The End of the Road...white light? oncoming train light? s'light of hand?

Hello Ms. Snark,

I think your blog is one of the best -- it is informative and humorous.

I would like to ask you a question : I am writing a novel and I'm very close to finishing it---only 20 pages remaining out of a total of 300 pages or so. And suddenly, I discover to my horror that I'm beset with depressing thoughts-- that it's been a completely futile exercise, that it's going to be a trash book, and so on. I am surprised by the onslaught of such negative thoughts, since I have been happily writing for the last few months with a lot of optimism. Is this `End-of-the-road trauma' common at all? Or am I being a nitwit?

Well, this isn't a nitwit question, you'll have to try again for that category next week.

I have no idea if this is common. I know it's very hard to finish a novel and that's one of the reasons I ONLY look at finished work from novelists (rare exception: previously published authors).

However, there's a devotion of snarklings who read this blog and also write novels. I bet they'll know!

What say you, Snarklings?

31 Flavors

Dear Miss Snark,

So far, I've queried two very respectable agents regarding a literary novel I've written. (I've published quite a few stories, all in good places.) One agent read the entire book and wrote a lot of feedback. She said she couldn't put the book down but "in the end," the prose style was too similar to another client of hers, one she "loves," but whose work she has been unable to sell lately. I know she read the whole thing because she referred to late plot points.

The other agent read only the partial. He also gave positive feedback, but declined to read the rest because the story didn't "move forward enough" for him.....

I know, from past publishing experience, that a writer can't and shouldn't try to please everybody, but what do you make of two such opposite reactions?
Thanks for any comment.

I think you write strawberry and the agents you query like chocolate and vanilla. Time to expand the tasting circle.

It will not come as a big surprise to you that people have very different reactions to the same thing: velvet Elvis paintings; Howard Stern; Miss Snark's wit. I mean not everyone liked even Mr. Mozart when he was be-bopping around Vienna, and let's not get started on the mixed reactions to William Carlos Williams. So much depends on what floats your wheelbarrow.

Query widely. Find strawberry lovers.

Gay Talese: A Writer's Life

Read it.
Don't put it off.
Don't put it on your TBR stack.
Read it NOW.

There will be a quiz.


Two Roads Diverged near Elle Wood

Dear Miss Snark:
I've just fulfilled a two book deal at my long term publisher. I've already outlined my next novel (which is more commercial than my previous six). Usually, I would submit the outline to my editor, she'd make an offer and my agent and I would accept it. My last three advances have been for roughly the same amount. My sales haven't grown exponentially. They climb steadily book by book. I've earned royalties on three out of four (of the remaining two books, one is just out, and one comes out next year).

What to do? I could submit my new outline to my usual editor NOW and go with her predictable (decent) advance. Or I could I write the entire book first and send it to the handful of editors who have expressed interest in me in the past, and might be in the position to offer more (or nothing). I'd be writing without a net, as it were. I'd dearly miss the income. My agent is excellent at seeing the pros and cons of both scenarios, and not so good at definitive advice. How would you advise one of your writers? Go for the risk, or play it safe?

As an established author with a decent track record you don't have to write the entire novel to sell it. You really don't have to write it for your agent to get an idea if anyone is seriously interested in coughing up dough. Particularly if this is a "more commercial" novel, I'd be champing at the bit to move to a place with better money. Higher risks of course..you fall on your ass here and you're REALLY going to miss the income cause you won't have book next anywhere in this town.

Much of this depends on the specifics of numbers, and type of book. If you fall flat on your ass, your agent does too, so risk-averse choices sound mighty good some days.

I think someone once said "faint hearts ne'er won a fair maiden" but maybe you don't want to win a maiden-I hear the upkeep is a bitch.

More on Markup

Dear Miss Snark,

You've been talking about mark up work as if it's a drag. I love that sort of work. I edit strangers' manuscripts in my spare time.

Is there a position in the publishing business devoted to fighting the good fight against extraneous italics? Would you ever consider contracting outside help to smack a manuscript into shape? Is it just copy editing? The copy editors I've worked with don't know drink drank drunk. I'm familiar with all three. (well Miss Snark is too, but maybe not exactly in the way that you mean here)

The trouble with "outside help" is that it violates AAR rules six ways to Sunday to send any client to an editor for mark up if the editor charges money. This is a rule I fully support because it came into being to prevent authors getting scammed.

Just yesterday I was talking with a colleague and we were bemoaning the tendency to "editorialize" ie markup cause it means we aren't selling. I was laughing about falling in love with a project and wanting to make it perfect and she was chastising me for being an idiot. She was right.

I wish I could send stuff out to a bevy of eager markers but as it stands, y'all got to do that on your own. My colleagues have put me on "editorial intervention" and my first call is from one of them saying "do not pick up the red pen, do not pick up the red pen". In fact, I have to mail ALL my colored markers to the Home for Wayward Bunions today. A sad day in Snarkdom.

"not enough energy in the writing"

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm a relatively new addition to the devotion of Snarklings but that does not diminish my love and respect for you and your work on our behalf.

Upon request I sent a partial to a well respected agent I'd met at a writer's conference. Having read your blog and its archives, I included the query, approximately 50 pages, a synopsis and a SASE. Since I followed the guidelines I got a reply, promptly. Wow! and Hooray!

Here's in part how it reads " While I really liked your writing, I'm afraid that I didn't find quite enough energy in the storytelling."
Please Miss Snark, would you translate what "enough energy" means? 'cuz I haven't got a clue and could really use one.

Thank you.

ds (devoted snarkling)

bland, uninteresting or cliched characters.
pointless plots, or no discernible plot.

This writing stuff is harder than it looks!


NF Book Proposals even if the book is finished

Dear Miss Snark,
If I have completed writing a nonfiction book, do I still need to have a book proposal? Could I find an agent for it instead using the same materials as with a work of fiction as it is done? I.e. a one page query letter and a one page synopsis with sample chapters or the completed work available upon request.

Yes, you can do that for the query, but you will need a proposal for the next step. Non fiction editors read proposals, not finished books, to decide if they will acquire (generally). Unless you're querying memoir, you gotta have a proposal. Memoir is sold like fiction (sample chapters, and frequently finished if you're a new writer).

The critical piece in a proposal is 1. who will read this book; 2. what new do you have to contribute to the discussion; 3. why you are the person to write this; and 4. What other books are currently on the market that address this topic. You don't need any of that in fiction, but you'll need it even if your book is finished for non fiction.

Should I?

Dear Miss Snark:

I would love some of your wonderful advice -- I'm at a bit of a loss. My agent, who is submitting my novel (13 very nice rejections so far) has just told me that my next novel is one he doesn't quite know how to market, and that he thinks it will be very difficult to sell. It's a historical novel but feels less, in his estimation, like a 21st-century novel set in the 19th century, and more like an actual 19th-century novel. I agree with this to an extent; it uses some Victorian plot conventions, but it also uses language and episodes you wouldn't find in a Victorian novel, even though the narrative voice is of that period. In other words, it's much more open about its characters' (mostly sexual) desires than a 19th-century novel would be.

Anyway, my agent, whom I really, really like, and who has invested a lot of time on my first novel, has told me that I should think long and hard about whether he's the right agent for this new novel, given the fact that he's somewhat stumped by it. I don't get the impression that he's dumping me (if he is he's not doing a very good job of it), just that he wants to be fair to me, and that he'll understand if I decide to look for an agent who has fewer reservations about it. Let me add here that he thinks the novel is wonderful, so his misgivings have nothing to do with the quality of the work. And I can understand if he is reluctant to spend a lot of time on something he isn't sure he can sell.

I'm trying to decide what to do. We left it that we would both try to make a decision about this, and that he would brainstorm about where and how to submit it. I really do like and admire him, and I appreciate the amount of time -- so far unpaid -- he's spent on my first novel. Am I a nitwit if I decide to stick with him, in the hopes that he will figure out the best way to market this? Or should I be looking for another agent? I would much prefer to stick with him but if that's a bad idea I'd like to know it.

I don't think it's a bad idea to stick with an agent who is honest about his hesitation, is willing to work with you, and hasn't said "write me something I can sell". We get surprised every single month by things that sell. Go for it. Of course, while he's shopping this, get busy and write him something so commercial it makes your pocketbook puff up like a blowfish in anticipation.

Agent Divorce

Dear Miss Snark,

I was recently dumped by my agent after several years with no sales. One of my manuscripts has only been seen by 3-4 houses, and I may not be willing to give up on it yet. You've said before that you needn't mention prior relationships with other agents in a query, and that in fact this may be a negative since agent-hopping is not looked upon kindly.

My questions are: Is it looked upon even less kindly if the hopping wasn't my choice? Would another agent care that this well-respected agent was enthusiastic about my work (well, you know, once)? If I don't mention it in the query, when is the right time to tell a prospective agent that a few houses have already seen this?

You DO need to mention that your work has been shopped and you need to mention it early on. One of the things I think about very early is "can I sell this?" and if a project has already been seen by three of my favorite editors I'm less likely to take it on.

I'm not much of a fan of second-go-round projects. If you've got something new, I'd much rather look at that and take this used project for a backup/second book.

And you can just say you and your agent parted amicablly after a period of years. Chances are if we progress to actually talking about hanging out together I'll ask what happened, but at the query stage, I just want to know it happened, not details.

Sorry to pass, think of us again

Miss Snark,

I recently sent a query to an agent. About one to two weeks later I received a form rejection letter (nothing new); however, written at the bottom of this query was "sorry to be passing on this, but please try us again."

I'm fixing up my query and am going to send it again, but I want to know if this is a good sign that she took the time to actually handwrite a message to me, or am I just grasping at straws? Thank you.

This means your writing doesn't suck but this particular project didn't float their boat. No agent writes this just trying to be nice. We get enough crap that being nice doesn't even occur to us.

Do not fix up this query and resend it to them. Query new work.

Non Fiction proposals

Dear Miss Snark,
I was wondering if you could address the subject of non-fiction books and whether it works the same way or differently to the fiction business. For example, do you need to complete the book first or can you sell on the basis of a proposal?

I have no previous books published but I am a journalist with work published in magazines and national newspapers in both Australia and the UK. I am a general reporter so I don't have any more than a passing expertise in the topic I want to write about however my research and writing skills are solid. Would this be enough of a history to query on the basis of a proposal?

I also aspire to writing fiction and I can see the value of completing a novel before seeking representation and sales. I am not sure whether non-fiction is the same since with my journalism I am used to working to commission.

Most non fiction is sold from a proposal not a finished manuscript. The question you're going to run into though is not how well do you write, but what's your platform..ie what do you bring to the table in terms of access to the media, or outreach to book buyers. Having a platform means you have an established speaking career, a blog/website that reaches hundreds of thousands of people (Miss Snark reaches less than 1/20 of that number daily to give you an idea of what you've got to be able to do), or an established media presence.

Serious academic non fiction may be the exception to this but you better have a job at a university if you want to be taken seriously there.

When you look at folks like Sebastian Junger, his "platform" is that he writes regularly for Vanity Fair, so journalism can work for you but it's got to be the very very top magazines.

Querying Multiple Agents in an Agency

Dear Miss Snark,

Recently we at the Trident Media Group have been plagued by authors who send queries to multiple agents here at the same time WITHOUT TELLING US. I know you had a discussion recently about sending to a different agent within the agency once one had rejected you, but this is a whole different ball of wax. Snarklings should know that this is a DEFINITE no-no, and at Trident, anyway, results in an automatic rejection. Do not send to more than one agent at a time at a particular agency!!!! The public needs to know—will you tell them? We’re all getting quite irritated over here.



Look Ma! No...

Miss Snark,
It’s simple to track visitors to web sites. What might be the significance of daily visits to one’s blog from someone at a major publishing house? Aside from the fact that it might very well be the maintenance man on his lunch break, do editors actually peruse blogs as part of their work-a-day?

There are a lot of people at publishing houses who aren't editors: start with the interns, then the art department, the sales team, the marketing team, the contracts team, the foreign rights folks, and most important: the receptionist.

I look at all sorts of blogs, more every day. I cruise around the lit blogs all the time, and people send me links to stuff left and 'write'. I usually click over just to see what's up. I've recently found one blog that isn't even about books but the writing was so compelling I dropped the blogger an email and said "if you love gin and Mr. Clooney, maybe we can be friends".

Your blog is like standing in Times Square. Everything you say and do is seen by everyone who walks by and a few gazillion people watching at home on television. Tie your shoes, dust your syntax and to quote Miss Genoese "don't be an idiot in public".


Hi Miss Snark-

I'm a blogger who has generated enough of an audience to become something of a D-List Internet celebrity. I'd always wanted to write something book-like but had yet to get off of my ass to start pitching.
A couple of weeks ago, though, an agent cold-e-mailed saying that he'd be interested in representing me and helping guide me through the process of coming up with a proposal, based on my blog.

This is of course the fantasy of every blogger with pretentions, and I know I'm extremely fortunate, but since I am by nature suspicious and cranky, my first thought was that it was all too good to be true. It does appear to be on the up and and up,
though: the agency he works for his well-known and respected, and some Google searches reveal that Mr. Agent Man actually does work there.

Mr. Agent Man was nice enough to send me a boilerplate version of the contract his agency usually signs with authors. It
all seemed like pretty much exactly what I expected except for this bit:

"You agree to reimburse us for the reasonable expenses incurred by us in connection with the disposition of any of the Rights to the Literary Work, including, without limitation, postage, messengers, copying, facsimile, telephone, and other similar charges. Should it be necessary or advisable for us to incur any extraordinary expenditures on your behalf, we shall obtain your prior consent. Any expenses incurred by us hereunder shall be paid by or charged to you, as we shall mutually agree, apart from our compensation."

Now I had heard from other sources that a warning sign that an agent that might rip you off is that they charge you up front for "marketing expenses" and the like. Don't doubt the legitimacy of this agent, so: what's the deal with this clause? Do agents typically charge for this stuff? Do they typically charge you as they incur said charges (i.e. I would have to write them a check for them to pimp my book around) or just take it out of your advance/royalty checks once those actually manifest themselves? And what kind of charges are we talking about for this sort of thing? Any guidance, snarky or otherwise, would be appreciated.

Sign me,
Baffled in Baltimore

Yes we charge you for expenses. There are two things missing in this clause that make my eyebrows go up: the lack of a limit and failure to mention WHEN the expenses are charged.

This is what my contract says:

(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.

Most agents I know are so lax about billing expenses that it's almost funny that we talk about this so much.

The agents I excoriate are the ones who make you pay up front or before the work is sold.

Ask the agent to change the clause. It's just boiler plate probably but insert a limit on amount and when they are charged.

Mark Up

Dear Miss Snark,

In today’s blog entry you’re talking about an agent doing a “mark up” of a manuscript. Being that I’ve never had any contact with any agent, I have to ask: what’s a “mark up?”

This is when the nitwit client can't spell worth crap and thinks "making the fir fly" is a what lumberjacks do. Sadly, they also happen to have really good books so Miss Snark grimaces, screams, curses, and hauls out her red pen and copy edits the stupid thing.

You might gather from this that Miss Snark is not happy about this. She's not. She's less happy about sending out anything that's got stupid mistakes in it though.

Thus: mark up. I mark up your manuscript, you fix it and send it back, then I sell it. I complain about this so often and so cruelly that you vow to never EVER need it again.

I only have to do this about three times a year. MOST clients have everything in apple pie order (that phrase always amazes me cause one thing an applie pie is NOT is orderly) but I still like to make sure it's correct. A second set of eyeballs catches the most amazing things.

Several of my colleaguse flat out refuse to do this and say in stern tones to Miss Snark "stop that, it's their responsibility." Miss Snark hangs her head in shame but continues to wield the red pen. I'd really like to stop, it sucks time like a hoover, but so far, I just can't.

of course Miss Snark has a theme song

After reading your blog for a few months now, I was just curious if you had a theme song, or if not, what it would be. If I may be so bold, I can't shake the feeling that John William's "Imperial March" might be well suited. If you agree, next time you are crushing the throat of someone on the other side of an email/phone/letter, perhaps you should fire it up.

Miss Snark does have a theme song. Lyrics can be found here.
(Put down your beverage before clicking please)

More on the Audit Rights clause

Is there a chance that taking advantage of the royalty clause could piss the publisher off? Showing that you don't trust them. I understand that if they aren't giving you all your royalties you wouldn't want to work with them. But what if there were no errors - couldn't that just hurt future chances of book sales? Seems like a lose-lose situation.

An auditor will look at your contract, and your royalty statements and give it "the smell test". If nothing looks amiss, they won't seek an audit. It's only when things look off that auditors go in.

And any reasonable company is glad to show they are doing things correctly. They're not too happy if they find out they owe money to a client, but that's not my problem; getting my clients paid correctly is.

Miss Snark, drunken sailor

Dear Miss Snark,

How long should a writer wait for feedback from her agent? Is three months for a 65K-word novel on the long side? Under what circumstances would you take that long? Should the writer take that as a sign to find a new, more interested agent?
Many thanks,

Patient... but not that patient

You've signed with her and you're waiting for her mark up to get a finished ms out?
90 days sounds like enough to me, but I've taken longer on some to my chagrin.

The thing is, stuff happens that sucks up time during the day (like making deals) and the weekend (like stalking George Clooney) and a manuscript mark up is (for me anyway) about 20 hours of time, if you're doing a full mark up, not just a read through.

If you've signed with the agent, call her up.
Ask her what her time line is.
You will either shame her into moving her lazy ass (me again) or find out if she's losing interest.

I'm not sure what "feedback" means exactly. Surely you're not waiting for her to tell you if she likes it?

Manuscripts sitting on the shelf "waiting" for whatever, are not revenue generators, and Miss Snark is an avaricious beast who prefers to earn and spend money like a drunken sailor.

Audit Clauses

What's an audit clause, and why is it important?

An audits rights clause looks like this:

Author shall have the right, upon reasonable notice and during usual business hours but not more than once each year, to engage a certified public accountant to examine the books and records of Publisher relating to the Work at the place where such records are regularly maintained.

This means that if you think you're not getting paid correctly your CPA can go in and audit the publisher's books.

There is a company here in NYC whose sole purpose is auditing royalty statements. They don't charge you any money, they take a percentage of what they earn for you in mis-paid royalties. They've been doing quite nicely for a number of years, which says a lot about royalty accounting.

An audit clause is important because without it you have to sue to get to the books, and while publishers will probably let you at them if they aren't trying to cheat you on purpose, you definatly want it spelled out that you have the RIGHT to look at them without resorting to litigation.

The language on this clause is drawn from Kirsh's Guide to the Book Contract, a tattered copy of which is in every single agent's office in the world I think.


Miss Snark's New Catch Phrase

Dear M'Lady Snark (if I may be so bold),

From Faster Than Kudzu for April 4, 2006. Joshilyn Jackson, author of GODS IN ALABAMA and BETWEEN, GEORGIA writing about opening a book with immediate conflict:

"I think the best way to let the reader meet your characters is to put them all in a room and then light one of them on fire."

That's a keeper.

May Manolo shine upon thee.

could not have said it better myself!

The scent of a novel

Dear Miss Snark,

I wrote you once before and you were good enough to answer me. Here I am again, a serial Snarkling.

I have written a historical romance novel and it's currently being rejected by better agents everywhere. But I got to pitch it to an editor at a romance writers convention, and she invited me (and everyone else, I'm sure) to submit, so I did.

It took five months, but she just sent me the nicest rejection letter I've ever gotten.

Thanks very much for the look at TITLE and I’m sorry to say no, because I loved the plot. However, the style throughout was flat and unevocative and often sounded quite contemporary. A good historical should give an impression of its setting that will transport the reader back in time and I just didn’t see that here.

Best of luck, though, and please keep us in mind for future projects. You might want to rework this with the above advice in mind, though, since the plot is fine.

This is definitely the most helpful and most encouraging rejection letter I've ever gotten, and I think the editor is a peach for giving me the feedback. I'm very grateful for that, really, because I know she didn't have to do it.

But - what does it mean, exactly? It's absolutely my intention to do some revision based on her advice, but I'm not quite sure what to do. Flat and unevocative...? Does she mean I should use more flowery language? More descriptions of things, like the clothes, and the settings? More of the period-appropriate vocabulary? Help, please! I’ll make a donation in your name to the Clone George Clooney Now Foundation.

Without seeing the manuscript (and no, you can't send it) I'm going to guess that you describe how things look. You leave out the other senses. That's one thing that makes me say "flat and listless" right off the bat.

Just yesterday I flung myself through the closing doors of a northbound Number 6 train and instantly realized why there were seats to spare on this normally crowded line. Without seeing more than the bare feet of a poor man who was probably very seriously ill with diabetes, I could smell the fact that he was unaquainted with water or soap. It may have been Easter Sunday but my only reaction was to march the length of that train car and stuff myself into the filled to overflowing adjoining one. I was the last in a line of 25 people who made that same march.

I don't have to tell you anything about how it looked for you to get the sense of what that was. Smell is the most overlooked description in novels, and historical novels lend themselves to this quite nicely.

Take another look at your first three chapters. Color code your descriptions based on the five senses and see if you're out of whack.

Then go back and look for cliches. "A shot rang out" makes me stop reading without fail.

Nitwit of the Day has companay

Dear Miss Snark

I'm sure that the massive good karma you‚ve generated by creating this wonderful blog will make up for a lot of prior bad behavior. (What priors? Miss Snark denies all)

I've worked for three years to complete my novel, making a lot of sacrifices along the way. I am now ready to query agents and have been gathering information from websites.

In discussing submissions, one NY firm (noted for handling fiction) posted an article by an agent (actually an ex-agent) in which she described tired old story lines that everyone hated to see come across their desks. I was stunned to discover that one of her descriptions fit my
plot exactly. Since her description is so well-written and exactly the right length, I was considering incorporating it into my one-page query letter (customizing it of course, with the names of my own characters).

My question is this: should I leave the agent who wrote the article off my query list (she seems to be highly regarded) or should I submit to her anyway and just run the risk that she will recognize her own words and reject me out-of-hand because of the obvious plagiarism?

Cause yanno(tm) the only people who read agent's websites are writers, right? Like I don't look at them?

Plagiarism is stupid.
Do I really have to tell you not to do it?

If you do, you'll be sorry. And I don't mean in the karmic sense. I mean in the sense that when people find out (and they will) you will have destroyed any kind of mutual trust with your "lucky" agent let alone everyone else. Publishing is a relationship driven industry and if you steal things from agent's websites the only thing more fun than catching you is talking about it...endlessly.

And of course, the idea that you pitch an idea using words from an article about "tired old plots no one wants to see" is really just icing on the cake.

Let me check the date of the email...April 1? Sadly...no.

Yes some of it's dreck but no matter

Dear Miss Snark,

Years ago I used to be in the film business in Hollywood (camera side) and the common refrain amongst producers was that there were many submissions, but little new and different in the scripts that made it to their desks.

While mucking about in your your slush pile, and dealing Snarks of death to miscreants, do you see essentially the same scenario(s) written many different ways? Does this ever cause you to want to change genres?

BTW - Destiny (Golden retriever) gives a big shout out to KY and wishes him all the best in overcoming the scourge of squirrels.

KY salutes his colleague in Squirrel Reduction Efforts.

Now, to your question.

yes, I see a lot of the same kind of thing but so far I've never been tempted to throw in the towel on working in mysteries or other specialty fields I love. I do fear sometimes that I get jaded and that perfectly nice books go by the wayside cause I've read too much.

The average book buyer in the United States buys fewer than ten books a year. Most people READ fewer than ten books a year. You can see from my link to library thing I've read 30 books this year alone, and that doesn't count the slush pile, the novels I read from my submission list, the novels from my clients or doghelpus the Writing Contest Novella y'all produced for me.

I thought about this question as I was reading my slush pile today and I can tell you that honestly it's hardly ever the "seen this before" that makes me write "pass" on a query letter. It's mostly bad writing. Cliches, unimaginitive descriptions, opening with a dream sequence (yea yea I read Rebecca too but that doesn't mean you should do it).

I actually just read a very fresh and original voiced work that I passed on cause the novel itself didn't hold together for me.

Writing a novel is not just getting all the pieces right, it's making the whole thing more than the sum of the parts.

And if you meant am I ever tempted to stop agenting, the answer is no. The payoff for me comes when I get an email from a client like I did last week saying "I've waited for this (book sale) my whole life". It's really really hard to imagine a more satisfying job than helping people achieve a lifelong dream.

Nitwit of the Day!

Dear Miss Snark,

I have a question for you that you may have covered in the past, but feel it would take me months to get back to the first entry to find out the answer so if you don't mind responding, I would appreciate it.

Question: Do you represent children's book writers?

Just a one word reply of YES or NO will do. I don't want to waste any more of your valuable time than I am right now with a query if the answer is NO.

Were you thinking of sending Miss Snark a query?
Don't do it.
I don't take equeries on the blog.
And you don't have a clue about who Miss Snark is and you should not query an agent you don't know. One of Miss Snark's colleagues has just finished a project answering query letters sent to an agent who is dead. Talk about careful research.

Look in listings such as Agent Query and Writers Market and Publishers Marketplace. Look for agents who say "children" "YA" or some hint they do the kind of work you write. Don't mention your status as Nitwit of the Day in your publishing credentials. It will be our little secret.

Exclusives are a lazy ass way to do business

I've been aggressively querying my novel and in the past week have responded to three request for partials. Today I received another request for a partial where the agent requires an exclusive for as long as she has my material under consideration. It's a reputable agency that I would be pleased to do business with.

Of course, I cannot pull back the three partials that are already out. So should I just sent the partial to the "exclusive" and refrain from sending anymore queries or material until I hear back? And what if one of the partials that is out comes back with a request for a full while the exclusive partial is still on that agent's desk. I know I'm getting ahead of myself because it may turn out that none of them request a full, but I want to be prepared.


Actually, you can pull the partials from consideration. All you have to do is email the agent and say "thanks but I'm withdrawing from consideration". The real question is do you want to do this and the answer is a resounding no.

Exclusives stink.
Open ended exclusives stink more.

Asking or requiring an open ended exclusive is the mindset of an agent stuck in 1973.
Given one can receive a manuscript electronically (even those of us who don't take equeries do take things electronically) reading 50 pages, or 300 pages in less than a week something any of us can do with one eye tied behind our back. And we WILL for a project we REALLY want. To ask an author to tie up his/her work on open ended terms is disrespectful and counter productive. It's also a lazy ass way to do business.

You can't provide her an exclusive read and you shouldn't. If she doesn't see the merit of that, why would you want to work with her?

A new agent for a novel

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm almost ready to start querying with my first fiction ms, and I have a problem. I have an agent--or at least, an agent sold my co-authored non-fiction book in fall '04 (it comes out this month). I don't have a contract with her, first because she doesn't use them and second because even if she did, it would have been for co-authored works only. (This is why my publisher doesn't have first dibs, either)

She says she sells fiction, but looking at her website I see her last fiction sales were two years ago, and not at all similar to my ms. Even assuming she wanted to rep me for this work, I don't think she's the right agent here--but just going out to look for a new one feels completely wrong. Any advice? Should I find out if she even has any interest in repping this work, or just let her know I'm going elsewhere if I can for my solo fiction but hope she'll rep any more work with my co-author?

The only thing worse than someone saying "I'm going to take this elsewhere cause it's a better fit with someone else" is when they DON'T say it and I have to.

Best thing here is be straightforward with her. She'll probably be glad not to have to say no, but you must speak to her before you shop the novel so that there are no misunderstandings that could have a negative impact on your other work with her.

Don't forget to mention this in your query letter too since other agents will want to know you have other books with another agent.

Hearts and Flowers...oh yuck

Dear Miss Snark,

The publishing house with whom I work has a very cozy corporate atmosphere--bagels Monday morning, cocktails Friday afternoon, roving masseuse in between. I'd rather stick to work at the office and have my fun elsewhere, but I don't work there. I respond to chatty, smiley-face
ridden emails in kind. No biggie.

They gave me a gift certificate to a swanky restaurant when my book came out. They sent flowers for my birthday. They invite me to wine and cheese functions. I get lovely cards with my royalty statements. I'm fairly certain that I am NOT a particularly special author; this is
just their style.

My question: Should I hook up with the intern who is doing all this crap and find out the editors' birthdays and send them cards? Or does a thank you note suffice? I don't want to seem ungrateful, but this blurring of business and friendship is getting on my nerves.

wishing I were,

Emily Post

Dear dog in heaven, what travesty is this?? Not only smiley face emails but cocktails limited to Friday afternoons?? You must extricate yourself from this hell at once.

Suitabley refreshed by Monday gin, Miss Snark joins you in bemoaning the mix of business and personal relationships. Miss Snark has been eviscerated time and again for saying "an agent is not your friend; s/he is a business associate" but she harbors no grudges. She has however been known to send emails with smiley faces corrected to skull and crossbones.

Anyway, the answer is no. These little gestures are impersonal despite the fact they are designed to make you feel special. If your receive a gift you send a thank you note. That is all that is required. The "must respond in kind" method leads to madness...thank you notes for thank you notes. That behavior is limited to brides and flinty eyed Junior Leaguers in certain select counties of Georgia, Alabama and Virginia...bless their hearts.