oh my yes, a new vendor for Miss Snark's communication needs

Normally Miss Snark orders her engraved calling cards from dear Mr. Snagsby but she has found something....well, see for yourself.

thanks to she of the ironed underpants for the link

Cover Art

Hello Miss Snark,

I know this has been discussed more than once, but I have another question about cover art. (Hopefully I'm not a nitwit for bringing this up again.) I have recently met someone who does fantasy art and is familiar with book design. I know that being my first novel, I won't have any control over the cover art, but can I suggest using someone I know to do the art? Or, do the Publishers have certain artists they work closely with? I just worry I'll be stuck with a cliche cover with a woman and a sword. How much input do I actually have, or do they choose the artist, the design and show me after the fact?

You can certainly give your editor the name of an artist. Don't expect it will lead anywhere. Most publishers have their own art departments, or they have artists they work with on an ongoing basis.

Unless your agent can pull a rabbit out of the hat, cover design is entirely the publisher's decision. Most of the publishers I work with will show us designs but it's a courtesy. I don't use up my favor sticks on covers unless I have to.

And a bad cover design won't kill you (heresy I know). Anytime I see a bad cover I think of the wonderful and hilarious Harlan Coben who had to deal with a bleeding football on his first Myron book. Harlan is a smart guy and a savvy marketer. He called booksellers himself and said "it's a great book if you can just get past the bleeding football". They did, and a career was born. Booksellers STILL mention hearing from him about that first book...YEARS later. He was funny, and charming, but he got the job done.

Like damn near everything else in this world, you can get where you want if you don't give up.

online workshops are not pub credits

Dear Miss Snark:

I haven't done any creative writing to speak of since I was in college over 25 years ago. I've been working on three different manuscripts since late last year, and the only thing I've gained from the exercise is that I've forgotten a lot more than I ever knew. My writing is boring and formulaic. I can't join a writer's group because I live in the back of beyond; the nearest one I could find is over two and a half hours' drive away.

I subscribe to "Writer's Digest" and decided to enter one of their online workshops. I realize that it's not accredited and doesn't count as an academic course, but is it something that I could list as a credit on a query? I thought that, at worst, participating in this workshop will exercise my writing skills and maybe get the creative juices flowing a little.

What do you think?

I think you don't understand the difference between "publication credit" and "working on your craft". Going to a seminar, accredited or not, going to a workshop, belonging to a critique group, putting your work through the travails of the crapometer are all valuable to various degrees. They are "working on your craft". They are NOT mentioned in query letters. Never. Not even the "bingo bango bongo" of the recent HHCom.

Getting your work published is a publication credit. Small journals, winning a contest, previous novels are all pub credits. Pub credits require your work to be selected from a pool of submissions, evaluated by someone other than your mom and generally available to be read by Miss Snark should she wish to clickity click over to the website.


Geeze louise

While looking for the representation for my first novel I've started working on the second book of what I plan to be a trilogy. What if I never find an agent for the first book and the second book turns out to be better than the first? It firmly stands on the shoulders of the first one and publishing the second without the first wouldn't make much sense.

Should I shelf the trilogy till/if I find the agent interested in my first book?

Dear dog, you do like to worry about things you have no control over don't you?

I let my lawyer worry about "what if" and I worry about what's on my desk right now. What it costs in cash (even at Shyster Snark's discount rates) it saves in peace of mind.

Keep writing. Worry about this later, if at all. If you REALLY need to worry about something you have no control over: killer bees.

Because She Can

Dear Miss Snark:

I'm sure you've heard about the buzz surrounding Bridie Clark's new book, "Because She Can", which is supposed to be a thinly veiled roman a clef about Judith Regan. What do you think? Do you care to comment? Will you read it? (I already have it reserved with Amazon.com, mostly because I'm so curious about the publishing world - it's a writer's Holy Grail, after all.)

Gin isn't my thing, sorry - I'm a whiskey gal (I've also been known to partake of a little Jose Cuervo when the mood strikes) so I'm raising my Irish Coffee in toast to Your Snarkiness.

Are you nuts? This ms circulated through every agency and publisher in town in pdf form about six months ago. We ALL read it.

I'm pretty much over the thinly disguised harridan boss chicklit novel/memoir/salacious isn't she a bitch book. I'm also really over the assistant as hero motif. REALLY over that.

In other words, this book wasn't my cup of tea. I don't think it's possible to write a good trashy book about publishing cause most of us are pretty boring. We sit around reading all the time, and high adventure is going to the library to hear JM Coetzee read. Yes, I wore my Manolo Blahniks to the event..but still, Page Six was nowhere to be found that night.

I did mention that twenty dollar bill, right?

Dear Miss Snark,

Lets say one's agent, bless her heart, has sold the manuscript.
One is so pleased.

Lets say one wants to send a thank you.

Flowers? Candy? Subscription to the New Yorker? Hand knitted scarf? Matryoska dolls? Lavender soap?

What is customary?

I have received a red feather boa, flowers, choccies, CDs, books, and a lifesize photo of Mr. Clooney. Much as I adore getting presents (and really..a red feather boa was EXACTLY what I needed!) you only need to send a nice hand written thank you.

This is our job. We're almost as glad to sell something as you are to have it sold.

Query direct

Hello, Miss Snark.

As with your minions, I appreciate your helping us unpublished authors learn how to become published.

My question concerns queries sent directly to publishers. I know you discourage authors to do so, but if one decided to go this route, should one write the query similarly to one to an agent?

I don't discourage you from querying publishers who say they accept work over the transom at all. Have at it. What I insist on is that you don't sign any contracts without someone looking at it other than you, jumping up and down, screaming "I'm going to be published! I'm going to be published".

And yes, you write a query letter to a publisher like you do an agent.


La Poheme...yanno, like the opera only P

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Miss Snark is charmed
You will be too.

Suck it up, thanks for asking

Dear Miss Snark,

I just received another rejection. Nothing novel about that (get it? novel?). This gal said no thanks, not because my writing is abysmal (a distinct possibility), but rather because she's taking a new direction with the agency, and therefore not taking on any new clients.

Well, fine. I wish her all the luck in the world selling vintage Beanie Babies or whatever it is she's gonna do. I got curious and hopped on her web site, and out there she's still open for business. Send me submissions! Here's what I represent! Blah blah blah.

This happens quite a lot actually, where an agent has a web site saying one thing, and then the letter in the SASE says something quite different. I honestly believe if agents actually ran their businesses like businesses, and updated their web sites when things change, they wouldn't get nearly as many mismatched queries. Plus it would save us wannabes some coinage on copying costs and postage.

I'm not sure there's even a question in here anywhere, so maybe I better ask one. How are you today?

Well, I'm just fine and dandy.
Now, this will come as a major shock to you I know, so please sit down and extinguish your eyebrows before reading on.


Really ready?

Agency websites aren't a top priority with most agents.

A spiffy website, updated hourly, is lots of fun but it doesn't actually improve the quality of the queries we get. It may reduce the number but you'd have to cut my queries in half...well, more like 75% to even start to equal the amount of time it takes to update a website. Now before you spit and snarl, and huff and puff, let's all just remember most agents aren't updating their own sites. They're paying someone, OR they are having their kid/SO/hot guy across the hall do it. Most agents are not the savvy techno geeks out there that you all are. Miss Snark among them sad to say.

I understand the frustration of the website saying one thing and the form letter another. Dog knows I get that kind of crapola myself.

We have to chalk this one up to "just the way it is" suck it up and slither on.

Scouting around

Dear Miss Snark,

I noticed that a few agencies have a "scout division".

Can you explain what a scout division does?

This is the division that provides uniformed assistants for elderly or incapacitated agents in crossing Avenues here in New York.

No? Damn.

Scouts look for published properties. They scout around for stuff. They're finders not agents. Don't query them.

I send books that have deals to scouts for HBO, movies and foreign sales. Not all books, all the time but some books most of the time.

They're like baseball scouts but they smoke fewer cigars and don't look much like Jon Lovitz.

Now THIS is a contest I can get behind!

First of all, this is a contest that appeals to my heart cause the topic is "fuck off and die letters" which I both send and receive on a regular basis.

Second, it's open to anyone with an email account and I don't have to read the entries or judge the work.

Third, it's funny.

Here's the link.

I have also entered. We'll see how well Miss Snark deals with being on the other side of the crapometer!!!!!

Illustrations in novels

Dear Miss. Snark,

How do I show that I want illustrations in my novel? Do I write *Insert Clooney With Gin picture here" or do I do a rough sketch of what I want?

Why on earth do you want illustrations?
Not that I don't love Phiz's renditon of Mr. Turveydrop the very model of good deportment, but I didn't need illustrations to get the picture for that.

I actually have no idea how to answer this. The closest I come to illustrations are graphic novels and as you might suspect the art and the words are a unit there.

If anyone with experience with this can lend a word of advice, I'm all ears (illustration not included).

The Usual Suspects

Miss Snark,
A friend mentioned to me the other day that her agent 'queried' a publisher the other day and never heard back from them. The same agent has also mentioned a few times that she has sent 'blind' submissions to editors at the publishing house that she does not know, but someone suggested said editor might like it.

Is this a bad thing? I was under the impression that you got an agent because of their connections, so I'm puzzled as to why an agent would send blind submissions. Am I making too much out of this?

First, unless your friend is unhappy with her agent, it doesn't matter.

However. It may be that there's just a "translation lapse" here. When I talk to my clients I sometimes use the word "query an editor" because my clients understand "query" to mean finding out if an editor is interested. My querying of editors doesn't much resemble your query to an agent. Think poodles and goats. Both quadrapeds. Both regulars on the blog. Both with distinct voices, but they don't sound like each other and you can tell the difference just by looking.

As for blind submission, again, my first response is the agent is using vocabulary the client can relate to. I send stuff to editors I don't know very well all the time. My colleagues give me referrals, I call up editors from Media Bistro interviews and PW articles ALL the time. When you become an agent you aren't issued a list of contacts and that's it. You are constantly building your pool of pals in publishing. I've sold things to people I don't know at all. The difference is mostly those editors want to hear from me cause they know I've got something good to sell (whether they buy it is a different question).

So yes, you are worrying about the wrong end of the stick. I'm much more inclined to fret about agents who AREN'T reaching past their known list of suspects than I am about agents who are.


well loved, dearly missed, and a call to action

The mystery world is still stunned by the terrible news about Barbara Seranella. Over and over on the DorothyL list people talk about her kindness and generorisy of spirit to new writers, people just starting out, and fans.

I posted a link to a piece Barbara wrote about the coming year. It's been reprinted, and is more accessible here

In one of those coincidences, I was on the subway today and there was an ad from the NY Eyebank saying Jerry Orbach, a great and wonderful actor and New Yorker, had donated his eyes after his death. He's gone now, but two people can see because of his generosity.

Please consider being an organ donor.
Here's where to go for more information.

Beverage alert of the day

This is too funny for words.

"like, swords" is my new mantra. Not to mention fashion theme.
KY will carry a dagger and perform the role of Natsu.

I'm now off to figure out how to get the Young and the Restless feed on my laptop.

ok, this time, serious grammar and punctuation post

Hello Miss Snark,

Here is a link to a CNN article about a podcast for grammar and punctuation nuts ... in case anyone is interested.

I didn't actually listen to the podcast yet but this sounds like fun.



Barbara Seranella
Born April 30, 1956

Died January 21, 2007

Barbara Seranella, 50, bestselling mystery author and resident of Laguna Beach and PGA West in La Quinta, died peacefully on January 21, 2007, at 4:15 p.m. EST (1:15 PST) at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband Ron Seranella and her brother Dr. Larry Shore at her side. Barbara, who died of end-stage liver disease while awaiting a liver transplant, leaves behind her husband Ron, brothers Larry Shore of San Francisco and David Shore of Woodacre, parents Nate and Margie Shore of La Quinta, and stepdaughters Carrie Seranella and Shannon Howard.

For those of you who didn't know her work, she wrote the Munch Mancini novels.

For those of you who did, like me, this is a sad sad day.

For all of us: a reminder that in death we can give life: start here

Space cadets unite!

Miss Snark,

I've spent the past 25 years putting two spaces after a period. Recently, I read that you should only have one space after a period. Is that true? If so, when did it change? I have two completed manuscripts and have begun to send out queries. Am I going to have to change the spacing? I don't know that I can train myself after all these years to only use one space. I never even notice using the space bar when I type.

Thank you for all the time you spend on your blog. It has been extremely helpful to me.

Have you been doing anything else for 25 years? Miss Snark wonders how well that punctuation job pays...and are there benefits?

The correct form is extremely important, as you know (Bob). To help writers in this extremely important phase, the SFWA website has posted some guidelines. Read them. Learn them. Live them. Herewith.

website content

Dear Miss Snark

I hope that you are recovering well from the crapometer (passes large bottle of gin through the ether).

The question of writer web sites has popped up a few times on the blog and I was wondering what your ideal writer web site would contain? I'm a copywriter and my clients are nagging me to set up a web site to show my work so that they can pass it on to their mates and hopefully net me more work. I was wondering about combining this with some of my fiction. Bad idea? (ducks clue stick).

If you were googling a potential client and found they had a web site, what would your ideal content be? Bio? Short stories? Book excerpts? Family pix? George Clooney pix? Blog? What would you like to know?!

Do not not not combine your fiction site with your copywriting/looking for clients site. They are two entirely different animals and your target audience is different. Your copywriting site needs a "sign up for my email newsletter" button on every page, and you need to send out a regular helpful hint every month that keeps your name in front of potential clients. (example on this is Marcia Yudkin the master of internet marketing).

Your fiction site is to showcase your fiction, and you. When I google an author I look for published books, blurbs, first paragraphs, something about the background of the book. Mostly I look for voice. Be funny, charming and witty...yanno, the easy stuff.

It can only help if you have a picture of a horse or a dog of course. Don't put pictures of your children on your site. Or their names. I'm always stunned at the idiocy and naivete of people who do that.

And you want contact info. Email of course.

Slobber jabber

Dear Miss Snark:

A friend of mine who published a non-fiction book to some critical acclaim in the early 1970s agreed to read my manuscript (fiction) to double-check me on events and locale. His non-fiction book touches on the timeline and the setting in which my novel takes place. He is the only person to have read my work. In his critique I thought he used several phrases which nicely portray the book. They are more insightful than just slobbering praise.

Question: Should I dare use his observations in my query to agents? The last book he published was thirty years ago, so, obviously, he's not a household name in publishing circles. I want to use the quotes because they so well capture the book, but my Snark-conscious is telling me to forget about it. What say ye?

Normally, I'd say leave out all the beta reader comments, even the non slobbering ones. However, if you have NO other publishing credentials, you can include something like "When Mr. X (best known title: publisher) was helpfully vetting my book for anachronisms, I was pleased he said it was 'non slobbery'".

This gives the correct context for the quote so it doesn't look like it's your bookie saying nice things so you'll make some more dough to play the ponies.

Nitwit of the Day-Returns!

This came this morning:

Good Morning,

Would like to meet for breakfast or lunch - perhaps you might read 30 pgs of my book and see what you think.

This was my reply:
I already know what I think.

and now this!

How rude you and your pathetic group are - - Thankfully, there are normal folks around BTW, I will be lunching w/Mr. Korda who has read 30 pgs of my book and thinks it's pretty hot! What a sad group you and your followers seem to be - - -
Thank you for your time.

Have a lovely time.