Is more always better?

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm beginning the process of finding a publisher for a collection of literary short stories
(the stories are unified by a theme). Four of the stories have been published in literary journals.

The collection includes a novella, and a small journal has expressed interest in publishing the novella serially. Do you have a sense of whether the small publishers that might be interested in my book would be put off if most of the stories, and particularly the novella, had already been published in little mags, or is this always a case of the more the better?

More isn't always better, but pub credits are good. What you'll need though is some new work in the collection so you can say "these are published; this is new". Almost every collection has some bits of new work unless it's a collection by an well-established author.

More on when you pay expenses

Dear Miss Snark;

I've been thinking of breaking up with my agent. He's a great guy but has had my manuscript locked in a cage for over two years without any results. His slow pace is beginning to annoy me. My question is this: Since he charges for photocopying and mailings (which were meant to be paid when he sold the book), am I obligated to pay him for these charges, as the book was never sold? We don't have a contract, just a handshake deal.

You have not provided a key piece of information here. How many submissions have been made? Your language -- "locked in a cage" "without any results" "slow pace"-- reflects your frustration with no results, but it doesn't tell me about the effort.

I've got things here I haven't sold in two years either. Several. I've racked up about $500 in mailing, messengering and postage on each one. If they pull the plug, I eat the cost. My contract says that specifially: "expenses are billed when the project is sold".

If your agent doesn't have an arm's length list of submissions and rejections, your problem isn't who pays the expenses.

If he does, you might want to ask what those rejections are saying and either revise, or start on something new.

In any case, expenses are deducted from the proceeds of a sale. You are not obligated to pay for expenses unless the work sells.

I said three months...but I meant Pluto time

I have a manuscript with a reputable agent. He has had it more than seven months. When I ask him about it he replies by writing, "I am considering several new projects and yours is one of them."

Although his words are encouraging, I am getting frustrated. Is it unusual for the process to drag on like this? How long, Miss Snark, how long is too long to wait?

(Miss Snark sneeks a peek at her data base to see how long the oldest manuscript has been languishing. Whew!!! Only since June!)

It's entirely possible that this agent is not blowing smoke up your asterisk. Sometimes it does take that long.

Your mistake here is pinning all your hopes and dreams on one guy. While he's lollygagging around, YOU should be querying. Don't stop querying till you've got an offer for representation on the table.

I'm in the last stages of signing my next client. The process is about a year long what with reading, some revisions, and Miss Snark's lollygagging. This guy was WELL within his rights to keep querying. He didn't (and I'm glad of course) but I wouldn't have held it against him if he'd said at any point "yo! Snark for Brains, three agents have made me offers and I'd like to let them know soon. If you're still interested in this, I'd still like to work with you" or some such other nice reminder that Miss Snark needs to get out of her bathtub o'gin and start actually working.

You are not a supplicant in the publishing world. You have a product. Keep pitching till you place it.

How many times can I query you?

After reading the question regarding the service that connects writers with agents, and your answer that more or less poo-poos the idea, I’m wondering: if someone queries you with an unimpressive letter and you ‘pass,’ and they write again and their letter is better (but not great) – and you pass again - what if they wrote a rather spectacular letter the third time, and it impressed you? I guess what I’m asking really, is 1. would you hold the first two ‘bland’ attempts against them? 2. or, could perseverance pay off?

You can write the world's worst query letter and if you have good writing attached to it, I'm not going to pass. It's not the query letter that keeps you from "yes": it's the writing. I've said it before, here it is again: most query letters suck. Good writing trumps all.

That's why query letter services for novels are ...ahem... foolish and a waste of time. Non-fiction is a much different kettle of fish, but mostly the folks who read this blog are writing novels.

To specifically answer your question: I don't remember any of the stuff I pass over at that query stage. I barely remember the full novels I've passed on. I keep notes on the novels and the partials but not the queries.


Miss Snark is a Soprano

Dear Miss Snark,

One of my friends signed with an agent on the strength of one novel, a thriller, which the agent says is ready to submit. However, said agent has been sitting on it for almost four months. After a gentle inquiry from the author, the agent now says he wants to wait until novel #2 is done so he can sell both together, which, according to him, should result in a better deal for the author. Novel #2 has been drafted, but is not submission-ready.

Other friends who have gotten two-book deals have gotten them on the strength of the first book alone, so this seems unusual to us. In fact, in our friends' experiences, there often isn't even a premise for the second book, let alone a draft, when the contracts are signed. Furthermore, most of our other friends' agents start submitting quite soon after a novel is ready - within days or weeks, not months.

Can you shed any light on this for us? We're a bit confused. We realize there's a spectrum of acceptable agenting practice -- are we expecting too much or is this a little strange?

I want clients who can be good earners right from the get-go. Mr. Soprano taught me that in his weekly eponymous show about business management which runs on HBO. I like clients who arrive with novels ready to sell, which I then turn into little red wheelbarrows full of cash. If a client is just sitting around the pork store working on plans for novel #2, there's no income stream.

I've sold every single two book deal on the strength of one book. I pitch one book, and they chomp it up and ask "is there more" and I say yes knowing full well that #2 is still whirling around in the author's cogitation machine.

It's time for some very direct questions to the agent. I'd start with "do you intend to shop this finished novel any time before the end of the year". If the answer is no, you'd don't have an agent.


Read this

Lee Child is a very very good writer. I'm not the first person to say it, and I won't be the last. Not news. But what struck me today was how clearly Lee Child demonstrates the power of first person narrative; how he uses the narrative voice to illuminate the character himself.

The cop climbed out of his car exactly four minutes before he got shot. He moved like he knew his fate in advance. He pushed the door against the resistance of a stiff hinge and swiveled slowly on the worn vinyl seat and planted both feet flat on the road. Then he grasped the door frame with both hands and heaved himself up and out. He stood in the cold clear air for a second and then turned and pushed the door shut again behind him. Held still for a second longer. Then he stepped forward and leaned against the side of the hood up near the headlight.

In this opening paragraph of Persuader, even if you know nothing about Jack Reacher or the "I" you know something, quite a lot in fact, about what kind of person this guy is. You don't know it cause he tells you. You don't know it cause someone else says it. You know it because of what he notices, or doesn't, and how he describes it.

You know Reacher is watching closely; you know he knows something about cops. Notice he never says "I knew this" or "I watched him get out of the car". You're just inside his head and careful choice of language and focus lets you know what Jack Reacher is about.

He combines this exquisite elegance with an almost laconic unfolding of plot. By page four the cop is shot; page 10 the plot has turned, and page 18 it's turned yet again. By the time I got to page 18 you could not have paid me to stop reading.

This is what lifts Lee Child out of "good" into "stellar" for me.

I often times tell you about books that I think writers should study for insight into the craft. This one is on that list.

One RingieDingaling (with apologies to Lily Tomlin)

I got back to my office yesterday and found phone messages with things like "has question about agency" and "do you want to read his book".

I was a tad puzzled about why a spate of dingalings were dialing Snark Central.

Then I read the slush pile. More odd references.

Then I cottoned on: The new Guide to Literary Agents is out.

If by some chance you are new to querying, here's one very helpful hint:

don't telephone me to ask if I want to read your novel.

Agents differ on email, snail mail, SASEs even. No one, and I mean NO ONE takes phone queries. This is a written medium. We have to see pages, be they electronic, papyrus, or #92 pink astrobright. Calling me to ask if something sounds good leads to the following:


MS: Hello Snark Central
NW: Hello? Is this Snark Central?

MS: yes it is.
NW: The literary agency?

MS: (texting the gin delivery service) yes.
NW: I'm an author


NW: hello?
MS: yes?

NW: I'm an author, I have an idea for a book.
MS: (watching Youtube videos) uh huh

NW: It's a great idea.
MS: Ok, I'll take it.

NW: you will?
MS: oh absolutely. I'm always looking for great ideas, so I'm glad you have one.

NW: oh that's so wonderful! Where do I send the manuscript?
MS: manuscript? I don't want a manuscript. I just want the great idea.

NW: but, it's a book. It's a agreat idea for a book
MS: oh. well, that's too bad. I only want great ideas.

NW: but, you're a literary agent! Don't you sell books?
MS: yes I do sell books.

NW: well, don't I have to send you pages?
MS: gee, why didn't I think of that. Sending pages. What a novel idea.

Boilerplate--didn't Dante have a book about that?

Dear Miss Snark:

I have at long last received an offer of representation from an agent. My excitement, however, was somewhat dampened when I read the agency's boilerplate contract.

These provisions, in combination, trouble me:

1. It covers not just a particular work, but all literary works or properites of the author during the contract period.

2. The contract is for one year and, at the end of the initial term, can be terminated on 90 days notice. (Sounds like it is binding for the first 15 months; I thought a 30 day termination notice was standard.)

3. Expenses are charged against the author's earnings, but if there are no earnings, the author is billed for them.

Have these contract provisions have become common in the industry? This is a well-known, reputable agency, so should I just be grateful and not worry? It is unlikely I could get changes to their boilerplate contract, in any case. Still, I would really appreciate your advice before I sign.
Almost Thrilled

Why do you think they won't change it?
Have you asked?
Assume nothing.
Ask for the reason behind the language and if you don't agree, ask to have it modified.

I don't think there is a standard agency agreement. My colleauges and I are always tinkering with things based on experiences (read: horrible unforseen situations we hope to never deal with again) and what we learn from other people. For example I just added a "duration of one year" clause to my contracts.

I don't agree philosophically with the idea of the author picking up expenses if the work doesn't sell. It's also unenforceable. What are they going to do? Turn you over to a collection agency for unpaid postage? They can't hold your manuscript hostage. They can't say "well, yanno, he didn't pay his postage and messenger bills before he sashayed off into the sunset" without looking like TRUE idiots.

And they may have 90 day term in there cause it takes awhile to close all the open submissions. I have 30 days, but the only time that was a problem was when an author, disheartened, said he was leaving, and I said ok, but I'm not pulling any submissions just in case, and by dog I sold the thing for him about 45 days later. We weren't parting on bad terms, and we laugh about it now but oh man was I glad he didn't say "yanno, SnarkforBrains, you technically don't represent me no mo".

Bottom line: ask for more favorable language. The points your asking to change aren't significant, back-to-the-lawyer language things. They're adjustment of time and payment clauses.


Lost Magazine is calling for work

We are thrilled to announce that NICHOLAS MONTEMARANO will be LOST's Guest Fiction Editor for issues 8-10.

Nicholas Montemarano is the author of the short-story collection If the Sky Falls (2005) and the novel A Fine Place (2002). His fiction has been published in Esquire, Zoetrope, DoubleTake, Agni, The Antioch Review, Fence, and many other magazines. He has been awarded a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Edward F. Albee Foundation. He teaches at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

LOST Issue No. 8 launches on the first Monday of September (September 4).
LOST is currently reading submissions for its fall issues.

(Be nice to these guys, I like 'em)


Miss Snark,

I got a letter from an agent who had requested my proposal saying, "this is quite nicely written and a very helpful guide but just isn't right for my list." Why do agents request something that "isn't right for their list" in the first place? Is there sometimes a level of curiosity behind the request that they know will not lead to any offer of representation but just sparks their personal interest?

What kind of guide is it? Dive bars in Dubuque? Dungeons in Denver? Bordellos in Boise?

"Not quite right for my list" is like "I'm sorry". It can mean "oh darn I stepped on your toe on accident" or "get the bloody hell out of the subway door with that bicycle before I puncture your $800 tires with my hat pin you bloody oaf". (Err...it was crowded on the B train tonight.)

No one is asking for stuff just for amusement. We get all the jollies we need in the slush pile.
We request lots of things we don't take. There's no way to know if we want it till we read it. That's just an absolute fact of life. If it drives you nuts, you need to get into a new line of work, cause this won't change ever. Unless you're Nicole Ritchie of course then the only thing I have to say is "I'm sorry".

Blue Ball Points

Dear Miss Snark,

Apparently I am a fantastic query writer, but nothing else. I have sent a query for my non-fiction book proposal to about 65 agents and have received 21 requests for the proposal. The problem is that I can't get past that point. Most rejections claim that the book is more suited for a university press or is not commercial enough, which is fine, maybe that's true. What I don't understand, though, is why they requested the proposal then? The query is very explicit as to the nature of the project. Why would they even request it if they felt the idea was unmarketable? ***

Some of the other rejections claim that my writing just isn't strong enough, and they may be right. Could the other agents possibly be rejecting on grounds of "too academic and not commercial," merely as a nice way of saying "your writing sucks?"

Sure. But probably not. "Your writing sux" reads: "not quite right for my list; good luck placing this elsewhere --in fact let me give you the name of my bitter rival".

Without seeing your proposal I have no way of commenting intelligently on my colleagues decision. That of course won't stop me for one moment from doing so.

I ask to look at lots of stuff I'm not sure I can sell. Sometimes the query letter IS really good, and the writing sux. Or sometimes, I get the proposal and there's a complete and utter lack of platform and the idea isn't strong enough to get an editor past that.

And sometimes I read something, check Publishers Marketplace and see I'm a day late and dollar short on this hot new idea.

Or I look at Amazon and see that the category buster is front list hardcover, starred review from PW and thus I've got a snowball's chance in hell of selling this to anyone else for a while.

***there is a HUGE chasm between unmarketable and "not marketable enough". Major houses have to sell tens of thousands of copies of a hardcover book; university presses usually can plan to sell under five thousand and be ok.

Writing conferences might be a good investment for you too. There's a chance sometimes to meet an agent, have her read the proposal and if you swear an ironclad oath not to harrass her, she might give you some specifics about why this isn't flying.

Since you're writing non fiction, it's time to get a new idea and shop that around. If this is your ONLY book, and you really really think people are missing the boat, publish it yourself and see what happens.

Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest Winners

The voting is tallied and KY (in green eyeshade) has verified the count. It's totally subjective, based on comments (and I know some of you wags voted more than once!) so if you think you was robbed...tell it to the judge.

Herewith the popular vote:

Three way tie for third among:
44, 45, and 71

who barely edged out:
79, 56 and 39

Second place:

Sorry for your bone
At least it‚s not Alzhei-
Where have my pants gone?

And the people's choice for BEST is a landslide:


(A Confucian get-well sentiment)

I hear your arm hurts
nothing make bone happier
than a real good screw

Killer Yapp gives props to #81

Award for the entrant who thought Miss Snark had a lisp when she called for "pithy one liners" goes to #29

Award that requires recipient to purchase Miss Snark a new keyboard: #22

Award for sending Miss Snark to her OED: #76

Award for outstanding achievement in both sound AND choreography:
#25, 40, 55 and 64.

Your prize is a soft shoe.
and a link to this

Prize for best PDA: #28

Miss Snark's fave for imagination: #79

Miss Snark's fave for integration: #59

Miss Snark's fave for rumination: #10


Bella Stander Poetry Contest-VOTING CLOSED

Update: voting is closed after 12 hours.

85 entries in 48 hours.
It's amazing what y'all will cough up on command!

Vote for your fave! Vote by commenting on the poem:
If you love #1, write a comment that says "my vote here" in the comments section for #1.

Results will post tomorrow, Thursday, then we'll go back to our regularaly scheduled Snarking.

#84 - Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

There was once a Stander called Bella,
She wrote something so stellar,

That she fell off her horse,

Got filled with remorse,

And finally published a novella!

#83 - Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Of all the things I cannot see
This one despairs, I can't see me!
My eyes, my lips
My hair, my nose
Do you see me?
I do suppose...

#82 - Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

You broke your bones.
It makes me sad.
To break a bone is really bad.

A break is so inconvenient.
A nice break, I've never seen yet.

#81 - Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

The poem that he wrote was just fair.
So he said, "To show that I care,
If the doc says uh-oh
You tell him, Yanno,
KY has a bone that he'll share."

#80 - Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

A nitwit just mentioned in passing
That good poetry surely was lacking.
Miss Snark smacked him down,
Snarklings went to town;
But Bella, we hope that you're laughing!

#79- Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

"A Bella Falls in Pain"





#78- Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Oh, Bella Stander

Tis better to break an arm

Than your writer's brain

#77 - Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella get wella
A plate in your humerus
A pain in the ass

#76 - Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

A double dactyl!
Humpity dumpity
Poor Bella Stander's horse
Quite unadvisedly
Gave her a fall.

Don't get a plate, get a
Bones are such trouble, why
Have them at all?

#75 - Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Whilst surfing the net for a read
A nitwit was bored by his feed
Odes how Bella was bruised
Left the nit unamused
But Miss Snark made short work of his greed.

#74 - Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Dear Bella, t'is no mystery
Why you'll go down in history
As the Writer With The Iron Fist
Okay, anatomy's off - you get the gist.
Your elbow's now a lethal force
We can't compete on foot or horse
(I'm talking about the Sales, of course).
For you're as brave as a hero from Lord of The Rings
But you're going to need one of those cape-y things.
My son made me put that in
He said it would make you grin.
We wanted an epic of pain and pity
All I could manage was this ditty.

#73- Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella Stander needs
Friends, laughter and poetry
Full recovery

#72-triptych-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Arm at the airport
Sirens ring for metal plate
It's not humorous

Her name is "Stander" you claim.
Well I ask you, what's in a name?
The tall horse of dread
Left her stuck in her bed
With an arm has gained a lame fame.

The belle of the ball took a fall
Off a horse a little too tall
With an arm that won't set
She knows she can bet
The plate's not in her head at all.

#71-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

All right, I admit it. I did it. It's true.
But you'd do it too, if you knew what I knew.

"Writing, my pet, is the name of my game,"
She said as she patted and petted my mane.

"Nay, nay, nay," I said and pretended to care.
"But I have to admit a secret, my mare."

"All that I write comes just from one place."
"It's the from the slush pile bin at Miss Snark's base."

That was it. I could take it no more.
So, I bucked and I bucked 'till her arm hit the floor.

I had to. She's bad. She stole my book:
101 Ways For A Perfect Horse Look.

Lying aground, looking at me like a darkling,
"Oh well," she said. "It could be worse; I could be an unpublished snarkling."

#70-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Surgery sucks,

Recovery's a bore.

As for horse-riding,

You'll soon do more!

#69-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella, Bella
Hurry and heal
Hurry up and get better

Or She may make you
Judge Her next contest:
"Miss Snark's Worst Ever Query Letter"

#68-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella S., she fell
while participating in
equestrian sport.
Miss Snark has a heart
(Really, that is NOT a lie)
So she had us write,
write these poems for Bella
We hope she feels well
And if she doesn't . . .

#SixMillion-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

We can rebuild her.

We have the technology.

(And six million bucks)

#66-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Hello Miss Snark,

First a confession, I'm a Canadian which I realize means I'm not eligible to win a prize. (By the way, except for socializied medicine, stilleto mukluks and an unfortunate habit of apologizing to inanimate objects, we Canadians are just like you Americans.) However, if I was lucky enough to win something I'd like my prize to go to my friend Susan, who lives on Long Island. If that's not okay then I'll forfeit the chance at a prize just for the honour of entering.**

Ode to Bella--Girl, You're Breaking Down

(May be sung to When I'm 64)

It's hard to believe, but you've passed middle age.
It's all downhill from here.
I know that you would like to think you're still a pup.
But soon you'll keep your teeth in a cup.
Your joints all make noise like deboning a bird.
And soon you'll need a truss.
Might as well face it. You can't escape it.
Girl, you're breaking down.

Everything is hairier, and everything is larger,
And it's all hanging lower down.
Gravity's not your friend.
And you know what's waiting down the road.
Undies from Depend.

(non-us address winners can designate US destinations.

I can't mail stuff outside the US cause they want ID at the post office
and ..."Miss Snark" doesn't have a drivers license)

#65-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

(Writer's note: Warning - Reader may be tempted to recite poem below as a rap song, but for the love of god and humanity, please resist...)

Bella needs a laugh because she's fallen sick
this formula may be just the trick
so take a deep breath and close your eyes
and picture Clooney, circa 1985
same slow, sly grin, with big moussed hair
surrounded by chicks named Tootie and Blaire
no sense of style outside denim and plaid
his sense of comedic timing?... damn bad
I risk the wrath of Snark, but truth be told
you can't love a man until you love him whole
now open your eyes, are you smiling?... sweet!

(Miss Snark is gettin jiggy wit' it)

#64-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

With apologies to both Robert Southey and Lewis Carroll

"You fell down, Bella Stander," the snarklings said,
"And your arm is exceedingly broke;
Yet we all continue to parody poems -
Do you think in your pain this is 'oke'?"

"I'm a critic:'said Stander, "and writer of books,
seeking nuance and pacing and theme -
'Richly textured' won't cut it. I need me a laugh,
and these puppies will do it, I deem."

"Your arm's broke:" said the snarkling, "you're needing a plate;
Yet this brouhaha makes me surmise;
though your humerus cracked, your humor did not -
Is this something you think to be wise?"

"I have found," said Ms Stander, " an enlightened way,
And I beg you to follow the path -
As I read and I ponder this ill-gotten verse,
It just doesn't hurt when I laugh."

#63-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

three months' agony
reveals snake-like humerus
doctor's note for flights

#62-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

A Confucian get-well sentiment:

I hear your arm hurts

nothing make bone happier

than a real good screw

#61-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Trip, fall, damn it all.

Don't let it get you down.

Look at us all,

These fans of yours,

willing to act like clowns.

You can call us all

literary types,

that is what we must be

because our poetry is tripe.

#60-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

There was a young Bella of Stander,
Who was most terribly good at banter;
She broke an arm,
While shouting a charm,
Proving nobody could out rant her.


56 posts of bad poetry? What, you got too many readers? If this goes on much longer I know you won't be on my feedreader.

This comment strikes me as the height of nitwittery.

First, the contest is for two days. If you don't like the content, delete the posts unread.

Second, why are you writing to tell me that my idea for cheering up a colleague who has been seriously injured, and facing surgery, is somehow unworthy of time on MY blog? No, it's not all great poetry, but that was never the idea. It was to have each of us do one small thing individually and then collectively it would be a big thing to make Bella (whom many of us know, respect and admire) laugh, and feel better. If you don't see that; if all you see is "bad poetry", the problem isn't the poetry.

Get your head out of your asterisk. Your sense of entitlement, not to mention your humanity, needs a serial scrubber.

#59-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

So much depends on
a metal plate and snarklings
connecting to her

(Miss Snark pushes her red wheelbarrow of admiration!)

#58-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella Stander, Bella Stander,
met a tree that couldn’t stand her.
“Out of the way, you horse’s uterus!
It wasn’t my fault I’ve broken my humerus.”
The tree, a horse chestnut, considered it slander.

#57-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella broke a bone
Now she needs a plate attached
New arm: bionic!

Bionic arm good
Moves at supersonic speed
Writing much faster!

Bionic arm great
Editors tremble in fear
Beware mighty arm!

Haikus about arm
Mighty and bionic arm
How Japanese weep.


#56-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella Stander Slander

Through green fields she used to wander,
Thinking life could get no grander.
Fate smacked her with a big left-hander.
Here lie the bones of Bella Stander.

Don’t freak, now, they’re still inside 'er!
Though her exploits as a rider,
Have caused comments snide and snider,
To be made. Oh woe betide her!

Out on horseback she was bumming,
In the distance, a guitar strumming.
Bella zoned out, softly humming,
Little knowing what was coming.

The horse, a faithful childhood friend--
Who knew what he did intend?
Into the fencepost did he send,
Bella Stander to meet her end!

Bella Stander, desolate,
Lay in the trail, not feeling great.
The horse loomed over and muttered, “Wait,
“Boss said t' tell ya—your payment’s LATE.”

So our poor Bella sits alony,
Waiting for plating to fuse her bony.
Friends, never deal with Don Cannelloni,
The loan-sharking Mafia Shetland pony!

#55 -Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Sing to the tune of 'Comedy Tonight'

Something that's metal, like the kitchen kettle
Something that's stainless steel, for a humerus tonight.
Something that's plated, and not underrated
Something to seal the deal on a humerus tonight.

Nothing that's bust, nothing with rust
Something that works solo, and don't need a truss.

And rush it to Bella, her arm don't meet Stander
And that ain't something we can suss.
Comedy tomorrow, chromium tonight.

#54 -Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

There once was a snarkling named Bella
Who yearned to find a fella
She went to Grandma Snark
Who said for a lark
Yanno you need to go riding

Her advice came fast
You see, a fella won’t look past
What’s between your legs
Get a horse she begs
Your virginity I am minding

Dear dog, what have you done?
Don’t you underStander fun?
The whip was for the horse
Not your fella, of course
No wonder he gave you a hiding!

(uh...I just paste and post!--MS)

#53 -Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Horse’s back burdened.

Runs faster, ‘til maiden falls.

Poor broken Bella.

#52 -Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Good Doctors Come in Second Place (revision)

There's nothing so unhumorous
as bone bits that aren't knittin' well,
unless it's far too numerous
light verses that aren't written well.

Still, none are sad or dirgery.
Not one has any hate in it.
So, speed thy bone to surgery
and let 'em stick a plate in it!

And me? I'm hardly reticent
to scribble from a fecund place,
but this is an anomaly:
I fall back on the homily
that laugher's the best medicine,
good doctors come in second place.

#51 A-Z-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

humerus bone break

Bella falling arm to plate

laughter and food wait


They ask, "was it left, was it right?"

she says, "I don't know - it was night."

they inquire this way

and still to this day

poor Bella can't turn out the light


Whilst Bella was reading the news

of editors espousing their views

it gave her a laugh,

which threw her head back,

thus earning a humerus fuse


The call came for all to take arms

but Bella had displaced her charms

she busted her bone

and, thus, could not phone

and cancel her trip to Pitcairn's


They have books on tape for the blind

or Braille, for the indented mind

but Bella's new problem

when reading her Ludlum

is Bourne on the page-turning kind


See Bella alone in a boat

with only one sleeve on her coat

she rowed in a circle

they say, "t'was a mir'cle!"

As funnybone casts seldom float


If you must know, it's Stander not Abzug

whose humerus resides on the unplug

by design, or by fate

which led to this state

of disrupting her day-to-day beer chug


If Bella's Italian for Pretty

then humerus must mean something gritty

a whack to the elbow

can make you go solo

when dining on ribs in the City


They say that dear Bella's not tall

especially before her grand fall

she now can shake hands

wherever she stands

while playing guitar like Les Paul


"Is trying to type with one hand

much harder than taking a Stand?"

Dear Bella grew weary

of answering that query

so now says the injury was planned.


They say she was surfing online

to the beats of her old Patsy Cline

when the whack that undone her

came straight from Peoria

intent on displacing her spine


And so, let these rhymes peter out

"Mend, please!" to dear Bella, all shout

for a crooked right arm

would raise such alarm

except on a Lobbyist lout

#49-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

I hear that your arm took a whack
that led to an ominous crack
heed my words: when dyspeptic
limit feats, pugilistic,
to boxing with Jill and not Jack

#48-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Luminous prose was so compelling
Richly textured words bestselling
Bella's eyes glued right onto the page

No keener eye for detail
Riveted on the gripping tale
And Bella's common sense did not engage

Down upon her ass she fell
And such a tale she has to tell
Of doctors, operations, and the likes

When she's reading or she's talking
She's learned to watch where she is walking
Or face the fate of metal plates and spikes

#47-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella, Bella, how am I ever gonna tell ya
that your bone ain't sitting where it's supposed ta be?
When we was young and doin' some courtin' and sparkin'
You thought it was nothin' but mere frivolous parkin'
But now you know we was doin' some hot lip to lip snarkin'!

#46-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella cuddles Max
Cat pays horse for services
Horse's next mark...Snark!

#45-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

There once was a lass who eschewed
Bad writing in books she reviewed
Her body she stubbed
(the horse was self-pubbed)
And today it's her bones that get screwed.

#44-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Gomez, was it a bee
That compelled
You to propel our Bella
Into a post

Or just cussedness

You’re a horse so
We trust you had no
Plan involving

Much less, consequences
For bones

And yet
A moment’s regret?
A tiny Sorry from
A tiny brain

And then

#43-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bellissima, stet,
Please don't you fret.
Does it need to be stated?
That I hope it's gold-plated.

#42-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

A hippie from Ticonderoga
continually dressed in a toga.
Her choice wasn’t smart
for she showed her hind part
whenever she practiced her yoga.

#41-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bored of counting the ceiling tile
She offered to help with the slush pile
Bella held up her bedpan
And asked Miss Snark in a deadpan
Would you like a new query file?

#40-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

(To be sung to the tune of 'How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria')

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Miss Stander?
How do you take a bone and mend its break?
How do you find a word that means Miss Stander?
A Convalescent,
An invalid girl,
A case!
Oh, how do you find a way fix Miss Staaaaaander?
Use titanium nails to screw her fractured humerus to a 4 inch mental plaaaaaaate!


#39-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

The Left Footed Horse...For Bella

This is the tale of a left footed horse,

the clumsiest creature you ever will meet.

His prancing and trotting were never on course,

with all of the other equestrian feet.

It happened one day when the summer was high,

A damsel named Bella sat high on his back,

The left footed horse with a twinkling eye,

Went galloping onto a treacherous track.

Dear Bella was blissfully riding along,

With never a passing concern in the least.

For if she had known she would surely bemoan,

her choice of the lumbering left footed beast.

"Faster now! Faster now! Bella proclaimed,

and turned him to scale a towering hill,

His hooves were confused by the smallest of moves,

And Bella encountered a frightening spill.

The left footed horse is a sad sight to see,

he's turned out to pasture, though some people say,

he's mourning poor Bella the beautiful maid,

whose humerous snapped on that long ago day.

He trots in the meadow, his head hanging low,

and nickers a song when the hours are late

And practices prancing, for some far off time,

When Bella returns with a new four inch plate.

Remember poor Bella, the next time you ride,

It's really a simple reminder of course,

The gait of your mount is a blessing to count,

and try to avoid that ol' left footed horse.

#38 Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella's bone did break
If not for evolution
sans the four inch plate

#37 Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Long ago my S
Was more of a shapely O
Airports liked the O

#36-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

An Accident No Longer Waiting to Happen

I have not met you Bella Stander
But I think we are perchance related.
My mother’s family genes have made me
All too similarly fated.

I’d tell you ‘bout my funny falls,
My accidents, my spills and worse,
But not one tale compares to yours
Of “Bella and the Naughty Horse*.”

So now the doctors work to fix
Your aching broken humerus.
And people send you love and poems
Sincerely felt and numerous.

Get well! We wish. And get home soon.
You’re sorely missed that’s plain to see.
… I’ll add advice from one who’s been
An accident about to be:

Look both ways twice ere crossing streets
Wear stirrups next time on a horse,
Be careful of electric shock
And do not bungee-jump of course.

*the poet being glad it wasn’t “hearse” which would have made a better rhyme, but not such a laughable outcome

#35-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Remember: Next time, fall in
Safety: Fall in love!

#34-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Up in a tall tree

There was a tiny baby

Who fell to the ground

Many people said

The baby would have been caught

Something called "mommy"‚

But this sad baby

Proved all the stories quite wrong

Landed Humorous

Bella Stander should

Learn a lesson from the baby

Next time, bring Mommy!

#33-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Humerus buys plate
From orthopedic surgeon
Not Barneys; I cry.

#32-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

"Get well soon!" said the

Man in the moon. One, Two, Three
Skiddle-boo dee-dee

#31-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella, horsewoman adventurous,
Riding in regions most mountainous,
To caution—no heed;
She fell off her steed.
Now she’s nursing a bodacious humerus.

#30-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

My fear for MIss Stander

Is that she will be remaindered

After reading such bad verse

And takes a turn for the worse

#29-Bella Stander's Humerus Poetry Contest-and curmudgeon finder

Dear Miss B.S.,

Just get frickin' better so Miss Snark can get back to her usual posts
on queries, manuscript formatting, and general nitwittery.


One Loyal Snarkling

#28-Bella Stander Humerus Love Poems

To the tune of “Just You Wait” from My Fair Lady

Just you wait, Bella Stander, just you wait!
Just past noon they’ll install your brand new plate
You have never been laconic
Now you’ll be a tad bionic
Just you wait, Bella Stander, just you wait!

With that plate, Bella Stander, with that plate,
Your arm will be very, very straight
No more wobbly, no more clunky
You’ll be abso-fably funky
Just you wait, Bella Stander, just you wait!

It is late, Bella Stander, it is late
To the infirmary to meet your fate
I just know you will be fine
And I’m glad that you are mine
It’s really nice that you have the perfect mate.

#27-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry and HMO Claim Poetry Contest


"What the fuck?" I said.
Bella means beautiful, right?
Not broken, must fix.

#26-Bella Stander Humerus Therapy and Poetry Contest

Oh, the collar bone's connected to the funny bone
The funny bone's connected to the metal dome.
The metal dome's connected to Outer Space.
Will Stella dominate the human race?
Let demons shriek and angels cry,
"The world is ending, oh me, oh my!"
And all because of the fall
And all because of the fall...

#25-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Therapy

(to be sung to tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy)

Bella Stander took a fall
a-riding on her pony.
Stuck metal in her humerus---
she's feeling "swell-a-roni"!
Now well, our Bella's telling us
(while thanking us for candy)
to mind our blurbs
and mind our pitch
and with the press be handy!

#24-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Therapy

Oh, what could be worse than a four inch plate?

A writerly beauty with a shallow date or... yuck!...
One with with a hairless, four-inch pate?

A girl of verse could sure do worse if
Our Dear Miss Snark were her humerus nurse.
(What chance would that bone have to mend
By soaking in pails of gin on end?)

And Bella's prose would not make sense
Had she met a brick wall and not a fence...
A terminal sentence for all book lovers
Who live to read Under The Covers.

Finally, Stander should thank the Stars and Venus...
That the Doc didn't offer her a four inch p*n!$.

That would not be a funny bone.

#23-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Therapy

Miss Snark remember this wisdom,
When your chance with Clooney arrives:
Crawling can be beautiful,
Crawling on your hands and knees,
Takes self-control and skill,
Crawling can be beautiful,
It sure beats standing still,
Crawling on your hands and knees,
Can be a show of will.

#22-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Therapy

I'm so sorry to hear about Bella
But what about the horsie, poor fella?
He's ruined his rep
His step has no pep
And Miss Snark just turned down his novella.

#21-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Therapy

O'er a mist of corndog,

I have found a sack-o-mang,

Its Overture Collaboration,

Is of Horticulture thang,

Lest be to be chunky grits,

Of many a Snarkling's bits,

'Tis not, but an Equation Pathologist.

#20-Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Medical Intervention

Oh, Bella,

tis true,

I am just like you...

I ones rode a horse

and it stepped on my foot.

I'm glad I was wearing a shoe!

#19, Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

The term is not smarmy but smarty
if you want an invite to the party
to sign Bella's cast
and not be dead last
bring a chocolate box shaped like a hearty

#18, Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

There once was a woman called Stander
Who's tumble could not have been grander
Her humerous shattered
But not that it mattered
She's quite an efficient one-hander

#17, Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Your future Miss Bella is this:
At the airport you're met with a hiss
or a buzz of alarm
from those plates in your arm.
(No more skydiving ma'am, I insist.)

#16 Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Autumn leaves turn soon
Please let Fall do the falling
Enough on your plate

#15, Bella Stander Poetry contest

Bella feared terrible slander
When her wounds were made much grander
"It's just broken bones
I can still work the phones"
That Bella's forever outStander

#14, Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

When Bella was whole it was great
Then she fell and met her fate
For love or for money
It just isn't funny
When humor needs a 4" plate

#13, Bella Stander Poetry Contest

There once was a gal named Miss Snark
Who invented a blog for a lark.
She said, "Yanno, I want fame,
But I won't use my name,
Cause my bite's a lot worse than my bark!"

#12, Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

There once was a woman named Bella
Who had a date with a fine handsome fella
Too bad it was Clooney
For whom Miss Snark was so moony
Now she's in a bed getting wella

#11, Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

George stopped by; says "hi".
Didn't want to bother you.
Told him you need rest.

#10, Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

One bone diverged in a writer's arm
And, sorry it did not mend as well
As they had told her, doctors warm
On other ways to undo that harm
Which came upon her when she fell

They called the interns, young and fair
Though having perhaps a lesser claim
Because they had trouble rememb'ring where
The humerus was, and would declare
The trouble to be that she was lame

And so next morning nurses tried
And poked till she was blue and black
Oh! They never finished, so she'd hide
Her record chart, till one of them spied
It peeping out of her laundry sack

I now come to the part where she,
Sick of waiting ages since
The doctors had told her she'd be free,
Tried healing it through poetry
And that has made all the difference

#9, Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

"Titles," said Bella with candor,
"Are crucial: think White Oleander.
If you still need a clue
Ask what kind of review
I would give to The Horse Under Stander"

#8, Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

There once was a writer called Bella
Whose bones, they would not a-gel-a
So she whipped up a cast
(could withstand a bomb blast)
And Bella's prognosis is stellar

#7, Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Gravity got you
Don't let its pull get you down
Next time, miss the ground

#6 Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

There once was a young girl called Bella
Who wanted to snare a big fella
She decided to cook
Slipped on her book
And landed a broken patella

#5, Bella Stander Humerus Poetry Contest

Bella bought a richly textured plate
Supposedly it's gripping
Her humerus that's slipping
But she preferred it in its natural state.

#4 Entry-Bella Stander Get Humerus Poetry Contest

Sorry for your bone
At least it‚s not Alzhei-
Where have my pants gone?


Entry #3 Bella Stander Poetry Contest

There once was a girl name o' Bella
who was really the cream on the jella
She took a bad tumble,
(like Miss Snark with a gin pail)
but now has to work only by telo.

Entry #2, Bella Stander poems

There once was a querying horse
who wanted his book to be Tor's
He bucked and he pleaded but
never was headed
till he Bella Stander mistreated.

Entry # 1 Bella Stander Poetry Contest

There once was a Bella who fella
from heights that were very cruella,
she bonked up her haid,
and her face looks like Scot plaid,
and she's confined to swilling paella.

Contest: First (and last) Bella Stander Get Humerus Poetry Contest

Contest: Let's see if we can make Bella Stander laugh so hard she forgets her injuries.

Rules: Haiku in the 5/7/5 format, limerick or poem. Pithy one liners considered.
Emailed to Miss Snark

miss . snark at gmail. com
no spaces

all entries acknowledged.

prizes of course, but only mailed to people IN the United States.

Contest opens NOW, Monday, 8/14 at 10:48 pm EDT.
Closes Wed 8/16 at 10:48 pm EDT

Extra prizes if you make Miss Snark laugh so hard she ruins her keyboard.

Bella Stander-this isn't humerus any more

Dear Miss Stander,

When you took a Humpty Dumpty sized fall several months back, it was more than a little scary to see your list of injuries and know how perilously narrow that line between here and there can get. We sent good wishes, warm thoughts, and suggestion of reading material.

NOW we discover your humerus isn't mending; in fact it's worse.
In fact, we now hear you're getting a 4"plate attached to your humerus, and if that isn't the classic definition of a crack in the funny bone, I don't know what is.

Well, it's clear you need assistance. Thus, a contest. The First (and LAST!) Bella Stander Get Humerus Poetry Contest.

Details in the next post.

Bella, you've been warned. Get well, or we're gonna make you die laughing!

Yet another way to spend your money

I recently discovered a website where the company claims to connect writers to agents It seems to be legitimate, however, I was wondering what your expert opinion is of such services.

I did a quick check of the archives and didn't find this question addressed. (If it has been please forgive me.)

You'd think with the amount of howling I do about bad query letters I'd be all in favor of something like this. I'm not. I think it's important to write your own query letter and send it to me directly. I don't like dealing with these kinds of services. I like seeing you, your pink kitten letterhead and your glitterati fonts. It tells me what you're about.

I also think it's important that you know how to talk about your book and the best way to do that is to write your own good query letter.

These guys aren't scam artists, they do what they say they do. I've gotten a couple letters from them, and (sadly) about sixty gazillion emails. Besides for what they charge, you can query everyone in the 212 twice.

What IS it this week about statistics? Has the heat gotten to you??

Dear Miss Snark,

Both as a writer and also as a former editor and agent, I enjoy your blog very much. I'm currently working on a proposal for a book on writing and am trying to form some idea of the number of novels offered for publication each year in this country. I know from Bowkers that some 28,000 works of adult fiction were published in 2004, about 20,000 by trade publishers. From my own experience and that of some agent friends, I don't think that more than 1% of fiction submitted to agents ever finds trade publication. But that would mean that for 20,000 published, there must be close to two million fiction mss. offered. Is it possible, do you think? Or am I way off about the 1%?

Classic mistake of double counting.

Here's why: Here at the Snarkosaurium I get 100 queries a week, about 50 weeks a year.
Over at Agents X and Y, they get 100 queries a week as well. 300 queries for 300 books?
Nope. Each of us are seeing MUCH of the same stuff.

More than once I've read partials that have gone to other agents, and I've snagged my share of clients from the jaws of my colleagues as well.

There's absolutely no way to judge how many submissions are made in the course of a year (or any time period) because even if we all diligently counted, we'd count a lot of people several times.

Bowkers counts ISBN numbers too I believe, not individual titles. There is a big difference.

Second cousin, kissing cousin, cause I'm confuzzled

Is there anywhere on the Internet (or elsewhere) where I could find some kind of family tree so that I can understand how all the various publishers, divisions, and imprints are related to one another? (For example, I know because my agent told me that Berkley and NAL are related, and I was able to discover that they are both part of Penguin, but I can't figure out how St Martin's and Tor are related, even though I know they are.)

well, they're cousins sort of. Here's an explanation for Tor.

I'm not sure if a "family tree" exists for the other publishers. I'll bet if it's out there, one of the snarklings will know!

Novella contest

All of you downtrodden, dissed novella writers, here's your chance for some time in the sun.

Yes it costs $25 to enter.
No, that doesn't mean it's a scam.

(gleaned from PW)

Series of article on publishing

Dear Miss Snark,

As always, love your blog. :-)

I ran across a link on SF Signal (who got it from a link at Wyrdsmiths) to a series of articles about publishing...

..(some of it SF-oriented, but mostly not) that I thought maybe the snarklings would find interesting/useful, to supplement your wonderful inside-the-agent's-head, etc. blog. There are seven articles so far, and I believe more are forthcoming.

Yup, this is good stuff. Very nicely written and accurate.

It's Monday...great day for nihilism

Dear Miss Snark,

I was wondering if it can ever be harmful to an aspiring author to have been previously published? For instance if your first book was published but did not do well, would that make things tougher for you the second time around
than if you were starting from zero?

I am currenly finishing up my first novel (finishing the third "final" revision) and I will shortly begin the query process. However I feel that I am still growing as a writer and that my work will get better with more time and practice. I was wondering if any harm could come from trying to publish book one or if there might be a good reason to just shelve it and wait for
book two.

well, knowing you're going to die, why invest any effort in living?

You have to start somewhere.
Yes, it can be a tough sell with book two if book one tanks.

None of that is your problem right now.
Finish the book.
Send it out.
Make lots of mistakes.
Learn from mistakes.
Repeat as necessary.


Miss Snark, snared!

John writes in the comments column:

From what I can determine, timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile isn't out until January 2007, which for me raises possible questions of conflict of interest here.

Why is Miss Snark involved pre-release? Is this a book she's agenting, or a colleague is agenting? Is there some other connection? If so, it's in her interest to hype the book, as she or a crony will get a piece of the action. 15% is more than you get as an Amazon affiliate.

Would Miss Snark be willing to say she has no business reason to plug this book?

Oh darn, you caught me.
It must be true, how could it be otherwise?
I only give heartfelt recommendations to books in which I have a vested financial interest.
Of course, that also reveals the terrible secret that Miss Snark is actually a dragoon of agents:

Timothy; or, Notes of An Abject Reptile is represented by Flip Brophy of Sterling Lord

Portraits, by Michael Kimmelman, is represented by ICM

The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp, is represented by Mark Reiter

The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead, is represented by Nicole Aragi

Motherless Brooklyn, by Jon Letham, is represented by the Richard Parks Agency

Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell, is represented by Ellen Levine

You weren't sidetracked by my careful red herring of (Knopf:2006) after the author's name.

You've cleverly seen through the words "read the book", knowing since I didn't use the word "buy" --and I never ever in a million years say you should get things from the library, certainly not The Mercantile, or any library whatsoever -- I want you to rush right down to the bookstore and BUY this so I can snare you in my evil plot to become rich and famous.

Yes, you've nailed the ever-mercantile Miss Snark with your careful research, and clear thinking. You've made the world a safer place for book recommendations.

Miss Snark hangs her head in shame. That muted snortle you hear is absolutely not the sound of laughter. No no no.