You can sweat the small stuff, just don't tell me about it

Dear Miss Snark,

I recently heard back from an agent I querried over 6 months ago who requested the first 3 chapters of my novel. (She apologized for the delay, saying she was only recently taking on new clients.)

However I've changed the novel considerably since that query letter was sent out so many moons ago. {The changes came after multiple passes by agents, as well as after my own epiphanies about how to improve it.) The novel still centers around the same main character, starting from the same situation, and essentially following the same character arc. But the path the character follows to his destination is markedly different, and the novel is more of a romantic comedy now. (instead of what?--thriller? dyspeptic parody of Jane Austen?)

Which do I send? The original version only? The new version only, w/ a letter explaining the change? Or do I send both with an explanation? Or would an agent view such a writer as wishy-washy?

I don't care how you got to good, I only care if you've arrived.
Thus, send your best work (in this case the new version), no explanations required.

Explanation of the changes you've made is akin to saying "gosh you look nice" to a friend and then getting chapter and verse on the gym regimen. I don't want to see you sweat; I don't want to hear about your sweating; I want only to gaze admiringly on your abs of steel.

If you just can't bear to let your improvements go unremarked, say very very briefly in your cover letter that you've been fine tuning your chapters between the time you first wrote and now when you are sending.


Old Fashioned

Dear Miss Snark,

After one year or so of editing my manuscript, testing it at two different school's and having it critiqued by reading groups I felt it was ready to submit to agents. Two form rejection letters left me thinking, 'okay, not for them'. I didn't read into what the letters said. One agent wrote back with a personal, 'please send something else', which my other stories are not ready at this stage. That agent didn't represent what I sent her, even though her website listed the genre I submitted it as, as one she represented.

More rejections left me feeling neither upset or confused about my ability to write until I received one in particular:

"this one is a bit old-fashioned for me," she wrote and has passed.

I have moved on from all the rejections but this one has me confused. Is my writing worse than I thought? Since I have never heard an agent use this phrase before, I was hoping you might shed some insight.

Without seeing the actual text, it's hard to know what might have engendered this comment.

I don't think I've ever said something is old fashioned but I've seen it. It's usually what I call "same old same old" in that the characters and plot are things I've seen seven gazillion times before. "Fresh and original voice" means "don't send me anything I've seen before". Of course, coupled with "send me the next DaVinci Code", it makes authors crazy...as well it should. I buy pharmaceutical stocks for just that reason.

Get past this. Button up your union suit and go kick up your plimsolls in a rousing jitterbug. Put the kibosh on those "old fashioneds" and we'll have ourselves a pail of gin.

Backspace Conference

Hi, Miss Snark.

I’m attending the Backspace conference at The Algonquin on 11/3.

Do you have any advice from your perspective (beside NOT wearing a calico dress, for starters) to a querying newbie to make the most of the day? I’ll be sniffing every agent there (surreptitiously of course) for a faint gin scent, by the way.

Thanks very much.

Talk to everyone.
Be nice to everyone.
Expect people will be strange and don't take it personally.

Take notes.
Realize you'll hear five versions of "must do" and they all are different.

Quit sniffing for gin; Miss Snark won't be there.

Don't interrupt conversations; don't ask anyone to read your work.

The address for the Musuem of Modern Art is 11 West 53rd. Go. Art is inspiring. I love the green helicopter cause it is beautiful, fierce and practical.

Dooce's wild

Miss Snark---

Have you seen the stories about Kensington sueing mega-blogger Heather B Armstrong for breach of contract?

yup, I sure have.
There's a link at Media Bistro's Galleycat
and a lot of others too.

In a nutshell, Heather Armstrong was approached about doing a book for Kensington. She has an agent. The agent negotiated the deal points and fired off an email to Kensington saying "ok, we've got a deal".

Meanswhile back at the ranch, the original editor at Kensington left for Simon and Schuster. Heather Armstrong wouldn't sign the contract. What she says now, what she said then, what Kensington said or did is grist for the mills of Blog which grind fine, fast, and rarely separate wheat from chaff.

Here's the problem: the agent agreed to the deal. That is how publishing works. We hammer out deal points and THEN get things in writing. I've had authors deliver books before the contracts arrived (unusual, but not impossible). I'd be a total nitwit to say there wasn't a deal in place if Heather Armstrong hadn't actually signed the documents.

This author clearly didn't understand this. She didn't understand that her book deal is not contingent upon the editor being the same from start to finish. And it's really really not dependent on how she 'feels' about any of this.

What I don't understand is why Kensington sued. I've had clients go apeshit in deals. The publisher usually backs away as fast as they can. They don't want crazy and unhappy authors.
I don't understand how it got to litigation either. Usually there are few steps before calling in the Shysters, first among them is your agent saying "hey there, time to get your head out of your dooce and fix this".

Bottom line is Kensington is getting an anthology, all of us are getting a wake up call that people who blog aren't always "writers" who've spent any time learning how this industry works.

I gotcher break out riiiight here Mr. Shawshank

Dear Miss Snark --

I recieved a phonecall from an agent today that left me puzzled; I hope you can help me make sense of it. He had read my manuscript and while he thought it was good, and even sellable, it wasn't a "breakout" book. Therefore, he was passing. That's all well and good, but then he told me that in today's market it was a bad idea to have one of your books published that wasn't a breakout best-seller, as it would doom you to small books forever. So, his advice was to shelve this book, and every one I write after it until I had something that could clear a big advance, get the requisite press and marketing push and be a best seller.

What's your take on this?

EVERY agent and editor I know has more stories than fingers and toes about books they thought would sell like hotcakes, and didn't.

Same ratio for books they thought would do just ok and then zoomed into the stratosphere.

A lot of us make a very nice living selling things that never see a best seller list.

Query other people.

Spawn of Snark

Three Reasons I'm a Rejector Fan

1. Not snarky but shows GREAT promise.
2. Good info on how lit agencies work particularly at the first point of contact.
3. She doesn't like MFA programs almost as much as I don't.


Has Miss Snark Lost Her Mind?

Many of you (385!) got a form letter that said your email was deleted.

I try hard to keep up but every once in a while it's just time to hose it out and start again.
That's today.

Some of you sent links, or heads up, or Mr. Clooney info not questions.
You got a form letter too even though you didn't ask a question.
If I didn't answer it personally, you got a form letter.

I know it sux.

There are about 35 left in the queue from yesterday and today.

Seven Signs of Snarkly Addiction

You know you've been spending too much time over at Miss Snark's blog when

1. you understand the inside joke headlines instantly
2. you can tell which regular is posting anonymously
3. you miss it when Bill E. Goat can't get his hooves on a keyboard
4. You're kneeling at prayer on Sunday and say "Blessed be Dog forever"
5. you experience withdrawl when blogger is slow to load, or worse, not loading
6. you make up emails to Miss Snark so you can be 'nitwit of the day'
7. you've contemplated using "snark" as a character name in your novel

I'm sure there are others. Feel free to confess all in the comments column.

Category Five Word Hurricane-impending disaster

Miss Snark:

I'm about to start submitting queries for my book to agents, and I've run across something odd while researching agents. My book is an action-adventure thriller. I've found several agents who say they are looking for thrillers, and then, under the list of things they don't take, they say action-adventure. Are they referring something different than what I'm thinking or should I pass on submitting to the agent?


Your book is a thriller.
Leave off the action-adventure part.

I'm not exactly sure what an action-adventure novel is but it sounds like what the boys read in the clubhouse behind the "no girlz" sign.

When you describe where your book fits in a bookstore shelving scheme, you need one or two words at the MOST. Thriller is fine; cozy mystery; chick lit (NOT chic lit); self-help; SFF; are all examples.

Anyone who uses three or more words or tells me they fit in chick lit, mystery, thriller AND true crime is an automatic no because it's clear they don't understand categories, and they don't know what they have.

Don't worry about being wrong about the category. All I need is s a general idea of where this book fits so that if the character is named S'nark and lives in Rabbitania, I know you are writing true crime, not fantasy.

Awash in words; here have some soap

Queen Snark, (jeeze...please not!)

I am preparing to query agents regarding the manuscript for my literary novel. The narrative involves a creative/complex structure, interweaving the separate narratives of four main characters in successive chapters, and within each chapter interweaving a current-time story for the character with a story from that character's past. So, here are my questions:

1) Are creative plot structures good or bad things in an agent's eyes? If good things, should they be mentioned in the query letter, and, if so, in what sort of detail?

2) In my example, the easiest description would be that my novel entails intersecting narratives of distinct characters, as in Altman's interpretation of Carver's "Short Cuts," mashed up with the disjointed chronology of Arriaga's "21 Grams." Both of these analogies compare my manuscript to films, not to other books. Is this taboo, as it might display some lack of essential allegiance to printed words? Or is it OK, because film is an easy reference-point in today's pop-culture society?

Here, have some scissors and white out. You're over explaining everything and, in a cover letter, that is death. Succinct. Succinct, did I mention short and sweet yet?

First I'm not sure what creative plot structures are. Do they come in primary colors and attract children?

You have a plot. You have characters. You have backstory. You have successive chapters wherein each character is seen in present time and also from a previous time.

In a cover letter you're giving a very basic roadmap of what the pages will SHOW not tell. It's akin to saying "this pasta has a cream sauce not a tomato sauce" rather than listing all the ingredients of the cream sauce and how you sauteed the truffles to bring out just a hint of pig snout.

Even in a literary novel, being all artsy in the cover letter is the sign of someone in love with their words. That's never ever a good sign.

I tend to dismiss people who use film comparisons for their novels but Short Cuts would be an exception to that. I adored the film, I adore Altman and Raymond Carver IS a god. But you won't know that when you query me, and sadly, not every agent is of like mind (fools! fools!).

You'll be safer using book references.


Not quite published

Dear Miss Snark,

Would I be a nitwit to include in a query letter a reference to a novel that I have signed a contact with a small publisher for, (a respected, traditional publisher) but has not yet been published? I understand things can still happen that can delay a publication date, or even halt it. I believe my newest work would have a much larger audience, therefore the search for an agent. But I don't want to sound like a duncewagon in the letter by mentioning the other novel yet, if I should not.

No, this isn't nitwittery. You say you have a novel scheduled for publication with LuckyDucky and Shark in 200X. We all understand what that means.

"very nice deal"

Dear Miss Snark,

Could you please explain the terminology "nice deal" or "very nice deal" when describing book deals? Are these just polite words or do they have monetary value associated with them?

They are categories established by Michael Cader for reporting deals on Publishers Marketplace. The monetary value is listed on his website.

Get some perspective

my agent submitted my manuscript to publishers two weeks ago. she said her cover letter would give them five weeks to respond (one week longer than she normally gives them...since most would be at the frankfurt book fair).

1. is it unreasonable to ask for a list of the publishing houses she submitted to?
2. is it unreasonble to ask for a copy of the cover letter?
3. obviously she hasnt gotten any offers yet, but would it be too snarkdiculously soon to ask if she's gotten any rejection letters?

i am dying. READ: DYING!! do you agents know how hard it is for us writers to wait?!! I will never ever last five weeks. seriously.

you are going to have to settle down and act like a grownup here.

If you're going crazy now, I have no confidence you'll survive the next parts of the publication process, all of which involves waiting.

Get a grip. Find something else to think about. World peace comes to mind.


Having trouble seeing Snark?

Miss Snark has been hearing your complaints the blog has been invisible. She isn't moved to do anything of course, since she sees it just fine. However, this evening, given fresh nitwittery has slaked her thirst for blood and cruelty, she was moved to email Cyberian Snark and ask if anything was ...yanno (tm/pp) ... afoot.


I can see the blog...who else do you need?

oh...all right. Here's the reason:

Blogger's acting up.

Do they get error messages? Or does it look like your blog loaded and there's nothing there? I'll tell you a secret:

For me - Jason Pinter's and Bonnie Calhoun's blogs come up as unformatted simple HTML. That is, all their pictures and background colors and pretty fonts don't load. It looks like a SimpleText document. I use Safari. Bonnie seems to think that's the reason.

Sometimes I ask for your blog and I can't see it. I struggle fruitlessly for a few minutes or a few hours, then I go do something useful, like, yanno, WRITE. You're always back by morning.

If only my muse were so reliable.

In other words, don't get nervous until nobody can see your blog for a week. Gremlins get into the cyberworks. Sheriff's posse will be along to flush 'em out. In the meantime, tell everybody to work on their hook. December's approaching.

Beverage alert

Dear Miss Snark,

I read your blog regularly, have been for these past 37 years, and always enjoy it. I'm hoping a fellow octogenarian such as you might be willing to share your insights on some publishing industry trends. My theory is that the availability of economical personal computers and word processors has enabled people to write, revise, and spell check much more quickly and easily than in the days of manual typewriters and correction fluid.

Based on your 50+ years in the industry, do you think literary agents and publishers have become inundated with marginal tripe that wouldn’t exist if authors still had to labor over manual typewriters? Or has technology facilitated the discovery of exciting new authors that otherwise might not have taken on the daunting task of writing?

There also seem to be a lot more literary agents popping up. Coincidence, cloning experiments gone bad, a natural market response to more authors entering the field, or something else altogether?

Finally, in your opinion does any of this help explain the rampant increase in criminal behavior, divorce, mental illness, suicide, alcoholism, alien abductions, and substance abuse among literary agents?

Senile in St. Louis

yes no yes yes

yes, we have a nitwit of the day

Dear Miss Snark,

My limited experience with agents tells me that they are pretty quick in rejecting a ms that doesn't appeal to them. Of the three agents who asked for my full ms, two sent rejection letters within a week. The third agent - veteran, reputed etc - has not uttered a squeak for over two months now. She hasn't even responded to my mail enquring about the status of her evaluation. I know of cases where she has sent rejection letters within 10 days time, so how do I interpret her silence?

Two months on a full and you're pestering her already?
You're LUCKY to have an arm left. I'd have snapped it off with the Jaws of Snark...right before I sent you briskly on your way out the door.

In case this is news to you: reading full manuscripts can take a while. Minimum 90 days is industry standard. Lots longer is normal. It doesn't mean anything. Quit trying to parse out meaning from this.

If you want to know what happened your email, she deleted it.

She has learned, as I have, that people who pester you about submissions have a tendency to keep writing back if you send them updates. I tell people how long it will be and don't give updates before that. If you email me, I delete it. Being "nice" to you is counterproductive.

I get 150 emails a day that are for projects I currently represent or am dealing with. I get another 25 or so from people like you. Today I got an email from some nitwit alerting me to the fact he was sending a query letter. I got another one from someone looking for an email address for an agent I'd recommended. I got another one telling me a novel was almost finished--a novel I'd never heard of.
Delete. Delete. Delete.

Sit down, quit emailing her, and query other agents.


Dear Miss Snark,

Even though I have tried to educate myself on the publishing industry by reading everything I can get my hands on -- especially your blog since it contains a wealth of information -- I can't seem to get a handle on the term "platform" as it applies to writers.

Obviously I know what a platform is with respect to political candidates (I mean besides a false promise), e.g., a promise not to raise taxes. And I understand the term when a Miss America candidate states that her platform is Type I Diabetes. But when I see "a writer must have a platform in order to be successful," I'm confused. Does it mean: target audience?; a cause (and if that's the case, how does it apply to genre fiction?); does it refer to a viable marketing plan?; or is it none of these.

I would appreciate knowing your definition since I'm tired of feeling so nitwittish about this term.

Platform means you have a way to reach book buyers that doesn't involve "the ususal suspects" like "I'll go on Oprah" or "I'll visit bookstores".

Platform can be a syndicated newspaper column, a speaking career, a blog with a LOT of hits, a career as a movie star, or lots of guest appearances on Oprah. Suze Orman's platform was infomercials; Bob Greene's was Oprah appearances; Harvey Mackay's was a very very succesful speaking career.

Platform is what you bring to the table for sales outlets.

You don't need platform for novels. You need it for almost everything else.

Greener grass is the sign of a septic tank

Dear Ms. Snark,
Earlier this year I signed a contract with an agent to represent a particular project. Now, I have been contacted by another agent from a larger agency about this project. Any suggestions on how to handle this dilemma. Is there anything unethical about talking to agent #2 when agent #1 hasn't sold the book?

It's not a dilemma.
You don't get to trade up when a new agent comes sniffing around.
You're under contract with #1. You don't have anything to offer #2 until you've terminated with #1.

Agent #2 isn't going to find trading up any more appetizing than #1 or I do either. Clients willing to screw one agent are that much more likely to do it again. We all know this and it's one of the things we like to talk about.. a lot.

Suck it up.

Paper weight

Dear Miss Snark:

In a query letter or partial, does the weight of paper matter? Postal costs would be more expensive with a 28 lb bond high quality laser paper, but it is what is normally in my printer and it is nicer to touch and the print is much clearer. Of course, the paper is heavier, but I don't know how much that matters.

It doesn't.

blog prowling

Do literary agents ever prowl around blogs searching for gifted writers?


Best Query Letter EVER

Dear Miss Snark and Friends,

What is the best query letter you have ever received (or 'conceived')?

Many thanks and love the pics of Hunkoid George,


Dear Miss Snark,
I have a poodle puppy that barks at Birkenstocks, sneers at Rottweillers, and appears to read ChienVogue (how he gets it Ido not know but he appears to have a library card). Would you like to have him come live with you at Snark Central?

Best wishes,

Run up to the Crapometer-hook examples 2

Jack Reacher was alone, the way he liked it, soaking up the hot, electric New York City night, watching a man cross the street to a parked Mercedes and drive it away. The car contained one million dollars in ransom money. And Edward Lane, the amn who paid it, will pay even more to get his family back. Lane runs a highly illegal soldiers-for-hire operation. He will use any amount of money and any tool to find his beautiful wife and child. And then, eh'll turn Jack Reacher loose with avengeance--because Reacher is the best man hunter in the world.

flap copy THE HARD WAY by Lee Child (Delacorte:2006)

Drinking espresso in NYC, Reacher sits...watching. Possibly, even relaxing. Yah, that's not gonna last. Soon he's helping a man whose wife and daughter have been kidnapped. This man knows how to wage war, but all-out war will only get them killed. What he needs is a hunter, an investigator; what he thinks he has is a man he can control.

Lee Child website

Jack Reacher, Lee Child's serial hero, savouring an espresso in a cafe in New York, sees a man drive a car away. When he goes back to the same cafe the next day, he is approached and questioned, and allows himself to be drawn into the affairs of a gang of mercenary warriors. The car had been loaded with a $1 million ransom and driven away by the kidnappers who had taken the mercenary chief's trophy wife. By the time it's over, after several sharp plot twists, he's in a gunfight and burying bodies with a backhoe.

Child is a skilled writer, without literary pretensions. His novels are all plot and pace, appealing to fans of suspense and action thrillers, military fiction and tough-guy detective fiction. Jack Reacher used to be an officer in the US Army Military Police, who lives on the road, with the clothes on his back, the money in his pocket, his strength, and his wits. He vaguely resembles John D. MacDonald's legendary Travis McGee, who lived on a houseboat, but Reacher is rootless.

He is more like a character from a spaghetti western, an ominous drifter who breaks the law, but honours a higher law. In real life, the detachment is usually found only in monks, and the violence in serial killers. A man with Reacher's code of honour can't exist outside of a social setting. A man who cares for others will have a different kind of life. This kind of novel appeals more to fantasies of power and freedom than to social values, although there is a chivalrous ethic at work.

Tony Dalmyn at Blogcrritics

Reacher is in New York, living as anonymously as he always has, with no drivers’ license, no place to call home, no possessions except for the clothes on his back and the toothbrush in his pocket. And, of course, the shoes on his feet, which play a surprisingly large role in his story. Reacher is enjoying a double espresso when he witnesses something entirely ordinary: a man getting into a car. Being Reacher, he remembers everything about this event: the clothes the man was wearing, the make of the car, even the license plate number. But he thinks nothing of it until he returns to the same cafĂ© the next day for another double espresso, and a man asks him questions about what he saw.

Reacher finds himself drawn into a desperate fight to retrieve the kidnapped wife and stepchild of a former soldier now turned mercenary, Edward Lane, a man who seems to be addicted to adventure, violence, and wealth. He is surrounded by a group of men in his own mold, most from the highest level of soldier in their countries of origin – Navy Seals, Special Forces, the hardest, toughest guys. They’re soldiers with a bit of a taint on them; maybe they got a bit too enthusiastic about their jobs, maybe they are the sorts of men who were at Haditha or My Lai. And their toughness has changed; they have softened a bit in their physical capabilities, and toughened in their mental and ethical acceptance of extreme violence as a means of making money. This group is essentially one of bullies, with their leader the biggest bully of all – but one whose wife is missing.

Reacher investigates, but his investigation isn’t of the kidnapping alone. Instead, he looks hard at Lane, who lost his first wife through a kidnapping and has a dubious past and present. He watches as Lane pays a ransom without flinching, despite the large sum demanded. He asks questions, finds witnesses, talks to those who know and those who don’t. He picks up friends and makes enemies, as he always does, and doesn’t take any garbage from anyone.

Review by Terry Weyna in Trashotron.com


Run up to the Crapometer-hook examples

On a beautiful summer day crowds lined up outside a theatre witness a sudden attack of extreme road rage: a tap on a fender triggers a nearly homicidal attack.

Jackson Brodie, ex-cop, ex-private detective, new millionaire, is among the bystanders. The event thrusts Jackson into the orbit of the wife of an unscrupulous real estate tycoon, a washed up comedian, a successful crime novelist, a mysterious Russian woman, and a female police detective. Each of them hiding a secret, each looking for love or money or redemption or escape, they all play a role in driving Jackson out of retirement and into the middle of several mysteries that intersects in one sinister scheme.

flap copy for ONE GOOD TURN by Kate Atkinson (LittleBrown 2006)

same book:

It is summer, it is the Edinburgh Festival. People queuing for a lunchtime show witness a road-rage incident - an incident which changes the lives of everyone involved. Jackson Brodie, ex-army, ex-police, ex-private detective, is also an innocent bystander - until he becomes a suspect.

With "Case Histories", Kate Atkinson showed how brilliantly she could explore the crime genre and make it her own. In "One Good Turn", she takes her masterful plotting one step further.

Like a set of Russian dolls, each thread of the narrative reveals itself to be related to the last. Her Dickensian cast of characters are all looking for love or money and find it in surprising places. As ever with Atkinson what each one actually discovers is their true self. Unputdownable and triumphant, "One Good Turn" is a sharply intelligent read that is also percipient, funny, and totally satisfying.

source: Fantastic Fiction website

All but one of the principal characters in Kate Atkinson's new novel, "One Good Turn," witness the same disturbing incident. After a fender bender on an Edinburgh, Scotland, street, a driver gets out of his car and savagely attacks another man with a baseball bat. The assailant is about to finish the victim off with a blow to the head when someone in the crowd of bystanders flings a laptop case at him, clipping his shoulder and thereby chasing him off. The laptop-case flinger is Martin Canning, a meek crime novelist who's produced a successful series of nostalgic mysteries under a pseudonym. Tossing that case is the bravest thing he's ever done.

Martin's intervention is the "good turn" of the book's title, but does it lead, as the proverb would have it, to another? Not exactly. In Atkinson's universe, a good turn is more likely to set off a chain of unpredictable events, whose connections will only become apparent when the dust clears at the very end.

Source: Salon


What's the point of a partial?

Dear Miss Snark,

I am beginning the wonderful querying process and was just curious: what is the point of asking for a partial after the query letter? Other than saving all the trees that is. If an agent liked a query letter and wanted to read more, wouldn't it save time on both ends to just ask for the whole manuscript at once? She could stop reading a lousy whole manuscript just as quickly as a partial.

It's easier to ask for a partial than a full. When I ask for a full I intend to read all of it. I'm MUCH more willing to ask for partials than fulls cause I know I've only committed to reading 50 pages.

This holds true even for electronic stuff. In fact, I've found I'm much more willing to ask for partials now that they all come electronically and I don't have to deal with paper stacked up all over the place.

Then there's just the physical dimension: space is at a premium here and even if I stop reading on page 25, all 400 pages would be here, taking up space and breeding dust. I know I'll read 50 partials for every full I ask for and dealing with 49 full manscripts is just an ugly ugly thought.

Miss Snark Is Puzzled-Updated

I was recently approached by an acquisitions editor for a lit agency who said to protect myself from B.S. i should have an independent critique done of my work....is this normal M.O. for agents and agencies also what exactly is a holding contract?

Did the subject of money come up?

A literary agency with an "acquisitions editor"?
That's news to me.

And I have no idea what a holding contract is.
I even consulted my trusty Kirsch's Guide and found no reference to it.

I think I see red flags waving but if any Snarklings have good intelligence about this kind of thing I'll be glad to hear about it.

Next email:
basically i was trying to see if they were looking to make a fast buck off of me

they approached me after reading a poem in a magazine

the woman who contacted me claims to be the VP of Acquisitions

and then says they will "not sign" the contract for representation unless i have an independent professional critique done by a third party

supposedly a holding contract says (according to them) that they will agree to represent me (unless i don't have the critique done) in 30 days they drop me

now the contract also goes on to state that after 90 days i can drop them if they haven't sold any of my work

meanwhile somebody has gotten my 80.00 for the critique (somebody they suggested i use)

curious if all agencies work like this and if it was simply a case of the left hand feeding the right hand and leaving me sans 80.00

Red flag: they approached me after reading a poem in a magazine.

Why: agents hardly ever represent poets for poetry. There's no money in it. Agents approach writers of short stories, or people with blogs, sure, but hardly ever poets.

Red Flag: VP of Acquisitions.
Why: Literary agents call themselves agents. Agents don't acquire things. Editors acquire projects. Agents represent authors. They "sign" authors.

Red Flag: we won't sign you unless you pay for a critique.
Why: Reputable agents are not in the business of referring you to critque services.
The Association of Author's Representatives does more than frown on it; they forbid it.

Even if an agent is NOT an AAR member, look for "we follow the AAR Code" or like language on their web site.

Do NOT pay for critique services recommended by an agent.

ALWAYS look for an agent's name or company name at Preditors and Editors.

Words Fail Me


I live in Nova Scotia but have traveled in every ocean and on every continent. I have more stoties to tell than I ever will.

I rarely pitch a tale but have had a couple published. I would love to know if there are any reputable agents who will work on a commission basis only.

If there are any good publishers who will look at material that doesn't come through an agent, I'd like to know about them.

If you have any words of wisdom to toss out, please feel free.
oh I'm tossing alright but those aren't words, they're cookies.

Check please!

Oh most hallowed Snark,

Earlier this year, one of my writing pals signed with an agent we both believed was the cat's meow (down, KY). Since then, my friend has discovered that while her agent may have an excellent track record, she's not on the same wavelength as my friend when it comes to communication. In corresponding with some of the agent's other clients recently, my friend has learned the agent is known for being a little unresponsive and scattered.
*(maybe cause she's selling stuff instead of yapping on the phone?--just a thought)

I'm hoping to avoid the same situation, but I'm not sure when it's appropriate to start asking questions. I've had several requests for fulls recently, and two of my top choice agents have emailed me some specific questions about my career goals, what I'm looking for in an agent relationship, and which other agents are considering the work.

I've done plenty of google searches on both agents and have read everything I can find, but I'm craving specifics about what it's like to work with each of them. I'd love to send a polite inquiry to a couple clients on each agent's list, but I don't know if that's appropriate at this stage.

Is it best to wait until I've got an offer on the table before I start "checking references"? What's the best way to determine, in advance, which agent might be the better fit? I know it's entirely possible neither one will offer representation, but I'm just trying to be prepared.

A devoted Snarkling

It's fine to ask now. No reputable agent is going to care much if you ask clients what it's like to work with them. Reputable agents don't need to worry what anyone will say.

That said, if you're emailing people you don't know, remember that their experience may not translate to yours. I have had clients who were total pains in the ass. I'm sure they thought I was unresponsive cause I was an idiot. My perspective was I was unresponsive cause I hated talking to them. I have a client now who probably wouldn't use the word unresponsive, but he would say he never reaches me on the phone. That's cause he always calls after 7pm or on weekends when I don't answer the phone unless I've made an appointment to speak to someone.

Why no romance?

Miss Snark,

Why don't you rep romance?

It seems to me that it would be a very lucrative venture.

Just curious.

A writer

Cause I don't read it, and I don't appreciate it in a way that makes me a good advocate for authors.