Miss Snark is in the market for a rocket launcher fully loaded with clues

Original question:

Miss Snark:

I have recently sent a query letter to an agent and this was his answer:

Hi Steven,

This sounds ambitious, and could have potential, but I wouldn't be the right agent for it – you might try the [Name of Agency] on this, or [Name of Agency].

Best wishes,
[Name of agent]

What exactly was his point? If it has potential why didn't he want it and "threw" me to other agencies?

Miss Snark replied:
This is called a referral. You thank your lucky stars for it right fucking now and send him email saying same.

Clues are on special this week at Wal-Mart. Stock up.

And lo! and behold, the email provides this follow up:

What do you mean by that? Should I send the same agent again the query letter?

Here is the best advice I've ever given anyone: stop querying. Stop right now. You are so clue free as to be a menace to yourself. You may have the next Harry Potter on your harddrive but like a 10 year old in a Ferrari, you can't see over the wheel. Spend some time learning about the industry. Don't rush. Right now you've got your head so far up your alimentary canal you'll be able to lick your lips.

Do us all a favor, sit quietly and learn something.


Stacia said...

Oh, Steven. *shakes head*

Steven, Steven, Steven.

Anonymous said...

No shit Sherlock. Go directly to the back of the line. I am a newbie, but even I would have jumped on that like white on rice.

ORION said...

I see this often at writers conferences and I have been guilty of it at one time. Not seeing the forest for the trees...or rather the clue underneath the clue gun.
No means no.
Rejections are rejections.
I hear the chorus of "Yes,buts!)
A referral is gold.
Two are platinum.
Take them and run.

MWT said...






... wow.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It's got to be a leg pull. Surely no one could be this dumb?

On the other hand.........:)

Laura K. Curtis said...

You gotta wonder...what was in that query that was attractive enough to make the agent give him referrals. Given how completely clueless he is, it's hard to believe he could write a competent and compelling query letter.

Anonymous said...

Right now you've got your head so far up your alimentary canal you'll be able to lick your lips.

I laughed so hard, my cat jumped off my lap in fright and scratched my leg to hell.

Word Doctor said...

Ah, give the poor writer a break...at least he or she had the "balls" to ask the question! How else we all gonna learn, hhhmmmm?

Nice response, Snark. The Ferrari simile is spectacular! (Can I borrow that?)

David H. Burton said...

Keyboard warning please!!!

Oh my nose ... coke wasn't meant to go out it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe English is a problem here? His grammatical structures seem a little off--e.g. "I have recently sent" and "Should I send the same agent again the query letter"?

Either that, or he's just a dope.

Miri said...

This also goes back to Miss Snark's favorite line of late:

"Follow the damn directions."

You've been told to send off to TWO (count 'em, TWO) other agents with a GREATER shot at getting your work published.

I'm a newbie, and a young'un at that, and I know what a referral is when I see it. You didn't even know when Miss Snark said it straight out. I really hope you're joking, bud.

Oy. *joins in the gnashing of teeth, I mean, shaking of heads*

Anonymous said...

Ooookayyy ...

Steven, in the event you are sincere, as well as sincerely clueless, here is what you do. Run, do not walk, to send your manuscript to the agents named by the agency that so nicely rejected your manuscript. They have just pointed you towards people whom they think would like your manuscript. This is rare. This is precious.

But wait ... yeah. Do a little more research. Make sure you understand what the whole submission-to-agents process is about. Then you'll understand that when someone says, "This isn't for me, but try So-and-So" you'll recognise it for the compliment and the leg up that it is.

Good luck. And the Clue Gun burns will heal up in a few months. ;-)

tjwirsgi: the sound Miss Snark made rather than spew her gin when she read Steven's response

Anonymous said...

Writers can be this dumb. I say this and I are one. Clearly he has writing talent if he gets a double referral. Equally clearly, the social skills need work. Ditto the business savvy.

Since this seems to be a person who needs things spelled out, here are the contents of the clue gun:

1. The agent thinks you have talent but he doesn't work with this kind of book.

2. He thinks your work is good enough to sell. He knows a couple of agents who might take you on.

3. He is trying to help you.

4. This almost never happens. It is really, really rare. Blue-moon rare. You should be celebrating, not kvetching.

5. You got a foot in the door, but your ignorance of what a door even is will trip you up before you go any further.

6. Learn what a door is. Don't try opening it again until you understand what is wrong with the picture Miss Snark presented.

7. Good luck. When your business savvy catches up with your writing talent, you could be a force to reckon with.

Zany Mom said...

I thought someone was pretending to be Steven and was pulling our collective legs....maybe not.

Anonymous said...

Not dumb. Or stupid. Just 'doesn't know yet.' We were all that way once and we're all that way right now about some things. That's why Miss Snark advised him to take time to learn.

mahukey said...

I want to cry--really seriously what an idiot! I would give my left tit to have an agent give me two referals! This guy can't even see it for the god-given gift that it is!
I'm crying....this is sad.

Anonymous said...

Before we all shoot this guy with more clue bullets, he sounds like a newbie who is very, very good at writing and the initial pitch, but has no experience in dealing with a response.

To give him the benefit of the doubt, he's interpreting MS's reply literally--"send him email saying same". When someone lacks experience and is trying to exercise caution, s/he has to go with what is presented, at face value.

He was smart enough to email Miss Snark before replying to the agent.

Nonetheless, take heed: "You are so clue free as to be a menace to yourself." is very good advice.

Don't blow an opportunity by acting without thinking first.

Go back to the previous post: there's a comment that anything beyond a form rejection is a *favor*. Remember, it's a business based on relationships.

r louis scott said...

I think some of these comments are missing one of the main possibilities here. Maybe, just maybe, Agent A wanted Agents B and C to get a really really good laugh from a really, really bad query.

Unknown said...

I told you guys not to blink! It didn't last long did it?(Shakes head).

Listen Steven, a grand old patriotic song once taught me a valuable lesson:

"And the rockets red glare,
f-bombs bursting in air, gave proof to the night, that MS was still there."

Anyway Steven, keep querying, but just accept a no as a no. Don't expect anything else. And don't analyze it.

And never, ever write to MS again. Unless, you're writing from an armor-plated Hummer, with rocket proof windows.

Good luck!

MWT said...

Maybe English is a problem here? His grammatical structures seem a little off--e.g. "I have recently sent" and "Should I send the same agent again the query letter"?

Now that I look at it more closely, I think that English might not be his native language. The unusual syntax suggests German or Austrian to me.

Steven: when Miss Snark said "You thank your lucky stars for it right fucking now and send him email saying same" what that means is, you send an email to the first guy that says "thank you."

Then you query the two agencies that he recommended to you.

Blogless Troll said...

What's wrong with your eyes, word doctor? Is that cauliflower?

Anonymous said...

I come to Miss Snark's blog, just minding my own business... My wife asks me what I'm reading. I say, "Someone named Mahukey just offered to give up his or her left tit."

This is why we sleep in separate rooms.

LadyBronco said...

Oh dear Lord...please tell me that the whole question and follow-up were one big joke?
I may be a newbie, too, but even I am not that stupid.

Brady Westwater said...

I thought the people who thought the original question was a hoax were... well, crazy..

But there is no way the second response - particularly afer all the comments - could have not be a hoax.

BUT... the only way to know for certain is to call the referring agent....

Enquiring Snarklings want to know!

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

OMG! Second liquid moment on my monitor....in the last half hour!

Sheesh...what's the number for Best Buy?

Anonymous said...

Actually the phrase 'I have recently sent' has a perfectly fine grammatical structure. It may sound too formal to some people but there is nothing wrong with it.
Criticising a correct grammatical construction makes you as much of a nitwit as Steven.

Sean Lindsay said...

Oh, Miss Snark, so close. "Stop querying." Words like music to this writer-against-writing.

The slushpile must look a little higher today, when even the writers worth referring are this bad.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark's link was all over the NaNoWriMo forums November. That's how I found her (I'm from Switzerland). I'm sure there are a lot of blog readers here at Snark Central whose first language isn't English.
Give the poor guy the benefit of doubt.


Julianus said...

Many thanks to each and everyone who commented. I admit that I am new to this silly procedure so I do not know too much about it but I think that if a project is good, no matter whether you know how to query it or not, a synopsis is just enough for the agent to take it to the publishers. It is also true that English is not my mother tongue. My native language is the Hellenic one and I still do got some problems with the syntax.

I have been considered as "stupid" by some of the people who commented. If "stupid" is someone who goes opposite to the flow, then I am. If "stupid" is someone who has no mind, then I am not.

By the way, Edison had to make a thousand light bulbs before creating the one that worked. People asked him: "Didn't you feel bad because you missed a thousand times to get the good one?" He answered: "Those thousand ones weren't mistakes. They were the steps I had to take to get to the good one. Because of what I learned with the ones that didn't work, I could make one that worked."

PS. If you haven’t noticed I am Steven.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading Miss Snark's blog for some time and though I didn't know what a referral is. I didn't know either that it was so rare (and so precious!) to be given the names of other agents - though I'd probably thought it's better than a form letter!

Happily, I'm not a writer, not even a native English speaker - just a book reader. But I must say this: as a reader, the idea that someone ignorant about the rules can attract such attention is very comforting. I want to know that I can still read something personnal, original and written without the rules in mind. Something which stood out because of the finely tuned query letter and the perfect market calibration might do a nice read, but not much else.

Hoyt Peterson said...

That is Hilarious.

Maya Reynolds said...

I was so glad to see MWT's post. If English is not Steven's first language, SOMEONE needed to spell out what MS and all these comments were saying and tell him exactly what to do next.

Great job, MWT.

Anonymous said...

"Actually the phrase 'I have recently sent' has a perfectly fine grammatical structure. It may sound too formal to some people but there is nothing wrong with it.
Criticising a correct grammatical construction makes you as much of a nitwit as Steven."

Yo, anonymous, I wasn't saying the structure was incorrect--I was pointing out that it wasn't the standard "casual American" construction that most native speakers would use, and that perhaps Steven wasn't a native English speaker, which could be the source of the problem. And I was right, wasn't I?

Who's really the nitwit here?

Anonymous said...


Pay them no mind. They're all just jealous, not to mention ill-mannered. There is no shame in ignorance--only in continuing to remain ignorant after the facts have been explained. Which you won't do now, I'm sure.

And good luck when you try those new agencies!

Anonymous said...

I hope all you commentators will check Steven's blog Julianus and feel slightly ashamed of your tart, facile comments.
How many of you were capable of running a blog and writing a novel in a foreign language at the age of 15?
Sometimes the clue gun bursts in the sniper's face.
I can feel the blushes warming me, even out here in South Africa...
Tom Rymour

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm sorry, no benefit of the doubt from me. This poor guy either has zero life experience or zero common sense. How can anyone not understand the directions here, if they can write in English well enough to get this kind of miraculous agent assistance?

There are no words to describe this level of cluelessness.

Brady Westwater said...

Looking at Julius/Steven's profile - he is 15 years old!

Which explains a lot about his lack of knowledge on how the book business operates. ANd to have an agent refer him - at age 15 - to two other agents - is amazing!


Now follow Miss Snark's advice and thank the first agent and send your query to each of the other agents, saying that the first agent referred you to them. But don't mention, of course, that he referred you to two separate agents.

Anonymous said...

Love. You.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad, Steven.

I didn't realise how significant the wording of such a letter would be either and I'm old enough to be your mother.

Best of luck to you with your book.

MWT said...

Maya Reynolds: *flush of happiness* thank you. :) I do try to be helpful and it's nice hearing when I've managed to succeed.

Writtenwyrd: The specific part that confused Steven was the use of the word "same" as a referent to something earlier in a sentence. It's an obscure phrasing. Non-native English speakers aren't likely to figure it out easily.

Steven: Good to see that the bashing hasn't got you down. Best of luck to you and your book. :)

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said...

I'm really glad to see Steven able to bring himself to leave a response even after all the twitting here. I agree with those who have said "everybody has to start somewhere," and, hey! he had the balls to ask questions the asking of which demonstrated his ignorance--not everyone can say the same.

Ignorance is curable.

I suspect that a lot of Miss Snark's (and others') frustration with Steven came from not wanting to see someone given a once-in-a-blue-moon chance blow that chance due to glaring inexperience.

Steven, do take Miss Snark's advice--do all the research you can about how the industry works, so that you don't blow it when you query those two agents. Which you're going to do, right? Right?

writtenwyrdd said...

I posted yesterday saying I retracted my comment, but blogger ate it. I hadn't read and looked up Stephen's blog bio and seen he was fifteen and from Greece when I wrote the first one. THAT explained it all. He really doesn't have any life experience.

But to be an ESL writer and so inexperienced and get an agent responding like that? Kid, you do have a future, I'd guess.

mahukey said...

Wow! 15 is such a tender young age, I really really hope you do the research before jumping into the writing business.
This is the part where experience in the real world helps navigate the tough stuff. But sometimes even life experiences don't prepare you for what's ahead on this journey.

I'm jealous Steven dear, but I still hope you succeed. Still would give my left tit to have such a deal fall in my lap...grumble....

Seriously--good luck!

Julianus said...

Do you think that it would be a good idea to mention my age in my query? Would that excite an agent or would it make him click the "send to trash" button?

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

In answer to the author's question:

Being 15 worked fine for the author of Eragon. Plus, knowing you are 15 might cause the publishing industry to treat you a bit more gently the next time you make a really big mistake.

When Miss Snark advised you to wait on querying and research the industry in the meantime, I believe she meant that you obviously know so little that you're likely to make another huge mistake. Another huge mistake could easily set your career back. Taking time to learn how the industry works can lessen your chance of making such a mistake.

From the level of knowledge you've displayed so far, I'd agree that your chances of making another big mistake are quite high, unless you take time to learn how things work. Letting the industry know you're 15 might help with this a bit. But not everyone will be forgiving just because you're 15. You're going to need to know more soon, so you should start working on that knowledge right away.