BEA...t it!

This is it..Miss Snark is off to the city of southern efficiency and northern hospitality.

She's packed the poodle (banned from BEA after the really unfortunate incident of thinking the guy wearing the toilet seat was a dog water fountain) off to Grandmother Snark's.

She's packed the steamer trunk, sharpened her fangs and is now ready to mix with her colleagues. Whether they are ginned up enough for Miss Snark's mixer is another question.

BEA runs through Sunday. If she totters home by Monday afternoon, it will be a miracle.

After, of course, after!

After (of course, *after*) sending my query to an agency that said "Email Query Only," I realized that the italic fonts from my email program didn't follow through - even though I chose send with HTML . I discovered this faux pas because I BCC'ed to my home email account to have a copy.

Instead of italicizing my titles, it puts slashes around them /My Title/. So now, do I look like a complete nitwit? Is there a chance they will understand it is an email snafu (although, yes I should have double checked before sending)?

Thanks. I'm going to drink gin into nitwittery oblivion.

Since I do not do anything to email queries other than sneer, I'm probably not the best source of info about how agents view "typos".

I will say this though: since you have no idea what program someone is using on the other end, anything other than plain text can get garbled. I know this from the email I get from y'all with questions. You would not believe the black dots, quotes out of place, weird ass stuff that arrives in your emails. I think it's from the cut and paste stuff.

Obviously the answer is to check first (as you yourself pointed out). Someone could make a fortune offering that service: "Send me your query, I'll tell you if you have format problems".
(which beats the hell out of threatening to kill the dog for money on this site)

Nitwit of the Day!

Dear Miss Snark:

I've heard of agents and publishers Googling prospective authors' names to see if they can turn up any information about that person.

Well, today I decided to search the Internet to see what someone looking for information about me would turn up. Much to my surprise, the first thing to pop up was a news story about a California criminal who happens to share my name. Other people who share myname include a soldier, a Hollywood businessman, an improv musician, an editor for a telecom newsletter, a fictitious character in a British horror movie, and many others. Clearly, some of these characters would have a better shot at publication than others.

How do people who do their research on Google go about weeding through these results? Would the petty thief with the same name as me hurt my chances at getting published?

"Nervous Nitwit"

Ya, agents are so feeble-minded that when they google "nervous nitwit" and get 129,000 hits, they know it's ALL about you babe.

Ya think maybe agents have figured out that there is more than one Nervous Nitwit in the world and maybe they throw in an extra search term like "feeble minded" or "book" or something from your query letter?

Nahh...we get 129,000 hits that say you're fictional, and a thief, and a worst of all..a musician, you're toast.

Order! Order! Order in the sentencing!

Dear Miss Snark,

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid, too.
Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe tuo fo 100 anc.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Msis Srnak tknhis tihs wlil mkae cpoy erdtios raceh for tiehr hnad gedrenas.


Oh yes yes yes...

AuthorHouse Loses Libel Case

by Claire Kirch, PW Daily -- 5/16/2006

A Kansas jury last week found print-on-demand subsidy publisher AuthorHouse guilty of publishing a work that libeled the author’s ex-wife, and ordered the company to pay $230,000 in actual damages to Rebecca Brandewyne, a bestselling author of mass-market historical romances. Brandewyne is best known for Outlaw Hearts and Upon a Moon-Dark Moor, both published by Love Spell, an imprint of Dorchester Publishing. Her next novel, Crystal Rose, is due from Mira Books.

According to court documents, AuthorHouse published Paperback Poison: the Romance Writer and the Hit Man by Gary D. Brock, with his current wife, Debbie Brock, in November, 2003. Some of the more incendiary claims in Paperback Poison include allegations that Brandewyne broke laws, committed adultery, plagiarized several of her books, and hired a hit man to kill her ex-husband, the book’s author.

Documents filed with the court by Brandewyne’s lawyers assert that the Brocks had informed AuthorHouse that the book had been turned down for publication by at least one other publisher due to concerns about its libelous content. “AuthorHouse knew or should have known,” the complaint reads, “that in publishing and distributing the book, [Brandewyne] would be injured.”

The Kansas jury ruled for Brandewyne even though AuthorHouse’s contracts state that the publisher assumes no legal responsibility or liability “for any loss, damage, injury, or claim to any kind or character to any person or property” in publishing the works of its clients. Jay Fowler, an attorney for Brandewyne, maintained that the “contract does not absolve AuthorHouse of their responsibility. AuthorHouse published the book, put it on the Internet, did everything a publisher does. They’re responsible for publishing this book without vetting it first.”

Fowler said that AuthorHouse claims 74 copies of Paperback Poison in total were printed, 21 were given to the author, three were sold, and the company destroyed the 50 copies they had remaining in stock after receiving complaints about the book from Brandewyne and others. “But that book’s still out there,” Fowler said. “Sometimes, [the online seller] says the book is published by Lightning Source, sometimes 1stBooks, sometimes AuthorHouse. But it all flows back to AuthorHouse.”

Bryan Smith, president and CEO of AuthorHouse, said he was disappointed that the jury ignored the First Amendment protections afforded AuthorHouse, and instead “were permitted to considner Kansas common law theories of outrage and invasion of privacy.” Smith noted that while the AuthorHouse system leaves authors in control of the content of their books, the company works to identify objectionable material. “In this case,” he said, “we acted promptly and conscientiously once we discovered the potential problems, and do not believe our actions justified the verdicts.”

AuthorHouse is considering appealing the case once the final judgments have been made. Under Kansas law, while the jury agreed that Brandewyne also should be awarded punitive damages, that amount will be determined by state court judge Jeff Goering at a hearing in Wichita scheduled for May 25.


Nitwit of the Day-with a morning PS from MS

Divine Miss S,

I read an interview with an agent a few years ago that had a ring of truth. She stated that perseverance was not the key to a writer's success. The logic being that if a first book was rejected, the writer often failed to understand that it's his writing that's being rejected. He might then go on to compose new novels with those very same mistakes.

Some of my friends have numerous novels in a drawer, and I don't want to follow down that path. I would much rather go after a much coveted degree in white water rafting and bartending so I can learn to make a killer Slow Gin Fizz on an inflated rubber raft.

Please advise.



I definitely advise you to quit writing at once if you don't understand the difference between the pace of imbibing -slow- and that which is imbibed - sloe - fizzy gin or otherwise.

And perseverance is so overrated. I've never ever heard Tiger Woods talk about practice. And Twyla Tharp never ever mentions it in The Creative Habit a book every writer should own two copies of (one for you, one for people to steal).

Yes the idea that perseverance is simply making the same mistakes over and over again is spot on. Thank Dog you mentioned it tonight. Now we can all go out and watch the Film Noir Festival at Film Forum.

post-first round of comments note: please understand that much of this post is what you literate types might call tongue-in-cheek. Please do not write to me and say "Tiger Woods does too talk about practice" or worse "the reason Tiger Woods doesn't talk about practice is cause media types don't let him". In fact, persevere in hunting up a dictionery to look up the word "snarkastic". Press on until you find it.

Steal this...I dare you

Dear Miss Snark,

the Kaavya Viswanathan saga has got me wondering about absorbing the details of novels. Certainly, she did not ‘absorb’ what she did, opting instead to regurgitate the work of others (after some foolproof slight tweaking, of course).

I recently read an article by Katherine Paterson, author of a popular children’s novel Bridge to Terabithia. In the article, she talked about having unintentionally borrowed the word ‘Terabithia’, as well as a few character traits and fantasy elements, from the Chronicles of Narnia.

In Phillip Pullman’s The Northern Lights (The Golden Compass) he actually said he’d borrowed from many authors, crediting the wondering ideas of others for enriching his works.

I imagine it happens more often than we think: writers having great ideas, a great character, a terrific word… only to find out that they’ve pinched it, years down the track, while reading an old childhood favourite. But where is the line? I’ve heard plagiarism is near impossible to prove, as you can’t copyright ideas, but as an agent, do you notice this kind of thing while reading manuscripts? Have you ever read a great, original novel, but noticed things that you could actually pinpoint as borrowed? If so, would it turn you off?

Thanks. Phenomenal blog.

Here is where the dreaded but useful "fresh and new" can be quite handy.

If you send me material that lifts phrases/motifis, let alone sentences and paragraphs, from Barry Eisler, you bet I'm going to notice. If you send me material lifted from Charles Willeford, maybe not so much. But if you send me stuff that sounds too much like either one of these guys, we won't have to worry about giving back the advance money cause I'm not going to take you on. I love Barry Eisler and if he wants to ditch his agent and lope over here to Snark Central he's lost his mind, but he's welcome.

I don't want a clone though...I want someone who is as fresh and exciting in their own right as John Rain was (and remains). Or as compelling as PJ Tracy's Monkeewrench group, or Lisa Scottoline's law firm girls.

Now, as to avoiding plagiarism. It's pretty damn easy not to steal stuff if you don't hold the book open and copy. I challenge ANY of you to remember more than six lines of The Ride of Paul Revere, or any three lines of Shakespeare sonnet word for word...or even close. You'd recognize them if I spoke them to you, of course; they're familiar. It's an entirely different kettle of fishies to recreate those lines word for word. Try it.

In this day and age it's not only morally wrong to steal it's STUPID. Eagle eyed librarians can summon up comparisons with the flick of a rhinestone crusted digit. Bloggers can sound the alarum far and wide.

But, being influenced by, or using a name is NOT plagiarism. Saying "yanno (tm/patent pending)" is a JOKE. You can use Snarkling, and Rabbitania and even serial scrubber and not be plagiarizing. If, however, you lift this entire post, create MissSnockered.com and post this as your own...well, after the house falls on you and the little dog eats your shoes for lunch, well then, Miss Snark will have a little chat with you about the joys of intellectual property rights. She will enjoy this chat more than you.

Paying homage to another writer is half the fun of writing..well, ok, maybe not half. But it's still fun. Recently I received a manuscript that had the name of a film character I loved. I asked the author if it was a silent tip of the chapeau. "No!" she said, she hadn't thought of that till I mentioned it.

Another time, I was waxing eloquent about the "King Lear motif" in a novel. The author looked at me like I'd lost my mind. She'd not only NOT done that on purpose..she thought I was seeing things that weren't there in the book. (She was kind enough not to say so but you could tell..).

So, one person's influences, another person's tip of the chapeau is someone else's first sign of a diminished grip on reality. We can argue about interpretation and influence all day...and they do over at the NYU graduate program in literature --NONE of that has anything to do with plagiarism.

So, obsess about something else. That poor girl who made a bad bad choice is not what could happen to you if you don't pay attention. It's what happens when you foolishly think no one is watching.

And yanno (tm/patentpending) you're free to use Miss Snark as a character in all your novels and true crime narratives. In fact, Miss Snark thinks it will improve the state of the written word dramatically.

That's a fine how do ya do!

Dearest, darlingest Miss Snark,

I have a question. It may be a nitwit question - just a warning.

I'm finishing the final rewrite/revision of my middle grade novel, and while hemming and hawing about whether it's done, I'm beginning to research agents to query. Good, right? Even better, I found one who appears to be to looking for exactly the book I have written. Huzzah!

But there's a problem.

Everything the agent has sold (which is a sizeable amount) is yet to appear in print. I've checked the agency website and Publisher's Marketplace, looked at AgentQuery and cross-checked against Amazon.com . Coming in Fall '06! Out in May '07! Plenty of that. The "hot off the presses" column? Empty.

I want this agent to know I've done my homework. If I say in my query, "I'm looking forward to reading My Interesting Novel by Jane Doe," does that come off as well-informed? Or does it get my forehead stamped with "desperate stalker?"

Pearls of wisdom appreciated.

Desperate? Yes. Stalker? Not so much.

ahhh...the fine line between stalking and being well prepared.

Herewith, things you say that will make any agent (but particularly solo practitioners) phone up the nearest RentAThug service and dispatch Shyster Snark for a restraining order:

1. "You looked lovely in your pink frock today"

2. "Killer Yapp is just decorative, right? He wouldn't actually bite anyone who came to your door...would he?"

3. "I googled you and we went to the same day school. Do you remember Sister Sadistic from fifth grade?"

4. "My mother's cousin's boyfriend's car mechanic is Munch Mancini, and I notice you read her books."

5. "We live on the same block...are you that crazy girl with the poodle?"

You'll notice that each of these has an element of personal contact -school, home, appearance, or is a psychotic break from reality (Munch Mancini is NOT a real person). It is entirely disquieting how much personal info is available on the web and the savvy query writer knows to avoid making an agent suspect you're a wing nut who doesn't understand that this is a business, not Friendster.

That is why things like "books you've sold" are fine; attendance at the same university, or residence in the same city (even long past) can be fine; but anything that makes you look like you are lurking outside the foyer today under a mushroom waiting for the Frog Prince...that's bad.

Here are the sources of information you can use without fear of looking deranged:

1. Books the agent has sold/authors represented
2. Anything on the agent's website
3. Anything published by a reputable trade journal: PW, Publishers Lunch, Galleycat, MediabistroTB.

4. Anything said at a writers conference you yourself attended, or online chatforums you attended with the agent.

5. Bios in the conference programs.

What's not ok is tracking down Grandmother Snark, plying her with demon rum and asking her to for the keys to Snark Central so you can find out what kind of dog food KY stocks in his remote control canine cupboard. Other than the fact that Grandmother Snark can probably drink you and your little dog too under the table...you want to avoid this kind personal connection.

Avoid Google-ogle, wherein you google the agent and find every last comment ever made and from that try to establish a connection. Connection is over rated.

You don't have to know much about me to query; write well enough and Miss Snark will be glad to perform introductions all around.

No, You May Not Query Miss Snark

Dear Miss Snark,

Please provide guidelines for submissions to your agency.

There are some folks finding their way to the blog this week for the first time so a quick review is in order.

Miss Snark does not take queries on the blog.
Miss Snark does not give 'forwarding instructions' for querying her alter ego.

Miss Snark treats such requests with snarkasm.

There are posts about why she does that in the Snarkives.

The comments section of this post is closed because there is no need for comments.
If you feel the need to take Miss Snark to task for this, you may email her.
ALL email received by Miss Snark is fodder for the blog.

Miss Snark starts the week with ANOTHER correction

Miss Snark:

Minor correction on copyright.

You can sue for actual damages if you have not registered. What registration permits you to do is get statutory damages, currently running at $250K per infringement. Which in the case of the vast majority of books, is way more than actual damages, hence the value of a registration.

Oh Miss Snark should have spent the weekend in the law library instead of chaperoning KY to his employment interview at Peter Luger's for a position on the "bone disposal squad".

Thanks to all the sharp eyed readers who keep Miss Snark on the unfrayed path of accuracy.


Slush is Timeless

My Dear Miss Snark,

I read with interest that "Spring is a horrible busy season." I've heard it's pointless to send out anything in the summer, as everyone in New York is either in the Hamptons or sunning in Ibiza.

I've got a stunner first novel. I've done my homework. I'm eager to query. Would I be better off tweaking my little heart out on the ms. all summer (or starting on the second novel) rather than blowing my wad early, as this last will only see my one-page brilliance languishing amidst the dusty stillness of agents' offices everywhere? Am I better off waiting until the leaves redden once again and a chill returns to the air?

Bless you for enlightening the dimwitted masses. A tub of gin and a sausage bouquet are en route to you & Killer Yapp.

(KY here: "I'm waiting at the door...when will you be here??")

Hi Miss Snark,

Your blog is hilarious. Thanks for it.

Question: You said in a recent post that spring is an especially busy time of the year in agent-land. BEA, bla, bla, bla. Is there a better time of the year to query? A time of the year you are less busy?


Ok, I was mostly being sardonic about the busy waiting for the Brangelina baby... you know that right??

I'm not much on starting a project in the summer mostly cause I'm too busy reading trashy novels and chaperoning KY on his trips to Coney Island, but that doesn't mean I don't read the slush pile.

"Summer season" in publishing means we work half days on Friday (or no Fridays here at Snark Central!) and the month of August is pretty slow (ie I'm not here). Other than that, we just whine about the humidity and keep working.

I like to wind things up at the end of May, sort of a cleaning of the files. That's when I look at stuff that hasn't sold and decide if there's more life in the equine or it's time to quit beating the poor thing.

I do that again in December at the close of the calendar year too. It's not so much a season as it is just a good time step out of the day to day and take a longer range look.

There is no hard and fast rule though. Each agent, and agency, operates differently. There is no perfect time to submit, nor any completely wrong time. When you send it has almost ZERO impact on when I read it unless you arrive with a two book deal from Bantam and a recently deceased agent who is guiding you to my door from the afterlife.

It Doesn't Mean What You Want It To

Hello Miss Snark (insert clever compliment here in order to gain attention). (perhaps we just need a Chinese take menu of effusive compliments make this easier on everyone)

Finally, a blog with a purpose! None of this what-I-had-for-lunch-my-life-is-so-interesting-NOT rubbish, but a veritable fount of useful advice!

I'm a UK writer, who has been touting his second book around London agents. The other day, I spoke to one on the phone having called after three months to check for any progress on my sub. The agent said that their readers liked the sample, and then he asked me where I saw my book on a bookshelf as it combines elements of satire, dark fantasy and sci-fi (eeek, I hear you say!) (eek indeed).

A rather long discussion (for an agent on the phone) followed, ending warmly with him telling me he was going to 'write me a letter about this'.
I've been in quandary for the past three days as I can't decide if this is a rejection or not. I wondered if you could provide any insight into agent's responses and what they really might mean i.e. 'This is certainly different' translated as 'You're clearly a serial killer'. (Yes, I know, I didn't have the balls to ask directly myself!) Any ideas?

O! Miss Snark has ideas to spare on this one.

First, let's look at your questions: "What does this mean"? and "is this a rejection?". You're asking the wrong question. The question is: is this an offer, and the answer is no. Regardless of why (you=serial killer; him=unorganized slacker; book=unsaleable masterpiece) this guy has not said the magic words and thus you Must! Query! On!

Don't stop till you've heard "I'd be pleased to represent you" AND you've said yes. Those words will be unequivocal and generally accompanied by something in writing and a talk about the root of all evil.

Solving your Prologue problem once and for all

Miss Snark has been quite the reader this weekend.
Too bad none of it was anything remotely resembling work!

Tonight, Miss Snark offers up a very clever idea stolen from the pages of So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld. Call your prologue "chapter zero" and your conclusion "chapter whatever". Or the reverse.

Fun, zippy book too.