Roseanne Rosannasnarkana

I miss Gilda Radner.
"It's always something"

to wit: What classic, this sux!

thanks to LRH for the link!

Crapometer Category Voting Results---it's about time Miss Snark got off her sorry slacker ...couch

Category: Most helpful synopsis (and 25 words or less about WHY)

#23 - when you say the synopsis is one of the best you've ever seen, thatsure as heck makes me want to emulate it!

#75 Gordath Wood: Your advice clarified what to leave in and what to leave out and provided an acceptable way to cut down the length of a synopsis.

Clear winner: “my own”

Category: Synopsis that made me want to read the book

Second place: #13
Winner in a total landslide: #58

Category: Synopsis that made you want to read a book in a category you normally wouldn't

Tied for Second place: #16, #58, #70

Winner in a squeaker: #57

Category: Most helpful comments

#94 "Even when you make stuff up, you have to get all the details just right so we’re focused on the things you want us to be thinking about, not wondering why something doesn’t make sense."

#23, for the comment 'It's ok to tell not show in a synopsis'.

#61 (You give a basic outline for a synopsis here.)

#98: "This is just plain excellent." The comment forced me to study the synopsis even though the story put me to sleep. And okay, the synopsis is excellent for the naturalness of its flow and for the way it shows how very, very well the story works while the story is putting me to sleep.

And the overwhleming winner: Multiple entries: Aliens have officially arrived!

Category: Best "coffee through the nose" comment (include synopsis number and comment)

Honorable Mention:

#14 "Fictional novel" is one of those phrases that makes me want to set my hair on fire.

#23 "Killer Yapp here: What happens to the victim of the dognapping?? Email me at once."

#28 "And why the hell is her name spelled Tiphanie."

#30 "No *69 on the demon dialer?"

#51 "Your prose looks like rococo furniture, no flourish left furled."

#60 "Yea, that's where I do my best criminal scheming: public parties."

#92 "Question: How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: Lobster. Question: Does the fact that this synopsis remind me of that joke bode well? Answer: no."

Batting cleanup, the winner is:

#93 "Yep, that's EXACTLY what I'd do in the hands of a serial scrubber--I'd argue with a guy about why he doesn't love me."

Jame Frey, dogpile, again

Man oh man.

This REALLy tests the adage "there's no such thing as bad publicity".

Does it matter if he made upmore stuff than TSG originally found?

Maybe not...last night on the train to Hipsterville, there was a Cute Young Thing reading a brand new fresh from the BN bag copy of MLP.

Profitable scams

And speaking of writer's magazines, I subscribe to one writing magazine which I think best answers my needs. Each month I receive offers from 10 to 20 (no hyperbole here) magazines or schools. It tells me that there is probably more money in scamming writers than in writing.

Let's run the math. I get 100 query letters a week. Figure the "susceptible to scam" rate is an arbitrary 10%. That means 10 people a week would probably pay me a reading fee if I said I'd read and critique their manuscript. Or enroll in a class. Or subscribe to my "tips sheet".

Figure I charge them $100. Ok, $1000 a WEEK, four weeks a month, 10 months a year. $40,000 to do nothing but tell people how smart I am.

Easy money huh!


Of course people do this. And the people who DO are the ones who AREN'T doing deals. They're too busy ripping you off to pitch books and follow up on movie rights. Cause that you know involves actual...work. Knowledge of the industry. Contacts.

Any fool with a copy machine and a postage meter can "review your manuscript". My question is, can they sell it?

Legitimate agents don't need you to pay your way. We sell your work, and earn a living doing so. We may have to work harder, but the perks are better.

Categorize this!

Can you say a word or two, Miss Snark, about the increased carving up of literary fiction into smaller genres. I've recently seen "soupcon de scifi," and "motorcycle fiction" and "hick lit" referred to in various writer's magazines.

I kinda like "hick lit". Would that be like Huckleberry Finn, ya think? Maybe Deliverence. Cause yanno, they gotta be called something catchy to separate them from all that other ...uh...lit.

This sounds like movie talk. Variety is famous for short descriptions of movie types. "Chix Pix Climb Stix" for date movies that are doing well in Dubuque kind of headline.

And I wouldn't pay much attention to writer's magazines as a source of information on the trade. In fact, I wouldn't pay much attention to them at all. Have you seen Lee Goldberg on the subject of Writers Digest.
I love that guy. He's exactly right.

Have I seen you here before?

Dear Miss Snark,

I am an unpublished unknown, but would rather not stay that way. I finished my first novel about two years ago and submitted my first round of queries to about a half dozen agents I thought were the best choices for my genre. One of those agents requested additional chapters but did not go on to ask for the manuscript. After more rejections I shelved the book for a time then spent about a year doing a thorough re-write, except for the first chapter which needed it less and is essentially unchanged.

I am ready to send out queries again and want to re-submit this to the agent who was interested before. Per his guidelines, the query will include only the first few pages of the mss. Question is this, which has less chance of failure: telling him I submitted this before and have re-written, or assuming he has read so much in the last two years that he won't remember reading it and then toss it without knowing the rest has been overhauled?

Thanks for any advise.

Always happy to apply the vise.

Tell him. If you DON'T tell him, and there's a vague bell going off that says "I've seen this before" you stand a pretty good shot at being thought NOT fresh and origianl cause of course "I've seen this before and didn't like it much then". This is particularly true since you haven't changed the first chapter much.

And you want to widen your pool of queries. 6 isn't anywhere near enough. 60 is a better number.

Wallet heavy? Need to clear out some cash?

A Snarkling discovers:

Perhaps I'm naive, or simply behind the times, or have faith in the essential goodness (or at least non-badness) of the human race, but I was unaware that a service like this existed:

Woo-hoo! Now you can query 350 literary agents, without even knowing which folks you've queried! Bookblaster? "LitSpam!" might have been a better name.

There are those who have suggested that e-queries are the wave of the future. Services like this seem to guarantee that almost any agent with any sense will soon be refusing to accept them.

I wondered why I was getting so many when every single place on the web that says "Miss Snark" says "no e-queries".

What I've done now is change my email address for all publicly posted sites. That way, the people whom I do invite to send me material get the address I will actually open and read; those that are "blasting" remain unheard--deleted unread.

There will always and forevermore be some snake oil salesman telling you there's an easier way to thinner thighs, getting a book deal, and charming the sox off Miss Snark. If you run the math it's clear what they really want to do is thin your wallet and pray Miss Snark doesn't notice. Too late.

New genres

Why can’t the major publishers just whip up a new genre?

If it is “creative non-fiction”, if it has a few lies around a nugget of truth, why can’t they just slap a new label on it?

The underground literary scene seems to have no problem breaking out of mainstream genres. Take for instance BIZARRO fiction. (I stumbled on this thanks to an Amazon.com list.)

It is just a bunch of authors and filmmakers who decided that THIS is what they do.

Why can’t the people with money and influence do this?

Cause major publishers sell their work through major bookstores who decide where books go on the shelves. You don't just start calling something "Snark Fiction" and send it out to Borders, Barnes and Nobel and Amazon. Not if you want it to sell.

The reason the underground folks can do it is cause they sell through less behemoth stores who are more nimble in their shelving practices, or directly to you online.

However, the Bigs may be slow but they eventually respond and when enough people say "hey, where's your Bizarro section", they'll get one. And what the hell is Bizarro fiction anyway? I clicked over to Amazon and found myself in the Superman section. Send me the link if you can find it again.

Miss Snark Stands Corrected....sort of

This, pulled from the comments trail on fact checkers

Miss Snark, I hate to contradict someone I so enjoy reading, but...While indeed there are no official fact checkers in book publishing, and while it is the stated position of every legal department in book publishing that publishers do not "fact check," indeed some form of fact checking is done on those books deemed to warrant backup. It's done on an ad hoc basis.
Sometimes it's an editorial decision; sometimes it's requested by authors themselves. A thorough fact checking is certainly not done on every book. I have, however, seen it done on fiction as well as nonfiction. To clarify: It is not fact checking of the type done by, say, The New Yorker, whose fact checkers call the subject of an interview and read back their quotes and ask for verification. Nor is it the kind of process that would have prevented, er, exaggerations from littering James Frey's book. As Nan Talese said on Larry King last night, no editor is going to ask an author: "Are you sure that really happened to you?" And no publisher-hired fact checker is going to dig around in someone's past to make sure he's telling the truth about his life. The kind of fact checking I'm talking about is done to avoid the embarrassment of publishing mistaken facts (i.e., names, place names, dates, etc.). Depending on the complexity of the work in question and the sensitivity of the project and the profile of the author, the fact checking can go pretty deep. It's done mostly to protect the author.

I stand corrected then. The interesting thing is this is the kind of editing I do on work I submit. Recently I sent in a historical novel set in the 30's. I scoured the book for anachronisms. I ended up researching some interesting things: the first radio police cars, how many digits in a phone number, and when Freud published in the US. I guess that is a form of fact checking.

For memoir though, gotta tell ya, I'm asking my clients to be prepared to cough up substantiation on things for awhile. I don't think it's going to be a change in industry standards about fact checking memoirs, but when The Smoking Gun comes calling, I want to have my mug shots ready. And of course, Killer Yapp's as well.

Boil this...really

I'm a writer, and I don't believe the language in this agreement is unfair at all.I would think the relationship between writer and agent would be one based on mutual faith -- the agent having faith in the writer's work and the writer having faith in the agent's ability to market that work to publishers to the best of the agent's ability.

I'm sure there must be hundreds (if not thousands) of great books that never sell despite genuine, valiant effforts made by agents. So, why should an agent not get some compensation for the time, energy, and cash spent even when, unfortunately, the market doesn't respond favorably to the writer's book? $150 really doesn't sound like a lot of money for an author to render up in exchange for all the photocopying, shipping and handling, phone calling, and emailing (and yes, emailing does cost money because most agents don't have free Internet access, unless of course they work out of the basement of their local library), among everything else the agent has to deal with.

Really, Miss Snark, how many manuscript submissions can you send out with $150 and still afford to stock your bar with quality gin? It's not like the agent who offered this contract is trying to rob the writer blind. Why does everybody in this world want everything for free???

If a writer has confidence in both his work and his agent, then forking over $150 isn't asking for a whole heck of a lot. In exchange, the writer should just ask for itemized expenses reported back to the author and proof of submission in the form of written responses about the writer's work from editors.

THIS is exactly why an agent should not charge writers for expenses unless the work is sold. First, it's not about the amount of money. $150, $15, $15000...it's all the same because authors do not pay agents. Get it?

And the idea that "why does everybody in this world want everything for free?" completely misses the point. Authors are willing to pay. Authors are beggging to pay. Authors WILL pay if you ask them. That's why you don't.

(And you'll be surprised how many times there is no "written response" to a submission. Phone calls are a norm when you're working on a hot submission.)

Agents are professionals. We assume some risk in this venture as you do.

And I can afford to send your work out till the cows come home becuase I MAKE MONEY. My agency makes money selling work. I get a percentage of that. Get it?

We make our money when we PERFORM, when we sell your work. Submissions are important but selling the work is what separates the sheep from the goats, or in this case professional agents from people who want to say they are agents but don't like doing the work.
This is an unbendable, unbreakable rule: DO NOT PAY AGENTS. Not reading fees, not expenses, not nothing.

Repeat after me:


Boil this!

Dear Miss Snark: Given how generous you have been with your advice, I hate to bother you with this, but I'm not sure how to approach it.

I have been offered representation by a reputable agency with a very well-liked agent. She emailed the contract to me to look over.

I have a file of things to look for in contracts. Most of it seemed fine. However, I remember your irritation with contracts that expect reimbursement of expenses.

This contract includes the following:

In addition to the aforementioned commissions, Agency shall be reimbursed for the expenses incurred on behalf of the Work (not to exceed a total of $150.00 without the written permission of the Author), including photocopying, messenger, cables, and overseas postage in connection with submission for sales both foreign and domestic, long-distance phone calls, copies of the published book when purchased by Agency for subsidiary rights submissions, and other similar and related charges.

Agency shall bill Author periodically for such expenses, or deduct same from funds received by Agency for the Author's account.

I have no problem asking her about this, but am not sure if this is standard boilerplate language since she said this was a standard contract.

Would you mind giving me your thoughts on this?

The missing clause is "after your work is sold and funds received".

Here's my clause on expenses:

The Snark Agency will bill you for postage, copying and other costs specifically related to the sale of the represented works. This cost will not exceed $300 without your consent. You will not be billed until your work is sold and payment received.

See the difference?

If they don't sell the work, do they expect you to pay expenses?
That's not ok.

Exclusivity Still Sux

You've probably heard this question before. But as a writer eager to upgrade to the title of "bona fide novelist" -while I still have some of my youth- I need to know what's the worst that could happen if I ignore an agent's request to exclusively submit my entire manuscript to them?

Well, when they find out, they throw your manuscript away without reading it.

Or maybe they never find out and they make an offer to you and become your agent, and you're signing your first deal at the bar, and you mention it, laughingly, and your agent's face slackens a bit when she finds out you think that was ok.

I am not a big fan of exclusives. I don't ask for them. I don't think you should send stuff on an exclusive basis for longer than two weeks TOPS on a partial, or a month TOPS on a novel.

That said, if you agree to send submit your work to an agent who asks for exclusivity, and you don't honor that, it says something about the kind of person you are. Is it the kind of thing you want said?
Your choice.

Room on the list?

Your Snarkiness, in passing you say, "I pass on really good stuff all the time, with a form letter even, if my list is full. "

Is it not true that no matter who you represent, how full your list may be or how high you are on the agent status pecking order, if you think you can sell it and you like it enough, there is always room for one more author?

My experience and thinking have been that even the biggest big-shots have room when they really like what is in front of them...they don't think, "I can sell this but oy! my list is oh so full so I better pass on it." But, if it doesn't sell well enough (either to an editor or after publication), big-shots are quicker to dump the author than an agent of lesser status, who may be more interested in nurturing the author along. Could you comment on all this?

First, I've learned the hard way that every time I fall in love with something, I better step back and have a slightly more objective eye. Things I think are the cat's pajamas may not be marketable. Let me be the first to say: I have weird personal taste. BUT there's a distinction between my personal (ie weird) taste and my professional taste.

And sadly, no, I won't take something if my list if full. The WORST calls in the world are from clients who have every right to expect you're working hard for them, and you haven't been cause you are overworked with something else. This happens. I hate it a LOT and have vowed to avoid that situation whenever possible.

It takes a LOT of work to get a project ready to pitch. It's not just sign the manuscript and send it out to three people you know are going to make offers. Usually all three of them pass for no logical reason whatsoever and you've got to find another dozen to send the thing out to.

People at larger agencies with minions at their beck and call may have more flexibility on this than I do but I'm the one answering the phone and slush pile,( not to mention keeping KY away from that bitch next door).

I have an aversion to clients calling me wondering how their work is going. I much prefer they are hearing from me with offers. Having too many projects means all of them get slighted and authors get unhappy. Let me mention again: I HATE THAT.

I don't know how fast anyone drops things that don't sell. I'm loathe to do it. Mostly it's clients who pull the plug first, not me. I'm always convinced the next day will bring good news. That's why I'm an agent, not a weather forecaster.

Miss Snark Is Ready for her closeup!

Miss Snark,

You read through 99 synopses, kept your sense of humor and gave every one the attention it deserved. You let the horrible ones writhe in peace, found something encouraging to say about the semi-horrible ones, and spotted all the hidden gems.

I wish there were a way to make a television show out of this, because it struck me as being very much like "American Idol" for the book-writing set. You would make a wonderful Simon Cowell. I wonder who would be the counterparts of Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson?

The other thing I wish is that you could follow up on the progress of the 99 brave writers. Please tell us in your blog if you hear about any of them getting book contracts! There are a couple of them whose novels I would run out and buy if they got published.

Ok, Snarklings, one and all! If you ran your stuff through any edition of the Crapometer- first page, cover letter, synopses-- and it got your work looked at, let us know!

We're waiting breathlessly!
And Miss Snark does like this idea of TV. The part of Miss Snark could be played by...Nora Desmond.

Before and After?

I had a quick question for you. Since running the crapometer for 1st pages, query letters, and synopses, have you run across any of the exact same submissions in "real life", where the person sent something through the crapometer and also to your agency?

If so, were there marked improvements in the quality of the submission after having run through the crapometer?

I've seen several queries at my agency from people who read this blog. Sadly I haven't been able to take any of them on as clients.

I don't know if I've seen before/after; my memory for queries is about 35 seconds.

I do think it would be an interesting study to see if it actually helps people. Perhaps some graduate student needing a thesis will come calling one day.

212 755 8000

Miss Snark was going to play hard to get in 2006 however, Mr. Clooney appears to be seeing the error of his ways.

Perhaps if I don't hear from him soon I can just follow the practices of the post below and assume the best... "Hello Tiffanys?"

(Mr. Clooney appears courtesy of the estimable Kitty, who owns stock in keyboard mfg companies I think)

Miss Fabulous, literary agent, brings news

A Colleague shares her email:

Dear Miss Snark,

I couldn't resist sharing this email exchange with you:

"Dear Miss Fabulous:

Thank you for reading my book (manuscript) and responding. As you don't feel that it is right, I am asking that you return TITLE by AUTHOR. You may use either FedEx or UPS COLLECT. The return address is: AUTHOR, ADDRESS, ADDRESS.

I was looking for a good agent and had hoped you would be it. I would not have sent you an unsolicated email if I had not made a statement in my original letter to the effect that if I didn't hear from you within a certain period of time, I would mail you a copy of my manuscript. I felt you were giving me an opportunity. Thank You for your time and for returning it.


To which I responded,


I'm afraid I've already recycled your manuscript, as is our policy when return postage isn't included with a submission (link to agency website), As for your approach to finding an agent, I suggest you rethink it. I don't recall seeing the original letter you sent regarding your novel, but sending your manuscript because you didn't hear a response (and sending same manuscript without a cover letter of any sort) was a questionable move at best. Did you send an SASE with that letter? If not, we would have disposed of it without responding, as is our policy. We are quite literally inundated with letters and manuscripts, a reality that unfortunately requires such measures.

I'm sorry we've disposed of your manuscript, and I suggest in future you adhere to the submission guidelines of the various literary agencies you contact.

Agent Fabulous

oh Miss Snark guffawed all the way down Madison Avenue on that one!

It's a new strategy! I'll send you something and if I don't hear back I'll assume the best! You've taken me on as a client! You've sold my work for zillions. Hey...where's the money??

Miss Snark retires to the settee with pail of gin and Norman Vincent Peale "The Power of Positive Thinking".

Miss Snark is saving her pennies for the Bail bondsman

Pulled from the comment trail:

It may not be illegal to lie, but it's now illegal, under federal law, to annoy on the Internet without disclosing your identity.So it seems that Miss Snark and other anonymous bloggers may be in for trouble -- should anyone find their posts annoying.... I'm making no judgments. Just reporting.

So, one hopes "Gerard Jones" is the real identiy of the guy running Everyone Who's Anyone in Publishing or those Hollywood sharks are gonna come a'suing.

If someone put up a "Miss Snark Sux" blog and second guessed every decision I made, it would certainly be annoying. I would think it interfered with my business I could file a civil suit. The idea that it's criminal and I can complain to the DA and get the guy arrested....well...that kinda sounds like fun.

The shoe being on the other foot however does not. How many times have I tweaked the tail of someone in publishing on this blog? Not often but enough: we're still eviscerating James Frey. Could he file a complaint against me? Intersting concept.

And here, I thought Republicans wanted to keep the governemt OUT of our lives. Silly moi.

The scariest words used to be "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." Now what's worse "I'm from the government and I'm here to make you safe."

Did I miss something or is Osama bin Laden still at large. Surely we have bigger threats than ...well...Miss Snark?

James Frey, gnawing that bonehead one more time

I didn't see the Larry King interview -- personally I don't think JF deserves my viewing time!But I'm curious to know what everyone thinks of this quote from Publishers Weekly: "Robert Gottlieb, of Trident Media Group, said he thought this event is something of "an anomaly" and that, in spite of it, publishers still need to rely on "the truthfulness of an author" as opposed to teams of fact-checkers."um, so like, what are the fact checkers for?

There are no "fact checkers" in book publishing. There are lawyers who vet a piece for libel or other actionable (ie something that might lead to a lawsuit) statements, but no "fact checkers".

In fact, it's not illegal to lie. It's not actionable to say you're a multiple felon if you're not. I can lie like a rug and call myself...well.. Miss Snark for example, and it's not illegal. But when you publish that, you call it fiction. Or indicate in some way that maybe it's not all quite "true".

But, what is truth?

Is it true that James Frey remembers things differently than other people? Most likely.

Is it true that he wrote things that can't be verified independently? yup.

Is it true he said he was convicted of crimes but cannot produce any substantiation for that? yup.

Is it true he was a liar and a cheat? no. It's true he IS a liar and a cheat, no past tense about it.

Is it true this will make no difference in probably a week, and for sure a year? Yup.

so, what is truth? The truth is that James Frey wrote a much better novel than a lot of editors gave him credit for.

"Drink the dregs kink"

This was the question that started us off and running:

Miss Snark, I have a question of your expertise, and no, not the literary kind. Outside of the frozen kind, what's the wimpiest kind of drink a man can order? I need it for my novel, but, not being a drinker myself, decided to come to the best.

And the helpful comments ranged from short and sweet:

Have you ever seen a guy order a cosmopolitan? Fruit-flavored beer?

Elektra,If you want a whimpy drink for a guy, write it as a Pink Squirrel.A cutesy drink from bygone days that looks like Pepto Bismol and is normally served in a martini style glass. Meaning cutesy little stem with a vee shaped top.

to the full fledged cris de couer:

Normally, I would not dare presume to answer for Miss Snark. But I figure I'm qualified to speak on the subjects of masculinity and booze, so I'll give Elektra a little help while Miss Snark gets her official answer together. Here is a primer on determining a drink's macho level.

1. Any mixed drink that was popular with any historical or literary character with a reputation as a manly man is automatically something a tough guy can drink without fear, as long as it remains close to the original. For example, lime Daquiris on the rocks are quite acceptable for Real Men, since Hemmingway liked them. Frozen bananna daquiris are not.

2. Take off macho points for any use of fruit juice except lemon or lime. Only a tough guy could drink pure lemon juice anyway.

3. You can make up for fruit juice if you add enough alchohol. Lots of alchohol makes a drink macho, especially if it tastes like it could clean a stove. With its 151-proof rum, nobody dares call a Zombie a drink for wusses. (The Zombie also doesn't violate Rule 4, below).

4. Under no circumstances may a macho drink have a cutesy name. Nothing, and I mean nothing, kills a drink's reputation more than an unmacho name. If a name doesn't have tradition behind it, it needs something ominous or tough like "Zombie" or "Godfather." ( KY: or Killer!)

So, what drinks break as many of these rules as possible? I'd have to say that the least macho drinks I know of would have to be the Fuzzy Navel and the Woo Woo.

While I certainly agree with all of the above, Miss Snark's Final Word is:

The least macho thing a male can drink (even if not wearing a pink tam) is toilet bowl water.

Feeling abandoned?

Sorry for the lack of posts, and the slow0-to-post comments.

Miss Snark has been toiling in the fields instead of her usual lily thereof stannce.

There's a huge back log of questions, and I will get to them, probably starting tomorrow.


Would a rose by any other name drive you as crazy?

I'm working through yet more revisions on my novel.

One of three principal characters is female, more precisely a 24 year old single German woman: Sabine Hassell.

A trusted reader has noted that I refer to all the male characters, regardless of age, by their surname but refer to the female characters sometimes using first name and other times the surname.

" No, no, no, " my trusted reader says, I should always refer to the (younger) female characters by their first name only.
When I asked why, she (the trusted reader) shrugs and says," I don't know, I s'pose it's just a girl thing. Referring to a female character by her surname just seems..." (shrugs again) " rude and hard."

Do you have any insights on this? Is it just gender or a combination of age and gender which determines authorial first name/last name use? I welcome any comments.

You ask this of Miss Snark who will eviscerate you if you call her just "Snark"?

This is actually a great question because it addresses something we've never really talked about here on this blog yet: reader's sensibilities.

Cause that's what you have here: your reader's ear expects a young woman to be called by her first name. She doesn't blink twice if a seven year old boy is called off the Little League bench by the coach with a bellowing "Buttonweazer! Get ready to bat!". This same reader quails if a young girl, age seven, is addressed that way. It "feels funny".

I run across this sometimes in word choice. There are words that are distinctly girlie words: "munch" is one of them. I don't think I've ever heard a man in real life say "I munched on some fruit roll ups". Have you? Another one: "lickey split". Ever heard a man say it? Another one: "That Hamilton Woman." Ever heard a man described as "that Hamilton Man" ? nope, me neither.

Which brings us to the writing. It's important that the characters who are talking to or about the young girl be true to their character in their diction (word choice). For example Grandmother Snarkwould never refer to a young woman as "Buttonweazer" despite her egalitarian view of the world. Miss Snark's neighbor the 20-something soccer coach does it all the time. Police officers call each other by their surname regardless of gender. To do otherwise would look wrong for that character.

The sensibility starts with the character. Keep that consistent and accurate and it will ring true for the readers.

It's a very nuanced part of writing but it's important.

Fifth Floor, foundation garments

Another question for you, about the dullest topic in the world: stamps.
Does it look very unprofessional to use extra stamps to get a 37 cent up to snuff, or should I just break down and buy the new ones and save the old for personal letters?

I know it seems so trivial, but I once read an article on interviewers--something like 73% said they wouldn't hire an applicant who had unprofessional shoes--and I thought that maybe stamps were the shoes of the publishing world.

Stamps are not shoes.

FONTS are shoes.

So is double spacing, printing on one side of the page and correct margins.
Stamps however are like your underpants. I don't care what they are as long as you've got them ON.

Where's the nearest fallout shelter?

Miss Snark,

Just completed my 400 page manuscript regarding a Historical Romance. I sent an e-query (per their request) to a major publishing house. I made sure that my query was well polished and tight however, received a reply that my story idea was not right for them at this time. How do I take this?

oh take it badly, very badly.
They're clearly out of their minds. Probably had an intern reading the e-queries that day.

Take that manuscript regarding a historical romance (is it an in depth analysis? your reconstituted senior thesis perhaps?) and print it out in a nice readable font. Then hand deliver it to the lobby of the publisher. If you need the address, just holler, I'll be glad to provide it. Make sure you don't leave the building unless the executive editor in charge of manuscripts has signed for it.

Really, the idea that this single query wasn't embraced with fervent applause is a sign of the impending apocalypse. While you're in New York, stock up on holy water from St. Patrick's. 50th and Fifth Ave. A quick walk from Random House, Simon and Schuster and Time Warner.

Over there! Where? my god...Canada??

Dear Miss Snark: Do you reject novels based on where they are set?

Although I haven't started to query yet, I have been told by fellow writers that American agents/publishers are not interested in novels that are set in Canada.

My mystery novel has a wilderness adventure theme, and I've set it in a
mountainous region of Canada (an area that I know well). I realize there are mystery novels set north of the border that have been published by American presses, but they are comparatively few. Have I made a big mistake?

My god yes. You didn't get the memo??
All novels set in Canada are on the automatic rejection list.
Followed closely by novels set on Rabbitania.

ok ok, calm down, I'm kidding.
Look Canada is a country. They have coins and everything. Weird ones to be sure but they still buy gin and really, what else matters.

Realistic locations can add a lot to a novel. Would the spare elegance of Kent Haruf's Plainsong work if it was set in California? Probably not. Would Raymond Chandler be the ur-noir writer if he set his novels in Nebraska? Probably not.

Make your geography part of the story. Try not to include too many names that are hard to remember. Then go for it. Remember, we look for stuff we haven't seen before but it still has to be GOOD.

Go BlueJays!

James Frey, dogpile!!!

Smoking Gun Editor William Bastone told Reuters, "In off-the-record interviews with us, Frey admitted embellishing facts in the book for dramatic impact."

Frey has since threatened to sue The Smoking Gun.

For what? Saying "you're not a criminal"??
Saying "You're not the bad man you said you were"?

Looks like I'll have to sue my mom for calling me "honeypie" when she KNOWS I'm a snarkly beast.

Lingua Franca baby

Gday Miss Snark

I have read that a synopis should use the same language as the novel itself.

Is the same true of a pitch for a novel?

Or the very opposite?
Yes, you should write your query in the same language your novel is in.
Elvish works. Latin is better.

Veni, Vidi, Vito

I came, I saw, badda bing badda boom.

If you need this joke explained, just ask.

Killer Yapp's New Best Friend

As a writer, I research the agent. If the agent says please include a SASE, I'm gonna do it. If she says e-queries only, I'm gonna do it. If she says we only accept queries with a box of organic biscuits for my puppy, I'm gonna do it. Not even gonna bat an eye.

Killer Yapp here (pink tam at jaunty angle) "I wish Miss Snark had that on her website. The chow around here might improve dramatically."

Miss Snark (wresting mouse from jaws of death) "KY, get back to dealing with those query letters sans SASEs, please."

By Way of Example

I'm grubbing around in the slush pile this afternoon before heading out to a drinks date.

A letter arrives. It contains a cover letter and a synopis. I root around in the envelope. No SASE. Boy did I laugh. The cover letter said "I've published two books to acclaim". No publisher. No date.

No dice.


Am I missing the next Great American Novel? Dunno. Maybe. But I'm tired and I just can't be bothered to deal with someone who makes extra work for me. That's the dog's honest truth here from Snarkville today. Take it for what it's worth.


Ok, so you think SASEs are only for rejections.
You think they are a waste of time.
You think if I want your book I'll contact you.

I'm not going to spend much time trying to convince you otherwise.

I'll leave it at this: if you don't include an SASE in your query, I'm not going to read it.

I'll tell you this ahead of time, not as some sort of idle threat to follow the directions or die, just as a heads up.

There's a lot of advice out there on the internet about how to send queries.
I'm the one reading the slush pile.

You decide.


gee...is that the 8 ball carooming at my head?

I'm behind on answering your questions, it's true.
Fret not, I'll get to them.

If you send a question via email, I let you know when it's posted.
If you just leave a question in the comments trail, you're on your own.

Off now to see if anyone in the slush pile seems like a good prospect.

Altruism is Not Miss Snark's Middle Name..but it might be her finger

Dear Ms. Snark,

An editorial company who line edited my novel has offered to send my query letter, chapters, and synopsis to lit agencies. They're not asking to be paid for it. They say they only do it a few times a year. They have been around for awhile, and I have no reason to doubt them--their manuscript suggestions were very good. My question is, will a literary agent really pay more attention to a submission if it comes from them, rather than an unknown author? The answer would seem to be obvious. But I've been fooled by obvious answers before.

Smart snarkling!

The correct answer is...maybe. Are they sending it to literary agents they know and work with? Fact of life: I read the work sent to me by colleagues and friends much faster, and am more likely to read the full novel. Why? Guess. This is a symbiotic business and that's my part of the flow.

Now, if they are just sending stuff out to "hot agents" they've read about, say hello to the scrap heap. I'm LESS likely to give them the time of day since I'm a suspicious beast and I'm not sure what they are up to.

And of course, I'm always deeply suspicious of companies wherein I've paid for a service and they now want to do something for free. If they're so allfired altruistic, cut the final invoice amount in half.

What they might be thinking however is that if you get the book published they can use you as an advert for their business; a reference. You might want to ask ahead of time and be cool with that idea before you accept the gift of referral.

Miss Snark's cynicism is showing; time to go read some Barbara Cartland where good things happen to the heroine just cause!

Im so f/ing sick of this SASE thing.. this is the LAST comment

...on JA Konrath's site, I found:

5. Don‚t include a SASE. Everyone in NY requests that you send a self addressed stamped envelope for a reply. In fairness to the publishing biz, they get a ton of unsolicited manuscripts every day, and couldn‚t afford to send rejection letters to everyone out of their own pocket. Keep in mind that SASEs are for rejections. In fact, it makes it even easier for them to reject you. If they want your work, they‚ll gladly spring for the stamp, or call on the phone. Do you think Tom Clancy sends SASEs?
(In SIX THING TO AVOID IN A QUERY on the "TIPS 2" page http://www.joekonrath.com/ )

I agree that Tom Clancy doesn't send SASEs. He also doesn't send query letters anymore.

There's always someone who just can't seem to do what is asked. Send an SASE, include the word count, spell things correctly...all those little things that seem so easy.

Truth is, when I look at my slush pile, well heck, I'm looking at it right now: 27 letters. It's 10:18pm. I'd like to move that query stack OFF my desk ASAP. Not including an SASE makes it easy, yay. Toss. I don't even read em anymore. I used to. Not anymore.

I used to spring for an envelope and postage too, thinking people just forgot. Then some nitwit posted a comment here saying he just didn't send them, figuring if we wanted his work, we'd get back to him. So, yanno what, f you buddy, I stopped giving everyone the benefit of the doubt.

My website is real clear. This is what I ask for. If you think SASEs are for rejections, you're right 98% of the time. And for you 100% of the time, cause now I just throw it away.

And yes, there will be some nitwit who says "I don't send SASE's and I have an agent, and I got this that and the other". One example is an exception. Advising everyone to do it is stupid.

And would someone please tell me what the HELL is so hard about putting an SASE in a query? It costs too much? This is a damn business; this is YOUR side of the expense sheet. Mine comes when I xerox your stuff a zillion times, and pray I sell it and get paid. Try not to moan about the cost of an SASE to me, when sending ONE manuscript costs me $10.00 a pop.

Advice is cheap. Try not to shortchange yourself by being penny wise and pound foolish.

JT Leroy

Miss Snark, What do you think of the whole JT Leroy brou ha ha?

You mean, what do I think of someone who successfully shields their identity and gets paid for it?

Show ME the money. That's what I think.
I'll even hold hands with Courtney Love.
(oh heck I like Courtney Love...I'll do that part for free)

Comparisons Are Odious

Snarkling Question:

I am tempted to make a comparison in my query letter between my writing style and a specific published author's. While I do not want this statement to be perceived as my manuscript simply being a replica of his work, my worry is that if I do not show a comparison it will be falsely viewed as me not knowing how to judge my own manuscript in the current marketplace.

Should comparisons be avoided at all costs, or in doing so does it prompt relativity to the agent?

Resist this temptation madly.
Then resist it again.

Don't compare your work to anyone's. First, you're not that person. And generally (like 99.9% of the time, the comparison is NOT in your favor)

Second, you only need to tell me where your book belongs in the bookstore, not who it should sit next to if you're shelved by style.

"I think readers who liked James Frey's memoir will also like my vomit soaked story of money laundering pizza thieves" is about as close to a comparison as you ever want to be.

And what the hell does "prompt relativity to the agent" mean, Einstein?

Your Two Cents Worth

Dear Miss Snark - c

an you please rate my nitwittedness and suggest a remedy, if one exists?

Saturday my husband mailed off a batch of queries for me, with the instructions to bring home a sheet of stamps, so I could make some more SASEs. But when he got home he handed me, not the 37 cent stamps I'd expected, but new 39 cent stamps. When asked what he did with the queries, which contained SASEs complete with outdated stamps, he of course replied that he'd mailed them.


So now I feel like a royal nitwit knowing that my latest batch of queries will arrive 2 cents short. I'm certainly not the only person in this bind - anyone who also was oblivious to the coming rate hike must have outmoded SASEs collecting dust somewhere. Should I mail my queried agents fresh new SASEs with the proper postage and my apologies? Thanks tons!

Naah, we'll spot you the two cents for a while....if we manage to get to the post office to buy some stamps any time soon. There are days a postage meter sounds enticing. This is one of them.

Don't worry. You're only 2/39ths of a nitwit...still within the acceptable zone.

What the hell is wrong with you?

Imagine Miss Snark's surprise when she opened her mailbox and out popped a query.
An e-query no less.
About non-fiction no less.

Only because Miss Snark's wrath was sated by complex carbohydrates during the luncheon break did Miss Snark not respond "I'm sorry I don't represent nitwits, so please remove me from your query list.".

No, I just deleted it.

But, a word to newcomers to the blog.

1. Don't query Miss Snark

2. Don't query any agent unless you know the answers to at least two of these three questions:
a. books that agent has sold
b. authors that agent represents
c. the agent's submission requirements

You may think Miss Snark is just ducky, and in fact she IS all she's quacked up to be, but this blog is not for queries...unless you want them posted, critiqued and eviscerated. And even for that, you need permission.

Back now to gin soaked dried apricots.


Nitwit of the Day!

MS: "Snark Agency, you have three second not to annoy me, talk fast."
Caller: "Do you represent (insert name of famous author)"
MS: (regretfully sighing) "no, I don't"

Caller: "Do you know who does"
MS: "yes, she's represented by Big Fancy Pants Agency"

Caller: "oh good, do you have their number?".
MS: "no, but I have yours."

Yes, it's ok to ask

Dear Miss Snark,

I just fulfilled my contract for a two-book deal and am now working on a new novel. This new book is very different from the other two books I sold, so I was just plugging away writing (thinking I needed a complete manuscript to sell) when the thought occurred that I might be going about it backwards. Am I supposed to write a proposal package of a synopsis and first three chapters and send it to my agent? If so, what length synopsis should I shoot for? I'm about 70,000 words into the book; should I mention that?

I know I could ask my agent, but your advice would be much appreciated and would go a long way toward me not seeming less informed than I likely already do.

Ask your agent. It's ok to look uninformed. Your job is to write well. Our job is to keep you informed. So far, you're doing your job.

I prefer to get whole manuscripts if it's not a book on a second of two deal, or it's outside the normal genre. That's cause I like to read things before I try to sell them. That's just me. There's no hard and fast rule about this.

It's ok to ask. You won't even be in the top 100 annoying phone calls on this one.

If you can't spot the sucker at a poker game....

I only recently found your site and I think you rock. I love the fact that you pull no punches, but you're fair. (And funny. Some of your responces on the Crapometer had me giggling like Renfield from the original Lugosi Dracula.) Okay, on to my question: My work is good. I don't mean to sound arrogant with this statement. I'm not claiming to be the best thing since Faulkner or anything, but I'm as good as much, if not most, of what's on the shelf at your average bookstore today. And I'm better than a quite a bit of it. After numerous revisions, I have crafted a damn fine query letter. The same is true of my synopsis. Yet, after a couple years trying, all I have to show for my efforts is a growing stack of rejection letters, mostly form responces. And so my question is this: What does it take to get the attention of a literary agent, if just being good isn't good enough?

Well I'm glad you picked up on the fact that I don't pull my punches cause I'm about ready to slam one into your ego. Ready?

You're not as good as you think you are.

Now the question you really want to ask is "WHAT is holding me back", not "why don't they recognize my quality." I assure you, agents are on the hunt for good work. Yes we miss things. Yes we miss things more than once. But if you're consistently getting form rejection letters, the problem is you.

Did you send anything to the crapometer?
Do you belong to a good critique group?
Can you attend a writers conference for feedback?

I can tell you the problem is you, but I can't fix it here.
That's up to you.
Now get busy.

The weighty subject of paper.

Miss Snark,

I just discovered Joe Konrath's blog, and he's got some great suggestions there. But what is your opinion on the paper weight? Do you prefer 24# also? I've copied my comment to him here: Joe, I used to submit all my stuff on 24# paper. But once Jenny Bent's assistant (at Trident) lost my submission and I had to get another to her fast. I handed it to her, saying something like, sorry, didn't have time to get thicker paper - and she told me, that's OK, this is better anyway. So I've been using 20# ever since - and I've got an ms. all printed and ready to go. Do you really think this issue is important enough to toss the printed ms?

I think you can obsess about a whole long list of things when you feel like you're beating your head against the wall to get someone to read your work. Paper weight is just one of them.

As long as it's white (and I can hear someone somewhere whispering 'ivory' 'ecru' and 'bone") and the ink is black AND the font is crisp, you're good to go.

Yes I notice brighter paper. Does it make any difference at all in my judgment about writing? No. Do I remember "oh you're the one with nice paper" when I sign you up for the big dance? Newp.

Worry about the passive voice, innovative description and character development. Don't worry about the paper.

More on James Frey

The tenor of the comments trail on my "I told you so" post is best summarized by:

Whoa. Wait a minute. Are you saying that a junkie and thief did something dishonest?No way.

My disgust with this whole foolish mess is not that James Frey lied; it's that no one in publishing caught him, and now that he is caught, no one seems to care. Doubleday is "standing behind their author" according to Publishers Lunch.

Consider this: James Frey would have lost his job at the New York Times if he'd written that story for them. The New Yorker would never have run it. Why? They check things. Fact checkers.

For those of you who don't know what fact checkers do, go watch Cameron Crowe's "based on a true story" movie ALMOST FAMOUS wherein the fact checker at Rolling Stone pulls a story when the band denies the events happened.

Consider this as well: The Smoking Gun web guys didn't start out to verify MLP. All they wanted was Frey's mugshot.

It's beyond stupid as a business practice to not verify facts. Contracts have clauses that authors can't libel someone, can't infringe copyright, and god forbid publish anything detrimental to the work in the contract, but "make it all up cause it sounds better" isn't mentioned.

So, you ask, what's the problem? People make up stuff all the time. To quote Ira Silverberg -- who's discovered the hard way this week -- "a good hoax can be fun".

And James Frey isn't solely blame for this. Why would he expect to get nailed for this stuff, when nobody asked for verification before 1. handing him $50K; 2. booking him on Oprah; or 3. READING THE MANUSCRIPT.

So, what's the problem? This kind of fast and loose with the facts makes us look like nitwits. And by "us" I mean every publishing professional working in the industry today. We ALL look like nitwits when some guy gets fifty thousand dollars for turning a novel into a memoir and NO ONE QUESTIONS ANY OF IT.

Here is the little dirty secret: we knew. Oh ya. We all knew. We didn't have the smoking gun (ha!) but we knew. And no one did anything. And in letting this slide by, we look like exactly what we are today: sleazy nitwits.

Robert Parker talks about people who know "how to act" in his Spenser novels. He means people who have a core sense of integrity, who believe in and value some immutable things.

It's probably a mark of naivete that I'm disappointed we failed to meet that standard. But I am.

Miss Snark has been authenticated!!

From Miss Snark's overseers:

Your blog has been reviewed, verified, and whitelisted so that it will no
longer appear as potential spam. If you sign out of Blogger and sign back
in again, you should be able to post as normal. Thanks for your patience,
and we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

About time!
Miss Snark has been tap dancing out her word verifications for two weeks.
Latest one: neenerneeneryapper.

I Knew It!

I've always had doubts about the veracity of James Frey, A MILLION LITTLE PIECES.
I mentioned them in one of the very first posts on this blog, about vetting non fiction.
Well, look what The Smoking Gun found out.

Currently, there's no formal fact checking on non fiction. Unlike magazines, book publishers can do as much or as little as the editorial department demands.

What this has taught me? I'm doing my own fact checking. This is the LAST kind of publicity I'd want for a client.


Synopsis spacing

Miss Snark: This may be a nitwitted question, but should a synopsis be single or double spaced when it is sent with a query letter?

This is not a nitwit question. If you're trying for the nitwit sweepstakes, you have to ask if Miss Snark has a day job.

Synopsis are traditionally single spaced. Double lines between paragraphs. Indents not needed. Go easy on big blocks of text. Shorter paragraphs are easier to read than long ones in this form. One inch margins all around, and in a readable font.

If you are tempted to tweak any of this cause you can't fit all your words on one or two pages, I STRONGLY urge you to whittle your word count before you start dropping your font to 8point.

Making something physically easier to read is just smart. Making it harder to read...well, that's the nitwit strategy.

Lines, spacing and why you better oil up your "return" key

Here's my question. The always helpful JA Konrath put this note on his blog talking about how NOT to put the agent or editor off IMMEDIATELY by looking like an amateur:

Spacing. If I see big blocky paragraphs, more than 25 lines per page, no indenting, indenting 3 spaces or less (rather than 5), line spacing between paragraphs, or a story that begins on the first line of the first page rather than halfway down the first page, my subconscious says, "I don't want to read this" and my subconscious is usually right.

Indenting? I thought that went out with high button shoes. I thought paras were left justified, with an extra line spacing before them.

Am I really really wrong?

Indent five spaces (what my computer likes to call TAB) at the start of a new paragraph, and at the start of a new line of dialogue.

Indents are out and extra lines are in if you single space, say for example in a synopsis.

Like this sentence. It starts a new paragraph.
"And this one too," Killer Yapp chimed in, happy to quoted on the blog.

This form is for written queries ONLY. If you email, the form is different. There you DON'T include tabs, you uses spaces. The TAB command does not travel well among word doc programs. I can't tell you the number of manuscripts I tediously reformat so I can read them electronically. It's a f/ing pain in the finger. The problem is that programmers use TAB to move from one field to another, so you can't even search for it to replace it. And for all you computer hotshots out there, no tutorials please. I've spent quite enough time on the phone with Apple as it is.

Does Miss Snark Fan Dance?

Completely off topic, but Miss Snark now has a fan listing!

Miss Snark is a bit overcome at the idea of being the subject of a fan site!
Can an interview with TigerBeat magazine be far behind?
Well, maybe Galleycat, since this is publishing after all!

This is quite an honor!!