Just in case you're keeping track: 25 days till the new Pynchon novel hits the shelves.
I keep hanging around 375 Hudson hoping to mug a publicist and steal an ARC but so far I've only bagged three Harlen Coben novels and some tome by a guy named Eisler. Hope "rains".

The Slush pile turns up a tantalizing treat

I'm deep in the slush today.

Writing conference season is in full swing and for some reason people like me at these things despite my best efforts to appear cold, cruel, and terrifying. I think Killer Yapp makes them think I'm nice. Time for him to stay home more often.

Just to show that all my barking about stuff can be overcome by the right project, today a delicious tantalizing treat showed up. Historical fiction. Blah, I normally say, cause I'm sick to death of maidens at risk from big bad sea captains or sea captains at risk from Virgin Queens, and if no one ever says "court of Louis Canz" again, I'll be fine.

So this query comes in and it's about an era I'm interested in (discretion prevails here so I won't be specific). And I think to myself, I don't think I've seen a novel about this era before. Lo, a search of Amazon, Google, NYPL and everyplace else I can think of confirms this.

Now, get this: the author lives in some far flung port that is NOT the US. Remember how I crabbed about THAT!

Well, I'm hooked, I asked for pages. I'm praying this guy can write cause right now, he's got my attention.

Just goes to show, I'm NOT kidding when I say "fresh and new" will get my attention, and "good writing trumps all".

There's a lot of road between here and an offer, but Im reading his pages and that is more than can be said for 95 of the other queries i've gotten this week.


Why Should You Care...you're not an idiot right?

One of my favorite Friday night activities is talking about scam, sham, and flim-flam agencies like these.

There have been some comments along the lines of "anyone who gets fooled by this deserves what they get" (as happened when we had some fun advertising the Twenty Worst Literary Agencies).

Maybe. There are some truly truly witless people out there, and you can't save people who are marching over a cliff singing "Springtime for Hitler".

But we weren't all born knowing that reputable agents don't charge a fee; that reputable agents are inundated with queries and don't particularly want to talk to you on the phone; that reputable agents don't advertise.

In fact, much of publishing, particularly contacting agents, is not only counter-intuitive, it's absolutely contrary to how other businesses are run. In any other business calling to check up on the status of a project is the sign of a with-it, on top of things, organized person. In publishing, from a potential client, it's not any of those things.

A very very good editor weighed in saying "this is basically a tempest in a teapot" and "no editor pays attention to this". That's also very true, and my posts about these flim flam scam mongers weren't intended for the industry professionals reading this blog.

But this BIG RED LETTER comment is directed to my colleagues:

It pisses me off that people use OUR profession to prey on people. You can bet your bottom dollar that if some flim flam scam sham artist went around to writing conferences advertising him/herself as an editor at BookEmDanno Publishing Company that there be fecal matter hitting the cooling device faster than you can say "clean up your euphemisms for the RSS feed".

It pisses me off that the people who had to lead the parade about policing OUR profession are the WRITERS: Ann, Victoria, Dave, and Absolute Write. Why aren't we, the agents, putting "here's how to recognize the riff raff" on OUR websites? Are we too busy touting our own books on how to get published or how to write well to actually provide easy to understand information that explains our industry and might possibly help some poor guy out in Wrightersville who thinks $450 is a small price to pay for getting his upholstery novel published??

It pisses me off that in the interest of making money on google ads, otherwise reputable people are giving space to flim flam scam agencies. How the hell is anyone supposed to know that "NEW YORK LITERARY AGENCY" is a sham when they see it on every site they click on?

Why should you care? Cause you have some integrity, don't you?

Shown Around or Shown the Door?

Dear Her Magestic Snarktitude, Keeper of all Information,

What does it mean when an agent says, in her rejection letter, that she passed it around the office?

For instance "Agent X read your work with interest, and shared it with a few other agents here. The general consensus in the office is that . . . ." (platitudes, all platitudes, I assure you.)

I've gotten more than one letter like this. Is this shorthand for "don't bug us kid." (and of course by kid, I mean 40 year old housefrau)? Does this mean that I can't query anyone else at that agency?

Thank you for your wisdom.

As you know Miss Snark flies around on her broom, sans colleagues. That does not mean however that she's not hung out in the offices of said colleagues when the mail arrived. More than once, a good letter has arrived, and the person to whom it was addressed said 'nope, not my bailiwick but how about you" and passed it around to the other folks in the office and also me.

Generally it means you don't suck.

Specifically it means this person said no, and probably the other people in the office will too if you queried them cause they've taken a cursory look at it.

Focus on the part of the answer that says "it doesn't suck" cause no one writes "I showed it around" on something so bad they were all laughing it. Those are read aloud if it's a slow news day.

Keep querying. There are four hundred agents in New York. You only need one.

Royal Flush

This is what I'm watching instead of reading query letters.

KY is laughing as hard as I am.

(thanks to Lauren for the link...temptress that you are)


International Independent Literary Agents Association

This is a crock of shit.
The funniest thing about it is that they list nine "top ten agencies". I wonder if they are waiting for the Sobol Agency to apply.

Judge for yourself. Read the site.

If you want a hint, start here with "an agent's job". What they talk about is less than 10% of what I do on any given day, and no, I don't count "miss snark's office hours" in that total. They focus on the ONLY part of the day that an unpublished writer knows about.

ANY agent in the world will tell you the exact same thing I'm about to say: reading the slush pile is a small part of the day; pitching manuscripts is important but it's not time consuming.

Negotiating deals; following up; making sure deals hold together; and keeping the deal moving: those take up a lot more time. And we haven't started talking about publicity, marketing, awards, royalty statements, taxes, subsidiary rights like movies, book clubs, and audio rights let alone keeping track of blurb requests, and editorial changes.

The reason they don't talk about the real work is cause unpublished writers (their targets) don't ever see or hear about it. If the only thing I had to do every day was read the slush pile and pitch manuscripts, I'd be done by noon most days.

I'm sure Victoria and Ann, the more temperatate (but scarier actually) shit kickers will have something to say about this soon.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions about why most of what they say is wrong, lies, and designed to delude you into giving them money, feel free to email me.

Run up to the Crapometer-'what is a hook'

It's amazing what you find when you google "how to write a hook for a novel"

Here's one

The Happy Hooker Crapometer=December 15

Mark your calenders! (ok, ok, calendars is correct--I can't spell necessary without running spell check either)

12 hour open window (specific hours TBA) for sending me your 'hook' of 250 or fewer words. My word count program is Word. Plan accordingly. I"m going to watch the count cruelly because I can.

You will email me your hook; I'll post it. I'll tell you if you've hooked me or not.

If you have, you'll send pages-up to 750 words.
If you haven't, you won't. You will however see what kinds of things made me say no.

Things that will help you hear yes: deft language, plot highlights that include some sort of "oh wow" moment, interesting use of old forms, something new and fresh.

Notice in the run up examples I've posted that "this story is about" and "my hero is" are NEVER seen. Use this information to your advantage.

There WILL be an FAQ as we get closer. Any questions you want answered should be emailed to me with Happy Hooker Crapometer Question in the subject line (or some variation thereof so you don't get lost in the shuffle).

"my kid could do that"...yup, now you can

This is too fun.

Stolen from the newest ArtsJournal.com blogger BookDaddy
(who thinks about as much of recent Spenser novels as I do)



Miss Snark - all knowing goddess of agent-speak,

I need your translation on a rejection response. After a 50 pg read, he responds, "It's an interesting story but it seems to need some added energy with the execution." He goes on to refer a "private editor" to work with.

My novel has already been through 2 writers' groups and a professional copy-editor. Under your orders to not harass agents, I am suppressing the nearly overwhelming urge to harangue him for specifics. So, in an attempt to pinpoint what needs work, I bother you.

Does "execution" typically refer to the writing style, the structure, or the falling blade of a guillotine on my hopes???

This is why God invented the crapometer---hereafter abbreviated as TIWGIC (not to be confused with NITWIT which is why God invented shredders).

If I said something needed energy I'd be talking about the language but that's just me.

We're less than 60 days out from the Crapometer. Try not to unhinge yourself till then


oh dear dog...again

Geeze, I was sure this was a memoir. Silly moi.

Lawyers may be fungus amongus but they are not fungible

Once a contract is presented to an agent for my signature (which in my case will be an extremely large contract), what's the 'rule of thumb' re: hiring a lawyer to look over the contract?

I understand 'it couldn't hurt'. I'm just curious how much of the fine print an agent is expected to be familiar with, in a (relatively) precise, legal way.

I'm familiar with the email and phone number of my contracts review specialist and I send all my contracts to her.

NOTHING is more stupid in a contract negotiation than involving a lawyer who doesn't specialize in publishing law. I run into this when my soon-to-be clients have "a lawyer" look at the offer for representation. It's always expensive; it's alway brutal; I never change a thing.

If my authors want a lawyer to look at a deal, its fine with me. I always tell them if they fuck it up by going to a real estate lawyer or a criminal lawyer or their son who's a lawyer, there will be a visit from the Lawyer of Unintended Consequences.

I always give my contract review specialist's notes to my clients if they ask. They don't have to sign anything they don't agree to. What they can't do is roar in when all is said and done and ask for changes that aren't going to happen cause they don't know what they are doing.

You are not as clever as you think

Miss Snark,

I am unpublished young novelist who has few writing credentials to his credit. In my query letter, rather than reflect on my inadequate pedigree as a writer, would it be wise to play up the marketability of my thriller? I believe it has a large audience that has largely been ignored by fiction writers up to this point.

Chances are I know a lot more about marketing thrillers than you do.
Nothing makes me sneer more quickly than some whippersnapper telling me about his great "new" idea...the same one that seventeen publishers have been doing for a decade.

Focus on your writing.

Why God...and Miss Snark...invented the CoM

To the wonderful Miss Snark,

I have written a first novel, a second, and am beginning a third. I'm gathering query rejections by the truckload: 38 rejections; 2 requests for partials, later rejected. 300 hours of rewriting and I am ready to try again. Four of the rejections said something like this: This theme is not something I would want to represent. This story is about a mother who causes an accident that claims the life of her child. She must find a path to return to emotional health. Included in the story are a few dream scenes and a few paranormal abilities. I know your feeling toward dreams. Is this pretty much the case throughout all literary agents of the upper class? Do dreams plus paranormal equal death? Or does my query suck?

Also, the name of my protagonist is Quenton. Is this bad? Too common? A shmuckster name?

I am a great writer, and this is a great story. Honest. My mother even likes it.

From, a guy who desperately needs Snarkoholics Anonymous, but is just too happy with his disease.

This is why Miss Snark invented the Crapometer.
It will rev up again after December 15.
Try not to run yourself ragged on that rodent wheel while you wait.

And dead kids are pretty much ZAP in my book.
You'll need to be Alice Sebold or better for that little hurdle.

Pub v unpub...get the damn cluegun AGAIN

Dear Miss Snark,

The popularity of blogging has presented a question about the terms "published" and "unpublished." A few friends use their blogs to post poems, memoir chapters, and one blogger spent two years writing his novel. Commenting in blogs nicely allows for feedback outside of a workshop setting.

Some writer friends say "No, no, no! Do not post anything in your blog that you will one day submit because your work will be considered already published and editors want only unpublished work."

I tell my fearful friends, a) if one locks their posts "Friends Only" then that is not published, and b) that published would be defined as an "edited" publication, whether that be online or in print. Unless they have public posts and pay an editor to proof their work before posting online, then they may submit any of their previously blogged works as unpublished.

Question is: Who's right? Or is the answer, c) it depends?

The answer is D: none of the above.

If it's on your blog, it's not published.
If it's in your daily diary, it's not published.
If it's in an email to the Divine Miss Snark, it's not published.
If it's pages in a manuscript sent to Killer Yapp for his endorsement, it's not published.

Is the clue stick looming?

Just because blogger uses the word "your blog has been published" when you post an entry doesn't mean Random House considers you competition.

Generally when editors/agents/publishing folks consider something published it has been put in book form, acquired an ISBN number, and is for sale.

(Literary zines looking for submissions will say work that has appeared on the net doesn't qualify as unpublished but that is a limited use of the word and does NOT apply to the industry as a whole)

Silence IS Death

Much exaltations, Miss Snark!

I have a question that's been troubling me for a bit now...if I am a homosexual American and I've written gay/lesbian fiction, should I try and publish it under a pen name? The thing is, I'm worried that when(and if *fingers crossed*) I'm able to sell mainstream and young adult fiction, agents and publishers would be reluctant to touch my stuff out of fear that it wouldn't sell once the public found out about the gay/lesbian work I've published.

Just when I'm about ready to scoff that "no one cares about this anymore" something like this pops up and reminds me that some people do care and whether I think they are nincompoops or not doesn't have much bearing on the question.

This is something you'll have to decide for yourself.

There are gay teens and young adults. They need to hear from writers who have a clue about what that's like. Be brave. It's the only way to live your life. If one publisher says no, there are always others.

Going to Writing Conferences? -part 2

Just a reminder that Miss Genoese said it first, said it better, and it bears repeating:



"Friendly prod" is an oxymoron

Dear Miss Snark,

Do friendly nudges ("Dear agent, you requested my novel three months ago, have you had a chance to look at it yet?") ever prompt you to dig something out of the pile, read it, and offer representation? Or are they just annoyances that are more likely to make you snappish?


It doesn't prod me to do anything than consider changing my email address.

Be Nice to the assistants

As an agent's assistant, and the reader of all slush, can you do me a favor? Can you do a post about NOT calling agents? For some reason I've gotten way more calls lately, and it's driving me crazy. I'm about to start messing up the phone messages because of the pc screening...they try all these little tricks to get to my boss, who bites my head off if I let them through.

Also, as long as you're taking requests, can you do an "assistants are good people" post? I'm tired of authors trying to "get past" the assistant, and I wish they understood that my boss, at least, doesn't see a manuscript until I've read it and decided to pass it on to him. Trying to get right to him without going through me guarantees that I'll reject.

Don't call a literary agency for anything other than fact verification. Example "Is Miss Snark alive and well and taking written queries"; "is your mailing address still 666 Rue de La Snark"; "do you prefer a twenty dollar bill or two tens"?

Don't call to ask what kind of query they want.
Don't call to introduce yourself and let them know you've sent a query.
Don't call to ask why your query was rejected.

Don't call. Don't call. Don't call.

If you see some nitwit in the comment column say "I called and it worked out" DO NOT CALL.
You are not the exception to this rule.

And be nice to the person who answers the phone. In a busy agency that person is the one who'll see your work. If you are a condescending nitwit, you will be rejected with great pleasure.

There are lots of ways to shoot yourself in the font. At least let your writing be the reason someone says no.

Run up to the crapometer- hook examples 3

Meet Dexter, a polite wolf in sheep's clothing... a monster who cringes at the sight of blood...a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: He only kills bad people.

Dexter Morgan isn't exactly the kind of man you'd bring home to Mom. Though he's playful and has a wonderfully ironic sense of humor, Dexter's one character flaw (his proclivity for murder) can be off -putting. But at heart Dexter is the perfect gentlemen, supportive of his sister, Deb, a Miami cop, and interested in doing away with people who really deserve his special visit. Dex is quite good-looking but totally indifferent to (and, frankly a bit puzzled by) the attentions paid to him by women. Despite the fact that he can't stand the sight of blood, he works as a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police department, a job that allows him to keep tabs on the latest crimes and keep an eye open for his next quarry.

Dexter's well-organized life is suddenly disrupted when a second, much more visible serial killer appears in Miami. Dex is intrigued, even delighted, by the fact that the other killer appears to have a style reminiscent of his own. Yet he can't help but feel that the mysterious new arrival is not merely invading his turf but reaching out to him as well. This new killer seems to be doing more than copying Dexter -- he seems to be saying "Come out and play." Dexter's secret life makes for a lonely existence...even a lovable monster can be intrigued by the prospect of finding a friend.

Flap copy: Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Reading Fees

After long and careful deliberation, I've decided to start charging reading fees.
Each query cost $75.

Given that will probably reduce the number of queries by half, I figure we'll get 50 a week.
(Abacus Snark presents calculator tape showing $75 x 50 = $3750)

Deducting for pizza and beer, figure we'll have $3000 to spread among the readers.
Here's how we'll divvy up the pot;

If the query you're reading says X, you'll get Y.

X1. I'm writing to let you know I've finished my novel and I'm seeking representation
Y1: $1

X2. My childhood was Dickensian, so I've written a memoir to spare everyone who might be thinking of enslaving children as chimney sweeps
Y2: $1

X3. I've been published before but I'll spare you the sordid details
Y3: $2

X4. I've never been published before but I've recently retired and thought I'd take up fiction novel writing since everyone loved my 17K word Christmas letters
Y4: $17

X5. I've read your website carefully (and letter is sent to wrong address)
Y5: $5

X6. I've sent three chapters and a synopsis because that's what most agents ask for
Y6: $5

X7. Your secret is safe with me
Y7: $5

X8. Famous Writer insisted I use his name when pitching my novel
Y8: $10
Y8a: $20 (if the famous writer is known to no one in the room)
Y8.b: $40 (if the famous writer is published by AuthorHouse)

X9. Let me know right away whether you want to see more because I have a list of other agents to send this to
Y9: $10

X10. The manuscript is available in word perfect, times new roman 12 point, and I can fax, email or fed ex a copy to you
Y10: $10

We're taking applications for readers:

1. Name
2. Number of queries you've sent
3. Number of nitwitteries you've committed unknowingly
4. Number of nitwitteries you've committed knowingly
5. Number of fiction novels you've written
6. Number of fiction novels you've read
7. Number of angels on a pinhead
8. Are you allergic to dogs?
9. Are dogs sexually attracted to your leg?
10. Condition of your keyboard at this moment?


Agent email addresses

I would appreciate your opinion on the following quote from The Rejecter’s blog:

The general rule is: If you can find the agent's email address on a major website (like AgentQuery.com), it's safe to send an email query, but be professional about it. And yes, you can put the first couple pages below the text if you want; that's no skin off our backs.

As always, thank you!

Actually I think she amended the post when I sent her a heads up that I was going to say no no no about that.

Agent emails get posted all over the place. My buddy Gerard Jones posts all of them he can get his mitts on. Lots of people see an email address and fire off a query without doing a single lick of research. For proof I can offer up all the queries received here at MissSnark. What kind of nitwit queries Miss Snark?? More than twenty, less than five hundred. Nitwits all.

AgentQuery had my (authentic) email up for awhile but they were pretty speedy about taking it down when I asked. Other places haven't. And then there are dog help us, the folks who promise to tailor your query email list to "select agents" and fire off form emails that all sound alike. One of the blog readers sent me the source of those -these guys. I get emails from them all the time even after clicking the "don't send me mo, no mo" links.

I don't want to get into whether agents should take queries by email.
The point of this post is to help you make sure your query gets read.
Even if you see an email at a "reputable place" don't assume the agent reads queries electronically.

Miss Rejecter! We adore her!

I adore this blog.
Particularly this post.

An Audience with God

As anyone who reads this blog knows, David Simon IS a god.
Here's your chance to earn my undying envy by hanging out with him at a writers conference.

If you go, tell him Season Two was like a the perfect heroic journey, comparable to Beowulf set in Baltimore. If he never does anything else in his life to equal that, he'll still be great.

Thanks to Christine for the linkage

Agentswag....oh dear dog

Looking for suggestions on the best place to run the ad for my new company:

For Sale-
U.S. postage stamps (adhesive may be compromised), used #10 envelopes, 8 1/2" x 11" scrap paper (one side clear), used manila envelopes. Send $2 and SASE for catalog to: Slushpile Treasure, Agentswag Inc., 12345 West 21st St., New York NY 10010

banner ads on google of course.
right next to the ones for literary "agencies".

PS I'm pretty sure 12345 West 21st Street is in Hoboken.

Miss Snark is not the reference librarian

Hi Ms Snark,

Please tell me where to find agents that handle romance novels with African American lesbians as the main protagonists.

Same place you find agents that handle romance novels with any other kind of hot mamas.

Writers Market

there are Guides
of all sorts and kinds

and your librarian is your friend.

Bush League

Dear Miss Snark,

I've written a satirical novel about George W. Bush and my query letter to agents has had a slew of instant form rejections. I'm puzzled since it seems like a pretty commercial premise -- people have made plenty of money making fun of Bush in every other genre and medium. The folks doing the rejecting haven't seen a writing sample in most cases, so the problem is not that it sux. Could the problem be that mainstream book publishing is just too slow -- is it pointless to try to sell something that will no longer be topical in two years or so? Should I give up and trudge directly to iUniverse, or are small presses sometimes faster and therefore a better prospect?

President Bush, for good or ill, will be out of office in about two years. The Republican convention is set for September 1, 2008. The campaign, and thus our interest, starts in Iowa in January 2008. That's 13 months away. That's a heartbeat in terms of publishing.

Once he is out of office, no one will care about a novel satirizing him.

Small presses aren't eager for things that have no back list.

You're a day late and a dollar short.

Making Sausage

Dear Miss Snark,

Say you’ve queried and had some encouraging rejections—personal responses from agents who invite you to resubmit after a revision.
The consensus seems to be that the writing is good, the project has potential, but more work needs to be done.
A couple of these agents suggest editorial help for content—and since you’ve revised as much as your mind will allow you to, you embrace this idea, get the edit and are more than happy with the results. You complete the revision and are ready to submit again.

When resubmitting, do you mention to any of these agents that you’ve enlisted the help of an editor?


Aunts in your plants

My full has been under consideration for close to six months (including a revision request after one month that I completed) with my dream agent who’s from a top NY agency. The last I heard was from the assistant (who “loved” it) with an assurance that she’d review the revised version (that week) and get back to me soon. Soon has stretched into two months. I know via Internet searches that the agent has been busy with this and that (e.g., signing two other clients, RWA) during that time. So I’ve been querying widely, writing, and trying not to get antsy.

My question is this: Is it common for agents to sit on manuscripts they like (for whatever reason), or is a six month stretch a sign that the love’s been lost?

Ok, maybe I’m just an antsy nitwit.

I'm getting ready to sign someone who's been in the holding pen for more than a year. There were lots of reasons this happened, but very little of it had to do with the quality of his writing (which is brilliant and I'm thrilled to be taking him on).

When I'm looking at a full novel it does take awhile. I try to read it more than once, I spend time thinking about the market, figuring out how I would position something, and most important talking to the writer to make sure s/he's not a loon. I'm looking for clients who will be with me unto the ends of time and I've had a couple whack jobs recently and I want to learn from my mistakes so I don't do that again.

Short answer: yes, six months is pretty normal here. Other agencies may differ. It's ok to email with "howdy, just wanted to check in and let you know you look right cute in that Halloween mask, oh you're not wearing one, oops" or something less holiday oriented if you'd like.

Keep writing the next novel.

One At A Time

Snarkilicious (I'm going to get reamed for that one), (Actually, I like it, but it's SnarkiliciousMiss)

I'm vying for nitwit of the day with my question. An editor that I met at a conference gave a presentation on qualities of a book that make him sit up and take notice. During my manuscript critique with him, he said that what I had written wasn't his style, but that I wrote well enough for him to extend an invitation for me to submit my entire manuscript. I'm not a total nitwit, so I know enough to take him up on that opportunity, but I was wondering if it would be generally stupid and/or worthless for me to mention in my cover letter that, having heard his presentation, I have a couple of other projects that are very different that he might be interested in, and then to provide (very) short summaries of my other books.

Separate the queries.
Send the manuscript with a cover letter that says "thanks for asking to see this, hope it rocks your world, love and kisses etc".

If he says no, you send another letter saying "thanks for the shot with Novel A, I attended your presentation and paid close attention to your pearls of wisdom, here's Novel B".

If he says yes, he sells Novel A, and you've got work in the pipeline too (which is always a nice thing).

I just hate cover letters that have more than one idea cause it means my response is generally a very generic one to cover everything.

One at a time.

Save yourself a stamp

Hi Miss Snark

I've just stumbled on your site and thought I'd ask for your advice. I wrote a novel over the summer and was thinking about trying to get it published (I've never written fiction before but I've published an academic book which I'm thrilled has recently been nominated for a national prize).

But my novel is a really weird piece of writing and I just know the major agents/publishers wouldn't touch it with a bargepole (particularly as the subject matter is highly risky). Do you know where I could find a list of agents that deal with weird/unconventional prose and characters? I just don't have a clue where to start and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Indeed, I don't even know whether to abandon the whole idea of getting it published as it's just not the sort of thing that would be 'marketable' and I do know from publishing non-fiction that at the end of the day it's all about money ...

Anyway, any advice would be great!

Unless you are committed wholeheartedly to this project, don't even bother.

There are lots of places you can publish this yourself if you just want to futz around.

Chances are

Dear Miss Snark,

I am a new snarkling and so I have been searching the snarkives for the answer to the question I am about to ask you, but haven't found it.

I have only been querying agents for three weeks, so I know it's too soon to be discouraged by rejections. I do wonder, though, how the writer is to know the reason for the rejections. I have queried twelve agencies that handle my genre, yet am told that the query isn't right for their agency, or that they're not able to offer representation, or that they're sorry they cannot invite me to submit, or they're not the right agent for the project. Most of these rejections are forms addressed to "Dear Author." Two rejections were personal, helpful, and encouraging. The one I received today was from an agency that had requested a partial, and it was the agency with which I had held out the most hope.

How is a writer to know if it is their writing that needs improving, or the agency has received too many submissions in that genre, or if that genre just isn't selling well at that particular time? I realize how busy agents are, and that they don't have time to go into explanations with every writer who submits. So, what is a writer to do in order to improve the chances of getting accepted, if they don't understand the reason their work is rejected?

I read in a snarkive response that you eliminate compliments before you answer a question, but I must tell you that I don't know how I would ever have learned so much from any other source as I have from Miss Snark - Literary Agent. (thank you)

If you are getting is form rejection letters, the odds are it's your writing. (50% of the writing I get is just not good enough to consider further).

If you are getting rejections that talk about specifics, it's still your writing, but you are closer to producing something saleable. (That's about 3 in 10).

One thing that might help you get more specific feedback is going to a writing conference where agents in your field are speaking. I like small writing conferences best; there's a chance to actually talk to people without being herded into the next event post haste.

Take your pages with you. Don't ask anyone to read them, but be prepared if someone offers. I actually don't hate doing this. It's about the one time at conferences where I know I can be of specific help to someone who is serious about their work and willing to learn.

The people who drive me crazy at those things are the ones who ask questions like "why don't agents write detailed responses on my query when they reject them" at workshops. That's not the question you want to ask. The question you want to ask is "what's the best way to get feedback from an agent". See the difference?

There are lists of writing conferences all over the web. Some are better than others. Be prepared to waste some time on ones that aren't helpful while you learn which ones, or which formats work best for you.

Meanwhile, work on your writing.


Miss Snark,

Before I set my hair on fire, I am going to take your advice and put a 50 word paragraph in my query letter outlining my plot. Will it be the kiss of death (KOD) to use a passive sentence?

Hoping those 25 days of construction are fruitful.

It is devoutly to be hoped that in using the passive voice, you know what you are doing.
In the construction of a sentence, passive is not always the kiss of death.

When reviewing query letters, passive construction used artlessly is a weakness and thus it is clear the author is clueless. Being clueless is the kiss of death.

Deux de machina

Dear Miss Snark,

How do you explain a delay in submitting a partial to an agent who requested one, when the delay is the result of granting an exclusive to another agent? I don't want to say: "As soon as this other guy rejects me...." I'd also like to avoid lying and pretending I didn't see the email until the exclusive is up.

What's a reasonable thing to say that doesn't make me look like a consolation prize?

All together now: "exclusives stink".
Ok, I feel better.

Best way is just not to mention it at all. When you get a request for a partial you don't have to respond that instant. Unless you are on Page Six and a special prosecutor is preparing to hold hearings about your novel, there's not much that won't wait a week or even two if you must.

Second way is to respond and say the partial was requested on an exclusive basis and you'll send it as soon as you can. Be assured most of us are aware there are other agents looking at stuff.

What we do NOT need is chapter and verse: who asked, how long they want, you'll send it the second they say no.

And don't worry about making us feel like second choice. So few writers have any clue about who is a good agent, or a good match for their work or how to pick one, that every time someone says "my dream agent" I want to smack them.