What do I call this?

Hello Miss Snark:

How would you categorize a novel that takes place in the future and focuses on how society has changed (e.g. 1984), yet technology/science have nothing to do with the story. Some people say anything that takes place in the future is science fiction, but that is incorrect, unless the plot cannot exist with science aspects.

Extrapolative fiction maybe? Do agents even recognize that as a genre? Or if I'm writing a social satire should I just leave it at that?

Satire works. I've seen "speculative fiction" and "dystopic fiction" too.
When in doubt "commercial page turner" always works!

Best of the Best

Dear Miss Snark:

Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to correspond with a variety of agents, editors, publicity-types, producers, etc. I've noticed that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM (except one male editor) used "Best"to end their emails, letters, cards, etc. Do you, Miss Snark, use "Best?" I've never this used in any other industry. I prefer "Sincerely" myself.

If you are my agent, please disregard.

Okay. I will go back to writing again.

Best as Miss Snark can tell, it derived from "best wishes" or "best regards" and in fact is the universal sign off in publishing. Miss Snark of course does not use such a mundane closing, no no.

If Miss Snark likes you and hopes the conversation will continue she closes with "fondest felicitations from your most devoted correspondent"

If Miss Snark is hoping you will lose her address both street and email, she closes with "Farewell Oh Amazing Delight", hoping the subliminal message will register.

Snark On!


When Are You Going to Write A "Real" Book?-UPDATED!!

Most Awful One,

A misguided friend recently asked me when I'm going to write a "real" book (aka literary fiction). I responded with an attack on his personal life, and I believe that ended our friendship. I'm not terribly upset over the loss, needless to say.

I expect this question to come up again, as my social circle includes some rather pretentious artists and intellectuals. The worst of them provide the best comic fodder, so I don't wish to excise them from my life. I'd like to be prepared with a classier come-back, something snarky but proper. Do you have any suggestions?

1. I'd love to write literary fiction but my agent flat out refuses to stop making money on my work.

2. It's a good thing you are handsome, because your manners are butt ugly

3. I leave the pretentious naval gazing to people better trained for the job.

4. I'm purposely avoiding writing anything that will be of interest to you.

5. How kind of you to show an interest in my career. Are you asking because you need a loan?

6. I'm reserving the great novel for when I need to lower my taxable income.

7. Literary fiction tends to be attractive to people I don't much care to be around.

8. I had to sign a non-compete when I stopped being Thomas Pynchon's ghostwriter. He's very fussy about those things

9. Yanno, that's exactly what someone asked Stephen King three days before he received the National Book Award for outstanding contribution to American letters.

10. Right about the time you get your head out of your analogous.

and...culled from the comment tail, a NEW and wonderful addition:

11. Did you drop out of charm school or were you just asked to leave quietly?

(let's all remember Miss Snark does not actually detest literary fiction in case you were thinking this was a reflection of her own true feelings)


I'm reading Buried Alive, the book about Janis Joplin as I haul my sorry ass around on the subway today.

One phrase leaped out at me: "Happiness is what you choose to pay attention to".

Janis Joplin didn't say it, one of her friends, Linda Gravenites did. I'm not sure, in reading this book, if Janis Joplin ever knew when she was happy, or even if she ever was.

The great, gone too soon, poet Jane Kenyon thought about happiness too.

Here's what she wrote about it.


There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon.
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.

It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

from Otherwise New & Selected Poems © Graywolf Press, 1997.

I very much hope you know what makes you happy.

Death Valley Daze

Your awesomeness, Miss Snark, (awfulness is correct, but awesome is ok too)

The "businesslike" and "professional" question from "an occasional, if also slightly reluctant, snarkling " spawned a question in the echoing recesses of what passes for my brain, these days. It's fairly obvious that a businesslike and professional demeanor is appropriate in a business setting, or where the relationship is transactional. That's not the case here - you run your blog as you wish, which involves enlightening the willing masses and employing both a sense of humour and a needle-sharp wit. (The better to puncture egos with!)

It occurred to me that one who so completely misread the nature of the relationship between blog owner and blog reader might well do so in other arenas as well.

It then occurred to me to ask:
Do you ever find yourself wanting to tell someone "I love your book, but I'd rather be hung naked by my toenails in Death Valley than have to deal personally with you," and if so, what DO you tell the unfortunate wight? Or does good writing overcome even the horrors of having to deal with the perpetually clueless?

I've never actually used the words naked, toenails and Death Valley but "upon careful consideration I regret this isn't a project I can take on" sometimes means "I'd rather tell fortunes in Central Park for cash than represent you".

And yes, it does happen. Not often, but maybe three or four times a year. On the other hand, there are people who get up close and personal communications from Miss Snark and hastily mention they've signed elsewhere. Miss Snark is not only not everyone's cup of tea, she's not even everyone's choice for gin pail du jour.

The clueless are easy to figure out but I've had some near misses with people who have some strange ideas. I've actually had prospective clients ask "how can I reach you" if I tell them I'll be away for a vacation. I've had them ask for the name of my bank. I've had them ask for names of editors I work with. All of this bodes ill for getting to "yes". If you don't agree...fine, we've saved you a lot of postage and me a lot of reading.

Hey! My comment got zapped!

Some of you may be wondering why your comments get zapped.
One such commenter (zapped) said I didn't post links that would draw you away from my blog.

I don't post links in the comment column if I don't know who you are...Anon. Sometimes I have time to verify the links and I'll post them but often I'm just charging through the list and if you've got a link and it's not obvious what it is and I don't know you...zap.

If you want to have a link, you gotta have a name.
One too many penis enlargers spoils the...well, I'm not sure what it spoiled but there'll be no penis enlarging on THIS blog!! Harumph!

Also, I've tried to reduce the number of comments that are just "you suck" redux unless you're saying "miss snark sux". It's my blog, take your best shot, but dogpiling isn't the best use of canine resources. Killer Yapp prefers we all just admire his festive new straw boater.

Also, if you are just exercising your chops about grammar, punctuation, word choice...get a grip. (if you can't get a grip let me know, I'll forward the penis enlarger links).

The exception to that is when the friggin links I've posted don't work. Let me know, plleeeeze.
I don't post the comment but I do fix them. I'm getting better in the linkage thing but oh man, I'm still as adept as duck on skates.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled snarking.

Slush pile visual

Hi Miss Snark,

What does a slush pile actually look like? I can't imagine that's it's really just a tall, single stack of paper. That would make it a herculean task to add something to the end of the line. Maybe it's more of a vertical thing. I'm guessing that it's more in one's mind than on one's desk. Just trying to get a visual...

The slush pile is a misnomer. There are no piles of paper in my office, nor in most offices I visit. Stacks yes, but pile connotes disorganized heap, and that's more what I look like in the morning, rather than what the submissions look like.

The mail arrives mid day and the first thing that happens is I sort it into #10 envelopes and flats. The ms returns or other big packages go in another stack. I open the #10 envelopes first. Everything without an SASE gets thrown away. I quickly scan the letters. The ones that I think I'll want pages to read, I send BACK the SASE with a note saying "I told you to send pages the first time ya nitwit". The others go in the start of that days's 'slushpile'.

Then I open the flats. Everything without an SASE gets junked UNLESS it's someone sending me something I asked for. Then I just get annoyed, but I will read it. I also get annoyed when the SASE is tucked carefully under page 15 and I have to search the entire bloody pile of paper to find it. I tuck the SASE envelope around the letter and pages and add it to the stack, face up.

When all the mail is opened I have a stack that is about 6-10 inches high. That's each and every day, rain or shine, six days a week.

The trick is to get the paper OFF my desk as soon as I can. Thus I have a reading system, and most agents I know do too. Here's mine:

First I scan the cover letter. If it's clearly something that's a non starter, I say no and send it back.

Everything that gets past that first cursory look gets read. 90% of that gets rejected on the next pass. That can take a week or more to work through.

The remaining pieces go in a stack that never disappears. I will sometimes read stuff three or four times at this stage. (almost no one else I know does this). I do this cause I want to make sure I only ask for more pages on things I really want to read, and a lot of stuff is ok on the first read but loses its charm later on.

That pile right now is five inches high. The earliest letters are on the bottom face down. I turn the stack over and read from the top when I work on this pile. This is the pile I work on at night, on weekends, and when I get frenzied about being disorganized. THIS is where your letter is if I email you and say "are you really the horse's ass you sound like or was the cover letter just an anomaly, cause I like your writing, but you sound like a pill to work with".

So, no piles but yes, plenty of paper.

Yes, Maggie, you were right

I slithered in to Partners & Crime one evening intent on catching up with some criminally minded authors and while I was hanging about I read the shelf talkers. (Shelf talkers are the little cards that 'talk' about the book. Mostly hand written, mostly by store employees, mostly in indie stores.).

I came across Michael Gruber's Tropic of Night. "It went from 'New in Store' to 'Best Reads of the Year'," said the shelf talker. I didn't require more persuasion than that. I bought it. The Maggies were right. It's an amazingly good book. I'm falling all over myself to read more from this guy.

I read a lot of books in a given year. You can see that from the list on the right, and clicking on my Library Thing listing. I think it's up to 40+ now and this is June. I buy MAYBE one in ten of those titles. I use the library, and publishers send me stuff. I pried open my wallet for Tropic of Night, and was glad I did.

What does this mean for you?

Check out the shelf talkers. Read the books bookstore people think are really good. Indie bookstore folks tend to read widely and know a lot about good writing, and about what kind of good writing actually sells books. I'm not suggesting you write "for the market" but I am suggesting reading the books recommended by people who actually sell them is a pretty good idea. I'm glad I followed by own advice on this one for sure!

Miss Snark Eyeballs Guidelines from a Writing Group

To the gracious, witty and nitwit-intolerant Miss Snark;

I just received this bit of advice from an officer in my statewide writers' group. Your reaction to it would be appreciated, as I seem to remember some of this contradicts what I've heard from yourself and other professionals.

1. Use Times New Roman font when you print out your manuscript. It is universally accepted in the publishing industry.

well, ok, this won't hurt. The critical piece of info that's missing though is the point size. You send me something in 8 pt (or 24) and it can be TNR and I still will think you're a nitwit.

2. Do not double-side copy a manuscript to save postage costs (unless specifically requested to). It makes it harder to keep the pages in order and may annoy the editor/agent.

True true true.

3. Put a blank page behind a manuscript you are submitting. Otherwise, that last page of text may take a beating.

Can't hurt.

4. When you submit a manuscript that was requested by an editor/agent after a query or conference appointment, put the words Requested Submission on the outside of the envelope so the submission doesn't end up in the slush pile by mistake.

Can't hurt but I specifically ask for something else cause a lot of people thought they were going to cleverly avoid the slush pile the first time by writing that on the envelope.

5. Better yet, if a full manuscript has been requested by an agent/editor, send it via overnight mail. This conveys your belief that the document is important, separates it from the slush pile, gets it there faster, and is how most publishing houses send manuscripts themselves.

Guffaw. Um..most publishing houses aren't sending Miss Snark manuscripts. She's sending mss to them. And they go...get this...via bicycle. Overnight delivery is insanely expensive for paper. It's stupid for queries. It's stupider for manuscripts. This is not a lucrative profession for most writers. Don't spend your money stupidly on the equivalent of a low cut sequined halter top. Spend it on querying widely and finding an agent who loves your work.

And trust me, we don't need overnight mail to know you think your manuscript is important. I've yet to be queried by ANYONE who thought their work was unimportant.

To save face -- namely, mine -- please omit my name and instead sign me


Faithful Reader

well, ok, since I like your face and saving it seems like a good idea, but this wasn't even close to a nitwit question.

Alimentary My Dear Holmeys--UPDATED!!

Dear Miss Snark:

I'll bypass the usual kiss-ass comments you receive from most readers and get to my question. You're a professional, and so am I -- so let's move on (subtext: fellow writers, please get some self respect).(snarktext: get that humorsucking stick out of your alimentary canal..it makes reading the blog a tad more fun)

After querying a well-known member of AAR, I was pleased to receive an email from him expressing excitement for my work and requesting detailed information about me. I supplied this information quickly and succinctly. That was almost three weeks ago. I've heard nothing from him since then.
In your experience, why would an agent with limited time and a large slush pile send an unsolicited email to a prospective client requesting more information -- and then suddenly go quiet? I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts and any advice you may have.

-- an occasional, if also slightly reluctant, snarkling (ya but you sure as hell want my time and attention when you have a question don't you?)

If you're a professional, let me introduce you to this large book that you can find in every library, most offices, and even in tiny electrons on your computer: dictionary.

Unsolicited means he phoned/emailed you up out of the blue and said ...well normally I'd write "hey hot stuff" but yanno, we're professionals, you and I, none of that humor stuff.

The reason he hasn't gotten back to you quickly and succinctly is you're not his number one priority right now. Probably not even top ten. Sorry for the bad news but since you're a professional I know you'll appreciate the direct, no folderol, honesty.

You queried him, he asked for some further info. He'll get back to you when he's made a decision. The normal rules of querying apply. Spend this time getting over yourself.

And in the email this afternoon:

Wow -- that was a rude response. But certainly your overly delighted laceration of my question could hardly mean that you need to get over yourself . . .

Honey, I'm not the one wondering why everyone hasn't jumped to attention when I send them a query. Nor am I the one who opens an email asking for time and consideration by insulting those who also read the blog and my blogging style.


Do you need bats in your belfry?

The latest two installments of The Bat Segundo Show, a literary podcast featuring interviews with today's contemporary writers, are now up.

Show #44 runs 38 minutes and 5 seconds and features litblogger Derik Badman and translator Jordan Stump.

Show #45 runs 25 minutes and 59 seconds long and continues our ongoing BookExpo America coverage. This particular installment concentrates on future offerings from publishers and includes reports from a few people who were traumatized after meeting Bat Segundo. (We have one more BEA podcast in the works. Stay tuned!)

The main Segundo site can be found here:

Here are the details for the latest two shows.

Show #44

Authors: Derik Badman and Jordan Stump

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Gone, relieved not to be involved with Bolsheviks

Subjects Discussed: French humor, Jacques Tati, how Stump translates, comic beats, auctorial tone and linguistics, the pros and cons of long sentences, the benefits of reading aloud, translating Verne vs. translating Touissaint, why translators get a bad rap, “Translator Awareness Month,” the influence of commercial interests on translated novels, forgotten French authors.

Show #45

Guests: Paul Slovak
C. Max Magee
Carolyn Kellogg
Anne Moore & Dan Sinker
Lauren Landress
Terrie Akerss
Camille March
Alan Davis

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Showing an unexpected grasp of history.

Subjects Discussed: How Slovak manages Bill Vollmann’s prodigious output, details on Vollmann’s Imperial and the upcoming A.M. Homes memoir, a report on “what Mr. Segundo did last night,” Joe Meno’s The Boy Detective Fails, speculation on the Akashic Noir volumes, self-realization, yoga philosophy, on worshipping a god named “Ralph,” putting the “Other” in Other Press, Michael Tolkin’s The Return of the Player, travel guides, Marshall McLuhan, and having fun over the age of 25.

To subscribe to the show with a podcatcher program (for later transfer to your iPod), copy and paste the following URL into your program:


To listen or to subscribe to the podcasts through Odeo, you can go here:

Please note: You do not have to have an iPod to listen the show! If you go to the main Segundo site, you can save the MP3 to your lovely machine by clicking on the bat picture.

Thanks again for listening,

The Bat Segundo Crew

Welcome back to the Blogosphere Miss B!

As many of you are aware Bella Stander has been on the injured reserved list.
Miss Snark is glad to see she's ...ahem...back in the saddle (ok, not as funny as a kick in the pants but close..right?).

Bella got thrown for a curve (oy).

Now she's back, and neighing in on the old SASE discussion cause, truly, it was that or lie around and watch her bruises fade. Heck, much more SASE talk, I'll vote for watching paint dry.

In any case (even with the SASE talk) we're real glad to see Miss B back in biz.

À la recherche de la Snarque perdu

Dear Miss Snark,
Evil Editor is now offering t-shirts and coffee cups to his evil minions via Cafe Press. When will the Snarklings have similar options?
Thank you,
A devoted snarkling

You will have to acquire your souvenirs the old fashioned way: steal them.

Holy cat'ostrophe!

Suddenly, those typos in your query letter aren't quite so...humiliating.

I mean, you could have been the person responsible for...this.

(thanks to Kitty for the linkage!)


I gotcher Miss Congeniality riiiiight here

Dear Miss Snark,

My first manuscript recently placed as a semi-finalist in a literary contest. Is that worth mentioning in a query on my second MS or do agents/editors see that as the ugly stepsister award?

Ok, I don't get this. Your first ms got the recognition..and you're shopping something else? Why?

Second, semi-finalist is sort of like an award for participation. It makes you feel good, but it's probably not got leverage enough to work for you.

The contest itself is an important factor. If you were a semi finalist in Miss Snark's 2nd Annual Writing contest, well, frankly, I'd mention that incredible honor on the envelope itself; hell with waiting for the cover letter. If it's the Jackalope Junction Corner Pocket Manuscript Reading, Writhin' and Roundup, well, you want to just count your blessings for getting out alive and not tempt fate by referring to it ever again.

Get the rope

Dear Ms Snark

First off, 3 yapps for Killer Yap!

What do you make of repected book reviewers who take your back cover copy and modify a few words and make it their own review? Doesn't that fall under the realm of plagiarism? A book review house did just that with my book. Not just that, there was a quote from another author at the back of my book and they generously used words and thoughts from that at the beginning of the review. Should I confront them or would that offend them to the point that they might give me bad reviews for future works? For me, their review is useless although their name means something in the industry.

What do you think reviews are for? Are they to make you feel good? (think carefully before you answer). Are they to validate your work? Are they to bring attention to your book?

If you start calling reviewers and telling them they've plagiarized the back cover text in a review you're going to look like a nitwit. They won't give you bad reviews in the future...it will be MUCH MUCH worse. The ENTIRE purpose of back cover text and blurbs is to get people to notice and read the book. The fact that a book review used that text is making who ever wrote it jump for joy (unless of course YOU wrote it in which case Miss Snark says, get out the rope, we're calling for the lady with the alligator purse+).

And what the hell is a book review house anyway? Michiko Kakutani's cottage?

There's a reason "there is no such thing as bad publicity" is a cliche. It is because it is true.

Miss Snark has sold her share of books that fell into the great maw of unreviewed silence. Count your blessings...you can do so while we jump rope.

If you don't like the reviews you're getting you can always try what a couple folks have done: write several and include them in the press packet as samples.

Miss Lucy had a baby
And she named him Tiny Tim.
She put him in the bathtub
To see if he could swim.
He drank up all the water.
He ate up all the soap.
He tried to eat the bathtub
But it wouldn't go down his throat.
Miss Lucy called the doctor,
Miss Lucy called the nurse.
Miss Lucy called the lady with the alligator purse.

Five reasons I want to rip your query letter up and feed it to the pigeons

well, ok, that's a trifle overheated but there are days Miss Snark's tolerance for idiocy drops just enough that Mayor Bloomberg personally hands her a ciggie and says "here, relax"

1. You send your query letter and pages on a CD. Do I really need to explain why this is not not not a good idea?

2. You are a lawyer and you send your query on office stationery so Miss Snark thinks Dewey Cheatham and Howe is sending her something she needs to read. This annoys me so much I barely read the letter cause it is an irrefutable sign of pretension. Doctors too. English professors too. Unless you want to apply to be Miss Snark's personal physician don't send her letters from the clinic/hospital/morgue.

3. You get the name and address wrong, and you don't include an SASE. I'll spot you one stupidity, two is break even but three in one query indicates nitwittery in the extreme. I do NOT want to work with people who are careless about their stuff. Not here, not at the bomb disposal squad (aka the dog run porta potty) and not at the eyebrow styling emporium. Get your damn act together or don't be surprised at the results.

4. You send me a letter one week after I got the first one to ask if I have had a chance to read it yet. Short answer: yes, just now. Zap.

5. You don't include your email address. Yes I don't take email queries but if you have something I want, I email you. Or if you forgot pages and I like the query, I email you. Or if you are Mr. Clooney's valet with a tell all narrative, I will email myself to you.

Don't be stupid is really good advice.
I heard it from Miss Genoese first.


Get Your Hands OFF Mr Clooney if you know what's good for you.

Dear Miss Snark,
I have read all the current posts, I loved your comments, but feel somewhatmislead. The photo on your blog states; How to win an Agent and MarryGeorge Clooney. Truth be told, I originally visited this site after I viewed your comments on AW and other sites, I was looking for guidance and information of which there was plenty, but I stopped short when I came upon
the abovementioned title; winning an agent can wait, but marrying George
Clooney? I'm not getting any younger! What gives? When will you be addressing this?

I anxiously await your instructions, I think my poodle cross will get along

swimmingly with George's pet pig!

back off you claim jumping poodle cross bearing AW refugee. I know your sort.
If you think I'm going to reveal my secret plans, you are crazy.

I made them seal the court records for that nasty little stalking complaint too.
You'd think Mr. Clooney would be used to girls in stiletto heels lowering themselves onto the picture windows facing Central Park via bungee cords. Dog knows I wasn't the only one on the roof that day.

Did you know too that travel expenses for stalking aren't tax deductible? I was just plain shocked when the auditor mentioned that.


REvising doesn't mean REsending

Dear Divine One (somehow Miss Snark just doesn't quite say it), (Miss Snark like "Oh AweFul One a lot too)

First, I hope his doggieship is doing well and catching many squirrels in the park. (hope springs eternel in the poodle pack; squirrel always is, never to be ketched)

I have two questions now torturing my soul:

The film rights for my novel have been optioned for a year and a half and I know from the screenwriter that he is no longer shopping them. Do I still need to include a note in my query letter about the option agreement - it expires in October? (1)

Second: With all the discussion on your blog about resubmits, I desperately need Miss Snark to translate a rejection letter. (2)

After reading a full, an agent wrote, "I like the idea for this very much but I'm afraid I wasn't as enthusiastic about the execution as I'd need to be . . . She wishes me luck without inviting me to resubmit if I rewrite it.

By the time I received the above rejection, I had extensively rewritten it and now, four months later, have rewritten it yet again. The rejected version I sent her was definitely not ready (isn't hindsight cool?)

Do I resubmit? I like this agent very much - the emails we've exchanged have indicated to me that she would be a good match and that she does represent what I write - good track record too. Is she just too nice to tell me outright not to quit my day job?

Thank you for your wisdom and support. I have taped a "kick me" sign to my back in anticipation of your answer. I love your snarkiness; it makes me laugh every day.

1. Yes you should mention this. It may not come to anything but it's a nice little enticement. I know I always like to see query letters that might allow me to fling myself upon Mr. Clooney at the Oscars someday.

2. No. I can't tell you how much I hate it when people do this. I really do try to restrain myself from cruelty ('lose my address! leave me alone! your poodle wears Army boots!') but when I haven't asked someone to resubmit and they send me the "new and improved version" it frequently IS new and improved...and I still don't want it.

People send me stuff all the time with cover letters that start "well you didn't like One, but I've got Two here and it's much better". Just because I read One does NOT mean I'm predisposed to want to read OneRevised or Two. If I think I do, I'll tell you. Honest.

Do NOT mistake pleasant email chat for interest. Here is how you know she wants to read something. She will say "send me...". ANYTHING else is NOT a request.

There are 6 bazillion agents in New York City. Query others. When you sell this tome for a gazillion dollars she'll be damn sorry and come crawling back and then YOU can say to her "I like you very much but I'm afraid I wasn't as enthusiastic about your taste as I'd need to be".


Do you (or do any agents you know) have a knee-jerk reaction to novels with correspondence of some sort beginning the novel?

(Chapter 1: "Dear Killer Yapp, Your evil stares are insufferable. Signed, The Black Cat from Central Park.")

Assuming the information in the letter has a point and that seems to be the best way to convey it. Is it overdone, something every agent dreads seeing? Do you say "Oh no, not one of these again!" and reach for the gin as soon as you start reading?

Ella Minnow Pea

You write something like this and I'll read it. I don't have a knee jerk antipathy toward letters like I do weather, dreams, prologues, deceased canines, flowing tresses, or dark and stormy nights....yet (even with "Dear Miss Snark" coming at her in droves in her mailbox).

Write well. That's it.

You can even write a prologue about the weather and if you do it well enough I'll read it.
The hard truth is 99.9% of the things I read AREN'T done well enough to ignore the "no prologue no weather" prejudice.

it's a very very astute writer who knows what they don't know how to do well...yet.

I learned that from Lisa Selin Davis who wrote an amazing book called Belly.

More on Footnotes in a novel

Dear*mhtml:mid://00000020/#_ftn1 Miss Snark,

I don‚t mind when you dismiss prologues on your blog.+ mhtml:mid://00000020/#_ftn2But now you‚ve moved on to footnotes and I only just started sending that novel°mhtml:mid://00000020/#_ftn3 to agents.

Could you help a writer out and perhaps say some nice things about footnotes?±mhtml:mid://00000020/#_ftn4 I‚ve taken the time to script a few responses for you to post the next time someone mentions them:

I‚ve heard that the next breakout trend will be footnotes.
The Industry and I have been lamenting about the complete dearth of books with footnotes available to the modern reader.
I view footnotes like butterflies; beautiful, glittering and ready to be pinned for display so all can admire their perfection.
I wish every agent could start their day with a big bucket of gin and a 113k manuscript filled with magnificent, superb, enchanting footnotes.
Mary Roach is the funniest woman on the planet.

So, if you could do that it would be great, thanks.

Imagine if you were trying to send this as an electronic query to an agent.


23 Skidooobie doobie doooo you know what I mean?

Mistress of Denial, and Lord of the Heels;

I need a snarkilicious answer to my dilemma: how do agents generally respond to words that are common in recent slang, but not embraced by dictionaries, and perhaps not widely-recognized? Say, a word like "snarky" which my American Heritage Dictionary doesn't list, and even dictionary.com defines as slang (though I could swear it's an official word in England)? Are too many of these relatively newer slang words, especially on page one of a manuscript, poo-pooed by agents--or poo-pooed on by KY? (You're dissing my hound's hygiene, ya skell)

And what about a word an author makes up consisting of a commonly used noun with a suffix not intended to be used with that noun, even though the resulting linguistic aberration would make sense to the average reader? For example, pretend it's 1990, and you saw the word "fashionista" for the first time on page one of a newbie's manuscript; long before that word entered American lexicon, or the prodigious vocabulary of Miss Snark. Are you turned off or turned on?

I'm not saying my novel is riddled with them, but would a made-up word (that made sense, of coursea) in addition to a recently minted slang word or two on the first page of a manuscript make you reach for the gin pail? For the wrong reasons, that is.

Then again, is there ever a wrong reason to reach for the pail?

Well sadly yes, there is one time when reaching for the pail is wrong wrong wrong.
That is when Miss Snark's hair is on fire.
Let's just say "Darwin Awards" queried Miss Snark that year...and not for the right reason.

Now, about your slangalang problemo.

If yanno (tm/pp) y'all are using the Queen's English in ways that make the Queen cry "Artemis Fowl", fine and dandy by me.

If I can understand it, I'll read it.

However, slang is a potent weapon in your diction arsenal and like Killer Yapp's delicate pink snout, you have to careful not to put it in the wrong place.

(KY: ya, the nose knows!)

Snarko Panza a votre servis, Senor Quixote

I'm building my story line around a rather sedate subject (a disability). I try to convince myself that good writing and a compelling narrative flow will win out even though the subject may not be exciting on the face. We can both name great books that tackled disabilities (Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Never Promised You a Rose Garden, etc), but most appear to be in decades past. If I'm jousting at windmills here, please just Snark me and put me out of my misery.

Motherless Brooklyn

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

Fear Nothing

and the novels listed here

The only thing I'm going to Snark you for is NOT having read Motherless Brooklyn, but trust me, the penalty for that oversight will be fully realized only after you've read the book and have seen what you've missed. Jon Letham is a superb novelist and really, you should just read everything he writes right now.

I Want a New Agent

O Goddess of Divine Snarkiness,

I have a contract with a major NYC publishing house for a work of narrative nonfiction. The manuscript should be completed in a few months.

My quandary is this: I'd like to part ways with my agent, who sold the book. I have heard troubling things about said agent's involvement (or lack thereof) with authors‚ books as publication dates approach. I don't need hand-holding, but I need someone to be actively involved in my career, and I'm not getting that now.

That said, is this a bad time to part ways with my agent? Do I have anything to offer a new agent, at this point, since they would not be getting any profit from the sold book? (and I have yet to write another proposal). There was talk of movie options (which I know is a long shot) but would I take those rights with me to a new agent, or does the old agent retain them? If this is indeed a bad time to break up, when should I do it? I don't want to be agentless when my book is released, since I might need someone to act as a liaison with the publisher.

You're in full tilt pre publication, haven't finished the book, panic mode. Don't worry. This is totally normal.

First, finish the book Right now that is the ONLY thing you need to devote your energy to. What you're doing now (worrying and wondering if you need a new agent) is akin to cleaning the house during finals week. I can tell you from personal experience that you do not pass geology becuase the top of the refrigerator is clean and the spices alphebetized.

When the book is done, and turned in to the editor, then you can think about changing agents.

First, TALK to your agent. Be very very clear what you want. Tell her/him exactly what you wrote here. In fact, you can just link her to this site and say you wrote this question.

Agents are like everyone else; we've been known to slack off from time to time (Miss Snark of course is the exception to that rule...YOWCH!!!! Who hurled that bolt of lightning???)

As I was yapping - Your agent may just need a kick in the pants, and knowing a valued client is contemplating the door is a very good motivator.

However, if you decide you really do want to make a change, haul out your contract and start reading the provisions for termination. Your agent most likely retains an interest in all the subsidiary rights (ie movie) for this deal BUT like all things, that can be waived if you negotiate it.

You don't have much to offer a new agent right now but that doesn't mean you can't query. I get letters all the time from people who are agent hopping.

I'm very very careful about signing those folks up, just FYI. First, this is a small industry and the agent you think is a slacker louse may in fact be a good friend or close colleague. No way am I taking you on if that's the case.

You're right that you need an advocate with the publisher but your editor should be able to carry most of the weight for that short term. If you leave your agent, tell your editor.

A Whole classroom of Simon Cowell...

Dear Miss Snark.

I had the enormous stroke of good fortune to find a fellow writer, a teacher, in one of the critique groups I belong to. She read my Young Adult Fantasy to her third grade class in return for a critique of her novel. The children loved it, though they were pretty merciless with any aspects they didn't like and pointed out nitpicks that I would never have thought of. The story was modified accordingly, and is now going to go through a more stringent crit at a more formal critting group.

I'm also trying to get a local teacher to repeat the effort with an older class. Therefore the first 'panel' was a class of ten-year-olds (mostly boys) in America, and the second, if I can swing it, will be a group of teenagers in Ireland.

Here's the question: When I get around to writing a query letter, should I mention that the novel had been 'critted' by two panels of the target audience in two different countries?


Much like I don't want to know how Miss Universe got that bustline, Bon Appetite got the photos of that lovely roast and Nicole Ritchie that book deal (1) do I want to know how you got this book into its present form. All I care about is whether it's something I can sell.

However. This is clearly a sweet heartwarming story and thus of no interest to Miss Snark, it could definatly find a place on your website. This is just the kind of thing your publicist will love.

(1) surgery; blowtorch; some of both.