The next sumo-san trend

Dear Snark-san,

I've read countless warnings from agents admonishing writers against chasing a trend - e.g. books about schools of magic or what *really* happened to the Holy Grail - and instead urging them to concentrate on the story they feel most compelled to write. But what about the flip side? How does an agent know, or sense, that a submitted manuscript might be the start of the Next Great Trend? Did Helen Fielding's agent have a "eureka!" moment upon first reading "Bridget Jones's Diary"? Did Dan Brown's agent start pricing new Bentleys when he first read "The Da Vinci Code"? Did Spencer Johnson's agent exclaim, "vanishing cheese! Genius! Corporate America will be *all* over this!"

I've written something (currently in the query process) that, in the warped recesses of my brain, makes me think I might be on to the Next Great Trend. Naturally, I've refrained from mentioning this in my queries lest I appear too, um, nuts, but I remain curious as to how agents sniff these things out without a loyal pooch to sort the slush. There is, after all, only one Killer Yap and I can't imagine you'd let another agent's grubby paws mange his royal pelt.

Thank you for your time. In lieu of gin, I would like to offer a traditional straw-weave barrel of my mother's ancestors' favorite tipple, sake. And a stack of Kobe beef for KY. (domo arigato)

They don't. Trust me. We are as surprised as the next guy when things take off.

That's not to say I haven't SAID that to editors but I phrase it as "this isn't out there already, and it's good, and if you read it you'll agree".

Mostly though everyone figures out that something is hot when the sales force perks up their pointy little ears and starts salivating at sales conference.

The Dreaded Form Email from Miss Snark

It's that time again--the incoming mail box hit more than 300 unanswered emails since May and it's time to clear out.

About 290 of you got form emails that said:

this is the dreaded form email.
I’m clearing out Miss Snark’s email.

The question you sent is getting deleted. Given how long it’s been sitting here you probably forgot you even sent it!

I trip the trigger when more than 200 emails are unanswered.

Most of the time when questions go unanswered they are either too long, too detailed, too personal or I think they’ve already been covered.

Feel free to resend if it wasn’t already answered!


If you want to resend, have at it. I gotta tell you that mostly the questions that I do promptly are SHORT. If I have to wade through a lot of verbiage, I set it aside. I might get back to it...or not.

And remember the Snarkives. Thanks to Miss Adventure (sainthood pending) most of the posts are sorted categorized and easily searched.

I really am qualified to write a novel about nitwittery

Miss Snark,

In past posts, you've made clear that there's no need in a query letter for biographical information or anything about a platform for a work of fiction, other than previous writing credits or a respected writing award.

Yet I find it hard to imagine that a physician offering a medical thriller shouldn't mention her day job in her query. Ditto for lawyers with legal thrillers and NASA engineers with hard science fiction. Am I to believe that Robin Cook, John Grisham, and Robert A. Metzger omitted their professions from their first queries? Given two well-written queries for a romance set in the Capitol, wouldn't you have slightly higher hopes for the manuscript from the writer that mentioned he was a senator's office manager? (maybe)

Not every writer, of course, has a background that dovetails with their story. I'm sure some good novels about old-west madams have been written by Asian trapeze artists with no direct knowledge of the bordello biz other than a mountain of research. But when you do have a leg-up on your subject matter, is it wrong, especially in absence of previous writing credits, to mention a salient autobiographical detail?

No, it's not wrong, but from my standpoint it's almost a negative.

Just cause you know something doesn't mean you can write a novel about it. Most of the queries I get from lawyers and doctors are crap. Worse than the usual dreck. That's cause they've mostly been used to writing in a totally different form. The only people who write worse than those guys are academics and political pundits.

Lawyers are the alltime leader in this category; they don't know how to leave things to the reader's imaginations. They are used to the form
1. tell people what you're going to say
2. say it
3. recap,
and that is death on toast in a novel.

The other thing is that accuracy doesn't always serve the novelist well. Lawyers and doctors and nuclear engineers love to salt their writing with all sorts of information dumps.

You don't need qualifications to write a novel. You really can just make it all up.

Miss Snark clones herself

Greetings, Miss Snarkliness (and the gin pail):

This may be a ridiculous question, but...WHY do you need to give up one agent if you write a book they don't "do" and find another agent? Why can't you just have one agent for each genre that you write in? I mean, does it make paying you more difficult? Is it hard to avoid stepping on people's toes?

If you write nonfiction books about gardening and science fiction novels, the chances of them going across the same editor's desk are practically nil, right? And
even if they do, what's wrong with that?

Lots of questions but they all boil down to one simple-ish idea: why is having more than one agent at a time a Bad Idea?

It's not a bad idea if you are doing such two disparate fields but most agents aren't too keen on it. Me included. Here's why. I like to know what you're up to. I don't want to conjure up a fabu deal only to find out you've just signed on to be the next Martha Stewart at HGTV.

Plus there is the whole "next book" thing.

Plus you'd be hard pressed to generate enough income to make you worth your spot on the sofa if we're only doing some of your books.

Plus, did I mention I don't work and play well with others.

There's no law against this, and I would imagine there are people who do this but it is the exception to the rule, and I'm not exceptional.

Concealing your country code

Dear Miss Snark (The Most High),

Sigh. Sorry for the nitwittery. I just read your response to the reader going to Ghana and the gentleman from New Zealand and I just had to ask. Does this mean it's ok to play bait and switich with agents? That is, pretend you're actually living in the states when querying and then announce - surprise! - that you've "moved" to London if they want to sign you?

It sounds weird but I live in London, am writing a YA novel set here, and so the setting might be slightly more exotic/less tedious to someone from the states. Of course that leaves aside the tiny little task of actually finishing it but I was just curious.

You can't lie. You can finesse, but lying is a bad bad bad way to start out any relationship with someone you want to act as your agent.

London is exotic? Since when? Exotic is more like Pierre South Dakota to someone from NYC.

Liner Notes

Dear Miss Snark,

I know you and your kind (agents, that is) put a lot of stock in seeing a writer's work in certain literary magazines. But what about liner notes? I'm not talking about a 50 word blurb on the back of the latest album by the Strokes or Napalm Death. I'm saying a 7500 word essay accompanying a four CD boxed set of definite historical importance.

Is this the kind of credit that's likely to have agents trampling each other on the way to the payphone to ask A) if I'd like to turn it into a book or B) if I have a novel.

Probably not since liner notes (mostly) aren't fiction. Good liner notes however can get you some attention particularly if they get nominated for a Grammy, or an ASCAP or BMI award.

For good fiction writing you have to work in the accounting department at a record label.


Obituary as literaray form

I am devoted to the Times obits.

Here's the best so far this year:

HANSEN - Stanley.

...and the Lord cried out to his flock, "I need a master framer, who can also cut a lot of mat openings." There was a great deal of murmuring ... then two voices were heard, "Lord, get Stanley Hansen."

The Lord said, "who spoke?"

"I am Sylvan Cole and this is Arthur Brown. Stanley worked for me at Associated American Artists."

Arthur Brown said, "Stanley was the best mat cutter Arthur Brown & Bro. ever had. He's been doing his job for sixty years."

The Lord said "Stanley I need you this week."

Stanley said "Dot, I got to go, I have a big job and they need me."
(Peter A. Brown).

Show ME the $$$

Ok, so I hear now that advertisers will pay for product placements in blogs (stolen from Media Bistro of course).

So...I wonder which company will want to be mentioned here?
And how much they'll pay?

Clever marketing ploy-don't fall for it

Speaking of places looking to separate you from your money, here's one in the UK.

My favorite is "fictional novel" but a close second is "for free" followed by the buried deep on the third page info that they want you to give them ten pounds (it's the bottom paragraph on the 'tell me more' page).

It's a very clever ploy cause we all know everyone will assume that paying the ten pounds gives you a better shot at "winning" (Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes biz model) but they save themselves from false advertising by saying 'you don't have to pay to play'. Yea. Sure. Right. And Killer Yapp is a Buddhist.

(thanks to D for the link)

Fecal Roster Membership

Dear Miss Snark,

I think I did a bad thing.

Almost a year ago, I was a new writer and found out about scammers. I read reams of information about how to spot one, and felt rather paranoid about the whole thing. I was on a LiveJournal writers' group when this person posted out of the blue, claiming to be a new agent looking for authors.

I had read that contacting authors was a no-no, yet said so in a rather snarky way. When promptly jumped on, I looked the new agent and the company and everything involved with it up, and found no sales by any of them. Said post was eventually deleted after some 'friends' of the agent chimed in (who would make KY look like a sweet little bunny).

Now I'm hearing that this company is actually selling stuff now. I'll never query this place, as I didn't like the agent or the 'friends', but now I'm wondering if I've (KY close your ears) screwed the proverbial pooch.

Probably not (dog desecration aside of course). There is no Fecal Roster circulating among agents listing the names of people who say idiotic things on message boards.

Legit agents generally laugh that stuff off. I don't need to worry about some wiseacre saying I'm a scammer cause I know I'm not, and I've got the sales to prove it.

It's the folks who AREN'T legit who feel the need to defend themselves to the last breath.

I don't need to keep track of everyone who says something stupid on any of the writers boards cause if they really believe it, they won't query me.

This does point out the downside of message boards however; a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Agents DO contact writers particurlarly now that email makes it easy. I emailed someone just yesterday to say "you're a good writer, keep me in mind if you've got aspirations for a book".

Legit agents don't advertise, they don't charge fees, and they can tell you what they've sold.

Lit agents on Craigs List


Question(s) in regards to postings on Craig's List...

1) Do agents ever comb Craig's List(s) finding posts of would-be published writers who are wanting an agent?

2) Should would-be published writers give credence to Craig's List posts from literary agents/agencies soliciting manuscripts?


Legit agents usually have their hands full with the slush pile. If they are looking for writers, generally they're looking at actual writing (blogs, short stories online, lit mags etc).

Please do not interpret this as a slam on Craigslist because I am devoted to it for other things-arranging poodle play dates, getting help with computer issues, rants and raves, the free/giveaway section.

Aspiring to be an agent or editor

Dear Miss Snark,

I have been following your blog for a while now, though I haven't dared to comment on any blog entry -- I am a dim nitwit, after all.

From a writer's perspective, an agent like you is a god-like figure who is the writer's most assured path toward Nirvana AKA the book shelf. However, what I would like to know is, how did you get here? How did you become an agent? What does it take to become an agent? Do you go to law school because you need to read those contracts? Do you have a degree in English? What makes you a professional agent and me a dumb nitwit? Same for book editors -- how do those mysterious figures end up where they are? What did they do to land them such a ------ rewarding profession?

I understand you can't give detailed information as it might reveal your identity - but what generally does it take to enter the publishing world as an agent or editor, not as a writer?

I ask this because I admire what you do, your interest in books, and well, perhaps some day - god forbid - you will pass on your stilettos to a used-to-be nitwit.

You go to the crossroads and meet a guy named Nick.
He's usually listening to Robert Johnson on his ipod and reading Goethe.

The way you get into publishing is the same way you get into almost any industry. You apply for a job. To see what kinds of jobs are out there subscribe to Publishers Lunch or Media Bistro.

You have to arrange to meet Nick on your own. I hear he reads Craigslist, particularly the Missed Connections part.



Heavenly snarkilicious,
(miss snark feels her leg being pulled...oh wait, it's just the dog laughing)

When my hound bays at the moon, he's thinking of KY.
(man, I read that as husband..I need a vacation)

What's your take on trade paperback originals? They seem to be an increasingly viable option--especially for first-timers.

Supposedly a quality look with a lower price, longer shelf life, fewer returns, albeit with lower advance.
I've read that publishers like the lower overhead involved and may promote them as heavily as a hard cover. Some books even start as tpos and then find their way into hardcover.

What kind of experience have you and your clients had with this approach?

I love TPO for certain kinds of books: debut authors, authors who need to rocket up the visibility charts; authors reaching into the book group market.

You lose some library sales, no doubt about it, but overall, I like them.

I've had several clients in TPO for first novels and glad of it. I'll trade lower royalties for increased sales NUMBERS almost any day of the week cause the more people who fall in love with the work, the better my chance at converting them to hc buyers, and auto-buys in libraries.

TPO gets taken seriously for awards too, which is important.

(For those of you who aren't yet versed in the lingo, trade paper refers to the size of the book. It's the one that's bigger than the small book you see on the grocery store racks (those are called mass market) but it's bound in paper, not cloth.) There is a comment from PNH in the comment trail that corrects this--I yield to superior knowledge and experience on this one.

Jim Baen 1943-2006

Patrick Nielsen Hayden knows a thing or two about science fiction, and publishing.
This is his post, with links, about the death of Jim Baen (1943-2006) a guy who knew a thing or two about them as well.

This is Donald Hall, the new poet laureate:

You think that their
dying is the worst
thing that could happen.

Then they stay dead.

Yachts o'fun

Dear Miss Snark

I love your blog. Thanks so much for taking the time to help us all. And sending a letter to your client’s mom – it’s just classy!!!

My question is this. I have a completed manuscript for a novel – lit fiction 78,000 words. I sent out two query letters at the same time – the first was to a publisher who accepts queries via email and the second was to an agent who doesn’t accept queries by email.

About two weeks after I sent the query the publisher asked for a partial manuscript which I sent. Another two weeks later she came back to me saying that she loved what I sent her and asked for the full manuscript to be emailed to her. In the meantime the agent received the query and emailed me a reply asking for the full manuscript which she wants me to print out and send via snail mail.

I would prefer to sell my work via an agent – you are the professionals after all - but I don’t want to risk alienating the publisher because it is a small division of a very large publishing house and I think I would like them to publish my book. But again, I don’t really know if they are or aren’t the best publisher for my work.

1. Do I send them both the full manuscript or
2. should I just send the manuscript to the agent?

3. Do I tell the agent about my contact with this publisher (this has been my only contact with any publisher).

4. Do I tell the publisher about my contact with this agent?

I am aware that one or BOTH of them (sob!) might pass once they get the finished ms.

1. Yes
2. NO
3. Yes
4. Yes

Publishers and agents aren't in enemy camps. Publishers like us. They'll be glad to have an agent on board if they want to set sail with your work. Agents love the idea that a major publisher is interested.

I'm glad to see that your question didn't involve any part of "do I still have to pay an agent if I bring the publisher to the deal" cause selling a ms is a lot more than finding a publisher to say "yes I want to acquire this".

Good luck.


Critique groups-ok to keep sharing ideas?

Dear Miss Snark:

First of all, thank you so much for this blog! It's an absolute gem and I have become completely addicted (I only discovered it fairly recently, and am now working my way through the archives).

To the point: I'm a member of a very good critique group. We all look at/comment on each other's manuscripts. That is, after all, the point, and is also one of the reasons I actually managed to produce something good enough to get an agent interested in the first place. I don't want to leave the group if (when, I hope) my novel is published; it is an immensely valuable resource for me, not to mention part of my social life, and I would certainly plan to run future novel drafts past the group for critiquing.

What is the Honourable Miss Snark's view on this situation in the light of possible litigation, accusations of stolen ideas etc? I should point out I am writing from the UK, where we don't generally sue as much, but still...I should like to hear your thoughts.

Generally it's not the people you know who are going to be litigous loons, it's the whack jobs who show up out of the blue with a conviction that your purpose on earth is to help them. Generally those people get weeded out of a critique group or the group folds.

It sounds like your group is rolling along nicely. I wouldn't worry.

Pay vs unpaid mag markets

Dear Miss Snark,

I have a question based on a discussion over at the Shocklines.com bulletin board that concerns paying versus non-paying markets.

In a nutshell, a new magazine publisher requests submissions from writers, but mentions that he pays only in a single copy of the issue and an "enhanced profile," whatever that means. This starts a debate about the value of non-paying markets and ends with the publisher abruptly announcing the "death" of the new magazine before it was ever begun!

My question is, if you are seeking an agent and all of your publishing credits are from non-paying "amateur" publications, does this impress an agent? Or do you look for publication in paying markets only?

Regardless of the old question of whether a writer
should or shouldn't submit their work for "free," I'm just wondering if getting published in a market that pays nothing has any appeal for an agent when he or she reads a writer's resume.

Thanks so much for any information you could provide.

The problem here is not that this guy didn't pay but that he wasn't in business. As an agent, when I read your query letter and it says "I've been published in the "Snark Central Literary Gesundheit" all I do is google the SCLG to make sure it's not a figment of your imagination and to see if what it looks like. I don't pay much attention to the rate structure because I know a LOT of small literary journals that are labors of love don't pay much besides copies of the mag and a pub credit. Here's one that a reader sent me just today (thanks Kitty!) Getting paid isn't the point here. Having someone who is not your mom say your work doesn't suck is what reassures me.

Think of sending work to these lit mags as an internship. You aren't going to get paid much if anything but the experience is good on your resume. You don't want your entire career to be an internship so you'll want to move up the pay scale, but everyone needs to start somewhere.

Thank you but noooooo

Dear Miss Snark,

I am thinking about how to thank my agent, when she sells my book. She's been terrific and I know I'll want to do more than send an e-mail saying so. She will be thanked in my Acknowledgements, of course, but I think I will want to do more.

I know that you have said you prefer a simple thank you note to an actual present from a client---no chocolates or flowers or knickknacks to clutter up Snark Central.

What about an inscribed copy of the book you sold? Would that be a welcome gift? I assume you own copies of the published books you have sold, so that an inscribed copy would be nice. Or not?

Thanks for your time.

I know you mean well but an inscribed copy of the book is like getting a dustmop for Christmas. Not only do I have one, it's not quite a gift.

Here's the tough thing about giving gifts to agents. You don't know them very well. Yes there are exceptions but I have clients who love me to pieces and have never laid eyes on me and haven't ever had a personal conversation with me.

Some ideas: ask her other authors what they've given her. Make a contribution to a cause she cares about. Write a letter to her mom telling her that her kid is the cat's pajamas. (I do this for my authors sometimes too). Make a donation to her high school scholarship fund, or her college scholarship fund.

But, really, mostly, just a heartfelt, hand written thank you is enough. You'd be surprised how often we don't get that.

So...here's some of MY spam

I’m working online press and promotion for a book called “title redacted” by celebrity longevity expert (author redacted) I’d like to submit a copy for review on your site. I’ve included the press release below, please let me know where and to whom I should send the copy. I look forward to hearing from you.

1. I can ignore this guy; or,

2. I can email him that he's wasting my time, please take me off the list, and never darken my inbox again; or,

3. I can email him with "what the fuck am I doing on your email list, I know where you work, and I know the editorial director and the PR director and I'm going to have you fired; or....

Got any further options for me?


Hey Ron! I love ya...but you're off base on this one

This is a post from Galleycat.

"I Don't Want Any Spam!"
Lynne Scanlon's Publishing Contrarian had started yesterday on a celebratory note, as Scanlon announced the formal launch of a book proposal consultancy aimed at helping writers craft more effective proposals. (One author who took advantage of Scanlon's trial offer of a free consult called it "probably the most practical help I have received in my writing journey.") But the party atmosphere quickly turned sour when someone posted a nastygram to her comments section after receiving an unsolicited email about the service:

"Why the fuck am I suddenly receiving junk mail from you? Stop it. I am not interested in your crap. Stop sending me email or I will hunt you down. I found your website and I'll find you. This is your warning crazy asshole. Stop send [sic] crap to my address."

Scanlon, who regularly footnotes her readers' comments with responses and mini-bios, identified the sender as Nancy Fay, the vice president of the PEN New Mexico board of directors...and, oh so ironically, the co-editor of a poetry anthology called The Practice of Peace. Somehow I don't imagine the practice of peace begins by declaring "What the fuck?" and then promising to hunt people down; I usually just hit "reply" and type UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line and that seems to work for me.

When contacted for confirmation, Fay acknowledged, "I do not know why my inbox suddenly began to get messages from this person who is unknown to me on a topic that does not interest me. I was highly annoyed and tracked down the website associated with the sender and demanded that my email address be removed."

(Note: The accomplishment of "tracking down" Scanlon's website is somewhat less remarkable when one realizes that the URL was included in the email.)

Scanlon isn't sure how she acquired Fay's email address, but was more than happy to demonstrate her peaceful nature by honoring Fay's rudely worded request to be removed from the distribution list. All well and good—let's just hope this isn't how things get decided at the PEN New Mexico board meetings!

Whoa there Ron, my cigar smoking bud. Why are we yelling at Nancy Fay here? She's the one getting spammed. Yes, her response was over the top. Yes, it's ironic she has a book about peace while screaming fuck you. But yanno (tm/pp), I get on author's email lists and stupid idiots send me queries by email and I gotta tell ya "what the fuck" is pretty mild compared to what I'm thinking.

Why we gotta be nice to people spamming us?

All responses will be posted and critiqued for wa.

Killer Yapp commandeers the keyboard

"I know that dogs are pack animals, but it is difficult to imagine a pack of standard poodles ... and if there was such a thing as a pack of standard poodles, where would they rove to? Bloomingdale's?"
--Yvonne Clifford, American actress

thanks to Leslie for the heads up; she found it here

Five Finger Discount

Dear Miss Snark,

Last week, I sent out five queries, each including an SASE. In addition, each query listed my address, email address, and cell phone number.
This weekend, my cell phone was stolen.

Now I'm wondering: is there even a remote chance that an agent would try to telephone me at this stage? I believe (or at least, I hope) that even in the case of positive replies, most agents would use the SASE or email. Is this the case, or merely wishful thinking on my part?

Feeling Nitwittish,

Nitwittish?? Unless you dangled your cell phone over a pack of snarling teens and cooed "come and get it honey pants", I don't blame you for this situation. First of course, your PHONE was stolen but not your number. Have you called your provider to have your number forwarded?

Second, don't worry. If Honeypants has your phone, and answers it (ah yes, enter the nitwit!) then any agent (who isn't so clue free as to be a menace) will know tis not you. Now, if your calls go unanswered, do they ring to voice mail? You can still access your voice mail.

Bottom line: I don't think I've called someone more than twice at this stage of the game and it was mostly cause they didn't have email. I always prefer email (and most of us do) cause there is a written record of what was asked/answered/said.

Don't worry.


Resistance is NOT Futile

Hello, Miss Snark!

How art thou? (peachy, thanks for asking)

I am currently seeking a new agent, and several agents are reading partials and fulls. I just found out that I am a finalist in a national short story contest (sponsored by a pretty distinguished literary journal).

Would the agents who have my manuscript be interested in hearing about this? If so, should I email them with the update? If not, is this information I should include in future queries?

Thank you, as always, for your advice!


Resist the temptation to email anyone considering your work about anything other than:

you are now dead, and God has an exclusive on your novel;

you have signed with another agent (neener neener is optional);

you are considering signing with another agent today/tomorrow/this week and just wanted to touch base with your Heart's Desire before signing with your second choice;

you have seriously reworked the partial or full and if they want it, you'll be glad to send the new and improved version.

You'll notice what this list doesn't have on it: vacations. Contest finalists. Cosmetic revisions. A new page 19. Underlining instead of italics. Excited comments from one of your beta readers.

I have received ALL of those emails and my first reaction is a very very nasty version of "so what" but I do not email that in return. I say thanks and I remember that you are quick on the send button and as we all know by now, that is not a plus in my book.

I don't want to hear from you until I've read your stuff.

Including the info in future query letters is ok, and a smart idea if you win, place or show.

Querying Miss Snark... why wouldn't you??

Hello Ms. Snarky,

I would be pleased to send you a query letter, but I would like to know what kind of writer/material you represent.

Our script is sci-fi/adventure, meant to be an animated children's movie. If this fits what you're looking for, can you please send us instructions about sending you a query letter?

Thank you for your time.

Here are the directions for how to submit work to Miss Snark:

1. Read the directions carefully, and in their entirety before commencing.

2. Draft a cover letter. It must have the following:
your name, age, address, phone, email, and website. Your website must not have Flash on it or take longer than fifteen seconds to load. If you do not have a website, you must construct one before querying.

3. You must print your cover letter in Times New Roman, 12 point. There must be 1.1 inch margins on the left and right and 1.5 inch margins on the top and bottom. The entire cover letter must fit on one page. Do not use words longer than ten letters. If you use a word that is not in the Funk & Wagnells 1985 edition you must provide a definition in a footnote. Footnotes must be Ariel font 8 point. They can not slop over into the margins.

4. You must include a ten page writing sample. It must be pages 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, and 89.

5. You must not staple or bind the material in any way. No rope, no paper clips, binder clips or pink ribbons of any kind. You may use a rubber band but it must be a #12.

6. You must submit this to the agency on an exclusive basis, and include a notarized Certificate of Exclusivity with your submission. It must be placed between pages 13 and 21.

7. You must include an SASE. The envelope must be a #9. It must be white, with a self sealing flap. The envelope must be placed in the upper left hand corner, vertically, between your cover letter and page one of your writing sample. The first class stamp may not have hearts, flowers, bunnies, musicians, politicians or political personages depicted on the stamp. If you need help selecting the correct stamp, go to the post office. All postal employees are familiar with "SASE stamp regulations" and will be glad to help you.

8. Mail this to my office with "following blog instructions" printed prominently on the lower right hand corner. You must send it in a #12 white mailing envelope. You must use an Avery address label and print the address in 14 point Helvetica. Make sure you include my first AND last name on the address label.

9. Failure to adhere to any of these instructions is grounds for automatic rejection. If you do not hear from us within one year, assume rejection.

10. If you have any further questions, or need any further instructions, there are several posts in the Snarkives about submitting work to Miss Snark. Reading them counts as researching agents to query.

pssst...wanna buy a blurb?

Hi Miss Snark:

I'm a multi-published author who has been asked repeatedly to read and offer an endorsement of unsold, unpublished manuscripts. I've been told by several writers that their agents have asked them to secure author quotes to entice editors.

I feel very uncomfortable reading uncontracted work, but aside from that I don't understand this seemingly new strategy.

What do you think of obtaining author quotes prior to sale? Is this a new trend? Does it really help?

Thanks in advance,

A curious NYT bestselling author

Well, if it's a new trend it's escaped my notice. I've never had an editor ask for a pre-submission blurb and I've never solicited one. Sometimes I have them but I use them only as "we've got good pr blurbs already from Moe, Shoe and Park".

I am a rabid dog about my clients reading unpublished, uncontracted work. I strongly STRONGLY discourage them from reading anything unless it comes from an agent or has been sold. I tell them to say "my agent strongly objects to me doing this--and I'm afraid of her so I don't do it."

It only takes one or two nutcases to decide you've stolen their idea, character, life, or improperly used their trademarked word "and" to start litigation. You can't avoid all the nutcases but you can reduce your exposure by NOT taking work that isn't represented or sold.

pssst....wanna see some pictures?

Dear (Miss Snark) -edited for anonymity

I'm the family pack-rat. I have four albums full of photos taken on an around the world trip back in 1925. They're gorgeous. I think there's the makings of a sort of "lost world" picture book/coffee table book.

There are many more photos than I would ever use in a book. They are very high quality, and have never seen the light of day outside the family. The text would have to focus on the lost-world quality of the photos.

Is there a market for this sort of thing? Anywhere? I'm not sure how to research the market at all. Any suggestions?

Sadly, there is probably no trade market for this kind of work. The other problem is you'd have to be real clear on who owns the copyright. Work done in the 20's can be in the public domain now, but I can't remember offhand if it's after 1923 or 24 or later.

There may be scholarly interest in these rather than trade book interest. You'd do well to talk to your librarian about archives for this kind of material. Another interested party might be film costumers and set decorators. Again, your librarian is your Most Awesome Resource on this.

Don't throw them away even if they aren't "salable". That opinion is not carved in stone and situations do change.

Extraordinary talent

could you expand on "Extraordinary talent". I know it is at least partially subjective, but it would be interesting to hear what makes you excited by a manuscript - I think it's much easier to say what makes something competent/incompetent but then we don't buy fiction for competence....thank you!

I didn't mean a manuscript. By Extraordinary talent I mean people like:

Jackson Pollock
Morton Feldman
Renee Fleming

Mary Karr
Leontyne Pryce
Taraji Henson (look her up)

These are people who make art that leaves me in awe.

Miss Snark Q&A

Dear Miss Snark:

When you take time off, well-deserved as it is, I seem to go into SNS (Snark withdrawal syndrome) and I begin to wonder who, what, where, when and why. I respect the fact that you must remain anonymous, but that doesn't stop us from wondering more about you. I thought it might be nice for you to complete Bernard Pivot's famous 10 questions in order that we might know you better. Knowing how busy you are, I have attempted to answer for you. Please substitute any answers you deem inappropriate.

1. What is your favorite word? Yanno (tm,pp)
correct answer: sold

2. What is your least favorite word? Dog-catcher
correct answer: whatever

3. What turns you on? Single-page queries.
correct answer: extraordinary talent

4. What turns you off? Nitwits.

5. What is your favorite curse word? WTF

6. What sound or noise do you love? Gin sloshing over ice.
well poured gin does not slosh.
correct: ice clinking in glass before pouring

7. What sound or noise do you hate? Busy signal on George Clooney's private line.
Mr. Clooney has call waiting
correct answer: "Hi this is Mr Clooney, please leave a message at the sound of Lucy Liu squealing like a pig".

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Fortune teller.
correct: queen of the known universe

9. What profession would you not like to do? Anything outside of 212.
correct answer: Complaint department phone person for the NYC subway

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? It's a good thing you finally found my manuscript in your damn slush pile.

correct: "we meant Miss Shark, not Miss Snark, go back till we're ready for you"