Thanks for a non-form e-rejection

Dear Miss Snark,

I have a small, nitwittish question regarding e-queries. (I know, Your Snarkiness does not deign to take e-queries, but let's take this hypothetically.) If I were to send an e-query and recieve a personalized rejection (as opposed to a form letter), would it ever be alright for me to toss the agent a short, quick, "I understand. Thank you again for your time"? Does that sound like you're trying to suck up to them, or is it just taken as a courtesy? Or is it completely ignored?


It's never out of line to thank someone for their time. Put "thank you" in the subject line so you don't get a form email back of course.

It's perfectly fine to NOT write a thank you as well. Every thing you don't send is one less thing to read and with the volume of email here (let alone at agencies that take e-queries) that's a good thing.

And for dogs sake don't ask questions along with the thank you (not that you would of course). That makes it NOT a thank you; that makes it a pita.

Carnivorous Agents

Miss Snark,

How do I go about finding an agent who is a vegetarian or supporter of animal rights? I've been told (by three agents) that I will need a fierce advocate for my own beliefs as an advocate for my (I know you don't like the word, but . . . ) memoir, which has a perverse tone.

ahhh..you're reading past "no". Stop.
What you need is an agent who thinks you write well and wants to sell your stuff.
All that advice from agents saying no is crap. It's why THEY said no, not why anyone else is going to say YES. You need YES.

Go to the places that list agents. Find the ones that sell memoir. Be prepared to hear a lot of NO.

Agents are perfectly capable of representing carnivorous cat killers even if they are vegan poodle people. Agents who ARE carnivorous cat haters can sell your memoir as well.

Keep querying.

Agents can't preempt you

Dear Miss Snark,

Two weeks ago, I started sending out queries. I made sure that all the agents were pretty much people I would love to have represent me. So far, I've received 3 requests to read my manuscript.

My question is about timing. Do I basically just agree to go with the person who offers representation first? I can't very well say, "hold on, some other people are reading it too, let me see what they have to say," can I? (Of course, I realize that no one may offer representation, but I want to be prepared).

Actually, that's exactly what you say.
Most of the full manuscripts I read are also being read by at least one other agent. When I think it's one I'd like to take on, I let the author know. They say "it's also being read by two other agents" or "X and Y have it too".

I make sure the author knows s/he can ask questions of me, get in touch with my clients for snarkly inside info, and pitch them on the attraction of a Snark Central agreement.

If I'm the slow one off the mark, I'll get an email saying "X has offered to sign me" from an author. Usually I say Vaya con Dog pretty quickly if I know they have an offer. One less thing to read, lots of fish in the sea, etc.

The key here is time. You can't start sending partials and fulls out after you get an offer and be able to respond in any kind of timely manner to the agent who's offered representation. There was a post earlier about using an offer as leverage with other "better" agents and I took some heat for saying "no no no". You've obviously addressed that issue correctly by sending queries to agents you'd be willing to sign with.


Dreaded Form Email

Yes, Miss Snark spent a goodly portion of her holiday hosing out the email inbox. It was either that or supervise KY on cleanup crew with Grandmother Snark. Watching those two snarl at each other about how to properly clean the gravy boat is more than anyone should ever be required to see.

Thus many of you who emailed before 11/1/200whateveryearitisnow got this:

The dreaded form email...sorry.

I'm cleaning out my email back log.
Yours is one that's getting the ax.

Feel free to resend if the question hasn't already been answered in another post, or in the Snarkives.

Short questions are always best.

And thanks for reading the blog!


There are still 87 messages left plus a few from October.

Death...not just for murder mysteries any more!

Your kids will out live you, maybe your dog. Your literary agent, maybe, if you're lucky.

Your work will too.
You need to designate an executor and an heir for your literary work EVEN if it's not published.

Neil Gaiman is one smart guy. He's also one of the nicest people I've ever met. ( That's saying something cause nice people usually leap on the nearest southbound streetcar when Miss Snark arrives on her broom.)

But back to the cheery subject of your demise.

Neil Gaiman is on a crusade to get writers to write wills. (Told you he was nice).
Do it.
Here's the link.

Miss Snark may look like death warmed over, but she's provided for KY in the event the broom backfires near a coiffure fire.

thanks to Allison for the linkage and heads up (fire optional)

Amazing what you can buy on ebay these days

Gotta love the nimble little profit motivated mind that leaped to be first on this one

Click the other pictures.
They put Nicole Brown's and Ron Goldman's photos on the back of the jacket.

Only one word describes this beyond taste- free project: ewwwwwwwwwww.

Thanks to Janice for the link


Thanks? I think NOT

All this giving thanks stuff must stop at once!!

Surely you know Miss Snark is here only for her own cruel amusement.
Please stop benefiting from her snarls, and worse, writing to thank her.

She's under investigation from the Snarque Association as it is; some foul "old softie marshmallow" comment was flung around recently and they got wind of it.

This kind of thing is just wellll...NICE! We can't have nice - not HERE!

A few of the more egregious examples:

My book is coming out next fall. Your crapometer comments on it last year were wildly encouraging. Would you mind if I gave you a shout out in my acknowledgements?

Thank you. Certainly, for your kind words on my crapometer entry, but most of all for running the exercise at all. Your generosity with your time and expertise are deeply appreciated. Your blog shaped a clueless amateur into a half-decent writer and eventual pro.

You don't get paid for the help you give us. Only seems fair you should know it's appreciated.

Thank you for your blog. Through your posts, you helped me find representation that suits me and my novel perfectly, in a relatively small number of queries, with a minimal amount of nitwittery on my part. (It could have gone much, much worse!)

And due to a particular springtime post in which you featured answers from agents not yourself, I found the agency that became mine.

On Tuesday you referred me to Agent Eager. On Wednesday I sent her a query. Today I signed an author agreement

PS: Top Secret, For your eyes only.
Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

My agent is a real turkey

Dear Miss Snark,

My agent is a real turkey. I was all set to feast at the publishing world table with my new book. Then he started dressing me down in front of my publisher and now my gravy deal is at risk. He soured my mood so badly I want to cream him. I might be small potatoes but I still want to mash him for messing up my sweet deal. I mean sure, maybe my book is a corny one, but I still wanted to squash him.

He’s a good egg most of the time so maybe he just bumped his noggin. I mean, he’s been acting like a pumpkin head and has crazy pie in the sky ideas. After the meeting I tried to butter up my publisher. I figure I’ll just roll with the punches.

Any suggestions? Thanks for giving your advice.

I called your agent just to make sure you'd given me the full meal deal. He said "I yam what I yam".

Run up to the Crapometer info

Crapometer FAQ updated.
You'll notice version numbers in the title.
This is #3.
next update will be #4 surprisingly.

How many writes does a copyright copy if a copywrite writes not quite right?

Dear Miss Snark,

I am currently in the process of posting my novel, chapter by chapter, on a critique website. I plan to post the entire book up on the site, as I need all the help I can get. I have read that it is not wise to post more than the first three chapters or so on the Internet.

While I would be delighted if someone thought my festering cesspool of a novel was good enough to actually steal, I am not that worried about this happening (yes, it is that bad). I am planning to get it copyrighted, though, just in case a miracle happens and I'm able to improve this work enough to convince an agent to take more than a passing glance at it some time in the distant future.

My question is this- will a registered copyright through the US Library of Congress cover not only the version of the work submitted, but also any subsuquent versions? If I make revisions of the novel after I submit it for copyright, will those revisions also be copyrighted, or must I get a new copyright for each revision? Thank you.

One of the nice things about owning a computer, and knowing how to use it is you can type "copyright info" into a search engine and come up with info that's really helpful. Like this.

Short answer: stay away from the copyright office till you're published.


You want to be a writer but you can't read?

I have recently completed three short stories for children, two suitable for children aged six to ten years and one for the teenage group. I am looking for an agent and would be pleased if you could let me know if the above stories are of interest to your agency.
I would appreciate hearing from you in due course.

Is this soon enough?


Here's why

Words fail me on this one...let's just show the picture

Hi there!
I stumbled upon your blog (which is very informative and entertaining so far!) and was wondering if you could direct me to a previous post where you might describe how one would go about finding a decent literary agent and the process of publishing a novel from there.
Thank you so much!

You're so welcome!

Actually, for very early readers, we find words can be a little too difficult. We think pictures are the best thing. Here's one just for you.

Miss Snark's morning shriek

Dear Miss Snark,

Let’s say an author has surgery scheduled for just before when her novel comes out from a major publisher. Odds are, surgery will go without a hitch and she’ll be healthy enough to do all the booksignings the publisher might ask of her. However, there is always the element of Fate throwing raw gin (all gin is raw; baked gin is called chocolate) into Author’s sutures and affecting her recovery…

Author is terrified that if she tells Agent and Editor about her surgery, they will suggest delaying the book a season or even a year. This is Author’s first novel and she’s hungry to see her words in print.

Should she confide in Agent… in other words, is Agent sufficiently on Author’s side that she may keep this information from Editor as they figure out how best to proceed? Or will Agent instantly race to Editor’s side with this potentially-damaging information?

Many thanks for your help with this question as well as for a blog so informative I look at it daily.


oh wait, I'm shouting.

I should be shreiking.


They aren't going to postpone the book or cancel it; those decisions are made way way way in advance. They WILL however be able to only schedule things you can do if you are horizontal for a while. Well, alive and horizontal of course. No one really expects you to do promotion if you have passed on to glory, although a blurb from St. Peter really would be of help if you're not around to go on Oprah.

For any question like this, it's always better for your agent to know so she can help you plan.

I've had clients do these kinds of things and I always want to shriek "I could have helped you had I only known". Consider this your shriek.

And best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.


What makes a good book review?

I run a decently popular blog focussing on Unitarianism, among other things. A Unitarian author has written a series of books where some of the main characters are Unitarians and has sent me copies to review. I'd like to write a good and thoughtful book review and was wondering what you think makes for a good book review.

if you are reviewing something my client has written please feel free to use the following: this book will give you thinner thighs, a thicker wallet, and a longer happier life. In fact, the more copies you buy the thinner, thicker and happier you'll be.

I can't stand book reviews that are just a plot synopsis. I'm interested in a review that talks about craft, gives some context, places the book within a historical perspective, draws interesting connections or gives me thinner thighs, a thicker wallet, and less dog hair on the sofa.

I'm sure the Snarklings will have an opinion or two on this.

Have at it!

PS -You know why Unitarians are such poor hymn singers?
Cause they are always reading ahead to see if they agree with the text.

Not gonna tell ya...

Dear Miss Snark,

What do you think of well-meaning new agents who claim to have made a sale but won't disclose which publisher they sold to? Is there a period of confidentiality I should take into account? I thought a first sale for a new agency would be accompanied by fireworks, musical fanfare, etc, etc.

Can an inexperienced agent's boundless enthusiasm and networking skills really make a sale?

Thanks for helping to make the world a nitwitless place. I appreciate your wisdom.

Yes of course enthusiasm and networking can make sales.
Sometimes not so good ones when you're starting out (there's a reason Miss Snark loves Kirsch's Guide to the Book Contract-it's one valubale resource for this kind of thing).

If an agent has only one sale, and won't tell people what it is...I'd want to know why in pretty specific terms. Most deals aren't confidential. Everyone starts with no sales. This can work out but you want MORE info, not less.


Well, it's clear that the incredible outcry had the desired effect.


thanks to Sheila for the heads up and linkage

Frequency be damned

Dear Miss Snark,

For a moment can we set aside the Quality Of Writing issue and address the Regularity Of Writing issue? Let's say an author has only a couple of books in them, or can only produce something every ten years, and they know it. This must be a factor when agents consider taking on a new client, yes? Is there an industry "guideline" on how often an author should be able to produce new work to remain relevant? Eyeing the bestsellers in my local chain store, I get the impression that regular output trumps even good writing.

Thank you for your (g)insight, (ha!)

Two words: Donna Tart
Another two words: Thomas Pynchon (appropriate on this day as no other)

Another: Tom Spanbauer
Yet another: Tom Robbins

Maybe this rings a bell: Edward Jones

I'd mow down even Grandmother Snark on skates for this kind of quality writing. These guys couldn't produce a book a year if they cloned themselves and each one kept writing. Nor should they.

Great things are worth waiting for. Any agent would kill for work of this caliber. Frequency be damned.

The secret of course is being great.

Work on that part.
It's the only part you can control.

Dialing for Dali

Dear Miss Snark,

I tried to send a query with a SASE to your blog site (uranitwit@wtf.comma), but I think the envelope didn't go through and perhaps the stamp came off. Now my URL seems to be pasted to the floppy disk and everything looks like cyber postmarked Salvador Dali pocketwatches. Please advise. Hope this message finds you well & happy.

Thinking about Salvador Dali makes me very happy.

I can still remember the frisson of energy I felt when I saw a real Dali painting for the first time. I'd seen posters and other kinds of reproductions and thought he was amazingly funny but only when I saw the actual art did I begin to comprehend the magnitude of his genius.

I can't afford the real deal so I have to settle for pictures but this one always reminds me about the nature of art and beauty.

PS That email address works better if you include a crisp twenty dollar bill with Mr. Clooney's phone number on it.


Miss Snark,

Love the poodle. Love the blog.

Last year, I found out I was a finalist for a very prestigious fellowship. Making it so far in the process was a very big deal, and gave me much hope for the future. However, when it comes to this particular fellowship, finalists are not told at any time that they have made it to the final round of selection. Only their recommenders are told about their finalist status. So how did I find out? My recommenders leaked the information to me, although they weren't supposed to.

Is it okay for me to put this information in query letters for agents and/or literary magazines (I was a finalist for the 2006 xxxx Fellowship)? I am a literary writer, trying to up the prestige of my credential list so that I can eventually sell my book (not to mention, score a good teaching job). I have friends who've interned for some of those "prestigious" magazines, and they were instructed to pass on to editors ONLY submissions with very specific credentials (they were given a memo with names of conferences, grad programs, and fellowships--for example: the fellowship I was a finalist for, the Iowa Writer's Workshop, the Breadloaf Conference, etc.).

Will I be looked on as a nitwit who can't verify this finalist info (although I could call up my recommenders as backup--they've served on the fellowship's selection committee in the past)? Will I be viewed as a liar? Or will it help me out when I face the elitist snobs? And, a bigger question--how much do these credentials really matter, particularly for the literary crowd among us?

You can't use this, and you don't want to.
It's not verifiable and you'll look exactly like the kind of over reaching nitwit you fear.

Pub credits are things you've published, not fellowships or awards, unless it's the Bella Stander Humerous Writing Contest of course.

Focus on getting your work out there. Focus on writing well. Everything else is just noise.


Old Goats

Dear Miss Snark,

Love the blog and the snarky, no- BS attitude. I was hoping I could get your opinion on this.

My mother told me she met a recently retired editor who said he was willing to look at my manuscript (edited and completed, of course,) so long as I didn't take longer than three months to get it to him. So far as I know, this offer is free. Do you think he'd be able to put in a good word for me, making it easier to get an agent and/or published? Does this mean nothing other than a critique of my writing abilities through a more professional perspective? Thank you if you manage to get to my email.

Is your mother single and good looking? Cause this retired editor guy is making noises like Bill E. Goat when he catches sight of the French Alpine down the lane.

Whether his praise (which you seem to take for granted) will be of use depends on whether the people you tell know his name. That will depend on where he worked, the books he worked on, and whether he was fired for acquiring three books of goat memoir. How exactly you would ascertain this information from someone purporting to do you a favor boggles the mind.

You might want to just have him read it and see what he thinks, rather than try to use his review as some sort of introduction or praise.

Chick Lit

Hi Miss Snark,

To how many editors would you pitch a chick lit novel before throwing the towel in the gin pail? Does 10 or 12 sound like about it, or do you think there would still be possible life for a manuscript after that?

None. Chick lit is dead.

They like me...but it's still no

miss snark,

i recently received rejection letters from an old and respected literary agency in california. i had queried a two-person team i met at a writer's conference about my novel, and the first person wrote me a personalized letter that seemed to speak for both people in the team, saying they enjoyed meeting me very much, but that my current manuscript was not right for them at this time.

later i got a letter from the other member of the team, and this one was handwritten. it was very warm, and complimented my writing, my pacing, style, etc. etc. etc. the agent said she had thought about my manuscript long and hard, but in the end had decided she couldn't represent it with the enthusiasm it deserved. she also said she wanted to make a point of telling me not to give up and that she thought my manuscript would find representation.

i have gotten several rejections from other agents, and i am beginning to wonder if it might not be because of my story rather than my writing.

i have become aware that my manuscript will be difficult to place (it treats subjects that, for example, you have listed in a recent post as ones that would receive automatic rejections from you no matter how stellar the writing, and would also likely receive rejections from other agents), but i wonder, miss snark: should i keep plugging at agents with this manuscript, or do you think perhaps i should focus my efforts on completing my new novel, which is also fiction but doesn't treat controversial or difficult subjects? do you think i should shelve the first manuscript and figure that it might be easier to get it published once i've got at least one other novel publication, especially if the second novel, once published, finds a reading public?

i am trying very hard to feel encouraged rather than discouraged, but the mixed reactions i am getting to this first novel has me a bit confused about what is the problem and also seems to be interfering with my progress on this next novel. i would greatly appreciate your perspective about my situation.

Generally I'm the one saying "don't stop till you get 100 rejections" but you may be better served by shelving this one and working on something less difficult to place. Anyone getting handwritten notes, let alone letters from BOTH agents at an agency isn't getting rejected cause the writing sux.

It's much easier to publish a difficult novel when you've got a good track record. And even if you get something published by a large house that wouldn't do this book, it's easier to get a smaller less risk averse publisher to do this if you can show them good sales from book #1.

And for sure you want to query agents who handle edgier stuff.

I really never like to say give up though so make sure you read this as "change direction" not "stop".

Finding an editor

Dear Miss Snark,

I’ve read about all of the scams—agents who recommend editors, then take part of the fee, agents who charge fees, the Predators and Editors site, and so on. I’m very grateful to your blog in particular for bringing all of these to light. As a newbie, and trying not to be a nitwit, one could easily assume from all these warnings that there is no such thing as a legitimate freelance fiction editor.

I have a manuscript. It’s been through several drafts, it’s been through my lovely critique group, and they’ve put their collective pens to it. However, they’re also amateurs. In my other life as a technical writer, I know the value of a good editor. An editor is a goddesslike person who can, with her insightful pen, help me see things that I’m otherwise blind to, and turn a decent manuscript into a truly amazing one. I don’t think this manuscript is ready for prime time yet. I’d really like a professional fiction editor.

I know good editing must exist, and like any other service, it costs money. So do music lessons or dance classes or art classes or any other attempt to make an artist better. But how do I find one (short of a Google search and trusting my luck) without being preyed upon?

Trying not to be a nitwit

Here: Editorial Freelancers Association
and here: Words Into Print

and I'll bet the comments column produces some suggestions too

Sumerian copyright--yes that's right!

Dear Miss Snark,

I haven't seen *this* one in the Snarkives yet.

I have, in my novel, a Sumerian exorcism incantation. It's lifted directly from some book I have of magical incantations & spells. (Plan B just in case writing properly polished manuscripts, query letters, and synopses fails to impress anyone ;) I lifted *only* the chant itself, figuring that maybe it wasn't copyright infringement if it didn't include any text. I mean, I could just as easily have gone to the British Museum or some place where this thing is inscribed on a plate or an old papyrus or something and copied it verbatim, right? Assuming I read ancient Sumerian, of course. Which I don't.

So...*am* I violating a copyright? I copied no other text from this book, *just* the chant. Truth is, I suck at writing exorcism rituals based on *anything* ancient...I don't want to break the law but I am kind of hoping the guy who wrote it is dead by now, or that his copyright's finally expired. ;)

Desperately Seeking Sumeria

Well you've come to the right place for writing exorcism rituals. I exorcise writing every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Oh wait, you meant something else.

If you lift the words or text in English, you've got to deal with the translator's copyright.
The actual Sumarian text is probably ok. You'll need to find a Mesopotamian copyright lawyer for a more informed opinion on that.

You'll notice that gin = to walk.
My translation is usually gin = to fall down, but never mind.

28 hours to Pynchon

What? You're not counting the hours?
You aren't planning to rush into St. Marks bookshop on the stroke of midnight on Monday?
And you call yourself a reader???
I think not.

Even that hardboiled practitioner of the crime novel Ian Rankin is a Pynchon fan.

There's a reason the crapometer isn't Thanksgiving week; this is it.

Thank you Miss Davis for the link

Run up to the Crapmeter

On the off chance anyone is interested in crapometer news, there's new info over at the Happy Hooker Crapometer blog.