That Laura Lippmann....

The Charmer in Charm City updated her website advice to authors on how to get published. I'm very honored she mentions this blog.

It's good advice, even if she hadn't.

Read it here

And if you need a holiday gift for a difficult relative who won't quit talking give them this. Guaranteed to shut anyone up for at least five hours.


Run up to the Crapometer-FAQ updated

In case anyone is interested, the FAQ for the upcoming Happy Hooker Crapometer is updated to version #5.

Miss Snark sightings

Mademoiselle Snarque!!!

Qu’est-ce que vous faites en Canada??? I KNOW I saw you get on the Yonge subway line in Toronto the other night. A tall attractive woman caught my eye as we both boarded – her devilishly sharp stilettos were a dead giveaway, of course. Looked to be in her thirties, dark attractively coiffured hair, perfect makeup (you chienne, how *do* you desperately stylish women manage to look so fresh-faced all day long??? And me with my mascara smudging beneath my eyes and shiny skin and caking eye makeup!) She had on a short black coat oh-so-chicly cinched at her enviously small waist – and of *course*, legs to die for. Again I say, *chienne*!!! It was just how I envisioned you looking. Well…just to get you back for looking so unattainably smashing, I said in a loud voice, “I’ve issued a restraining order against George Clooney because he just won’t get over it and move on,” and your head whipped up from what I could only assume was the New Yorker and you gave me a look that melted down my PalmPilot (you’ll get my bill for $500 in the mail, vixen!) I was going to introduce myself nevertheless but then I saw you *weren’t* reading the New Yorker, it was some celebrity gossip mag without George Clooney on the cover, so I knew you were traveling incognito. So I didn’t give you away.

Outside the 212? As if.
Besides, as we all know, Miss Snark is transported about the city in a sedan chair.

Good Writing

Dear Miss Snark,

You have frequently insisted that good writing rises to the top of the pile, but what happens if good writing simply doesn’t fit? Children’s books, for example, have become increasingly more succinct and focus on telling the story mostly—if not solely—through pictures. However, many older (but beloved!) children’s stories are roughly equal. Has the market changed irrevocably? Or would a more wordy children’s book—if the writing was not extraneous—still have a chance?

I don't do kids books and it's a very much unto itself part of the industry.

When I find good writing, writing I love, even if I think the particular book won't fly in the market, you'll hear from me. No form rejection, probably even an email or a call.

I might ask if you've got something else, I might make a suggestion about refocusing the book, I might suggest other things to make it more "take on able".

I don't just toss good writing aside saying "I can't sell this" without covering all the bases.

Tales from the Crapometer, part deux

I am in my PJs so late in the morning that I am embarrassed to tell you how late, but I am working on my hook for the Crapometer.

I ignore the ringing of the doorbell because I'm not expecting anyone and don't want to be caught in my PJs. If it's a package, they'll leave it by the door. If it's a salesperson, I don't want the interruption.

After about twelve insistent rings, I hear the front door creak and I step into the hallway. There are two males in their early twenties, low baggy jeans, scarf bands on their heads, and over-sized sweatshirts, running down the hallway not more than six feet from me.

I shriek, "What are you doing in my house?" They turn so fast to run back to the front door that the hall rug gets all screwed up, almost tripping them.

By the time I get to the front door, their car is pulling out of the drive, but I get the license plate. Shaking almost too much to make the calls, I get the neighborhood security patrol and two deputies from the sheriff's department out to take a statement.

They say, "Common MO." The car is a stolen vehicle.

I can't seem to get back to my hook. What shall I do? So few days are left before the 15th that I can't afford these interruptions.

Tales from the Crapometer

Dear Miss Snark,

Thank you. So much. For holding this Crapometer.

I wrote my first-ever hook, and revised it several times to get it good and under the limit. Then I let some of my friendly fellow writers take a look at it.

One of whom noticed that one description about my YA SF novel makes it sound like erottica.

I may be a writer, but words can't accurately describe my reaction. Not only did my brain blow a fuse, but I was honestly able to see why someone would think that. If I'd sent it off, I don't know which would have been worse- having agents pass over it for the smutty content, or having agents request it for the smutty content.

Thank you so much for putting me in my place. I now feel dirty.


Thomas Nelson
recently announced they will be requiring authors to have a clause in their contracts that says they adhere to the Nicene Creed.

Well, hello folks, the Nicene Creed is about what you BELIEVE. The big clue about that is that it starts out "I believe". Publishing contracts are about what you are going to DO.

I can just hear the arbitration suit when, horreurs, it's discovered that an Erring Author has expressed Doubt.

Nelson: Your honor, he was heard saying "Mary isn't a virgin"! That's clearly blasphemous.

Errant Author: Your honor, I was talking about my editor.

Nelson: That's not all your honor! He's been heard to say "I've evolved" in discussing his writing. Clearly an evolutionist! The Nicene Crede says God is the maker of heaven and earth.

Errant Author: Umm...I can't believe in evolution? Even the Pope says evolution is right.

Nelson: You are Non CREEDable! We're cancelling your contract for "Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged: A Guide to Faith in the Workplace".

A litmust test for belief turns everyone into hypocrites.

And if we need a little Bible verse in our contracts perhaps Romans 14:4 would be a better choice.

Crapometer Crowding

Dear Miss Snark,

No more! No more! You wile spawn of hell. I am so tired of re-writing this fucking hook, I'm just going to crawl in a corner and blow my brains out.

I have to confess that there's a lazy part of me that figured that all I had to do was obsess over my book and I'd find someone to read it. Glancing through your blog and other sites I'm beginning to see just how many aspiring writers are out there, many who obviously don't have the patience.

I don't know if my book will be something anyone wants to read. I think it's good, but then we all do, don't we? But reading back through the greveyard of Crapometer entries, I've noticed that, even well written queries and passages eventually run together into one monotonous narrative with very few moments among them to -- what's the word I'm looking for? oh yeah -- hook my attention.

I used to think that going through a slush pile would be fun, the anticipation, the fresh voice, but it's not, is it?

A gin and tonic would go nicely right about now, but I'll check the hook one more time to see if I can make it better.

I do not loathe and disdain the slush pile. Some of the contents may annoy the snot out of me (posts about them are sprinkled throughout the Snarkives) but I regularly find good writing there and I've sold many a good novel that came over the transom.

The poet said "hope springs eternal" and that is exactly how I view the slush.

The crapometer doesn't produce books for me to sell but it has many other benefits and I'm actually looking forward to seeing what you all are dreaming up to entice me with next weekend.

Crapometer Cliche

Dearest Miss Snark,

Since another round of the CoM is fast approaching (hooray!), I was hoping for a little of your snarky wisdom to help with a hook/query/synopsis-writing problem I'm currently facing.

Here's the thing: My novel has quite a cliche element in it (a portal to another world). It really is necessary for the story, and I've tried very hard to make it seem un-cliche-ish in the novel. But I'm having a hard time doing that same thing in the query and synopsis because of the space limitations. And if it sounds cliche and boring there, then probably no agent is going to want to read the whole manuscript to find out that it (hopefully) isn't really cliche and boring. So if Your All-Knowing Snarkiness can give any advice on presenting cliche elements in a non-cliche way when writing hooks/synopses, I would be extremely grateful.

Sadly, I can only tell you if it works or doesn't.

That's why you are the writer; the one with imagination and vision.
I'm the agent: cold cruel and critical.

You might try looking at all those books that made portal a cliche and see how they described it.

Cosmology of Crap

Dear Miss Snark:

After rewriting my 250-word hook for the 250th time (hyperbole, but only slight), I find myself going back and forth on whether or not to "giveaway" dramatic plot turns. Obviously, you would not do this in trying to hook a reader, but you might in trying to hook an agent. Your consideration is urgently requested (so I don't hit 500 rewrites.)

Hoisted on My Own Hook

I cannot advise you on what to do about this. I can only tell you what works and what doesn't when you actually send it. Generally the more suspense, the more enticing the better.

You might watch some movie previews and listen to the voice over, and see what scenes are played. Lots of DVDs now have previews embedded.

You've got lots of time. Seven whole days in fact. God created the world in less time than that!


Toasting Killer Yapp

My dear Miss Snark,

I received a copy today of the The Artful Dog: Canines from The Metropolitan Museum of Art and in it the illustrious James Thurber claims:

I can say on firsthand authority that poodles do not like brandy; all they like is champagne and they prefer it in a bowl.

Is it true that Killer Yapp prefers champagne to your own drink of choice, or is Mr. Thurber generalizing? It seems incongruous with the cigar.

Much like Grandmother Snark, Killer Yapp drinks moonshine, smokes cigars and carries a hatpin for unexpected interactions with the Army of Squirrels. His favorite place at the Met is the Trustees Dining Room but he's also fond of this

Let's Review WHY Sobol is a Crock of Shit

Lots of info flying around the blogosphere about the Sobolobotomy Literary Prize.

A brief recap:

For $85 you can send your manuscript electronically to the Sobol folks. They say they've got the staff to have your manuscript read twice and commented on. (Miss Snark has no problem with this-for a differing view check out PubRants)

Then, if your manuscript is selected as a first round winner, it gets read by two more people (also no problem).

Then, if you make it to the final round, you must agree to be represented by the Sobol Literary Agency if you want to win the prize and be published.

That's the problem.

AAR rules are VERY specific that charging people to read manuscripts is NOT ok for reputable agents. Sobol spokespeople say they have administrative costs. Yea, so what. I do too and I struggle along without charging people.

You can have a contest; you can have a literary agency. You cannot have both at the same time.

Frankly, I'm outraged that Touchstone/Fireside has agreed to be part of this. The balderdash about "different and devoted community" and "unprecedented judging system" is crap. It's the worst form of PR talk because it's utter bunk and it makes the people who say it look like nitwits.

Girl on demand says it better. Read her here

There are NO other contests-not Romance Writers, not the Hillerman, not the Kirkus, NONE, that require you to sign with an agency before winning.

And not just ANY agent; they want you to sign with an agent who has no sales**, isn't an AAR member, and has no understanding of how an agency actually works and what it does. In other words you have an "agent" who doesn't value the role agents play in publishing.

You'd be better off if they required you to NOT have an agent. No agent is less damaging than an incompetent one.

There will be people who sign up for this thing. Someone is probably going to get a book out of it. You literally cannot talk people out of thinking they are the exception to the rule.

And this is not the end of the world; it's not even that important - unless you believe the things you do in your life have resonance. It's one thing to make a mistake. It's another thing not to fix it once you know about it.

Unless Sobol is truly a scam artist in training all they have to do is remove that "must sign" clause and I will PUBLICLY acknowledge it and thank them. In BIG RED LETTERS even.

Or, if they just want to do the right thing and not back down in the face of Snarkensian wrath, they can just fix it and not say anything.


**Let's all remember that Nat Sobel is a reputable agent with good clients and great sales. He is NOT the SOBOL guy. SobOl has no sales, no clients, nada zippo zilcho.

Melanie Lynne Hauser is Right on!

Melanie Lynne Hauser in the comments column:

Well, Miss Snark might have a better or different view (regarding character driven novels) but...in my experience, I had two previously agented, submitted novels that made it to the marketing committee level but didn't sell. And both were labeled somewhat "quiet" novels - the books were about relationships, women who grow into their own - i.e., in my own view, "character-driven" in that events didn't really drive the narrative; the characters' growth and development and reflections did. In retrospect, I'm forced to admit that there was very little plot, to speak of. And I have no better proof of this in the fact that really, I'd be hard pressed to write a compelling hook for either, beyond "Well, these two girls are friends and then they grow up and their friendship changes and then some stuff happens, but they remain friends in the end."

Um, not very compelling.

It wasn't until I wrote Confessions of Super Mom that I really understood that there have to be external events driving the narrative, events that FORCE the character to change (or not; that can be compelling, too). And these events have to be carefully constructed to have a beginning, middle, end, as well as high stakes involved - in other words, you know: A Plot. And once I did this, I was able to finally come up with the hook, the short description of the book I mentioned above. (And also - I was finally able to sell a darned book.) Characterization is still important, of course, and that's where I always start. But there has to be a reason for the reader to keep turning those pages, wanting to know what happens next, and I think - at least in my case - it's much easier to do that when you have A Plot.

That says it pretty darn well.


More is not less, no no.

Dear Miss Snark,

This wonderful excercise in creating a 250 word hook has highlighted a potential problem that may arise when I write my query. As my novel "stars" 5 family members as well as 8 other characters essential to the plot, and has a rather complex story line with multiple sub plots due to the 5 family members separating at a point, condensing the hook to something that is revealing about the manuscript's nature without the oversimplification of "1890's family is scattered and tries to reunite, some make it", while possible -- I've managed to stuff into the 250 word count with a shoehorn -- took some serious condensing and possesives. Meaning, every single "the bane of the Snark" became "the Snark's bane" and every possible link of an identifying pronoun was used. It works. I say what I need to say, but it ain't pretty.

So, in order for me to do a synopsis that would get the particulars, nicely condensed, and still show at least a little pizzaz, I'd need about 600-800 words. I can't do a hook that long since pretty much every agent wants 1 page or less and I still have to fit other pertinent info. Which leads me to my question, would you rather know the stroy in a matchbox of "resplendent, exiled, bombastic Zod's bane Jorrel's child, drove him to the humans' genocide" or would you rather see "Daddy never told Superman he pissed this guy off" in a hook?

I can do it either way. Unfortunately, once I start with one "style", I really don't have room to fit flavors of both in.

How to write a hook.

Step one: Ask the question "why would I want to read this book".

Step two: Answer the question.

Step three: Cross out "cause it's a masterpiece"; return to step one.

Step four: cross out "cause you'll love it"; return to step one

Step five: cross out "my novel stars"; return to step one

Step six: review examples of hooks posted on Happy Hooker Crapometer Blog.

Step seven: answer "why do I want to read this book" for the examples

Step eight: apply what you have learned

Step nine: take out anything remotely resembling a synopsis.

Step ten: see step one

PS This stuff is a lot harder than I make it sound. Writing a good hook can take weeks, if not a month. I work on my cover letters for projects I take on for weeks. And I revise like crazy after I pitch it a couple times. There's a reason we've got so much run up time before the Happy Hooker CoM.

Clue Gun Room Service for the Hotel FontEnBlow

Dear Miss Snark,

So I am calmly reading through Publisher's Lunch this morning and I come upon this item:

Philip Roth's EXIT GHOST, his "ninth and last Zuckerman novel," called "a study of obsession, forgetfulness, resignation, and ungratifiable desire," in which Zuckerman returns to New York after eleven years of living as a reclusive writer in western Massachusetts, where encounters with a new generation of writers and an old, dying friend produce unsettling revelations, to Janet Silver at Houghton Mifflin, for publication in October 2007, 28 years after the publication of THE GHOST WRITER, by Andrew Wylie at The Wylie Agency.


Phillip Freakin' Roth has to get his agent to sell his novels? And I'm here hoping to get a shot on a first book? I always thought someone of Roth's stature would have a book contract in perpetuity.

Can you shed any light on this for me?

I know this comes as a horrifying shock to hear but agents do a lot more than just call up an editor and say "hey baby wanna buy some hot juicy verbiage".

Philip Roth's agent may know where he's going to sell the book but that's just the start of the fun.

I'd shed some light but I need it for restocking the Clue Emporium.

It's only Wednesday but ...

Email this week:

Asking how I like the new Pynchon book: 1
Asking if I've heard Mr. Clooney's pig died: 502

Asking questions about the crapometer: 5
Asking if I've sent Mr. Clooney a condolence message: 389

Asking questions about ugly ass fonts: 4
Asking if am sending Killer Yapp to the pig wake: 17

Pointing out news stories about the Sobol Crock O'Crap: 15
Asking if Mr. Clooney will be looking for a "new pet" (language cleaned up for RSS feed): 25

And you wonder why I have 1-800-GIN-DRIP on speed dial

Cross this off your worry list

Hi, Miss Snark

I'm wondering how things may have changed in terms of the form of what acquisition editors read these days. It was once all paper, but what about today? Are a lot of them reading onscreen? I understand that submissions are often made electronically, but then they might still print out a manuscript for reading.

The point of understanding this is to help we writers craft the best presentation of our stories. And onscreen is different than paper--the font, especially, can make a difference (and I've read your snarkish take on Courier).

Almost everyone I know is reading more on the screen, certainly partials and queries. I read almost everything on the screen now except query letters (and no yammering at me about that ok, we've had that discussion.....endlessly).

But: Do not even think about this.

You send the stuff and if I think your font is ugly, I change it. Mostly I don't care but sometimes you send something in a font my computer says "ewww" to, so I have to toggle.

The other really handy thing in Word is that I can enlarge the page without futzing around with the actual font size.

Obsess about your writing, not the format. Get the basics right and you're fine. Put down the unicorn paper; step away from the glitter. No Mp3 attachments in the email even if they are about a Dragoon of Agents.


Lifted from Michael Caders daily lunch comes this paragraph in his article about the Touchstone/Fireside linkup with the Sobol Award:

Another Simon & Schuster division, Simon Spotlight Entertainment, had disappointing results when they published the winner of Good Morning America's heavily-promoted "Story of My Life" memoir contest. But Touchstone Fireside publisher Mark Gompertz says he isn't concerned by that experience: "This is an entirely different contest that comes out of a very different and devoted community of people on the web."

Has Mr. Gompertz lost his mind?
WHAT devoted community??
This prize was dreamed up by some guy in a penthouse with a very odd idea of how publishing works. He corralled some well known names to push his pet project along.

This isn't a devoted community by any kind of definition.

If you want to see a devoted community in publishing, you have to start looking at places like Making Light or Neil Gaiman's readers, or dare I be so immodest, the people who honor this blog with their time and attention.

Crocks: 2.
Reality: 0

Ain't We got Fun!

Ahhh, the Sobol Prize returns! Much like Godzilla, it's the contest that will not die!

NOW they've got a deal with Touchstone /Fireside to publish three winners. Galleycat has it here, AP's Hillel Italie broke the news.

My favorite quote is:
"It's been very hard to get the word out," she (Sue Pollock of Sobol) told The Associated Press. "We're all still learning on the job in terms of publicity. The Internet has been more difficult to penetrate than we had hoped."

Cause yanno (tm/pp) it wasn't all THAT hard to get the word out. There were a LOT of people reading about the Sobol Award/Prize. They just didn't like what they read.

Now, as to this deal with Touchstone/Fireside. AAR Rules are pretty clear that legitimate agents can't represent both parties in a deal. Signing up the publisher before you have the project is tantamount to doing that.

Requiring the winners to be represented by the agent who also runs the contest is a classic conflict of interest.

You "win" this contest, sign with this "agency" and who's going to tell the publisher their contract sux? Not you. Not your "agent". Me probably. And that's not going to do you any good at all. And what happens when you want to write a second book?

Now, Touchstone/Fireside is a damn fine place to be published. There are really good editors there. What the hell is in this for them? Do they really think "Sobol Prize Winner" on the cover is going to generate sales? I'd love to hear their thinking on this.

It's entirely possible some very good novels will surface in this contest. I've said this before, I'll say it again: if you're good enough to "win" this "contest" you're probably good enough to survive the slush pile at any reputable agency and get a deal that isn't a gimmick.

And just in case the Sobolites want to get me off their back all they have to do is remove the clause in the contest rules that says "winners must agree to sign with Sobol Literary Management". You can even change it to "may agree". You can even let them not have an agent (!!). It's the enforced agency clause that makes this a crock of shit. It's STILL that, no matter how much Air Freshener you buy from Simon&Schuster.

25 lines per page?

Dear Miss Snark,

I nearly went insane this evening trying to figure out why a manuscript refused to consistently print 25 lines per page -- I thought I had everything right: 1" margins, 12 point Courier, double spaced etc. Finally, after a great deal of confusion, I noticed that I'd left the "eliminate widows and orphans" option turned on in Microsoft Word. Turning it off eliminated the problem, but now, of course, there are occasional widows and orphans (surprise!) scattered through the text.

Am I right in thinking that getting 25 lines per page takes priority in a manuscript over widow and orphan elimination? Or should I let Microsoft Word do its stuff on sample chapters I send to an agent?

Where are you getting this idea that ms pages have to have 25 lines per page OR that you should do it in Courier (which is an ugly ass font and I hate)?

Much of this depends on what stage of the process you're on. If you're preparing a document for your publisher you follow THEIR house style guide and you follow it to the letter and anything Miss Snark says be damned.

If you are sending a full manuscript, you don't want to leave single lines on a page if you can help it. It's a waste of paper. I get LOTS of manuscripts that have fewer than 25 lines per page, particularly if you're doing scene breaks.


Coming to New York

Dear Font of all that is wise and snark

I live in New Zealand, far away from the excitement of the New York publishing world. As luck would have it, I have the chance to visit your fair city early next year (yay! – I can’t wait). I have had some success with a picture book published this year in NZ, and another due out in 2008. I also have a junior novel due out in 2008 with considerable interest in the sequel I am currently working on. I have asked for the chance to meet with publishers in the US to which my publisher has agreed. I have been a devoted reader of your blog for the last year and can see that the US publishing business is wildly different to our own. I don’t want to waste this opportunity so please, please are there any tips you can give me that might help me win them over.

Not seeking world domination, just a toe in the door

You want to get hooked up with Media Bistro and their Avant Guild membership. They sponsor parties and you might be visiting on one of their dates. You'll also want to look around for groups that sponsor educational events (like NYPL) and attend those. And go to readings. And meet bookstore owners.

You're not going to have much luck setting up meetings with agents or editors because we don't know yet if you've got something you want. You can start building up your network of friends and acquaintances though, AND you can have a good time doing it. That's the best part.

Crapstravangaza clarification

Dear Miss Snark,

I noticed that on the Crapometer blog itself, the rules for entry state that we are supposed to submit a 250 word hook to you, but on the Miss Snark blog post from the announcement on October 4th, the hook wordcount limit is 100.

I just wanted to verify that the hook is allowed to be 250. I would not want to be disqualified for making a simple mistake, I'd rather be disqualified for making a much more complex and stupid mistake.

Thank you for taking the time to do this.

You are wise to ask. Miss Snark delights in disqualifying people left and right if only to indulge her thirst for cruelty to hapless writers.

In fact, it's 250 words in the hook and 750 if you get to send pages. That's the info on the Happy Hooker Crapometer blog and that's the best place for all info on the COM.

Samuel Greenberg, age two, remembering

Miss Snark,

I just made a donation to First Book in memory of Samuel Greenberg. Seemed to me a good way to pay my respects to a grieving family, honor a young life, and help another child who may not be as fortunate as Sam Greenberg and his brother Nico. I’d heard about the tragedy from a writer who is repped by Jim Levine. I didn’t know the horrific details, including the child’s tender age. Thank you for posting the article.

I'm right behind you.

Abacus Snark's Beady Eye

Dear Miss Snark,

I am a moron. So I was sitting here today, muddling through the job I loathe, growing more impatient with each second as I finish up my novel, and my impatience got the better of me. I figured, what the heck, I'll send some e-queries to the agents on Agent Query that show they accept them. I fired off four before it dawned on me that I am being ridiculous in trying to query about a book I have neither finished nor reviewed.

I now have four queries floating out there. I'm terrified. What the hell do I do if they ask for the freakin' manuscript? Fess up?

You know, in a way this is your fault. I was perfectly happy plodding along then I read about the upcoming Crapometer and wrote my 250 word hook. I saw it, loved it, and just have to whip it out and wave it around so I could get those love letters in return. So I was thinking, would you float me $100,000 until I get my royalties? Honest injun, my books going to be great, I give you my word as a gentleman. I just need to quit my job so I can finish it before everyone starts asking for a manuscript and I look like the ass that Iam.

Anticipating your positive response,

Here's a picture of the last guy I lent money to

More on copyright

Dear Royal Queen of Snarkyness,

I have a question about copyright.

If one of my short stories appears in a literary journal and that literary journal receives a collective copyright (for the specific edition of the journal), is my story protected individually? Once a story or poem appears in a literary journal, do I need then to apply for a copyright?

Also, I've noticed a number of internet businesses that are selling downloads of individual poems/articles, etc. Are they allowed to do so without the permission of the author? Or, once the poem/story/article appears in a journal, is it up for grabs?

The cost of applying for a copyright on an individual poem/story is 45$ per item- this would add up quickly. What's the best way to protect ones work once it is published. I'm concerned about keeping the rights to my work just in case my short story/poetry collection ever comes out.

You're laboring under some incorrect assumptions. Here's what happens with short stories.

YOU, the author, are the copyright holder. You retain your copyright even when you "sell" the story to the anthology because you really aren't selling the story, you are licensing it to the anthology for publication. The anthology does not apply for a copyright for the collection because they don't own your story; they are essentially renting it.

However, they charge money for the anthology (what you see as charging money online) and that is their income, not yours. Hopefully you get a piece of it (royalty), or you were paid a licensing fee ("advance" or "paid for your story" is how you hear that described). Yes, that's ok. It's like a book publisher printing copies of the book they have acquired from you.

Still confused? Ask away!

What We Need

What We Need

The Emperor,
his bullies
and henchmen
terrorize the world
every day,
which is why
every day
we need
a little poem
of kindness,
a small song
of peace
a brief moment
of joy.

David Budbill, While We've Still Got Feet. © Copper Canyon Press.


Samuel Greenberg, age two

A colleague, Daniel Greenberg, has suffered a devastating loss, that of his two year old son. The newspaper account is here.

I remembered a quote from William Sloane Coffin after the death of his own son, in another terrible car accident. He said "never say untimely violent death is the will of God. At that critical moment, God's heart is the first to break". The eulogy for Alex Coffin is here.

I have no idea what else to say.

Mr. Mojo

Killer Yapp: Miss Snark!

MS: KY, why aren't you opening envelopes in the slush pile?

KY: Union rules! lunch break! youtube!

MS: oh dear dog, what have you found??

KY: Dog! Dog! Dental floss! Dog! Dog!

MS: KY, that is Mojo, Miss Wren's dog

KY: Teeth! Teeth! Jaws!

MS: KY, that dog has a massive underbite. Mojo counldn't bite you if you arrived on a plate and handed him a bib and chopsticks. You're safe.

KY: Fashion Emergency!

MS: yes, it's true Mojo has no pink tam but they do things differently out there. They even take dogs in cars!

KY: No! No! Limo!

MS: KY unless you get back to work I'm going to work MY mojo on you.

KY: Feline!

MS: Besides KY, the only dog you need to worry about is Chuckie

I'm in!

Dave Eggers is getting some heat for changing his mind about Infinite Jest.

A challenge has been issued and money's on the table. Bat Segundo offered up the all important platform.

Well, hell, I'm in for this one.

I'll kick in $49 to challenge Dave Eggers to speak about why he changed his mind.

I actually think if you DON'T change your mind about at least one book or work of art every year you aren't learning anything new or thinking very hard.

C'mon Dave! It's for a good cause!

Deuces Wild

Dear Miss Snark,

The issue of co-authors and whose name appears first is barely covered on the internet. As a librarian, I understand the CIP data and consequences but the issue my co-author and I are having is a bit more emotional and I hope you can cut it down to the bone for us.

We agree that the book is 50% co-authored. We both want our names first. The author who would alphabetically appear first ("Author A") acknowledges that the other author ("Author B") was ultimately the one that was able to get it solicited by major houses, one of which bought it. Subsequently, Author B also used her contacts (and moxie), Miss Snark's advice and well-chosen words to acquire the agent. Author B thinks this tips balance in her favor to be listed first on cover. Author A does not agree that the order should be decided in any way other than alphabetically. She feels professionals in industry would view anything else as a statement of her having less to do with the content.

Question 1: What's your opinion? (Book art starts in a month. )
Question 2: If we can't otherwise talk this out, should we resolve this by coin toss?

My instinct is that we should not throw this into agents lap (Author A is considering this as option) because it's too unprofessional/hints at a less than perfect working relationship. Thankfully, we agree not to let editor resolve.

Thank you for your time.

Respectfully Author B,
who in her next life will marry Mr. A. (Forget Mr. Right!).

1. A is right
2. You don't need to talk it over. Follow my directions.

Alphabetical is the default setting for how to list two authors names. Given there is no compelling reason to not do this, suck it up.

Compelling reasons are: one author is extremely well known and the other is not; and/or one author has a name that is difficult to say or spell correctly or is easily spelled wrong (this is a HUGE deal now that bookstores are all computerized).

No one assumes that the author listed second is the lesser beast.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen are in alpha order and the book cover designer stacked the names so it looks "right".

The authors of Rule of Four are also in alpha order; again the book designer makes it look good.

Same with Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts

You can ruin your working relationship with your co-author and look petty all at the same time by insisting that your contribution is more valuable. This is how wars start. Don't do it.


David Simon is a god, but that's old news

If you've been hiding under a rock, let me remind you that David Simon is the guy who created The Wire, which is, hands down, the best thing I've ever seen on television. I pay particular attention to what he talks about on the DVD special features.

Here's an interview with him in Slate.

Meeting Mr. Clooney

Miss Snark,

What would you do if you were to meet George? Say a mutual friend introduced you. Would you swoon, fall to pieces, forget how to talk? Or would you dig in with the stilletos, tell him you didn't quite catch his name, make him crawl to you? Just curious.

Miss Snark HAS met Mr. Clooney.
There's video of it.

Hey Sport!

Dear Miss Snark,

I am an unpublished author of children’s books. I also have been writing short fiction, with the hope of getting a published in a children’s magazine. The idea, of course, is to have publishing credits to make me stand out in the slush.

Now I have a new opportunity. I’m doing freelance sports reporting for a local newspaper. While this isn’t fiction, I am being published and paid (yeah for pay!).

Would an agent look at sports reporting as a writing credit (as in someone besides my mom likes my writing)? Or is journalism such a different animal than fiction that it would be thought of as a nice thing, but not a “real” credit?

I ask because of my limited time. Not that I’m going to stop what I’m doing, but I’m thinking about focus and time allotment.

Reporting isn't a writing credit but it's still a good thing to mention. For starters it tells a prospective agent you've gotten used to editing, working on deadlines and meeting a schedule. It will also make you a better writer I bet.

Some very very good writers did stints at newspapers including one of my favorite authors in the whole entire world Jennifer Weiner. She talks about journalism as a the perfect place for a writer on the "for writers" part of her website here

Miss Stark Whips out her Dic

Dear Miss Snark:

While my agent has been sending my manuscript out to editors, I have continued to build my resume - I write fiction, so I prefer not to use platform. (1) I have been very successful in getting my short stories published in literary journals, both in print and online, academic (2) and independent, two in the last month. Also, I am now on the road again giving seminars on a side businesss to Friends of the Library and other community organizations ( I have degress in history). I am booked for three already for the new year. Is this something I should tell my agent about?

(1) "prefer not to use platform" doesn't make sense. In publishing lingo platform is something you have like credentials. You wouldn't say "I prefer not to use credentials" either. I'm not exactly sure what you're trying to tell me here.

(2) academic journals don't publish short stories. Journals published by University presses can and do but those aren't considered academic journals. Academic journals are where they parse out the influence of TS Eliot on Stephen Elliot.

None of this really matters because your question is "should I tell my agent I'm out and about in the world giving talks".

This is absolutely unanswerable because every agent will respond according to what they want you to do. Ask your agent: "I'm giving talks on Snarkism in Space. Do you want me to keep you updated"?

I prefer to know all. That does not mean your agent will. Ask her/him/it.

There will be a vocabulary quiz later.

Miss Snark requires oxygen

oh dear dog, Miss Snark is just overcome, overcome I tell you!!!

thanks to Kitty for sending a 20 minute respite from the slush!

Crapstravaganza update**

**Previously referred to as "run up to the crapometer".

FAQ has been updated

Remember you can email questions about the upcoming crapometer and I will answer them on the FAQ on the OTHER blog

All the info about the upcoming crapometer is collected on that blog for easy reference.

Miss Ms-ery

I know via your blog you prefer to be addressed as Miss Snark. But in the real world, I see an agent's name--let's pretend it's Kim Smith. I've ascertained that Kim is, in fact, female. I do not know if she is married or not. How do I address her? Will she be offended by Ms. Smith if she really prefers Miss Smith? If she's married, how do I know she's Mrs. Smith? Smith could be her maiden name and her married name could be Mrs. Clooney? Does the salutation really matter that much if the submission is good and at least the gender is right? I doubt agencies want to field calls every day asking the assistants how to properly address queries. But maybe it is the norm?

Goddess Snark, enlighten this nitwit, please!

You don't.
(better not be)
You're right.

You're obsessing here.
The snark about "Miss Snark" is not the specific title but the concept of getting the name right.

Miss Snark is Miss Snark. She is not Mr Snark, or Ms Snark or Sister Snark.

If you know an agent is a woman, you call her Ms. Agent. If he is a man you call him Mr. Agent.
If you know she's a scam artist you call her Dr. Bauer.

If you just can't deal with the uncertainty, open your letter with Hello, or Good Morning.

The only thing you should be parsing with this degree of ferocity is your writing.

Sorry Mom

Oh Great Dark Lady of Snark Whose Chic High-Heeled Footsteps Shake the Very Foundations of the World;

Your Snarkishness, I

'm near finishing a B.A. in English and I really feel that I've had it up to my aureola with writing interminable essays and dry research papers. My hope is to someday work in the book business (agenting, editing etc... I don't care, I love books and want to work in making them happen).

I've read somewhere that you don't need more than a B.A to make it in the field. On the other hand, my dear mother is applying quite a lot of pressure to make me move on to a Master's degree immediately after I'm done with the B.A. She is adamant that nowadays, a B.A. will at best get me a job as the assistant to the secretary's secretary. I've always done as she told me (I mean...she's the one who pays for it all after all...) but just the thought of writing a 40+ page thesis makes me want to rip off my feathery white wings and join the pot-smoker behind my metro station...

Is she right? Should I go on to a Master's? Or will it hinder more than help me? Will I be stuck in the lower echelons if I don't? Or will I stand a chance to hope to reach the top (perhaps as high as the great and powerful Miss Snark?)?

I bow to your superior knowledge and am humbled in the light of your flaming hair,


Far be it from me to tell your dear mother she's all wet, but hand her a towel and say "Miss Snark says hello".

The point you're missing is that you don't have to get an MA directly after your undergraduate work. In fact, you'd be very very very smart to get a couple years of experience, then decide about your masters.

You're going to start out in the mailroom (or job equivalent) no matter how much education you have.

Some publishers will pay for employee's education as well, and there are publishing certificate programs at NYU and Pace that are pretty valuable without costing what an actual Masters does.

Short answer: get a job.