Nitwittery Follow up

I've been biting Anne Stuart's heinie this week for dissing her publisher.

Some folks on other blogs (and here too-)and in the comments section of my posts have taken me to task for that saying things along the lines of "it's all true" "authors are treated like dirt; she's brave to point that out" and "she sells enough that it won't matter".

Two of three are correct.

First, let's all remember there is a difference between being Erin Brokovich and being a whiny assed complainer. Pointing out the deficiencies of a publisher is not revealing some sort of skullduggery, cover up or plot to take over the world one print run at a time.

Clue 1: this is business as usual and everyone who works in the industry knows it. If you don't know it, and you're surprised, you ARE new or a nitwit. Talking in public about "what's wrong with publishing" in general is a whole lot different than "Mira fucked me".

Second, there is no such thing as "a publisher" when we're talking about a reaction to what you post on a blog or say in an interview. There are only people who work for that publishing company and if you think for one minute that people don't get pissed off when they get dissed, well, I'll let you read some of MY mail.

No one at Mira woke up on Monday morning and cackled with delight that one of their authors had bravely revealed all; that now the truth could be told; and, right would be restored to the universe. Nope, the people who handle the orders, talk to the bookstores, file the paperwork and answer the phones thought something akin to "this would be a nice job if we could get rid of the authors". And if you think I'm kidding, I'm not. I've said that myself some days.

And yes, we all understand that authors are the driving force in publishing. We just sometimes wish they understood that you don't move the train with steam alone; you need pistons, wheels, and a guy shoveling coal into the firebox.

Anne Stuart did this far enough along in her career that it probably won't matter too much. She's got the safety net of some pretty decent sales figures. A writer at the start of his/her career who did this? Click here.

Slush Slush who wants some Slush!

1. "I'd appreciate hearing back from you by November 30". Letter dated 11/5.

ok. No.
oh wait, you want me to read it first? 30 days for a query isn't out of line. Particularly if you've got good pages to read.

clue for the day: no deadlines in a query letter

2. Sending electronic pages as "read only" or pdf is shortsighted. I have no idea why people do this. (If you do, I'd be interested to hear why) Here's why you shouldn't: PDF means I have to can only see one page on the screen; no scrolling. That breaks my focus every single page. Not a good thing if you want to hold my attention.

Second, if I can't cut and paste from your document, I can't show you the three typos in your ten pages. In other words, even if I wanted to help you enough to point them out, you've made it time consuming to do so. Don't.

3. Writing about "hot button" issues like being gay, and dating outside your race, in the hedonisit(ok ok I know--hedonist! sheesh) 60's and 70's is the absolute antithesis of 'fresh and new'. This is particularly true if you lived through it and are writing your own thinly veiled story. The world has moved on. Time to catch up.

4. While you're busy trying to impress me with what a hotshot professional you are by putting your query on your office letterhead, don't forget to give me your direct email. I'm not ever going to request pages from "info@deweycheathamandhoweLLC.comma or "help@quackercracker.comma".


Why Miss Snark loves Satan***

Why I Love Satan

1. He started out on top of the world and fell
2. He hangs out on burning lakes without his hair catching on fire
3. He's a leader of devils
4. He cheats on Death
5. He's not much on Divine Intervention to solve his problems.

you'll notice I don't love Satan cause he's evil.

You might think about that when you're creating villains.

This post is inspired by three query letters describing the villian as "evil". Evil in and of itself is boring. Fallen and flawed angels....that's where it gets interesting.

***And can someone please bring Bonnie some smelling salts, I think she fainted dead away at the title to this post.

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Dear Miss Snark,

Stolen from POD-DY mouth:

Regarding Neilsen Bookscan's tracked sales of books for 2004 (1.2 million), here are the results:

Of those 1.2 million, 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies.
Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies.
Only 25,000 books sold more than 5,000 copies.
Fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000 copies.
Only 10 books sold more than a million copies each.
The average book in the United States sells about 500 copies

First, before everyone starts wearing black, reading Sartre, smoking Gaulouise and generally thinking about diving into the gin pail full time, let's remember a few things.

1. Bookscan, despite its name, tracks ISBN numbers not books. The difference is that you can have several different ISBN numbers for ONE title: hardcover, trade paper, mass market, special editions. Calenders have ISBN numbers too. As an author of one title, you could have three, maybe four ISBN numbers sliding over the scanner and ringing up royalties.

2. Bookscan doesn't measure sales at WalMart.

3. Bookscan itself says it only captures about 70% of the hardcover market, and offers no stats on how much of the paper market it captures.

4. Bookscan measures retail sales, which excludes sales to libraries.

5. There is no such animal as the average book.

Go back to tormenting yourself with sentence structure, back story and the death of chicklit. The state of the industry will be there for you to anguish about later.

Miss Snark is the Russian judge

Dear Miss Snark,

I've searched and read your blog for references on backstory, and it's evident that you much prefer action in the first few pages of fiction.

Surely, all agents (and publishers) can't share your aversion to a novel that begins with backstory, or writers like Anne Tyler, William Trevor, Anne Lamott, or Anita Shreve wouldn't succeed.

Appealing to your sense of reason, can you explain why backstory clearly has worked in so many cases? Although it may have been addressed somewhere in your blog, I haven't found you to point out an example of backstory that works in an opening. Is it simply not your taste in opening a novel?

The writers you cite are wonderful.
A lot of the writers in my slush pile and Crapometer aren't.
A lot of them are unpublished, and seeking representation for their first novels.

I don't think it's bad to open with backstory; I just find most people can't do it very well.

Think of writing a novel as a gymnastics or diving competition. You can attempt a triple back flipschitz with a 3.0 degree of difficulty but if you go splat, you get a major deduction or disqualification. OR you can try a double back flipschitz with a lower degree of difficult, execute it perfectly and win. I'd like you to win even if you aren't a triple flipschitz quite yet.

Spawn de la Snark

Boy oh boy, you think someone is Evil, and then they turn out to be way beyond that. He claims he didn't write this, but handwriting experts have been summoned. An entire platoon of medicos continue to administer first aid to Miss Snark who fainted dead away at the idea of loinfruit of any kind or source.


You Hear from us...and it's not enough!

Miss Snark hears from Agent Fabulous:

Email response to a form rejection:
You are only about the billioneth person who has turned me down. Any advice?

Agent Fabulous:

Yes. Don’t tell agents that they were your billioneth choice.

Agent Fabulous to Miss Snark:

She’s the third person in a row to respond to my rejections today, although this was by far the stupidest reaction.

Miss Snark laughs, glad she's not the only one with a target on her asterisk!

New Form Rejection slips

We're redecorating here at Snark Central and we need a new form rejection letter.

Here's what we've got so far:

1. Hey Sport, I had a ball reading your query. I'm sorry it's more suitable to the offensive line than the library. Other agents, other opinions, Go Homeys!

2. Dear Writer, and I use the term loosely, Command of the English language is one of the first requirements of novel writing. Or "righting" as you so deftly phrase it. Right on, just not to me.

3. Dear Prisoner X, Yes I do agree there is a conspiracy to keep your story from being told. Did you know I'm one of the conspirators? I've destroyed your query letter and told everyone I know you are a loon. It's all part of my cabal's secret plan to dominate the ... but you already know that don't you.

4. Dear Queerier, Yes I think it's a sad comment on American literature today that more attention isn't paid to the letter Q. Your novel Q is for Queen is sure to rectify that. I have no qualms however in passing on your query because I mind both my P's and my Q's.

5. Dear Writer, Thanks for your query. We have to turn down a lot of good work. Thankfully that wasn't the case here.

6. Dear Writer, There was a crisp twenty dollar bill waiting for you here as our daily winner! Sadly, no SASE, and no contact info other than an email and phone number. Sorry!

7. Dear Mr. Snake, Your memoir makes it sound like you alone invented pain and suffering and forced the downfall of mankind. We don't handle melodrama or hyperbole. Better luck elsewhere.

8. Dear Mr Reacher, Being nominated for the Million Writers Award meant you sent your name and story in. You've also been nominated for my rejection list. Congratulations. This time you WIN.

9. Dear Writer, Yes, I agree there is a lot of crap being published these days. I'm sorry yours won't be any of it.

and...your chance to be immortalized!

Number 10

Post your contribution for consideration for the new form rejection letter by ...oh hell, any time. I just throw the queries away after I steam off the stamps.

Why You Haven't Heard Back-3

I recently attended a writing conference.
There were a lot of people who talked to me about their projects. I pretty much agreed to read my usual-a query and some pages- from everyone who met me.

Three weeks later; I've received ten, TEN emails from one woman who attended.

The first two I saved in my "incoming work" file where I keep all the email that pertains to work I'm considering before I take on a client. I answered those with the basic "got it, thanks".

The next three I moved to the trash, unread.

Then I got annoyed.

I haven't read any of her work yet.
Not a single page.

She's getting a very nice rejection letter. It's all a big lie. I simply do not want to work with her and I don't care if she is the next Pynchon.

Someone this:
1. hyper
2. cluefree
3. mistake prone (I think some of the emails were revisions of earlier ones)

is less than zero on the desirability scale.

Here's why you haven't heard back-2

Rachel Vater is very very smart.
You'd be damn lucky to secure her as your agent.
Pay attention to what she says.

Here's why you haven't heard back-1

Pulled from the comment column about non-responsive agents:

As an agent who receives e-queries exclusively, I try my best to respond to all queries in a timely fashion yet admittedly I do get overwhelmed by the volume that floods my inbox every day.

It's very difficult to review each query carefully AND manage to get through a whole day's email submission pile in one or two sittings. I go blind after about ten or twenty e-queries; at that point I start to realize my ability to judge has started to wane and I have to walk away before I reject something that upon further inspection isn't so bad after all. Still, walking away isn't easy to do when I receive anywhere from 50 to 100 queries each day.

One way I've cut down on the number of e-queries I respond to is by refusing to respond to the ones that don't follow my submission guidelines. I'll overlook a mistake here or there, but if you're blanketing the agent universe with your "Dear Agent" letter and not bothering to appeal to me and my individual interests directly, then I'm going to guess you haven't taken me seriously enough - so why should I return the favor?

And if you haven't bothered to include a sample of your writing as instructed, then how am I to decipher whether you have the writing chops I'm looking for? You could have the best story idea, but if I'm not drawn to the writing then I'm not going to be able to sell it. But I need to be able to experience your writing in order to make that judgment call. (And no - the writing in your query letter does not count.)

Furthermore, if you've attached your sample chapters when my web site explicitly insists in big bold letters NO ATTACHMENTS PLEASE, then the response you get is my mouse cursor pouncing on the DELETE button while I'm cursing you for wasting my time and threatening my computer system with a potential virus.

As for requested material, I always respond though not always in a timely manner even though I try very hard to do so. It takes a lot of time and energy to carefully review a full-length submission all the while catering to the authors I already have in my stable. Agents are like day care workers trying to keep up with twenty-five children at once. Some need to be fed while others need their diapers to be changed. Some, thankfully, self-sufficiently go outside to play all day and you rarely hear a peep out of them unless it's truly urgent.

With all the many things that an agent has to do, the submission pile unfortunately doesn't always make it to the top of the priorities list. That might explain why you might get a response from me at 3:47 on a Sunday morning - or better yet 2 minutes after your e-query lands in my inbox. We agents usually know instantly whether something is not right for us, and also when there's an instant attraction to something. (Imagine George Clooney passing by Miss Snark's table at Michael's unexpectedly. How long do you think it would take for her to get him into her...um..."submission" pile?) (nanosecond)

What I hate is when I get a complaint from a writer because I've responded too quickly...as if I didn't really give that writer's work the time of day it deserved. This happens more often than you might think, and unfortunately makes me wish it was proper etiquette not to have to respond unless I really am interested. So, in that regard, I don't fault other agents who actively dismiss e-queries without bothering to send a rejection. Time is money. Spend it wisely.

Cause once is really never ever enough times to be nitwit of the day

Remember Anne Stuart?

The one who couldn't quite complain enough that her publisher didn't support her?

The one I thought was a nitwit, but other people thought should get credit for "telling it like it is"?

Well, here ya go.

What was the first clue?

Dear Miss Snark,

Somewhere along the line I took some random piece of advice that I should enter literary contests. So I did. Eventually I got a lovely letter in the mail, one that was NOT a rejection letter, and even though something indescribable nagged at me, I jumped for joy because this was NOT a rejection letter.

I sent off my order form and payment for the book. I filled in my bio information.

Months later, I started listening to the nagging voice.

I looked up this organization on the intermittent net. I didn't find anything bad, exactly, but I sure didn't find anything good. With some digging, I found other previous "winners" and poems that were "accepted" for "publication" and my gut sank to my toes as I read the work of my fellow "Poets." Oh dear. Not good.

The anthology, a lovely hardcover limited edition book, is set for publication in January 2007. I'm beginning to think it might come out bound in Genuine Corinthian Leather.

So, Miss Snark, you won't need to hit me with the clue gun because I've already done it for you. My question to you is...Have I made a huge mistake, or is this repairable?(1)

Now that it's going to be published, I can't send it to any literary magazines (legit ones), can I?(2)

Or is it possible to contact these very nice people and request to take back my poem and possibly get my 50 bucks back? (3)

I'm going through the process of querying agents- real actual legitimate agents- to represent a novel I wrote and I am afraid of including this organization in a list of publishing credits. I think it will make me look like an amateur. A nitwit, you know? (4)


No one will go looking for this stuff IF you don't tell them it's out there. I only google the things you tell me about in a query letter (the publisher of your "630,000 word memoir that was well-receieved" for example).

I'm not hunting around for your past mistakes. I figure you have about half as many nitwitteries to your credit as I do.

Suck it up.
Move on.
Hang out with your fellow word wranglers here.

This agent IS a disgrace

O Great and All-Powerful Snark,

I know that agents don't reply to e-queries. How about requested e-partials? An agent responded to my e-query with a phone call and asked that I send the first 50 pages as a Word attachment.

Seven months ago.

I've heard nothing since since.

Obviously, he had no SASE for his rejection. Is it standard not to respond to a requested e-partial that doesn't "fit our list"? Do I write and ask if that's a "no," or can I assume it's a dead deal and tell other agents I have no partials out?

Well, first of all, I loathe the concept that agents don't have to respond to e-queries if that is their chosen way to get queries. I don't respond to them anymore, even with a form letter, cause trying to be pleasent didn't work ('"tree killer" was one of the kinder backatchas to me); trying to steer people in the correct direction didn't work ("yea I saw those stupid directions, and ignored them"), and it generally indicated nitwittery.

However. It is incumbent upon an agent to answer queries. "We'll get back to you if we deign to want you" is not acceptable. Not now. Not ever. Not even if you're so busy you've forgotten what it's like to want something so much you can barely contain your desire.

It's doubly rude to not respond to material that was requested. Oh hell, triple rude on the Scrabble Board of Snark.

You might want to make sure this guy actually got it. More than once I've received tetchy emails from people (edited down from flamethrowing earlier drafts I'm sure) asking about material I don't have. Stuff happens.

When you determine he did receive it, and won't respond to a polite email, you don't want to work with him anyway. Cross him off your list; he's dead to you. If an agent asks, you can say you sent a partial but have had no response in seven months. You can leave unsaid "Miss Snark called him a disgrace" but it's true.

If by some chance you are an agent or editor with a different opinion on this, I'll be glad to hear from you and post your response.

Is it ever acceptable to not respond to a requested partial?


Hey, you've got my pages!

Dear Miss Snark,

I am going to a conference this weekend and have just learned that an agent I queried a couple of months ago will be there. As recommended by her agency's website, I sent the first fifty pages with the query.

Now, I have no intention of seeking out this agent at the conference and pestering her. (I am pretty good at seeking, but pestering is definitely not my forte.) If I am talking to her at dinner or something, however, should I allude to that fact? I don't want to be a nuisance, but it also seems somehow disingenuous not to mention it.

Stay quiet as the proverbial church mouse.
There is no up side to telling her she's got your pages.
Chances are she hasn't read them; if she has, she won't remember them unless she's asking for more.

Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

I loved Cheaper by the Dozen.
And Belles on their Toes.

Ernestine Gilbreth Carey died on Saturday at age 98.

If you've only seen the horrid remake movie, do yourself a big favor.
Read the books.

Efficiently of course.

Holding Pen

I surfed over to one of my favorite places on the web today and saw the rejecter say she wasn't sure what I meant by holding pen. This was in reference to an earlier post of mine about timing. I said I'd just signed a client who'd been in the holding pen for a year.

Clearly I let my zest for colorful imagery get in the way of clarity: three lashes with a eyeball for that.

Here is the chronology of what "holding pen" meant.

Sept 2005-Querier gets email from me saying "do send balance of ms".
Querier responds he will send shortly; life has been making itself known in a variety of ways and he's a tad behind on his polishing. MS responds "no worries".

December 2005-ms arrives

Feb 2006-Miss Snark reads it and loves it (preliminary phone call to author to make sure not a loon)

April 2006-Miss Snark reads it again, and cogitates on placement. (follow up phone call to make sure still not a loon)

September 2006-Miss Snark meets client and plies him with liquor.

November 2006-contracts signed, sealed, delivered.

Now, normally it doesn't take this long but this was a spectacularly unusual novel and I wanted to have a very very solid grasp of what I was going to do with this thing before I got this guy's hopes up by taking it on. I also wanted to be as sure as I could that the author wasn't spectacularly hard to deal with. (he's not, he's a great guy)

I'd rather dawdle before signing and be sure than have those wretched ugly miserable horrible conversations about "I can't sell this". The two are not mutually exclusive but more than once this year I've said no to a novel I love cause I didn't have confidence I could sell it.

The Daily Tao of Snark

1. You are not your work

2. An agent is not a dream

3. The SASE is the path to bewilderment; as is no SASE

4. There is no why in no, there is only no

5. There is more than one path to yes, all obscure; all dangerous.

6. Nitwittery abounds.

7. The end is only the beginning.

The Tao of Snark

Dear Miss Snark:

You said, "A couple auto-no's for most agents: dead kids, torture, child abuse, sex abuse. They are auto-no's for as many reasons as there are agents."

Forgive my asking what may be an obvious question, but (taking the issue of "dead kids" as my example) does that mean:
1. No children die in the book, whether directly in the narrative or by inference.
2. No mention of dying or dead children in the book.
3. No one in the book ever has lost a child.
4. No plot events involve a child who has died or someone who has lost a child.
5. Some other permutation.

IOW, are you saying that you don't want to read a manuscript in which the death of a child is depicted? You don't want to read a manuscript in which there's the faintest mention of the loss of a child in any way or for any reason? What does it take to trigger the "eeeew" response and the thumbs-down reaction?

Seeking clarity (and nitwittily yours)

For clarity you must go sit zazen at the local Serenity Bar and Chill.

You cannot parse this "auto no" list reasoning, because it is not a function of logic.

You cannot avoid "no" for weird reasons.

You must be the grasshopper and toil away, ignoring the reality of John Deere mowers.

Miss Snark sucks her hookah and smiles enigmatically.

Birth of the Crapometer

Dear Miss Snark:

Agent Query says, "Do NOT include sample chapters of your novel with your query UNLESS an agent's submission guidelines specifically SAY to include sample pages with your snail mail query. If you really feel compelled to show an agent your writing style along with your query letter, include only the first 5 pages of your novel." I'm not trying to just provoke a battle of experts here, but what do you (or most agents) think of that? If you were to recieve five pages with a query, would you read them? Ignore them? Shred the whole package and send it back in the SASE?

I always read pages unless the cover letter demonstrates a clear and compelling case not to. Most people can't write a decent query letter to save their lives. In fact, it was this assertion that led to the Birth of the Crapometer.

AQ is correct. Do NOT send chapters. We'll ask if we want them. Five pages max. Six if it means not cutting off a sentence.

I'm too sexxy for your crap

Dear Miss Snark (soon to be Clooney),

I stumbled upon a message board earlier today where the Crapometer was being discussed, and the comments there were mixed. Some writers felt it was beneath them to submit to any kind of critique group once they secured an agent. Their mentality was that they don't need to get better, they're good enough already. Others thought it would be disrespectful of their agent to send even 500 words to another agent for critique, for any reason.

Personally, I think the concept of the Crapometer is The Shit, but I can sort of see their side of things, too. So I'm curious: As an agent, how would you feel if you ran across one of your clients in the Crapometer submission pile?

Generally speaking I'd laugh raucously and remove it from consideration. Those guys get my comments at another time and place.

Anyone who doesn't want to be in the Crapometer shouldn't enter. You don't even have to come up with a chucklehead excuse like "I'm good enough already". Just don't send pages. I promise not to send the Poodle Fetch n Kvetch Ninja team to your house or place of business to harrass you. They're busy enough with client work as it is.

Brevity is the soul of wit

Miss Snark,

I sent a query letter and the first five pages of my young adult book to a well-known agent who claims to be looking for clients. I mailed my stuff Oct. 23 from a deep south state, and the post office said it would take three to five days to reach New York. The next Tuesday I got a rejection letter. It was typed on letterhead dated Oct. 19, and it was mailed Oct. 26, the earliest possible day my query could have arrived. I suspect shadiness.

Is it possible that my query arrived the morning of Oct. 26, and this agent read and rejected my stuff in time to have a rejection letter in the mail to me that same day? Assuming the mail is delivered around lunch, he would have had less than four hours to read it and reject it and get the rejection in the mail. Also, the rejection letter was dated before I even sent my query. I know it seems like I'm over-analyzing, but this strikes me as strange. I'm just curious. Do you think he read it?



Evil Evil Evil

He's not only Evil himself, he instigates evility in others.

which may explain why we love him so much.

I love to vote

I love Election Day.

I think it should be a national holiday with fireworks and picnics and patriotic speeches. I think we should stand outside polling places and cheer.

I think voting is one of the very coolest things in the whole world.

I'm off to cast my ballot. It's not much of a walk to the school where I vote. On the way I'll be thinking of Alice Paul who was imprisoned, and force fed during a hunger strike, in support of women's suffrage.

I'll be thinking of James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner who were killed while working in Mississippi for the rights of black men and women to vote.

I'll be thinking of nameless, unknown, men and women who fought in the American Revolution because they wanted to govern themselves.

I'll be grateful to the people who made it possible to vote without owning 'real property', paying a poll tax or passing a literacy test.

It's pretty easy to vote these days cause people devoted their lives to the idea that voting is important.

All you have to do to honor their vision and sacrifice is show up and pull a lever.

Get moving

Dear Miss Snark

I was recently at a conference and was lucky enough to have an editor invite me to send her the first three chapters of my novel. I'm still revising, so I haven't began my agent search yet, but suppose I do send it to this editor who passes. Then I get an agent. Do I need to inform my agent that it was already submitted to one house? Would it be best to get an agent first ( thinking positively , of course) and then informing them that this one editor has requested to see it?


Send the pages the editor requested. If s/he says no, you'll mention that when you secure an agent (NOT in your query letter).

Don't dawdle around looking for an agent when an editor has asked for pages. It's a whole lot easier to find an agent when an editor has made you an offer. (It's not a slam dunk I know, I said 'easier' not 'guaranteed').

Comparison Shopping

I've been in a critique group for three years. One member is a retired editor, which has certainly helped.

The group hadn't read my query before I sent it out though, and that was the problem.
The query sounded as though I had grown up as Oliver Twist, and the ms sounded as though I was Mary Poppins.

I solved the problem, mailed more queries by email, and suddenly everyone I send it to replies in ten to fifteen minutes wanting a partial of fifty or so pages.

What shall I do if I get an offer for representation (wish!) but I really, really want to go with an agency that turned my partial down (before I corrected it)?
Would it be rude, annoying, presumptuous, to go back to them in an email and say, "You rejected my partial, but now I have an offer for representation on my manuscript. I would much prefer to be represented by you. Would you reconsider?"?

You've got an offer from Miss Snark in your hot little paw, and you want to use it as leverage to get someone you want MORE?

No. You can't do that.

First, you don't know if Agent Snark and Agent Bark know each other. You want to find out the hard way that we're on the same roller derby team and talk to each other?

Second, you guys are getting all caught up in this lunacy of "dream agents". This is akin to breaking up with your boyfriend (who likes your mom, walks your pink tammed, cigar chomping poodle without complaint, and cooks!) because you want to marry George Clooney.

The only question you need to answer when you get an offer of representation is: is this agent a good match for my book and me.


Dear Miss Snark,

I was interested in your comment this morning that a manuscript containing dead kids would be a no-no for you and I hope this isn't a completely nitwitted question but I was wondering why. Is it simply that you wouldn't want to read anything so harrowing or is there more to it - is the death of a child is something that people tend to use in a sensationalist way, perhaps, or is it something that people tend to write badly about? Are there any other subjects (apart from cruelty to dogs, obviously) that you feel similarly about?

I hope I won't sound really callous for asking this. In my defence, I've got two young kids and I know that I'll never be able to watch "Don't look now" or "Sophie's Choice" again, but I'd definitely re-read "We need to talk about Kevin" because I think it's a brilliantly written book.

There are several things I will not read in any form. Every agent has at least one. Mostly they aren't on the websites. You just have to take your chances.

The reason I don't post an "ewww" list is because I think it will give other queriers the wrong idea about what I'm looking for.

For example: I will not take on fiction of any sort that features a pedophile priest, not as a hero, not as a villain. Never. I'll make this choice without reading the pages. I don't care how good it is, it's literally not right for my list.

Is that on my website? No.

Why? First, I don't want to seem disrespectful to people who've written those kinds of novels from their own pain.

Second, I don't want people to conclude I'm a prissy agent, ie don't send me your lewd fuck-filled vulgarity strewn fiction!

Third, I have shake hands with Father Santo every Sunday after Mass and I don't want to hurt his feelings by having a book like that on my list.

(Please don't write anti Catholic screed to me in the comments section)

A couple auto-no's for most agents: dead kids, torture, child abuse, sex abuse. They are auto-no's for as many reasons as there are agents.

It's one of the few places where "good writing trumps all" doesn't apply.

In this case you just have to query until you find the agents for whom these topics are not an automatic no. That's one of the ways I justify my prejudice to myself: there are a LOT of other agents in this biz and if you write well, there is someone for whom these issues aren't a problem. You just have to find them.


Advise Miss Snark

No sooner is conference season over then it's time to think about next year.

Usually agents are asked to present workshops at conferences. We all have our old reliable topics; Miss Snark's of course includes "Clue Gun Sharpshooting" and "Be Your Own Nitwit" but she's also looking for a couple new ideas.

Are there things you've not seen on workshop rosters that you'd want to know about?

Feel free to fling ideas left and right!

Were Grandmother Snark a bitch...

she would no doubt look just like this

Rx for Bella-beverage alert for everyone

Miss Snark to Miss Stander (upon hearing Miss Stander was still in pain from her equine slam dancing recital)
"There's nothing like a jolt of whiskey to take the edge off.
Let me know if you need to borrow the pail."

Miss Stander to Miss Snark:
WHAAAT!?!?!?! You'd sully your gin pail with whiskey?!?!?!

I am shocked! SHOCKED!!! Almost as much as when you didn't disqualify Red Letter Contest entry #15 for giving George Clooney blue eyes.

Anyway, I've discovered that the most effective numbing agent for me is tequila.

Miss Snark to Miss Stander: AUDIO ALERT!!!!!!!!!!


(with a tip of the cowgirl chapeau to Sherry for the linkage---
yes, thank you for the beverage alert in the subject line, I did need a tarp)

SASEs-cause it's too much to hope for that this topic will ever die

I was putting together queries today - those that requested pages, synopsis, etc., went into a large envelope with an SASE (stamped - yes, I checked) and the other materials. Those who requested *just* a query, I put into a standard #10 envelope, with the SASE folded around the letter. I can completely understand agents not wanting to read many-folded manuscript pages, but do I really need to spring for a catalog envelope plus postage for a single-page query letter?


Catalog envelopes are needed only if you are mailing more than three pages and you want the pages returned (why you would want this is beyond me, but it's your call).

You put a Biz envelope in for a query that is just a page or two. Very very smart and savvy snarklings understand that biz envelopes come in two sizes: #9, and #10. You put a #9 inside the #10 for your SASE. You mail the #10. Don't tell me you can't find #9 envelopes.

For everyone rolling their eyes and shrieking, just use a #10 folded neatly.

Requested Material

Dear Miss Snark,

I just attended the Backspace agents' conference in NYC. Five agents asked me to send them a query or sample pages. Do I look like a fool if I write "Requested Material" on the outside of the envelope? Does this get me placed ahead of the other unsolicited queries coming in? Of course I will note in the cover letter how pleasant it was to meet them at the conference, make a reference to what we spoke about and tell them here is the material they requested.

You'd be shocked, shocked I say, at the number of people who write "requested material" on an envelope when it isn't. I was laughing about this with my fellow patients at the Lock Down Padded Room Bar and Grill just this weekend.

When I tackle the slush pile, the envelopes are face down so I can slice them open with my monogrammed switchblade.

You'd be better off to write "Backspace Conference" on the envelope if you're desparate to write anything. Really all you need is to mention you met the agent at the specified conference in the first paragraph of the cover letter. Most of us do not devour the text on the outside of envelopes; most of us don't read it at all.

Bat-ter up!

The latest two installments of The Bat Segundo Show, a literary podcast featuring interviews with today's contemporary writers, are now up. We talk with Scott Smith and, in collaboration with Pinky's Paperhaus, we present the second of three podcasts for the Autumn 2006 quarter of the Litblog Co-Op. Be sure to check out the LBC site for further information about author George Ilsley.

Mr. Segundo remains missing, having been replaced by the able Pinky and, more frighteningly, by a troubled gentleman named Lionel Silverblatt, who claims kinship to a notable radio interviewer. But we harbor some small hope that he will return to the show that is, after all, his namesake quite soon. There is a quite controversial interview with a major figure set to be released very soon. And Mr. Segundo is drawn to controversy the way that most bipedal ape-descended life forms take in oxygen.

The main Segundo site can be found here:

Here are the details for the next two shows.

Show #75
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Avoidant of infestations.

Guests: Matt Cheney and George Ilsley

Subjects Discussed: The “arc” of the LBC, small presses, Kinsey, entomological inspiration, language play, relationships, Dan Savage, Queer as Folk, Brokeback Mountain, unexpected audiences, unreliable narrators, insect collections, gall wasps, bed bugs, unique interpretations of Manbug, synesthesia, basing the book’s structure on an evolution of consciousness, Buddhism, sex scenes, footnotes, the correct pronunciation of smriti, and learning through bugs.

(A co-production of the LBC, Pinky’s Paperhaus, and The Bat Segundo Show)


Ilsley: Well, I don’t really declare he has Asperger’s. It’s suggested that maybe he has it. This is an explanation for why he has it. And my point there was that we’re all on this spectrum of behavior. And so maybe he has it. So I really didn’t try to clinically approach it as if he had it. But I did try to approach it as he had difficulty understanding the world. And then most of the book is Sebastian trying to understand the world, repeating what he’s learned. This is his research project. I was inspired by Kinsey.

Show #76
Author: Scott Smith

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Still missing, replaced temporarily by a windbag.

Subjects Discussed: The addictive nature of The Ruins, insecurity, writing without an outline, making a seemingly preposterous premise believable, Rupert Thomson, on taking things too far, how deadlines help, aborted 1,000 page novels, Michael Moorcock, inserting objects into a narrative, how genre assists in the writing process, archetypal characters, 80s sex comedies, unintentional themes, the international perspective, Stephen King, relying upon the Internet for research, Michiko Kakutani, writing a book without chapter breaks, gore in fiction, the Ruins film adaptation, and working with Sam Raimi.


Smith: There’s a lot to A Simple Plan where people thought there were larger themes attached to it. I don’t write that way. I wouldn’t even know how to go about writing that way. I think that probably there are sentiments that probably are just culturally out there, that get sucked into the writing. Someone said [The Ruins] is a metaphor for the Iraq war, you know, Americans going hubristically out and not knowing the language or the culture and getting into this hellish place. Which sounds great! I wish I thought of that.

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

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

Please note: You do not have to have an iPod to listen the show! If you go to the main Segundo site, you can save the MP3 to your lovely machine by clicking on the bat picture or, if you're the kind of person who would rather swing a bat rather than click on one, we do have a user-friendly interface with many options.

Thanks again for listening,

The Bat Segundo Crew