I offend you? I still want you to represent me!

I got my query back from an agent. He had nothing but kind words to say of my manuscript but chose not to take on the work because he said it "offended his sensibilities." I did my homework on this fellow, and my manuscript is not the kind of thing that's outside his wheelhouse. He has a large number of sales in the literary genre, and a lot of novel that he represented are similar to my own.

Is offending an agent's sensibilities really reason to reject a work he obviously liked enough to comment so positively on? I mean, if Bret Easton Elis could get American Psycho looked at by an agent and published, I don't see how my novel is more offensive.

I'm an agent, you think I'm going to say no? Of course it's a reason to not take something on. I wouldn't take on anything that offended my sensibilities either. I'm pretty much offended by dead dogs, (KY "yea!!!"), the conspiracy of the Jews to rule the world, the conspiracy of the Catholics to rule the world and kill the Jews, the conspiracy of the ...well, you get the idea.

Finding an agent to represent your work means finding someone who WANTS your work to do well. You absolutely do not want an agent who's holding his nose every time he says the title of your book, so this guy did you a favor.

Bret Easton Ellis didn't launch his career on American Psycho either. And it was published fifteen years ago....not the best comparison for today's market.

Miss Snark is Quite Honored

Well, things are looking pretty spiffy on the blog roll now that Miss Snark has a nice award from P&E for being Snarkolicious....err...'helpful to writers' is what it really says.

Miss Snark is quite pleased to be so honored.

UK agents for US writers

Dear Miss Snark:

What's your take on a U.S. citizen querying Canadian or U.K. agents? Is it a terrible idea, a waste of resources, or worth a try?

Best regards to you and Killer Yapp!

KY dons his Union Jack beret and waits for the bangers delivery boy to show up while we answer this question.

Why would you do this?
US agents sell North American rights, and last I looked that included Canada and then we row across the pond and sell UK rights via a UK subagent.

I've never heard of a US author being represented only by a UK or Canadian agent. Maybe I'm off base here (and with the Yankees this season well...off base is pretty much the norm) but I don't see the advantage.

It's not illegal or stupid...but it's like moving to New Jersey...why would you do it?

That pesky 15%

Dear Miss Snark,

Do literary agents get a smaller percentage from established authors (e.g. Grisham, Rowling) who are pretty much sure to be successful with whatever they produce? How about not-so-well-known authors who come up with a huge blockbuster like Dan Brown? Do the agents ride the gravy train along with the authors or do they get chiseled on their percentage when the going gets good?

Some very very big name authors (like Bill Clinton for example) don't have literary agents, they have a lawyer who negotiates for them and gets paid by the hour. MUCH cheaper, even at DC law firm billing rates.

Commissions are a matter of contract between agent and author and contracts can be amended pretty much any time the parties decide. Of course, they have to agree or it ends up in litigation.

If one of my clients becomes the next Dan Brown and makes one gazillion dollars, my contract with him says "fork over the 15% now and forevermore", and his contract with the publisher says "Miss Snark is the agent, send the dough to her".

If the client slithers over and says 'hey honey, time to get off the gravy train', we'd have a little discussion that would involve those crocodiles mentioned earlier today.

Frankly, I don't worry about this much. My clients tend to hover on the honorable side of the spectrum and most of them value the work I do. This may be because this is a smaller agency and I deal with my clients face to face (ok electron to electron heaven forefend they'd actually yanno expect to visit or anything) so there is a real relationship in place.

An interesting statistic is that a significant number of medical malpractice suits could have been avoided if the doctor had just spent more time listening to the patient and answering questions. I forget what the exact number was but it was in the 30% ballpark I think.

When relationships start to fall apart, and people start yammering about renegotiation, and reaching for the Bar Association rolodex, one of the smartest things you can do is talk face to face and really really listen.

Everything is negotiable, but not everything is agreeable.

Salacious fiction meticulously researched

O Almighty Sunshine of my Day,

I've recently completed a novel but need a piece of your wisdom before I start querying around, and nevermind if I get the title of Nitwit of the Day. Even if fictional, my story is based on real facts and real persons. One of the main characters is fairly well known in the political and economical circles worldwide (however, give his name to the general public and many will go "Who???"). He is involved in some very kinky sex scenes and the book also offers accurate descriptions (based on true facts gathered during a big conference) on how the rich, powerful and famous behave when they are among themselves and thing that nobody is watching them (answer: like insufferable spoilt brats). I've of course changed names and places and blahblahblah, but both the man and the gathering of world leaders I am talking about remain recognisable.

Question is: should I mention in my query that this is based on true characters and facts, even though I'll hide behind the "This is a fiction" banner to cover my ass should this ever get published, or say nothing and see if potential buyers figure it out by themselves? Would you jump at an opportunity to get "juicy stuff" or run away as fast and far as you could?

Thank you for sharing your wisdom, and, last but not least: I live in a country very famous for its chocolate, so if you ever get any serious craving drop me a line and I'll ship over some of the best we have...

This reminds me a bit of when William Shakespeare queried me early in his writing career and asked would it be ok to take some liberties with the War of the Roses. Then, as now, characters based on real people would stomp across the stage (or in your case, the novel).

"Sure Wills", sayeth I to he. "No problemo. Just don't annoy Her Maj the QE1" (well, there was no 1 then, cause who knew if there'd be a 2).

So we pitched it as "fiction steeped in the reality of the day" and sure enough, those suckers...err...producers bought it. And the rest as they say is l'histoire.

No one ever went broke overestimating the public's desire for salacious kinky sex world leader fiction.... well, Broadway could have with Bill O'Reilly's Those Who Trespass
but that's another story.

Flashbacks as opening gambit

Dear Miss Snark,

As always, I heart you and KY (more so this week for taking a stand against tantrum throwing scam agents - I hope KY hasn't gotten a sore throat from yapping back).

I'll keep this brief: are flashbacks in openings of novels one of those things you wish we'd stop doing, like dream sequences and narrators looking in the mirror to describe themselves? I searched the snarkives but didn't find anything.

Thanks so much.

I hate prologues, flashbacks, dream sequence openings, and anything akin to "it was a dark and stormy night". Yuck yuck yuck. Start the damn thing with someone being eaten by a crocodile and you're much more likely to hold my attention. Well, ok, the crocodile is negotiable, but I really want some sort of literary toothsomeness in those first pages.

Here's the secret scoop: hold on to that prologue or whatever until someone asks to read the full novel. When you're querying, send the opening chapter. That prologue or flashback won't have any significance unless you're reading the entire book anyway so why risk shooting yourself in the foot.

There is no law that says you have can't change the chapter order any old time you want. It's your book.

For an example of how a flashback in the first chapter REALLY works well read Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper and you have to read the ENTIRE book to see how clever and crafty that first chapter is (which isn't exactly a hardship, I liked that book a lot).

and PS Thanks again to Miss Adventure for those indexed Snarkives.

Odds On /Odd Off / Just do it

Dear Miss Snark-

In reading about agents in various publications, I've noticed that the listings include a percentage listed of how many authors agents represent that are unpublished or new. From a new author's perspective, do we want this number to be high because it says how willing they are to take a chance with a new author, or do we want it to be low because it represents how many of their clients that they can't place with a publisher? I've never been sure how to view it.

Thanks for your blog and the time you take to answer our questions.

I think you should ignore that figure unless it's zero.

Searching for an agent is NOT like doing your geometry homework (and before you get all ew ew ew, Miss Snark loves math and wishes you did too) wherein you work the problem till x = 1.

There are only three absolutes to determine:
1. is the agent legit (ie verified sales)
2. are they open to new writers
3. do they represent the kind of work you do

You start looking for agents that have more than 50% new writers and you'll miss some darn good agents who may really like your stuff. I've said this before; it's worth repeating:

Query Widely.

The worst thing that can happen is you'll hear a lot of no. Well, join the club. I hear that every day of the week, twice on Sunday, and that's just from Mr. Clooney's doorman.

Site ad nitwittery

Miss Snark,

If New York Literary Agency is a scam, then is Zack of Zack Company a nitwit for having their advertising on his site?


I think (and please, jump on me if I'm wrong) if you sign up for ads on your site, you get what the keywords send you. So, if you write about publishing you get all the advertisers that keyworded "publishing" as places they wanted to be seen.

I've been taken aback more than once reading a website that was screeching bloody murder about scam publishers, only to see an ad for one of them on the site itself.

This is going to be one of the interesting problems of the future: how to generate revenue for websites that eat bandwidth (like AW) without being at the mercy of everyone who wants ad space on your site....although I'd LOVE to see ads for something like P&E or Writer Beware on the AuthorHouse website!

To quote Maud Newton: "this site is not for sale".


Oh, Miss Snark...you've been (harumph) BAD

The comment tails on the last four posts about Barbara Bauer, one of the 20 Worst Agents, has coughed up some interesting points I'd like to address.

First, I didn't wake up Thursday morning and decide to nip at the heels of an "agent" on the SFWA 20 worst list. I got an email that told me the Absolute Write site had been removed because a "literary agent" complained it "libeled" her. I proceeded to read the post and comments at Making Light, a place I go to get lots of info, maintained by people I know and trust. I verified that the AW site was down.

I decided that if Barbara Bauer was able to hoodwink someone into thinking she'd been libeled, one of the very best responses was to make it clear to anyone with the wit to google her name that other people think she's a scammer and why. So I posted. And posted. And you commented. And the fun started.

Now, if someone said to ME: "Miss Snark you are a scammer, you have no sales" what would I do? Well, I'd probably email them with a list of sales. And I'd be hopping mad. And I'd probably huff and puff. Probably in that order. Barbara Bauer did two of those three things. Guess which.

Second, people have expressed dismay at the idea that I'd say anything negative about a real person. Well, wake up and smell the coffee folks. This woman claims to be in MY profession. She holds herself up as my colleague. She's actually used the words "Miss Snark my competition" in posts on AW. (Hell yes I read that stuff). I was able to laugh that off for a while but now she's bullying people who are in the very business of helping clueless newbies (among others) ...that makes me as angry as I've been in a while. She gives mercenary and avaricious a bad name, and for that, I'll be as loud and public as I need to be. If you don't like it, go read someone else's damn blog.

Third, people have intimated that AW isn't a paragon of holiness and virtue. Well, d'uh. No one said it was. It's a damn bbs with 7000 members. Of COURSE people are going to do, say, post and illustrate completely lame ass stupid vile and cruel stuff. And other people on the board are going to chide them, correct them, and in really flagrant cases ban them.

AW doesn't have to be perfect or even close to it to have my respect. They're TRYING which is more than can be said for those scam "agents" who are preying.

I've read more than one post at AW that said "Miss Snark wears support hose and drinks moonshine" but I've never felt the need to threaten anyone with libel, or any kind of legal sanction. I don't need to defend myself, and I sure as hell don't need to shut anyone up.

Fourth, I've been chided for using this to promote a book. Well, folks, lets all remember that when I chide agents for selling stuff, it's for selling things they get a piece of and as part of a rejection letter.

I've recommended books here before, I'll keep doing it. Hell, I post a list of the books I've read this year so you can go read those too. I don't get a piece of those, and I sure as hell don't get a piece of Jenna's book at Nomad Press.

And last but not least, Hell yes I'm mad. I love this industry and I love my job. I get VERY prickly when someone does something that associates the word "literary agent" with "scam". And I get even more hot under the collar when people think the proper response to that is to either ignore it or deal with it like it doesn't matter. It does matter. It matters a lot.

I would hope to dog you'd value the idea that a literary agent isn't just ho-hum about someone preying on writers LIKE YOU. And if you think for one tiny little minute that you could never ever be that kind of clueless newbie who'd fall for a scam, remember, you weren't born knowing everything you know today. Someone taught you. Someone helped you. Sneer all you want to at those clueless puppies today but we were all born clueless and the idea of letting someone chomp them up like they don't count is repugnant to me, and it should be to you to. If it isn't, get the hell out of my blogosphere.

And, of course, I can see from my email that a lot of people wish we'd get back to "business and usual". We will.

You can follow the events in the comments trail at Making Light, as I do.

Killer Yapp Takes the Stage

Miss Snark is a trifle taken aback at the idea of Mr. Clooney entering this fray, but herewith, the latest contribution to the Barbara Bauer, 20 Worst Agents, repetoire.

I believe a beverage alert is in order.

There's scam..and then there's just stupid

Culled from the comments column, this response from another of the 20 Worst Agents:

Dear Ms. Snarkling:

Thank you for bringing this information to our attention. We are not part of the class action suit Ms. Bauer is starting (last count I believe she had about 100 agents involved with the goal being to remove all those writing boards); pay little attention to the whining boards; pay even less attention to some arbitrary list systems; and only work with professionals.

You may wish to distance yourself from that lot as we are not the only agents who hear about those who post there and many other agents not on those lists are checking them against their submissions and tossing out those they find there.

Just FYI, some agents are even passing around a new list NOT posted on those boards; it's the 2,000 Worst Writers List. I'd hate to see your name on it.

Wishing you only the best,
(the final lie)
Mr. Gregg Collins

Marketing Manager (what the hell does a literary agency need with a marketing manager??) Robins Agency

Oh Gregg honey, real agents, yanno (tm/pp) the ones with slush piles, can barely answer their mail let alone compare it to some list.

And I just love the idea of a "class action lawsuit" (from 100 agents!!!) to shut down websites where writers share information. Ya, let me know when you want me to sign on!

Are you SURE you weren't a carnival barker in a previous life?


The really stupid thing about attacking writers is that they are smart and creative.
They don't call talk shows and whine...they build websites (or post really really sardonic yet useful comments on Making Light)

Here's the website du jour

Jenna Glatzer and the folks at Absolute Write have my respect and best wishes.

Jenna has a book out from Nomad Press called The Street Smart Writer.
You might consider buying a copy and donating it to your local library.
Anything we can do to pull the avaricious fangs of scam artists like Barbara Bauer counts as the good deed of the day.


Hey Barbara Bauer! Put up or shut up!

So Miss Snark, you say, there's a lot of sturm und drang about Barbara Bauer, one of the 20 Worst Literary Agents. Lots of people saying lots of stuff. How about you SHOW not tell, kinda like you're always yapping about on those query letters.

Fair enough.

Open a new window and paste in the URL of Barbara Bauer, one of the 20 Worst Literary Agents. Here it is:

See the button that says "our client's work"? Click it.
Or use this link: Barbara Bauer, one of the 20 Worst Agents, Client List

Notice it starts out with "Below are just a few of the many companies who have worked with our clients".

Ok. Sound good? Notice the word "sold" doesn't appear. Nor the phrase "here are the books we've sold"

If you look at other agent's websites you'll notice they list the CLIENT names and which client may have been on Oprah, or Rikki Lake, or NYPD Blue. Click any agent pretty much at random off the AAR list, or the Publishers Marketplace list and see what I mean.

And "book publishers who've worked with our clients"?? What the hell kind of claptrap is that?

Have they published ANY of the books you represent? NO.
How do I know this?
Cause I clicked on the links section and all those authors have "prepublished books"...and they're "ready for publication" and "ready for sale"...ie NOT sold to a publisher. I know this cause the name of any publisher is sadly absent. Any agent worth his/her salt posts deals pretty promptly with at least the name of the publisher and FORTHCOMING to indicate it's a new deal. Trouble is of course, you have to sell something to someone to say that.

oh wait, there is one guy who has a book published, and it's for sale on Amazon. Just to double check that Barbara Bauer, one of the 20 worst agents, really was 0-0, I googled the publisher.
Take a look at their agreement.

Boy, I'd sure want to advertise a vanity press publication on my agency's website!

And the piece de resistence is "some popular books the agency helped get published".

Barbara Bauer has been yapping a lot about people "libelling" her. Here's a clue Babs:
It's not libel if you tell the truth.
It's not libel if you point out that there are no sales on a self styled literary agent's website and that is a HUGE WARNING SIGN FOR A SCAMMER.

Barbara Bauer
, you are a scam artist. You know it. I know it. And now, about 3,000 more people know it cause that's the numbe of hits on this blog in a day.

You can storm around all you want and huff and puff till the house blows down. I have only one question, Babs, honey: "What have you sold"?

Technorati tag:

Miss Snark is Damn Mad

Barbara Bauer is not a literary agent. Barbara Bauer is a scam artist. And a very very stupid one. Here's the scoop:

Barbara Bauer phoned the woman who runs the web hosting for Absolute Write wherein Barbara Bauer was listed as one of the 20 Worst Agents (a list I was happy to publish as well) and sounded scary enough that the site host panicked and pulled the plug.

In the past Barbara Bauer, one of the 20 Worst Agents, tried to get Teresa Nielsen Hayden fired for "libeling her on the Making Light website".

Like I said: stupid. It's not libel when you're telling the truth.

Let me say this again in no uncertain terms: Barbara Bauer is not a reputable literary agent. She is a scam artist.

Strong words? You bet. Wanna come get me Barb? Come on over. Let's compare sales.

While we're waiting for BB to respond, there are a couple things each and every one of you can do to help Ann and Victoria, the people who are on the front lines of documenting and publishing information about just such scam artists. (They have my utmost respect and admiration, and they should have yours too.)

First, you can read this post by Jim Hines and decide if his strategy is something you want to be part of.

Second you can post this list of the 20 Worst Agents with the link to the SFWA site

* The Abacus Group Literary Agency
* Allred and Allred Literary Agents (refers clients to "book doctor" Victor West of Pacific Literary Services)
* Capital Literary Agency (formerly American Literary Agents of Washington, Inc.)
* Barbara Bauer Literary Agency
* Benedict & Associates (also d/b/a B.A. Literary Agency)
* Sherwood Broome, Inc.
* Desert Rose Literary Agency
* Arthur Fleming Associates
* Finesse Literary Agency (Karen Carr)
* Brock Gannon Literary Agency
* Harris Literary Agency
* The Literary Agency Group, which includes the following:
Children's Literary Agency
Christian Literary Agency
New York Literary Agency
Poets Literary Agency
The Screenplay Agency
Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency)
Writers Literary & Publishing Services Company (the editing arm of the above-mentioned agencies)
* Martin-McLean Literary Associates
* Mocknick Productions Literary Agency, Inc.
* B.K. Nelson, Inc.
* The Robins Agency (Cris Robins)
* Michele Rooney Literary Agency (also d/b/a Creative Literary Agency and Simply Nonfiction)
* Southeast Literary Agency
* Mark Sullivan Associates
* West Coast Literary Associates (also d/b/a California Literary Services)

And third, you might email everyone on that list, just yanno (tm/pp) to let them know that their "colleague" Barbara Bauer, one of the 20 Worst Agents, has made sure that their name is published far and wide.

Silence Ann and Victoria? Not while I'm here.

Technorati tag:

Who Dun it? more like who wouldn't

Dear Miss Snark,

I have almost completed my thriller called Someone is Killing the Literary Agents of Manhattan. The book's title explains its premise somewhat clearly, except that I am using real literary agents' names and attributes for the characters who are the victims of the maniacal killer.

Do you think if I send it to an agent who gets killed off in one of the horrible ways recounted in the book (stabbed in the eye with a poisoned porcupine needle while reading Gawker, for example), that agent will get turned off by the manuscript and not want to represent it?

Thank you in advance for your sage reply.

You'd have a MUCH better chance of success if you send it to the rival of the agent who gets killed off in a most horrible way. If you write it cleverly, you could just do a universal search and replace on certain names and send different victim versions to each agent. You could start with using all the agents on Ann and Victoria's list...oh wait, that kinda defeats the purpose doesn't it.


You honest to dog do not need credentials to sell a novel, I swear

More than a year ago I queried agents about representing a novel dealing with stuttering. I got some partial reads and some suggestions, but no takers. In addition to continuing to work on the novel, I also started a blog for persons who stutter. After a slow start, the blog traffic has picked up substantially, thanks mainly to some mentions in speech therapy publications. The blog is in the Miss Snark format -- readers ask and I answer. (While my passion matches Miss Snark, my wit certainly does not.)

Question: Would the blog help validate me in anyway? Should I mention it in my next round of queries?

Validate you how? That you have tons of readers? I think editors are looking for pretty serious numbers of hits for that. I asked the cigar smoking Beatrice about this once, and he mentioned even his hits weren't considered all that great (and he was pretty much THE blog about books at the time).

Validate you for content? This is a novel. Your writing has to stand on its own.

Validate you for being witty and charming? Perhaps, but man oh man, you better make sure your shoes are polished and your mohawk is freshly purple and pointed if you're inviting guests to drop by any hour of the day.

I don't think it's nitwittery to mention you keep a blog, but I also don't think it's a big selling point either unless you're getting those gazillion hits mentioned above.

A Little Too Much is Probably Enough

Dear Miss Snark:

I, too received a rejection with a 'keep up in mind for other projects' notation written at the bottom. Now, I have other projects, but is it wise to start querying a second manuscript while other agents are looking at partials, and the number one agent on your list is reading a full?

And perhaps, the bigger question: At what point do you decide to stick a manuscript into that 'under the bed' file and move on to pitch the next?

Pats to KY, and help yourself to my Bombay Sapphire.

"Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines."

Oh, that is Miss Snark's new motto! Call the armorer for rewelding the escutcheons!

First, I think you should keep as much stuff in circulation as you can afford and keep track of. If Agent A has a full on Manuscript A there's nothing nitwittish about sending Manuscript B to Agent Q. Just keep good notes.

I'm not sure when you retire something to under the bed. There's no hard and fast rule for it but as you query you'll get a sense if one ms is working better than another. Offhand I hope you're querying me with the fourth or fifth novel and the first three are our little secret (well, ours with KY..he's big on dust bunny patrol).

The only thing that's absolutely wrong is to quit.

Best foot forward

Miss Snark,

Agent A requests a partial. Likes it, but is not enthusiastic enough to offer representation. You go on to write another book. When sending the query about the new book off to Agent A would it be ok to mention that they prevously requested a partial on your other novel or would it be better to just leave that out completely?

I'd leave it off, UNLESS the agent specifically said "let me see something else you've got". Then you say "you asked to see other things, here's my new novel". Do NOT say "you rejected me" "in your rejection letter" or anything else that sounds like rejection, pass, or later gator.

It's not like a magic incantation where if you say the wrong words you conjure up the Snark, but it's a mind set. You don't mention efforts that didn't succeed; you focus on the work at hand. It's just presenting yourself as fresh, vibrant, and positive. There's time enough to have a good laugh that it took multiple queries for your agent to recognize your merit. The best time to mention it is the drinks celebration when she sells your book.

Miss Snark heads for a cliff

My Dearest Mistress Snark,

Your casual reference today to the great "King Lear" has prompted me to write to you with a question that I have long been procrastinating over (and no, it does not relate to the filial fidelity of my three daughters, ha ha!).

After almost ten years of toil and introspection, oft reaching into the very depths of my soul and tearing free my inner being, I have finally completed my latest work; a literary novel of great erudition and depth, if I may so immodestly state.

Knowing how important it is that the reader can recognize the metaphor and sub-text in order to truly emotionally connect with, and be enlightened by, the work, and remembering well my own frustration in high-school comparative literature where ill-read students and teachers alike would butcher a literary classic by attributing to it meaning far distant from the author's intent, I have heavily annotated my own text, including providing translations of the passages that are in the original Ancient Greek (with a well deserved nod to Mr. Golding for his skilful use of that device).

So, without further ado, to the heart of my question. How, in the normal course of events, do you administer the publishing of the Cliffs Notes to accompany a work of fiction? Are these considered a subsidiary publishing right? I have, to protect the integrity of my work and the important messages contained therein, already drafted the manuscript for the aforementioned Clffs Notes and wonder if I should make reference to those in the initial query; submit them at the time the full manuscript is requested; or wait until you offer representation before presenting the comprehensive reading guide?

I believe, as I am sure you do too, that I owe it to my audience to give them every opportunity to read and understand my work; even though the rich tapestry I have woven will without doubt pass over the heads of many of them, and they may merely default to reading the work as just another chick-lit story. With the knowledge that nothing will come of nothing, therefore, I herewith submit my enquiry, and indeed myself, to the mercy of your wisdom and look forward to your metaphorically rich reply.

With deepest admiration for your blog-based largesse,

Your Humble Servant,


Literary Author (unpublished).

Oh yes definitely include a list of all the study aids required to fully appreciate the novel.
I guarantee it will greatly assist an agent's ability to decide if your work is right for his/her list. Cliff notes are a subsidiary right, categorized with anthologies and ViewMaster slide presentations.

Don't wear Keds to the prom

Dear Miss Snark:
Thank you for helping so many writers. It is very kind of you. I have just finished a literary novel and I have a chance to have it read by two best-selling authors. This is a very important chance for me and I want to submit it to them correctly. Should I give it to them double or signal spaced? It is 125,000 words. Should it be bound or unbound?
Many thanks and best regards,

Um...are you giving it to them so they will blurb it?
So they will critque it?

What you want them to do has a significant impact on presentation choices.

If you want a critique you send manuscript pages just like you do to an agent. Observe standard form.

If you want a blurb, I always put it in "as close to book form" as possible. Typeset, bound, trimmed if I can, and actual galleys if I can do that too.

Make sure you include a cover sheet with your contact info.

One of those days

It's been of those days when, truly, the world would benefit from my retirement to a convent.

Convents and vows of silence being hard to find on short notice, Miss Snark instead prevailed upon her bosom buddies to retire to the nearest watering hole to commiserate.

Miss Snark was recounting her tale of woe and like all woe tales, it soon developed into a contest of woe woe woebegone, gently down a gin.

Here's one of my faves:

Agent Nice is briskly conducting biz on phone. Call waiting beeps. Agent asks her author to wait, picks up call. Muffled odd breathing. Hang up. Agent returns to author, conversation ensues.

Agent conferences in editor with author. Several important things on the agenda are covered. Call waiting beeps. Agent ignores.
Call waiting beeps again, agent ignores.

Call ends, agent picks up voice mail. Self important message starts with "I've carefully researched you and I need an agent, call me" followed by two minute pitch, followed by "I don't think a letter is really the way to go."

Agent deletes message.

Phone rings.
Agent answers.

(Well, of course, you know what happens.)

It's Mr. Self Important.
First words out of his mouth "I've been trying to reach you all morning; you're very hard to get a hold of."

(Miss Snark gives up trophy for woe of the day, but she's STILL wondering why "a letter isn't the way to go" on a query from "an established author". Maybe he'll research Miss Snark next and she'll find out!!)

There's Glacial..and then there's agent response time.

Dear Miss Snark,

While rejection isn't a pleasant thing, I find it preferable to no reply.
When I don't hear from someone by the top end of their suggested wait time plus a little extra (if it says three months, I may wait four or five), I send a polite yet brief note containing key info needed to identify my work and ask if they can verify that nothing was lost.

This has happened with query letters as well as complete submissions. More often than not, I receive replies explaining the reason for delay or a resub request stating that something cannot be located. Sometimes the problem continues after the reply, or I receive no reply after repeated, though well-spaced, attempts atcontact.

I've even seen anthologies go to print while waiting for a reply.
I follow guidelines, so that is not a contributing factor to this ongoing problem. This has happened with both snailmail and email, so it can't simply be the work of rogue stamp collectors hunting down SASEs.

Is there a way to prevent or minimize these incidents? When dealing with these situations, at what point does it become appropriate and prudent to withdraw one's work and submit or query elsewhere?

Well, I'd get out my soapbox, wave my arms and screech about bad manners except I have about 25 unanswered two month old query letters (not partials! LETTERS!!!) on my desk right NOW.

Mostly these are sitting here cause they aren't auto rejects but that's not a uniform standard to apply to all agents across the board. A couple are sitting here cause they're people who've queried more than once and I'm trying to figure out how to say "stop" without sounding too cruel.

And then, there's this thing called 'what I get paid to do' which isn't query letters.

Stuff happens. We get behind, the paperwork is insane, it's really impossible to get off lists and stop queries when you don't want them, let alone manage the stuff that comes in when you do.

Ok, all my justifications are now in order.

Given people are sending SASEs and we're sending back form letters, it's not all that hard to stay up to date. It's fucking rude to not respond, and worse to not respond to a follow up.

I think part of the problem is that multiple submissions are now the norm, so no one really has the sense there are people waiting with bated breath on the other end of the SASE. I figure you're querying one gazillion of my colleagues despite that coy little line of "a few select agents".

And actually, you SHOULD be querying widely. Waiting around for Mr. Glacier and Miss Mesozoic to answer your queries isn't a good use of time.

If you don't hear back, don't write to withdraw a submission, just keep following up for a pretty long time (and when you get an agent THEN you send them a nice note saying "neener neener").

Don't burn your bridges till you're on the other side as Grandmother Snark told me more than once as she held a match to ignite the hatpin of death.

As to how to avoid this, not much beats the Puritan model of public shame: some clever beasts amongst you may want to start a blog wherein you keep track of who answers their query letters and how fast. That way you know if Miss Snark is a speed demon or a tortoise (or dead) and you can plan/plot accordingly.

Meanwhile, I better go answer those queries before you get that list developed or I'm gonna be turtle soup.


Miss Snark Meets the 202

Miss Snark has survived her foray out of the 212.

Normally Miss Snark travels by sedan chair but the 202 is a bit too far even for her devoted footmen. Therefore Miss Snark purchased a ticket and climbed aboard a public conveyance and found herself viewing trees! grass! and something that looked suspiciously like the set for The Wire.

Five hours and one crying child evicted to the checked luggage section later, Miss Snark found herself in Washington DC. Consulting her trusty map, she knew it was not far to her destination so, being a true New Yorker, she decided to hoof it.

Now, I'm not sure what goes on in Washington DC that they've decided they need this but every pedestrian light is accompanied by a timer that shows how many seconds are left before the light changes from WALK to DON'T. Here in New York of course, such things would be a joke. There's exactly as much time left as I need to get across; you wanna argue? Fuggedaboudit! And despite all this technology, there were about six people on the street. The cars! My dear dog, the cars!

BEA is of course strange and wonderful. It's entirely possible to stand next to a Very Well Known Author as you both wait for the barrista to pour the elixir of life and say nothing other than "damn, I wish they'd hurry up".

There's always someone with a toilet; this year was no exception.

The people with the most hustle and energy are almost always the guys in the small press row who've self published something. I admire those guys. I wish they'd leave me alone, but I admire their drive.

The best very very best moment was passing by the big ass Author House booth and seeing it empty empty empty. And hearing their booth staffers talking about the Kansas libel decision. Miss Snark refrained from laughing in their faces...but she was smirking hard by the time she cleared their air space.

Bat Segundo is a madman and should be kept on a leash. Edward Champion is a cutie pie and Miss Snark is glad she met him.

There was a lot of food this year; or maybe I just noticed it. Everytime I turned around someone was rolling out ice cream or hotdogs or choccies. No one was serving gin. Miss Snark is filing a grievance.

Best bags by far were from F+W.

Weirdest swag was a handheld fan on a tongue depressor. Forced to take it, Miss Snark wondered why anyone would think this a clever giveaway in an air conditoned building when everyone's hands are full anyway.

Best visual: the guys from ThrillerFest talking mayhem under the banner "Harlequin Romance".

Second best visual: the girls in swim caps, swim suits, sunglasses and sandals handing out flyers at the door.

Saddest effort to hitch self to DaVinci Code: banner claiming "Jesus drank. Judas repented, and God divorced his bride: Christian non fiction".

Worst Miss Snark moment: the escalator going UP was stalled and behind me, I heard a voice say "oh no, I'll never make it up those stairs". I thought "clearly not a New Yorker; we scoff at stairs". I turned; it was a librarian pushing twins in a stroller. Ohhhhhhh ow ow ow, the hot pincers of shame clamp down on the sneer.

Best DC moment: walking back to the station, turning around, seeing the dome of the Capitol bathed in light. Yowza.

Worst DC moment: getting very very lost, flagging a cab to just GET there; giving the driver the address, and the look as he paused, slowly turned to face me, and pointed to my destination...across the street. Fastest taxi trip ever: $5. Pitying look on driver's face; priceless.

Best NY moment: there are no bad ones. Ever. I love this town, and thank all dogs, BEA is HERE next year.


Dear Miss Snark,

What do literary agents do at Book Expo? Seriously. I have a book on submission and am wondering if this is a big pitch-fest to editors over gin at the Watergate lounge. How much fun can those endless aisles of new units and product really be? The good stuff happens at night, right?

Well, I don't know what anyone else did at BEA but I work my ass off. First, I visit every publisher that has a book of mine and chat up the sales guys and gals. I visit the distributors of small presses where I have books, and chat up those guys too. This can take a while cause they're about as interested in talking to me as I am in talking to authors...ie not. They're interested in talking to library buyers and bookstore buyers. I have to be pretty careful not to interfere in that so it can take a couple passes by a booth to get some talk time.

Then I go look at everything out there. I find all sorts of people doing interesting and wonderful things and I chat with them, pick up a catalog and find out who does the acquisitions. I never pitch. I just chat.

Then of course, I run into people on the floor who are doing exactly what I'm doing. I run into people I haven't seen in years and we clog up the aisles throwing ourselves on each other and yapping about how great we all look. Then we complain about everything for twenty minutes and then we swirl off.

Some publishers do bring editors and some of them set up appiontments. I meet maybe six over the course of my time there, sometimes less. It's a good time for face to face with editors from out of town.

Lots of my colleagues are doing foreign rights at BEA, but I farm all that stuff out so someone else is working while I'm just wandering around.

And yes, the parties are at night but Miss Snark, as we all know, is all business and would never EVER be caught in the embrace of Bat Segundo anywhere near Dupont Circle, all rumors and photos to the contrary.

Sex, drugs, rock and roll...oh yawn

First, I'd like to say how very much I enjoy reading your particular corner of blogdom. You get karma points for the service you're providing, I'm sure.
Enough toadying, here's my question:

Are agents even considering addiction memoirs right now, given the big fat Frey debacle? Are they (and you) just passing them and the potential shit-storms that come with them over? Or does an honest, well-written account of junkie-hood still stand a chance, if its facts can be verified (or absolutely NOT, as the case may be)?

Thanks in advance.

Well, I'm just the worst person to ask cause I hate addiction memoirs. Really loathe them. This is of course not a comment on your work specifically cause I haven't read it, but in general, I turn these down with just the most cursory read through of the first page.

The impetus to write addiction memoir is laudable: "I went through hell, here's what I learned, maybe it can help you too."

Trouble is, once you've read Jerry Stahl, Stephen Elliot (oops, that's not a memoir, that's a NOVEL) and Augusten Burroughs (and this one is too, ok ok), not to mention William Burroughs, is there really anything new to say? We know you lived, we know you're sadder and wiser, ya ya ya.

There's a new book coming from Little, Brown in the fall called "The Real Animal House", by Chris Miller and it's a memoir by a guy who was in the movie. Now THAT is something I'd read cause I loved the movie, haven't read much about the making of it, and it's bound to be funny. Junkies barfing in the the toilet or turning tricks for cash, just can't compare to "can we dance with your dates" and Dean Wormer, no matter how well written.

Cluster died for your sins?

Greetings, your snarkfuliciousness,

I finished my first novel a year ago and have been doing research and rewrites ever since. I have everything I need except a compelling query (been scrapped and rewritten two dozen times). Given my genre novel's youthful, gritty (dare I say, edgy) tone and voice, I'm stuck on a word.

In the synopsis bit of the query, clusterfuck works so well, as it accurately portrays the amount of danger the protag is in, and is an obvious clue to my sopranos-grand-theft-auto-esque dependence on vulgarity. I feel there's no reason to hide in the query the language I use all throughout the novel's dialogue. And while I only want to use that one word, I understand this is a business letter.

Can of worms, hornet's nest, powder keg, big lot of trouble, ect.. doesn't have the impact I'm looking for.

Is it the height of insanity to cuss in your query, or will it merely separate me from agents who wouldn't want to represent my potty-mouth work anyway?

I appreciate what you do for us obsessive, clueless writers, and I don't mind being a nitwit, because I can depend on others to straighten my ass out.

As you can see from the two preceding posts, you're not even in the running for Nitwit of the Day. Maybe tomorrow.

At some point some one has to read the novel so if clusterfuck is the word of the day, might as well use it up front. And if an agent is horrified/offended and chagrined, well, you've saved them from reading this horrifying/offensive, dare I say it edgy, novel. Besides I'll take a novel that uses cluster fuck any day of the week before I'll look at sensitive coming of age novel or someone doghelpus battling their personal demons.

If you've been working on your query letter for a year, you need to get off your ass and get this thing out in the world. You wait too long and clusterfuck is going to be the name of some celebrity's offspring and you'll be as edgy as Grandmother Snark's purple mohawk.

(My spell czech wants to change clusterfuck to cloister; I'm not sure what that says about Firefox.)

Have you all taken leave of your senses?

Dear Miss Snark,

Although I may be wet behind the ears, I know that publishing is a dog eat dog kind of place. I have read that agents and editors will reject your manuscript if they see cliches and I want to be prepared to swim with the sharks. I may not be sharp as a tack, but I didn't just fall off the turnip truck either. I know writing isn't a piece of cake and I know you can't please all the people all of the time, but how far should I go to please an agent or editor?

Should I bend over backwards to remove all the cliches from my work? Because that might take a lot of time and time is money. Will an agent or editor get bent out of shape or blow a gasket if I leave a few in?

I have been thinking about this for a long time and am climbing the walls. I have a cliche in my opening paragraph and I'll be fit to be tied if I have to take it out. Please don't flip your lid or read me the riot act about asking these questions because I'm already getting worked into a lather.

I read your blog and it's a laugh a minute and although you may not see eye to eye with everyone, I'd be pleased as punch and happy as a clam to have you answer my questions.

See you later alligator!

Dear dog in heaven.
Miss Snark is rendered speechless.
She's not sure whether to laugh or cry,
or just snark till she's blue in the face.

Time will tell if the approach is just not quite right for us at this time; meanwhile she wishes you all the best and oh, and rest assured she gave personal attention to your email despite this form letter response.

Two for Two...this makes me want to go back to DC

Dear Mrs. Snark, (uh..who?)

I secured an agent for my medical-thriller-type novel last December. He sent it out and it got 4 rejects. Based on the criticisms of the publishers who rejected the book, I made some changes and sent it back. Now he wants more changes - many that I don't agree with. Can I refuse to make the changes? If so, will he terminate my contract? Of course, he made the suggestions by email and I plan to discuss with him over the phone. But I wanted your advice: Can my agent make me change my book?

Did this medical thriller involve the surgical implantation of a clue?

"Make me" has the ring of "you're not the boss of me", and you're quite right. Agents aren't the boss of you. They don't own your work and they can't force you to do anything including follow their advice.

Not even Miss Snark can make you do that.
She can however insert clues without benefit of anesthesia. Step right up for a demonstration.

Miss Snark Returns...

Hello Ms. Snark,

What is the typical length of time that agents take to respond to query letters from first time authors? If one does not get a response within a few days, should one assume that the query has not been very exciting? How long should one wait without getting jittery?

Thanks for any helpful comments.

A couple days? You wait that long? Frankly, 24 hours, no, really, 24 minutes is about how long you should wait. When you think about it, agents really are just waiting at the mailbox (snail or electronic) just waiting with bated breath to hear from you, and the very second your missive arrives they fall on it with cries of glee. Somewhat the way I feel about this email in fact.