's this little thing called the London Book Fair coming up. And taxes are due. And the new Greek and Roman galleries are opening at the Met. We're busy here. Go work on chapter four.

Don't f/ing ask me about this stuff!!!!!

Most beloved Miss Snark -

Hamline summer writer's conference - worth it?

Do you know generally of a resource that sheds light on which "conferences" are, generally speaking, "worth it?"


Here's the thing: you shouldn't even consider my opinion of a writing conference. Miss Snark is famously misanthropic, and crabby about leaving the 212. The best thing about any writing conference is whether I can get there on the subway. That doesn't mean a thing to you.

What you need from a conference is something only YOU can answer. Do you want to meet agents? Look for a roster with agents and agent appointments. Do you want to work on craft? Look for a conference that offers craft classes.

Look at how much you'll spend and only spend what you can afford. A writing conference is NOT a magic bullet that is going to suddenly elevate you to "represented and sold".

This underscores one of the things you're going to hear me ranting about for a long time to come: choose your advice givers with care. I know a lot about what gets you dinged from my slush pile, but I'm really not the best person to ask about craft. I am not a writer. Likewise, the last person on earth to advise you about how agents work is anyone who is not an agent, or who has not worked as an agent. I am really sick and tired of authors who go around talking about what agents and editors want cause they are almost always full of crap. Well intentioned crap but crap. They're repeating what they've heard, or what they experienced. It's second hand, it's not up to date, and it's frequently WRONG. I read that advice and I want to burn down the site.

Thus, when you want to find out how a conference works, ask writers who've been there. My guess is some of the folks on the writer list servs keep threads on conferences. Absolute Write is a good place to start. There will probably be some worthwhile comments in the comment line here.

I appreciate the vote of confidence but Miss Snark does NOT see conferences from your point of view. If she did, she'd probably be nicer to you.

Sic transit manuscripts

MS,

Six months ago, I sent a query to an editorial assistant I had met at a conference. She responded in record time and indicated that she would be delighted to read my full manuscript, and that I could probably expect a reply to it in two months. I sent it off immediately and haven't heard since. Here's the tricky part. Normally I would just send a quick note to the editorial assistant asking about the status of the ms, but she left the publisher about a month after I sent the ms. I have no idea to whom her active mss would have been transferred, and I don't know the names of anyone else at the publisher except the VP. What do I do?


Forget about it, it's toast.

Start over.
This happens.
If you need to feel better, count yourself lucky you're "only at the reading stage". I've had projects ready for offers and the editor has decamped for greener pastures leaving us standing out in left field wondering what the hell asteroid just bounced on our heads.

mail issues

I have no idea why but my mail is screwed up.
Killer Yapp will be interning in the mail room.

Address all mail to him at gmail.

You have to spell his name right.

If you emailed me last week and did NOT get a reply, you might fire off a second missive.

God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut has died.

4.11.2007

Urban Fantasy

Dear Miss Snark,

As an aside, I was watching a television show (Dead Like Me) yesterday and one of the characters was killed by a stiletto heel flying into their forehead. It reminded me of you. (Miss Snark's shoes are registered with NYPD as lethal weapons)

But more properly, I have a question for you regarding genre. I write novels set in ordinary settings but extraordinary elements. I think this is called urban fantasy, based on what I read at this blog. (which is not mine, though I wish I'd come up with the phrase "elf-shagging.") Furthermore, I've been digging through internet articles and have read a couple from editors who say that this sort of blend of young adult/ children's fiction with fantasy is very popular right now.

So here's the question (finally, thinks Miss Snark as she motions for KY to bring the gin pail closer). As I'm mowing through stacks of publishers and agents that say "absolutely no fantasy," does that mean me? I have not so much has let my pen scribble their names onto my list of "to query" up to this point. And I may quibble, but I think my novels (which I think would be better called "supernatural" fiction . . . or something) bear no resemblance to the high fantasy trilogy and quintuplets and endless series to which these listings refer.

Is the cluegun now pointing at me with a flag saying "Follow the rules" poking out of the barrel?



Miss Snark does not claim to know anything about urban fantasy. Her idea of a good urban fantasy involves Mr. Clooney and Venice.

However Miss Snark is clever enough to know Miss Rachel Vater who does indeed know a thing or two about urban fantasy. Miss Snark sent Killer Yapp over with an engraved invite to "be Miss Snark". Herewith:



Are you actually querying publishers and agents at the same time? Stop it.
Focus on agents.

"Novels set in ordinary settings but extraordinary elements" could mean almost anything, even literary fiction like THE LOVELY BONES or THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE. Then there are paranormal thrillers (Heather Graham), romance novels (Sherrilyn Kenyon's DARK HUNTER series), and chick lit (Annette Blair's KITCHEN WITCH books). And yes, there's urban fantasy (Jim Butcher's DRESDEN FILES series.) To clarify what is meant by urban fantasy: there's usually a mystery or suspense element, usually a touch of romance, usually in a setting that's similar to our own modern cities in all their urban grittiness, and there's a pretty strong element of fantasy (vampires, magic, ghosts, werewolves, whatever) that's taken for granted as being part of that world.

Read some samples and figure out where your book would be shelved. If the agent handles other things in that genre, shoot 'em a query. The worst thing that can happen is you'll get a form rejection or no response. They will not put a number on your head or burn your house down out of spite if you send them a query outside of what they handle. They will probably not even bother to scrawl on your rejection letter, "What part of absolutely no fantasy don't you get, you time waster?!"

If you want to spare your ego the uncertainty, do a little research on the books those agents have handled and see if any have a spark of magic in them. What you're trying to do in sending out a query is to target agents most likely to be interested. You shouldn't have to send out 300 query letters to do that. So why focus on those who sound as though they wouldn't be interested? (How many agents are actually saying "absolutely no fantasy" anyway? If they're that adamant about it, why would you want an agent who doesn't like fantasy if you have a touch of fantasy in yours?) Choose agents who've handled and sold books you liked reading that had a similar style to yours, and write the strongest query you can. If you've got a good hook, you're most likely to get requests from those agents. If you're running out of agents to query and getting nothing but form rejections from everyone, then go revise your novel or your pitch and try again. If you've already done that, write your next novel, make it even better, and try your favorite agents again.

Miss Snark's New Motto

"Who the fuck are you?"
"Who am I? I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy."

from The Departed,
Mark Wahlberg's character,
a guy I like very very very much

Why Don Imus is a nitwit

It's not cause he called the women on the Rutgers basketball team garden implements.
oh wait, he meant whores not hoes?
well, ok, not quite as dirty as a hoe in the spring mulch but still not a good or accurate term, and one that most people know is offensive.

Ok,
whatever.

Don Imus is an idiot cause he can't keep his mouth shut.

We've all said insanely stupid and hurtful things.
Some of us have done it today.

The tricky part is what you do NEXT.

You say something like "oh my fucking dog I can't believe what fell out of my foolish mouth. I'm sorry."

Then you STOP.

You don't go parading around mea culping.
You particularly don't go around saying "you people"...what fool doesn't know THAT is incendiary language anyway??

You don't meet with people asking forgiveness to show "you're not a racist". You don't trot out your good works as evidence of good character. If you have to do that, you've lost the battle.

Don Imus is going to lose his job cause he can't keep his mouth shut.
He helped promote a lot of books so I'm sorry to see him go, and dog knows we've all said worse (and don't write to me telling me you've never said anything vulgar or hurtful cause you have, and if you don't know what it was you are as clueless as he is) but some of us have learned how to shut up, and grow up.

Hold your pants on bub

As this nitwit reads your e-mail rules, some of the crap gets the "you've been deleted, nitwit" reply. Other crap, e.g. spam and stupid questions like this one, are simply deleted without any reply. So, there's a category of e-mail that receives no reply whatsoever. Am I reading correctly?

If so, how long should I wait to know that my other stupid question -- about using actual business names in my novel -- was too stupid for even a canned reply?




A couple people have made comments about getting hosed or deleted from the Snarkly email.

Here's a review:

1. If I post the answer to your question I send you an email that says "your answer is up on the blog, thanks for writing, MS". I try to send it before I post it but sometimes I miss.

2. If I'm not going to answer your email on the blog, but it's info I was interested in, or is otherwise useful, I do try to respond.

3. If I delete your email in a spring cleaning, you get a form email.

4. Emails I do not respond to: anything you're sending to a list ( if I'm cc'd, it's not getting an answer); emails asking me to post a link to your blog; emails asking me to do something for you like review a book; emails from anyone on the wrong side of the etiquette line; emails from people who've asked three versions of the same question and are starting to annoy me.


However: just cause you write to me on Tuesday doesn't mean I answer it on Tuesday. Or even if you write to me in March, you get a reply in March.

I'm not going to start sending emails saying I got your email. Enough is enough.

4.10.2007

That Attack!

So I finished my novel and tucked it away in a lightly trafficked part of my hard drive. I come back a month later and I discover that somebody has been sneaking onto my computer, opening my files, and putting "that"s in the most extraneous, unneccessary places. I mean whoever did it just went hog wild. I had to root them out like I was pest control. Do you or does anybody in the devotion know anything about that?


nefarious little thatgnats aren't they?
Fortunately KY earns cigar and swill money by copyediting my cover letters. He's vanquished many an attack of the thats.
I'd offer his services but I want him to cut back on the hooch.

Starting the clock watching on partials


I e-queried an agent and received a response right away, saying that he "absolutely loved" the sound of my query and would like to see a partial. I immediately sent it out and have since been trying to be patient. The agency's website does not specify response times, nor does any information I've found on the agent reference a window of response time. It has been about 2 1/2 weeks so far; what is a standard waiting period on a partial? Can I expect to get a response either way, or after a certain amount of time is it understood that an agent is not interested in pursuing anything further?


30 days MINIMUM on a partial and you can't start sending nudging emails till 60 days.
This is why Dog invented "second novels" (ie you start writing yours), art museums (go look at some art that isn't your form) and the Rutgers Basketball Team (get involved in something captivating that isn't about you or your book).

If you don't hear in 60 days, you can send a polite email.
If you don't hear in 6 months, assume no.

Under NO circumstances do you treat this as an exclusive and put all your hopes on one agent. You keep sending queries. LOTS of them.

Sic transit slush

Dear Miss Snark,

I just found out that an agent I sent a query to last week has just moved to a new agency. What happens to the queries in her slush pile? Do they move with the agent, stay with the original agency, or simply discarded?

Here's my guess on what I should do: wait three months; if I get no response, query the agent at their new agency. Am I right?

It doesn't matter what they do with those queries. You resend yours to the agent at her new home. Even if she packed up her entire slush pile and bicycled it over in a pedicab, it's still in a box someplace. Your fresh new letter, crisply addressed to the bright shining new job will be on her desk. It makes you look briskly efficient too.

Memoir

Miss Snark,
My submission for nitwittery follows:

I am moving towards completion of what I can only describe as a humorous memoir, and as I begin girding myself for the query process I keep stumbling over the question of what to submit.

My problem is, the darned memoir reads like fiction, not a traditional non-fiction work, and a submission of several chapters will present it a lot more effectively than a non-fiction proposal. It’s really more like narrative fiction. Are you going to slap me around and tell me to shut up and send a proposal? If so, is there any resource that deals with constructing a proposal for a memoir? The genre seems to be largely ignored in the “how to query” resources I have seen.

Also, while you’re slapping….in the event that one were to receive a request for, say, three sample chapters of whatever they are pitching, is there a convention on the chronology of chapters that you send? First three? First, middle, end?


Memoir is non-fiction, but it's acquired like a novel. That is, on chapters not a proposal. You'll write a cover letter and include sample pages using the agent's instructions for fiction writers. Don't just send three chapters to everyone cause the not-so-subliminal message there is "sent by a nitwit".

As for order: 1, 2, 3. If you send 1 and anything other than 2 I stop at 1.

Group appointments at conferences

Homage to Miss. Snark and her fearless K-9 Killer

An author with several books in print but no agent, (Not self published) I've signed up for a “Group Appointment” offered by a wonderful agency at a smallish Readers and Writers event. I have no idea what a group appointment is. Or what those attending should or should not bring. Could you explain? Would it be unforgivable Nitwit behavior to email the agent and ask?
Perplexed and suspects idiot move if left to own devises



Every agent runs group appointments their own way. I don't ask for pitching cause it's just too dreadful to humiliate an author by asking them to pitch in front of total strangers.

I use the time to answer questions. Some people will ask 'do you want to read my work' and I always ask them to query. Even if they aren't mortified by asking to pitch in a group, the OTHER people will be uncomfortable and it's not in my best interest to have people associate meeting me with "not fun".

Do NOT email the agent to ask. I wait till the actual conference to see what people want and it depends on the makeup and size of the group.

Just attend. Prepare some questions for the agent. Be prepared to talk about your work persuasively in case the agent does want to hear a pitch.

There's a lot in the Snarkives about conferences, dive in.

Your library card as therapy

Does a novel have any hope of getting published if it doesn't conform to any established genre? It seems every writer has a choice. They can write genre fiction that conforms to all the genre's rules and get published (provided it's competently written,) or they can write something original and maybe get discovered hundreds of years after their death. Tell me I'm wrong.

Sure, it seems that you can "add a new twist" to a style that already exists, attempt to breathe new life into it, and still fall within the horizon of expectation that people have, but what if I wanted to do everything differently? Is there hope?

Not that I'm any kind of accomplished writer or anything, but the idea of writing yet another goddamn story about magic fucking elves (or the like) makes my gums itch.


You're wrong.
Here, have a lozenge.

For proof just look at the work of JS Foer; Michael Chabon; Marjane Satrapi; and William Vollman. If you are unfamiliar with these names, your librarian is not. Hie thee there at once and get a grip on your grumpiness. It's turning your whine into vinegar.

Offer in hand

I know that if you are offered a contract by a publisher, then you can start calling agents and asking for representation. I also know that the publisher had better not be something that is beneath an agent's notice. I was wondering where the line is drawn, particularly in the case of university presses. Are all university presses beneath an agent's notice? Are the big ones, those that publish 100 books or more per year, treated the same as regular publishers?

Or do you look at the size of the advance and decide whether an agent would think it worthwhile based solely on that, regardless of whether you are dealing with a university press or some other type of publisher? And, if that is how you figure it, then how big does that advance need to be? I don't want to make a pest of myself by calling agents if agents wouldn't be interested anyway.

P.S. I'm talking about this situation when it involves trade books, not scholarly monographs, because I know that scholarly monographs don't pay beans even with the big guys.


First, don't call. Email.

Second, there's no hard and fast rule on how big a deal you need before an agent will take you on. I've done big deals like this, and small ones. It mostly depended on the project and whether I thought the author was a good investment.

You're not making a pest of yourself if you email to ask if they are interested in this deal.

You're not a begger at the banquet of publishing, come hat in hand asking for a favor. This is my business; now it's yours too. You have something of value, I offer a service. The negotiation is about whether it's a good match, not whether you or your offer are beneath anyone's notice.

I know it sounds like agents think of themselves as all high and mighty (don't call! don't drop in! don't speak before noon! Include an SASE!) but I assure you it's primarily a management tool to keep the cluefree from clogging our day planners. Act like a professional, expect to be treated as a pro, and it's all good.

And if an agent doesn't bite, email me again and I'll give you the name of a contract review specialist who will help you negotiate the contract so you don't sign away rights to your first sprung loinfruit.

I'm an agent not an archeologist

I sent you a big ass email a couple months ago, which must have been deleted when you did your spring cleaning. I'll try to condense it this time. (everyone got a form email if they got deleted, just fyi)

I already have a nonfiction book, published by a now-out-of-business publisher in 2002. I have my rights back. 20,000 copies were printed, of which 10,000 sold. The remaining 10,000 are settling into a new home (small genre publisher) who will store/market/distribute/sell
them.

I did not have a need for an agent before. However, if I want to keep this book alive (with a new publisher), and maybe write another one or two or three, I am going to need an agent now.

What kind of a query do I send when I am not sure what exactly it is that I am wanting to sell?


None.
Agents are not mind readers.
You need to be clear what you want and then write a cogent letter explaining it.

All the agents who talk about helping an author plan a career, and giving career guidance are talking about what happens AFTER they read a query letter and take on a project, not the first step.

Yet another reason to query widely

Miss Snark,

I received an odd rejection letter the other day. Two handwritten notes from the agent on my query letter. The first one noted that most fantasy publishers are not willing to look at manuscripts over 100,000 words for first time authors. (mine is a little over 130k) The second said that if I could get a "rave review quote" from a published fantasy author who had read my book in its entirety the agent would consider reading my MS.

1) Is this an odd request?

2) How would one go about asking for a published author to read their work. The few authors I know in person I wouldn't ask because I've heard them talk about not reading MS for legal issues (a good practice in my mind). And it seems very presumptuous to ask someone you don't even know to read your MS for you.

1. yes
2. you're right: you don't.

Nothing makes me scream like a wounded water buffalo faster than some unpublished, AGENTLESS author without a book deal asking my client to read something. I try to respond politely but "wtf? and no!" are hard to phrase any other way.

Query other agents.

4.08.2007

I was young, I needed the money

What is the proper way to act toward an agent when a writer wants to tone down her publishing history rather than put a spotlight on it?

For example, let's say that I've published, ten years ago, a completely embarrassing book. Something that would put off most agents and publishers, such as a nonfiction book that is little more than propoganda for a cult that I've since left, or a novel that was meant to be a serious examination of the evils of child prostitution but ended up developing an unsavory reputation as erotica for pedophiles.

Obviously, mentioning a publishing credit like "Why the Self-Mutilation Cult is Actually a Great Thing" or "The Toddler Brothel" in a query is probably going to lead to an automatic rejection, but what I'm really wondering is when, if ever, should the subject come up between agent and writer?


I don't want to seem as if I'm lying by omission or trying to mislead an agent, but I also don't want to scare agents away. I want to delay the revelation as long as possible or even, if ettiquette permits, avoid it completely. Is an author expected to discuss her entire publishing history with an agent regardless? If so, at what point in the process of obtaining an agent should the subject come up? If my current book is of an entirely different genre than the embarrassing book, is my publishing history so irrelevant and old that it is not necessary to bring it up? An agent is not going to realize that the embarrassing book is linked to me as soon as they google my name, because I've since changed my name (yes, the book was that embarrassing). So, unless I tell them, they might not realize for a long time. I'm torn because I don't want to seem like a liar or harm the trust that should exist between an agent and writer, but I also don't want to have agents drop me as soon as I tell them (this has happened before at the stage where they request a partial).

Are there reasons having to do solely with publishing history that you would get rid of a writer that you otherwise would have gladly welcomed aboard Snark Central? Will I be forever haunted by this book, or is there a point at which it simply becomes too old and irrelevant to be considered as a black mark against me? Or am I being a nitwit and shooting myself in the foot by not mentioning it at the query stage?


This happens more than you think and for a variety of reasons.

You don't need to claim that old book, particularly not at the query stage.

IF it is something truly frightening that The Post is going to headline when you win the National Book Award, yea, you should tell me at some point before we sign you up, but it doesn't have anything to do with your writing, it's part of career management and we handle that kind of stuff ALL the time.

Don't worry. Write well.

Such a deal

Dear Miss Snark,

I’m a newly established freelance book/blog editor/reviewer. Here are the services I offer, and my price schedule:
- $100 – book/blog review with praise (but I won’t read anything).
- $200 – book/blog review with glowing praise (I still won’t read anything).
- $300 – book critique (includes 100 words of worthless, boilerplate comments).
- $400 – book critique (random passages circled in red ink, but no comments).
- $500 – book critique (meaningless comments sprinkled throughout ms).

My services may not be industry best practices, but hey, at least I’m up front about things.

But now I need customers. Since I know how gullible you are, here’s the deal: Post a link to my web site on your blog, and in return, I’ll give you a $100 blog review for free! What do you say?


well, I would of course, but you forgot the link.

Flaming hair-do time

Dear Miss Snark:

I wrote an unusual memoir in the voice of an elderly relative. The preface is written in my voice, which includes my own personal memories of the person who narrates the story. The subject's voice then begins with an introduction that follows the preface.

My question: when a literary agent asks for the first five pages, do I send the first five from the preface (the actual beginning) that is written in my voice or the first five written in the narrator's voice, which is the voice that is carried throughout the book but follows the preface?

My second question: would a literary agent who typically requests on their website that you include the first five pages be turned off by someone who sends twenty-five pages by snailmail? It is written on a subject that the agent is very interested in, and I figure that the first twenty-five will cover an example of both voices.
Thanks for your snarkly opinion.



1. Send the first five pages of chapter one, not the preface. Explain there is a preface in your cover letter.

2. What part of "follow the directions" doesn't apply to you? Alright then: five pages. Not 25.
If I want more, I'm pretty sure you'll be glad to tell me how to reach you and send it to me. If I don't like five, you've wasted paper and postage. FOLLOW THE DAMN DIRECTIONS.

3. Here's the answer to the question you didn't ask: if you write a memoir about someone else, it's not a memoir unless you're the ghost writer. It's biography or narrative non fiction.

speaking of oddball email requests

Hi Miss Snark,

I heard the 24/7 gin pail delivery was shut down in the New York area, so I hope you're coping well.

You occasionally post messages with the tag "Miss Snark is amused", which made me wonder. Do you and Killer Yap enjoy April Fool's Day? Has KY ever hidden your slush pile or did you ever pretend the cat of an agent friend would come to stay, requiring KY to share his bed or wherever he sleeps?

By the way, people at Wikipedia get the weirdest questions. Just now, I came across some oddball with the username Gclooney who was asking for your email address there.



Thankfully my email address is published in sixty gazillion places and any incoming email with the name "clooney" triggers a mail rule audio buzzer and flashing light when it arrives.

Killer Yapp is far too cerebral for practical jokes. He prefers puns. In Latin:
veni, vidi, video

I came,
I saw,
I cammed

Making Conversation with Agents at Conferences

What to say after you say hello:

1. What are you reading now that you love?

2. How did you get started agenting? Do you love it?

3. Is this your first time here (if it's not in NYC)
Do you have a place you like to tell everyone to see here in NYC?

4. What was your favorite book as a kid?

5. May I buy you a drink?



Things NOT to say:


1. What advice can you give me?
2. Are you having a good time?
3. You look tired.

4. Can I show you my manuscript/query letter/pages?
5. I know I'm not supposed to do/say this but....

6. Can I have lunch with you?
7. You rejected me but...

8. I sent you a query/email. Do you remember...
9. Remember me?

"hi, we're going to the same conference"

Dear Miss Snark,

I have an agent protocol question for you. I found out that an agent I'm interested in querying is attending a conference I am also attending. I'm not ready to send a query out just yet. However, I was wondering if it would be appropriate to email the agent a short note that basically says I noticed that she's attending the conference, that I've been following her work, and I hope I get a chance to say hello to her at the conference. That's it other than of course making the effort at the conference just to meet her in person and say hello.

Does this seem acceptable to you? Sorry if this is one of those nitwit questions, and as always thanks for snarkastic blog.




This is not a nitwit question. This is a good question. You will have to try harder for cluelessness.

Answer: no. Don't email ahead of time. DO say hello at a conference. Agents are people and we don't know ANYONE at those conferences usually. It's nice to have someone say hello. (Hello is not code for "will you read my pages" of course but you knew that).

The reason you don't email is this: run up to a conference is a very hectic week. I'm going to a conference soon and it's sucking up three days of my week. Three days when I'd normally be reading the mail, yapping with editors, and managing the chaos.

Knowing I'm going to be gone for three days, I'm hellbent to get this place down to a dull roar before I leave so I'm not eager for more email, even well intentioned nice email.

In addition, when most of us go to conferences we're serving on panels or teaching classes so we're getting ready for those plus getting our desks cleaned up.

I will not remember you sent it, and if I do, it won't be fondly. Not even if you include a picture of your dog.

But, I'll be very glad to see you at the conference so DO make that effort to introduce yourself.

When copying isn't a problem

I recently joined an online writing group geared toward novice writers, and have noticed a number of stories are much too similar to published works to be coincidental. They follow the same tone, the same plot, the same scenes, the same characters, often down to the letter, but no actual copying is being done.

I'm not an idiot. I know "sampling" happens a lot, in all types of media. Knock-off handbags, dresses, and jewelry happen in the fashion industry. Bands often play covers, or sample a melody from another artist. Television shows on competing networks sometimes follow the same high-concept idea. Even in publishing, you don't have to look far to find books that are loosely based on another book, movie, or TV show.

So why can't I get rid of this sour taste in my mouth?

Technically, it isn't plagiarism, because not enough is being copied verbatim, and copyright protection doesn't extend to ideas. But if someone approached you with a project that followed the outline of JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with the same precision a high-priced plastic surgeon would use on a boob job, would it matter that the protagonist's name was Henry Porter, or that it took place in Saskatchewan? Wouldn't it be the same—albeit lesser quality—book, just under a new name?

Being Satan's literary agent and all, I'm hoping you have some insight as to the ethical and moral aspects of this, since the legal holds little water. Is it just me? Am I being a nitwit for expecting people to, I don't know, come up with their own schtick? Or is the secret to writing well not to write well at all, but instead to copy those who do?


The key piece of info here is that this is a beginner online writing group. We ALL start out creating works that look and sound like our teachers: writers, composers, artists. This is the equivalent of plopping your tailfeathers on a campstool at the Loover in Paris France and doing the Mona Lisa. I myself shamelessly ripped off one of Mary Stewart's novels for an undergrad comp class at Satan's School for Literary Agents.

It's a learning device.

The problem is if you don't understand it's a learning device and you send it off to me. I'm not going to hang your Mona Lisa knock off on my wall and I'm not going to take your JK Rowling novel out of my slush pile.

For the purposes of learning though, there's a whole lot to be said for close study of masters of craft. I've often told aspiring novelists to pick a novel they truly love and analyze it very very closely as a writer, not a reader.

Much like the earlier post about Joshua Bell in the WDC metro: the people who paused were the ones who really KNEW music and violins. Studying something to learn it well is part of that process.

Miss Thing

I love Library Thing!
In case you aren't aware of what it is, there's a link on the blog sidematter listing all the books I've read (so far!) in 2007. I forget which of my beloved Snarklings turned me on to this but consider yourself thanked again.

I've just pulled myself out of Capote by Gerald Clarke and after 540 pages I'm forswearing gin and gossip. Talk about a cautionary tale.

I was adding Capote to my list and thought I'd sort the list by the column showing how many other LibraryThingsters shared a title.

Top three on my list that are on other people's lists:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Lovely Bones

no surprises there.

Here's the book that had 0 shares:

Dr. Dre: The Biography