That tax topic thing again

Someone asked about tax info resources for writers.
In my slinking around Cyberia this morning I came across this post at PpbkWriter that looked very informative about that topic.

Ok, I know you're going to hate me for this but...

It's the end of the month so I'm cleaning up my desk, emailing my clients with status reports, and generally hosing the place out.

I keep a file with all my email from Prospective Clients in it. If the PC and I have moved past reading the ms to more fruitful discussions, the PC has a named separate folder. I look through those too, mostly to make sure I'm caught up.

Two PCs are getting rejection letters tonight. Both had interesting projects that I probably would have moved ahead on considering but for one important detail: these guys didn't respond very quickly. (additional info after reading Vatman Brady Westwater's comments: it wasn't just one email that languished for more than a week -it was four as of today, with the last one still unanswered).

(pause now for your screams and howls of anguish and irony that notoriously slow ..nay..glacial..agents are penalizing YOU for being slow)

(pause for echo of screams)

(pause for KY to climb down from ceiling where he launched himself thinking the Apocalypse was upon him)

ok, back to my rant.

I value clients who understand this is a business (for the most part) not operating at breakneck speed but also not at a standstill either. When I ask for something, I expect to hear back in a day or two at the most. If it's a task, it might not get done in a day or two but I'd like to hear you got the email and you're working on it.

The people I prefer to work with do that.
I've learned to be pretty clear about that preference before moving to "wanna sign up at Snark Central" but we never get to that point if you lollygag about. If lollygag is your default mode, that bodes ill for whether I think we're a good match. Wooing time is when we're all on our best behaviour, and if this is your idea of best...yikesarooni.

Now before you get even more outraged, let's all remember this is when I'm pretty serious about you and your work. It's not at the query stage or even the partial or full stage. I've read all that and liked it.

We're at the stage now of figuring out if we're a good match, and people who think waiting a week to answer basic questions is ok, aren't.

Agents vary, but I bet if you asked 100 of them, all 100 prefer someone who's prompt rather than not.

This isn't some sort of rule. It's just a word to the wise.
Have your stuff ready: bio, synopsis, people who might write blurbs if you have them, those kinds of things.

When an agent emails asking for something, respond, even if only to say 'I got this, I'll be back to you in a day or two'.

I can't appreciate the irony of this advice as much as you all will since you're the ones on the receiving end of lazy ass agents who don't get back to you.

BUT there are some of us who don't work that way, and we look for people who don't work that way either.

Next crapometer-(not soon, so don't panic)

I'm reading my query letters tonight thus my thoughts turn to the slush pile on steroids: the crapometer.

Here's my brainwave: the next crapometer is your equery. You send, and I'll show you where I stop reading.

I'll pick some random number between 5 and 20 to comment on further.

It's gonna be a brief time window for entries of course, and this time I'm reserving the right to limit the number I post so entry isn't guaranteed.

Let me know what you think, or if you have suggestions.

The next crapometer isn't for quite some time so don't start sending me stuff or I'll consign your email to the junklist AND tell Killer Yapp you like cats more than dogs.

Cluelessness Squared

My friends and colleagues tease me cause I have about 178 email accounts now, all of which flow into Central Receiving thanks to Entourage.

I have separate email accounts for Grandmother Snark, for listservs, for biz clients, for Mr. Clooney, for updates on the gin inventory and so on.

When I'm asked to include an email in a listing such as AgentQuery or Writers Market, or publishing a deal on Publishers Marketplace, I use a very specific address cause I know it gets sucked up and posted elsewhere.

One website lists my email incorrectly but the mail still comes to me. People who email to that address haven't done a single bit of verification or research. They are vacuuming up names and querying. I delete them of course; in fact, I have a mail rule that does it for me. All I see is the dialogue box that says "yet another nitwit has queried you". I laugh merrily and go on.

What is starting to amuse me even more is seeing that email ding, and 45 seconds later Miss Snark's mailbox (separate from Entourage) go ding.

Yup. Cluelessness squared.

What does this mean for you?
Doublecheck when you query people. More than one address? Use the one on the website.
Haven't heard back from an agent?
Doublecheck you're using the right address.

I wonder if any of the people moaning about no response are the same ones sitting in my trash bin?

Slush pile ROI

A well articulated comment to an earlier post

I'm a little confused, Miss Snark. You posted stats on 3/21 that, extrapolated, show you receive about 4800 queries per year and only take on about 4 new clients. Kristin Nelson receives 20,800 queries and last year signed 8 new clients (but doesn't say how many of those came from referral or slush). Likewise, Lori Perkins says she gets 30,000 queries and signed 15 new clients last year between referrals and slush. And I recently read an agent's blog who admitted she had NEVER taken a client from the slush pile.

Yes, people do get pulled out of the slush. And one blockbuster client from the slush may be worth the time invested. But is it worth the gamble? What the person posting the question seems to be asking is whether or not there's a better business model. Obviously not, or everyone would be on it. But the ROI really isn't there for agents with the current model.

ROI means return on investment for those of you French majors who think it means Louis XIV.

Return on investment measures what you get back for what you put in. The only thing ROI should be used to measure are quantifiable things: capital investment, income earned, those kinds of things.

When you use ROI to discuss the slush pile, what I'm investing is my time and my knowledge. Knowledge can't be quantified, so it doesn't have a place in this discussion. Time however can be measured, and there's a finite amount of it in a day (even for Miss Snark in her 36-hour alternate universe)

When I invest my time reading the slush pile, I can't invest it doing something else (opportunity cost) but the key piece of information you're missing is how much time I'm investing in reading those submissions.

Kristin takes her submissions electronically so she can read them quickly and efficiently.

I received a very sweet email from a Snarkling who blogged about her "fastest rejection ever"

Here's the calculation you're missing: 100 queries a week takes less than 200 minutes to read on paper; and about 100 minutes probably if you send it electronically. Truth be told, some of the stuff I get doesn't get ten seconds let alone 60.

So, the investment is two hours of my time. Kristin obviously spends more, Lori Perkins too.

The thing is I don't have to pay myself for that, and the opportunity cost (doing something else) is marginal. If I were to use the two suggestions of the origianal querier, my opportunity cost rieses dramatically: attending conferences is a MUCH less efficient way to see a lot of people.

In the course of two days or 16 working hours I might give a workshop to 100 people, chat with another 100, and do face to face presentations with 50. I can read 250 query letters in 500 minutes at the most (8.3 hours for you divisionally challenged). In addition, there's travel time and the inconvenience of being out of the office.

Here's the other piece of information you're missing: even people who meet us at conferences have to send queries. EVERYONE gets counted in the slush pile. I don't track how many of those 100 queries a week came from people I met at conferences, or are referrals. I did it one week solely for discussion on this blog, but I don't keep those stats cause it doesn't matter how you get here. It only matters to me if you write something I think I can sell.

Publishers "pay" agents in the form of higher advances and more author favorable contracts when they insist only on agented submissions but they also save payroll costs for people to read incoming submissions.

The thing I find interesting is the only people who think this model doesn't work are not-agents and not-publishers, in other words the people IN the slush pile.

Rather than tell you you're wrong though, I'll ask you: what other model do you suggest, and given this information, show me how it's to my (mine, not yours!) advantage and I'll be glad to read it. Feel free to email me and I'll post it.

Daunt me no daunt!

Dear Miss Snark:

We've all heard the daunting statistics. Agents receive anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 queries a year. Some have never taken on a client from the slushpile. Others say they've taken on maybe 4 or 5 over the years. Best case seems to be 2 or 3 a year from the slush. They ALL complain there's simply no time to read and respond to everything sent them.

So why do agents even bother reading the slush? From a business perspective, the return on investment doesn't seem to justify the query process. Why does the practice exist, and why does it continue when agents could easily solicit manuscripts from other avenues such as conferences, contests, organizations, etc.?

I'm not sure what the source of your statistics is but they do not jibe with mine. Fully half my clients came over the transom (not literally, although there was that one girl...) and when I started up, more like 85%.

One of the smartest most successful agents I have had the privilege of guzzling sake with says "there's gold in that there pile" and refuses to even use the word "slush". I look at her sales record and I pay attention to what she says.

Every time I talk to Kristin Nelson, another very smart VERY savvy agent, she talks about how she reads her submissions and finds people there.

I question your data and thus your conclusion.

I've found more clients via the transom then I have from contests, and conferences.

The only source that comes close to the transom is referrals. Publishers or editors or clients who gave my name to people who write well provided me about half my client list right now.

Of the last five books I sold, three were from transom clients, two from referral.

Non Fiction proposals

Hi Miss Snark,

I have a handful of technical non-fiction credits to my name, and I'd like to move more into mainstream non-fiction, but I'm not quite sure if the querying differs. For fiction, I understand, you want your manuscript complete, edited, and ready. For non-fiction, which has considerable cost and time requirements, is the process the same? For technical writing, usually a query consists of no more than an outline and pointers to other publications.

With several topics in mind, I don't know if the best use of time is to pick one that I like, and start off on it, or begin querying for interest first.

Querying non fiction is much different. You need to consult some of the very handy books on How to Write Non Fiction Book Proposals. You can find them in your library, or the writing reference section of any bookstore. There are zillions of them. You will have to cough up a sample chapter though; it's not just an outline and a list of competing titles.

Pub Creds...zombie topic

Miss Snark:

Thank you for everything you do for aspiring writers. I have just recently completed my first novel and am preparing my query letter. A couple of years ago I wrote a book of ghost stories for a regional publisher. It is still available and makes me a little royalty check twice a year.

My novel is in a different genre. Should I mention my short story book in the query? Is it important to show that I have been published even if it is very different? I am proud of being published, but the style is not representative of the book I am querying.

Hope I'm not a nit wit!


Of course you mention this! It's earning money, for starters, and that's a persuasive thing in my book. You can write in your query letter exactly what you said here.

And no, you aren't even in the nitwit ballpark, sorry. You'll have to try harder next time.

i tal ya, them i-talics, they undo me

I’ve heard that traditionally any italics in a manuscript should be indicated, instead, with an underline. In this modern day and age with computer programs and all, is that still expected. Or, at the very least, does it indicate unprofessionalism on my part if I persist in using italics since it’s the way I hope to read it one day in published form.

A very small point, I know, and, honestly, I’m not obsessing about it. But, in terms of putting your best foot forward . . .

When you query, use italics.

When your book sells, and you are preparing page proofs, the publisher has a style book and they will tell you what form they use. You'll follow that form, at that time.

My sense is that underlining for italic is formatting from the days of manual typewriters, but like double spaces after periods, that has changed with the arrival of new technology.

The bottom line though is that it won't hurt you even if you get it "wrong". If you write well enough you can send it handwritten on the back of a Sardis napkin and I'll read it. Trouble is, most people who think they write that well, don't and most people who do write that well have invested in paper and a printer.

Agent deshabille

Dear Miss Snark:

I found an agent approximately eight months ago. He was a pleasant chap and we got on smashingly. I had other offers at the time, but I went with this fellow because of his enthusiasm and energy.

Then a few months ago, he tells me his going through a nasty divorce. I hear from him a little less often than I did at first, but when we do chat he has great ideas, gives me good notes, and although a little tamer, he his still confident about finding a place for my book.

A week ago, he takes me out to lunch. He looks like a wreck. He is distracted (understandably) and downright blue. A few times during our meal, I thought he might start bawling. He tells me he his closing his office and will be working out of his apartment. And, that he is letting a good portion of his clients go, "because it's just all too much for me right now." I, however, am one of the ones he wants to keep.

I, however, don't feel good about this. I love the guy, but my gut tells me the next time I hear from him will be a postcard from a nervous breakdown recovery centre.

I'm thinking I've got to cut the cord. Thoughts?

I think there's a lot to be said for loyalty.
I think there's a lot to be said for an agent who, while going through personal trauma, took the time to take you to lunch, explain things, and tell you he's confident he can sell your work.

He may not be in fighting trim right now but you also aren't in the middle of a five way auction either.

Give this some time before you jump ship. See if he gets himself together. There's always time to get your swim fins and bathing costume on, but once you're in the water, there's no getting back on board. Look carefully before you leap.


"no more queries"

QUESTION -- does it seem unseemly for an aspiring novelist to become near-totally unhinged with angry disgust when he sees a major lit agency posting a "sorry-- no more blind queries" note on their website? Maybe I'm inured to such annoyance as that "sorry-- we're too busy" attitude seems common in the movie-writing game, but the friend seemed genuinely bothered. This struck me as odd.

Also-- is it a great deal of trouble having large water-cooler jugs of sloe gin delivered to your workplace? The advantages (especially when suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous dumpth) seem to outweigh any inconvenience. A large "Herradura-on-demand" dispenser seems that sort of thing up behind which I could very much line.

Anyone who gets his or her panties in a wad about "no more queries" is an idiot. Feel free to quote me.

"I insist on querying you" is prima facie evidence of feral ego. People who disregard those announcements are the least likely to be writing something you'd actually make an exception for.

Mostly when agencies say "no queries" it means they won't open them even if you have an SASE. They throw them away, unopened, unread. This sounds to me like the textbook definition of "waste of time". Now, I don't know about you, but I prefer to call up editors looking for projects rather than those who aren't. Silly me I know.

I had to look up Herradura and we don't drink no stinkin' tequila here bucko.
We have a bathtub full of gin. No delivery required. We make it ourselves.

Miss Snark fires up the Stihl

Dear Ms. Snark,

I write a novel, The Jaguar’s Heart, this after writing and selling over a hundred articles and short stories disguised as articles, two children’s books, two TV shows, and more commercials and videos than I want to talk about. On the advice of a well known novelist, and an editor, I write to thriller length, 180,000 words

I go to Southern California Writer’s Conference for a reality check. I read, get spontaneous ovation from a room full of strangers. SCWC editor says, You don’t need me. Send it, you’ll sell it.” I pitch sixteen agents. Get requests for three partials, two fulls, which result in two, “I’ll take it,

First if: “Terrific read, evocative prose, etc, etc... But, it’s set in Mexico and Mexico is all poor people and drug dealers. Publishers don’t like Mexico. I’ll take if you change the setting.”

Second if: “It’s really good, but too long. Nobody wants big books these days. Cut it to 100,000 words and I can sell it muy pronto. Or, make it two books. I can sell both.”

I can’t move the setting. It’s got Aztecs and brujos for Christ's sake. I’m talking to a producer about a film option. He calls it, “Castaneda meets Clancy.”

As a journalist I write to word count, but losing 80,000 words of an 180,000
word novel isn’t a cut, it’s a chainsaw rewrite.

Should I fire up the chainsaw, maybe going for two books? Or keep pitching?

Thanks in advance,

PS Cool blog, except we gotta talk about your taste in booze.

Right now.
No thriller is 180,ooo words and yours doesn't need to be either and I can tell you that without reading it.

The Mexico objection is just stupid. Every agent and most smart publishers know exactly how many people in this country speak Spanish as their first language, and how many US citizens like to vacation in Mexico, retire to Mexico; and understand that Mexico like most countries has a wide variety of people, a substantial middle class, a thriving literary community and oh yea..they buy books.

You can whine about my taste in hooch when you start buying it bucko

French letters

Dear Miss Snark

I am considering sending my three-volume epic for your immediate representation. It's about a poodle that wanders around Europe and Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, wondering about the meaning of life. It's pretty much all told from a foot-high perspective. The question I have is, would you consider drinking only red wine while you're reading it? I have it on good authority the grape is a better guide to good literary taste than the juniper berry. Signed, Pierre Poodle.

Mon cher Pierre,

Quit wining about your ms.


Miss Snark Wants one..hell..TWO of ...


ok, three.

One for me
One for Killer Yapp
One for Grandmother Snark.

and all I can say is: Central Park here we come!

Thanks to CH for the linkage.
Why are you googling "snark" anyway?
Avoiding work my pretty?
(where's my mp3 of the evil cackle??)

Nitwit of the fucking year

Dear Miss Snark, my non fiction is being represented by a lit agent.. I understand she is very busy but while I’m completing the manuscript for project 1, I sent her a query and proposal for my next project – an email that she has totally ignored. I have interpreted her silence as meaning she is not interested (it's been 3 months now with no word from her re project 2) So I have queried other agents and have fifteen asking to see my proposal. Is it considered very bad form to have one agent for one book, another agent for another book? Should I just wait and see if my agent for project 1 is truly disinterested in project 2? Or does this mean that my 2nd project should just die a slow death as I dont want to mess up my relationship with my agent...

too late.

If you were my client, I'd release you this minute. This is the absolute height of nitwittery and you've pretty much shot yourself in the foot six ways to Sunday.

Here's why: you have no idea if your agent even received your proposal. I can't count on both hands, boh feet and Killer Yapp's extra toes the number of times email has gone astray. Spam filters for one. Misstyping an address that doesn't get bounced back for two. General glitches for three.

I lost three months of email once. Mail I'd opened and left in my inbox to deal with later. When the hard drive walked out the door in the hands of a crack head, I lost ALL of that saved email. Ergo I was not able to respond, or even to tell people to resend cause I had no way of tracking it.

NEVER assume someone is ignoring you if they don't respond to email when you have an ongoing business relationship (ie this does not apply to queries). If your agent doesn't respond, you email AGAIN. If no answer then you CALL. If no reply THEN you terminate your relationship with her and query other agents.

At no point in this process are you querying anyone else. I've seen comments in the comment column disagreeing with this rule but they are wrong. This is one of the absolute surest ways for agents to refuse to deal with you NO MATTER HOW GOOD YOUR WRITING.

We don't want clients who are going to fuck us. There are more of you than there are of us. We can find the next you. You're going to have a much harder time finding a top flight agent if you casually mention, oh you're also represented by someone else for another book because NO you don't have two agents for two books at the same time unless they are very different kinds of books and the agents KNOW about it.

You didn't really do this, did you?
You're just yanking my chain?
No one is this nitwittish...are you?

oh please, spare me

Aside from the obvious entertainment and means-to-vent value, don't you
think it's wrong to give all these dolts false hope? Seriously. You could at
least tell them to try revising their faulty query letters and MSS, instead
of just saying "query early and often."

Query "early"?
If I ever said that, please tell me you scented the sardonic dripping.

And who am I to tell someone they are dolts?
There's a LOT of stuff that sells MILLIONS of copies that is complete and utter trash.

I know enough to know that what's not right for me can be just what someone else is looking for.

Don't confuse my ability to point out your nitwittery with the idea I think I know it all. I don't know it all. I just know a helluva lot more than you.

Miss Snark receives a clue

Miss Snark,

Forgive me for quibbling, because I count myself as one of your many fans, but in a recent post you misused the term "begs the question." To "beg the question" is to engage in a specific type of logical fallacy; and logic is taught in the philosophy department . . . where I hang out.

In a phrase, to beg the question is to include one's conclusion in one's premise. And that wasn't what you meant to suggest; what you meant to say was that such-and-such raises the question, or that it "begs" for a particular question to be asked.

Not knowing me and, therefore, having no reason to believe my explanation, please go to any logic or philosophy site on the Net and verify it.

Misuse of this term is a pet peeve of mine, something that drives me totally bonkers, even though it's misused by countless people. I've heard Keith Olbermann make the same error; I've heard Wolf Blitzer, Susan Estrich and Mark Shields do it. In fact, the only journalist I've heard go out of his way to use it properly is Jeff Greenfield.

Again, I admire your column, and apologize if I came off like some crazy purist.

Crazy purists are the guys who have fistfights about why Sean Connery is the "only true James Bond" and why Bach can only be truly appreciated on period instruments.

Telling someone (even Miss Snark) they used a phrase incorrectly is called "editing" here at Snark Central.

Anyway, I looked it up.


And you're right, I'm wrong.

I actually thought it meant that it didn't answer the question but that's a mistake for another day.

Add this one to "dragoon", which turns out not to be a contingent but just one guy.

I'm sure there are others, and dog willing, more to come.

Killer Yapp receives mail


"ciuridaphobia – (n) -- the fear of squirrels, enveloping both the fear of being overrun by squirrels and the compulsion to attack them."

Inform the Snark woman I'm taking that "attack them" comment personally. Me and all my furry, tree-dwelling brethren and sistren in Noo Yawk Sitty. She may have noticed that almost anywhere you go where there's trees, you can see squirrels... or more importantly, they can see you!

We'll be seeing you, Miss Snark. Oh yes, yes we will.

The Squirrel


Be Miss Snark

Hello Miss Snark

Last year I sent my unpublished novel to an agent in N Y.
I was gobsmacked when they said they wanted to represent me. But doubts crept in however, because quite simply, they answered me too soon I felt. within a week. They also wanted money for a critique-$90. Now I know this isn't a great amount, but I was told to steer clear of agents who ask for money.

I then checked, and lo and behold, they are in the worst top twenty agencies.
I approached four other agencies. One didn't answer. One was a simple dear John, and the other two praised the book. One said it was a real page turner, but couldn't represent, which I found strange.

Anyway, I decided to self publish, and i've haven't done too badly.
But let me stress this. No matter what these people say about no agent is better than a bad one. I wish now, I had went with them. It couldn't have been any worse.

I have a sequel finished. Should I approach them again?

Thank you

Here's your chance to offer some well chosen, thoughtful advice. Have at it.

Chain chain chain, chain of fools

Dear Miss Snark,

I thought you'd enjoy the advice Donnell Bell, an RWA Golden Heart finalist, received from her husband. "He said that when we send out queries to agents, we should make it like a chain letter and instruct the agent to send our query to ten more agents, and then have the ten more agents send it to twenty more agents."

Another writer friend suggested we add "forwarding this letter to twenty of your agent friends will bring you twenty years of good luck. However, breaking the chain may bring corresponding years of bad luck".

Donnell said I could use her name, but she's afraid you'll eat her alive. I told her not to worry, you have a sense of humor and will know it's a joke. Um, you do, don't you?

Miss Snark is notoriously humorless of course, but KY appears to be having some sort of beastial laugh riot on the floor.

I think this is a splendid idea.

It begs the question though of what happens when someone actually WANTS your work. Do they sign up for seven years of bad luck by not forwarding it, hoping that you will be able to reverse the curse? And what happens when you get the same letter back? Do you get 40 years of bad luck for breaking the chain then?

Clearly beta testing is needed. I'm pretty sure some of colleagues will step up to the plate to volunteer. Heck it beats being killed 96 times like poor Dan Lazar!

Pancake makeup takes on a whole new meaning

Dear Ms. Snark,

Let's say you're writing a novel (literary suspense) about, oh, let's say a professor of English who discovers a lost novel by Jane Austen. After writing about half of your first draft, you see an ad for a forthcoming literary suspense novel about...a professor of English who discovers a lost novel by Jane Austen. Your first instinct, of course, is to jump in front of a truck. After you settle down, though, you realize (please choose one):

a. It's not the end of the world--you scrap the thing and start a different novel the next day.

b. Plow ahead with your novel--chances are the guy who got there first won't have written a bestseller, and a year from now, when you're querying, most agents won't have heard of the thing. Besides, if one sold, another can sell!

c. Keep writing your novel, but make damn sure you can talk intelligently when you query about why it's different from that piece of Austen crap that came out last year.

d. Go ahead with that truck idea.

Thank you!

Well, as enchanting as the idea of watching you pancake yourself is, here are the options in order-first choice to last- c, b, a, d.

What's the Good Word?

ciuridaphobia – (n) -- the fear of squirrels, enveloping both the fear of being overrun by squirrels and the compulsion to attack them.

clooneyphilia – (n) -- the ongoing and overriding attraction to George Clooney.

clooneysciuridaphiliaphobia – (n) -- the fear that George Clooney likes squirrels (and you'll have to accept everything about that, right down to the Hummel squirrel figurines and concrete garden squirrels that decorate his palazzo).

ensnarkened - (v) – the act of being enlightened by the comments of Miss Snark, esp. crapometer comments.

ihpwssnarkic – (adj) -- under the rule of Snark.

snarkaeology – (n) -- the study of the great Snarks of our dim past, and how these Snarks were used against our dim ancestors.

snarkaholic – (n) -- a snarkling who wants to quit reading Miss Snark and get some damned work done, but reasons, after just this one post...but it never ends at just one.

snarkalicious – (adj) -- that warm, moist feeling in the mouth when reading Miss Snark's advice.

snark and it – (colloq.) -- gin and tonic.

snarkanthropist – (n) -- one who links to Miss Snark on his/her own blog, thus enabling other innocent bloggers to become addicted.

snarkarama – (n) -- term used to describe a well-deserved, some may say vicious, snarking of a clueless nitwit.

snarkaritis - (n) -- a type of RSI which involves constantly trying to post "witty" messages here as a form of social bonding in antidote to working in such a lonely profession. And to avoid having to do any real work, obviously.

snarkasm - (n) -- a) the berating of the clue-free using witty repartee and nitwitticism to hilarious result. Snarkasm may require a beverage warning label; b) The explosive joy one feels when the anticipation of reading MS's blog is realized.

snark-attack – (n) -- unexpected loss of a limb due to cluestick activity while swimming in cloudy or unfamiliar waters.

snarkcoma – (n) -- what a writer falls into after too much blog reading, especially common during crapometer time periods.

snarkelation – (n) -- euphoria induced by finding positive comments by Miss Snark on one's crapometer/contest entry.

snarkeling – (v) -- the act of putting on a websuit and diving into the cold pool of the collective webconscious, while being kept alert and alive by the stream of fresh air provided through one’s snarkel.

snarkeology – (n) -- the act of digging through the snarkives for a solution to one's most recent act of nitwittery.

snark extinguisher – (n) -- what MS has on hand always, to be used only in case of follicle ignition (see also: hair on fire).

snarkginitis – (n) -- the disease associated with reading very poorly written query letters, which requires large amounts of gin.

snarkian – (adj) -- of or relating to Miss Snark and/or her blog.

snarkinac – (n) -- contains the only known maps of Rabbitania and its suburbs. Also contains maps and blueprints (and alarm system codes) to Clooney's house.

snarkination! – (exc) -- an expletive spewed out over the keyboard when one realizes one has typed nitwittery.

snarkisms – (n) -– funny; e.g, an epileptic with a sleeping disorder, see snarkilepsy/snarkolepsy, not so funny.

snarkissistic - (adj) -- the state of being in love with Miss Snark, applies to all Snarklings and Mr. Clooney (!)

snarkitania - (n) -- the state where Miss S rules, where stilettos and gin are mandatory, Killer Yapp reigns as viceroy, and Mr C is a demigod. Not to be confused with Rabbitania, a whole 'nother country.

snarkite – (n) –- a follower of all things Snark.

snarkjection – (n) -- what I received in response to my query.

snarkocity – (n) – 1) the state of being Miss Snark; 2) the act of attempting to emulate Miss Snark; 3) the place where Snarklings hold their conventions.

snarkodelic – (adj) -- an author's mental state characterized by distorted perceptions along with hallucinations and feelings of euphoria and despair while attempting to adhere to guidelines established by literary agents in stilettos carrying small white dogs.

snarkogeddon – (n) -- the cleansing of the Snark email box.

snarkology – (n) --study of the snarkives.

snarkophagy - (v) -- the act of feeding on Snarkisms and/or Snarkasm (see above) for agent wisdom and knowledge.

snarkophagus – (n) -- where memorable nitwits are entombed forever in the snarkives (alt) - stone coffin in which one's literary career is entombed after once too often arousing the ire of Miss Snark.

snarkophant – (n) -- one who sucks up to Miss Snark in order to get something from her.

snarkophile – (n) -- a snarkling who visits writer's forums and offers advice, but every one of their posts starts with, "Well, according to Miss Snark..." (alt) one who adores Miss Snark because of her innate deity and snarkiness.

snarkophobia – (n) -- fear of literary agents in stilettos carrying small white dogs.

snarkotic - (n) –- a) a soothing, positive reply posted on Miss Snark's blog. 2. A short phrase meant to sharpen the senses of a writer in a non-productive, dream-like state, often requiring the addition of one or more ounces of gin. (adj) -- pertaining to, or resulting from exposure to a snarkotic, e.g., The author was in a snarkotic trance after winning the IOL contest.

snark-plug – (n) -- essential component in the firing mechanism of a clue gun

snarkspeak – (n) -- the distinctive jargon of snarklings and snarkophiles, which includes terms such as "nitwit" and acronyms such as "wtf?"

snarktasy – (n) -- what occurs after Mr. Clooney arrives at Miss Snark's lair.

snarky – (adj) -- setting free your inner Miss Snark when dealing with the nitwits you encounter in real life. Alternatively, as I recently discovered, British slang for being testy or irritable; short.

snarquery – (n) – a query that has much improved thanks to the expert advice of Miss Snark.

stilettosnark – (n) -- scar left on hapless authors who expose their nitwittery to Miss Snark.

WTS - (excl) -- "What the Snark?" the exclamation uttered when a (different) agent does something you cannot fathom.

Yappbiteitis – (n) - the act of having Miss Snark sic Killer Yapp on those who have offended or bored her.

compiled from comments column by Termagant 2
(who should be doing something called WRITING!!!)
but never mind that now; Thank You.

Yes, you can learn from this nitwit

Hey Miss Snark,

My name is Legion and I work at BigHairyPublisher. I was visiting your website today, and I was curious to see if you forward me your physical mailing address. I’m interested in sending you a copy of a new book we’re publishing called (redacted so the poor author doesn't get hit by stray clue pellets) young (type of book) writer. The book is (description) Please reply with your mailing address to let me know if you would like me to send you a copy. I look forward to hearing what you think!

All best,


First, let's be clear about this: I don't review books. I don't accept comp copies of books. I don't talk about books other than ones a real live reader has told me about or one I found on my own.

Second, I know this is a form letter and all, but it's also a waste of your time. Publicists have to balance their amount of (very) limited time, against how much research they need to do on placements all the time.

The trick is, do the research at least once. I wouldn't gripe at all if you offered to send me a book (even if I wasn't interested) if I reviewed books, but I don't review books at all. You'd know that if you'd even skimmed the postings for a week.

I know it doesn't cost you anything to add my name to the bcc list of bloggers you send stuff to. Fine and dandy, no problemo, fire away, I stand ready at the delete key.

Here's the important part though- if you are an author, pay attention: this is what publishers call reaching out to blogs and you can see it's ineffective as hell.

Learn from that. If you read blogs, start paying attention to the ones who mention books and review books.

Keep good notes.

When your book is ready to launch, here's what YOU email to me:

Dear Miss Snark,

I've noticed you read a lot of mysteries on your Library Thing blog roll listing. I have a new mystery coming in Summer 2007 (Publisher). Here's the link to the Powells listing. (in other words watch for what books get mentioned and look for why your book will match her interests)

I've also noticed you are enchanted with Lee Child as I am. He was gracious enough to provide a blurb. "Blurb". (obviously this is best if you find a Lee Child fan but really, blurbs are good)

DorothyL readers have commented the book is "this" "that and "the other".

I notice you didn't include a way to send books to you on your bio. If you don't like to receive books, darn, cause I'd like to send you mine, but if you do like to get them and let me know your mailing address and I'd be glad to send one to you.

Miss Snark, thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours truly,
The Butler who Did It

This is what YOU do and you start researching NOW.

Publicists do not have enough time to do this outreach effectively. You do. Do it.

Clue Wand!!

Dear Miss Snark,

I finished my first novel recently and have started querying agents. Here's the problem: my novel is a character driven thriller that just happens to have a time machine in it. There are two pages of outlandish explanation as to how the damn thing works and 348 pages of murder, snark, and sex. Am I doing the right thing querying agents who handle thrillers/suspense? Is a time machine an automatic big red X even if it's not science fiction? Should I maybe fail to mention the time travel aspect until they're knee deep in the middle of my exciting query letter?

Please help me get my sea legs, here. I'm trying so hard to get things right.

Query EVERYONE. SF, Mystery, heck query Dan Lazar and tell him he's lucky he's not dead in this one.

You don't have to have one query letter for everyone. For mystery focused agents such as moi, you emphasize the mystery. For SF agents, you emphasize the sf elements.

No one is getting huffy about genre much these days. Only purists do that and those guys are boring.

I happen to think cross genre stuff is very hot right now so I've actually (don't faint) read things that reallio trulio should be in the SF shelf but I call them mysteries, so there.


You again

There was a time when I was taught to avoid first person at all costs (or at least know that it's much more difficult to write and to sell, and be prepared to work hard to get it right, and work harder to find an agent and/or publisher).

Has that changed?

You get the oddest emails some days. Some days you wonder if writers sit around in cyber cafes and dream up questions with cogent sentences, and understandable words, yet still make no sense whatsoever. You retire to your couch and pour the first of what is sure to be many gins. You gaze at your poodle who dons a sombrero, fetches his custom made ukelele and serendes you with "I I I I, I'm the First Person Bandito".



(snär'kə-lěp'sē) n.
Neurological disorder characterized by sudden recurring attacks of motor, sensory, or psychic malfunction with or without loss of consciousness or convulsive seizures. Brought on by the bludgeoning force of Miss Snark's Clue Bat.

Not to be confused with:


(snär'kə-lěp'sē) n.
A disorder characterized by sudden and uncontrollable attacks of deep sleep, sometimes accompanied by paralysis and hallucinations. Brought on by hours of sifting through the slush pile and dealing with nitwits. Symptoms are often acute during Crapometer season.
contributor: Sharon W-B!!

Email me your contribution to the Snarksaurus!

double engendres

Dear Miss Snark,

I can’t get this whole “genre” thing straight in my mind. I know “genri” is a general truth or law, “genial” is warm and cheerful, “gentle” is soft and subdued, “genual” is the knee, a “genie” lives in a bottle, a “Gentile” is anybody not Jewish, a “gendarme” is a French cop, and a “general” is an officer in the army.

I’m sure you’ll agree that’s all very straightforward stuff. But here’s where my brain gets twisted in a knot. I just finished reading a book about a non-Jewish French cop dating a warm and cheery Jewish senior army officer, with the understanding that religious law precluded their marrying, and when they walked on the beach one day they knelt to pick up a bottle, and a soft and subdued supernatural creature popped out.

Does this book fall into the Gentile gendarme genial general genri genual gentle genie genre?

sui generis

Greetings to...whom??

My first round of queries to several well-known agents resulted in positive responses from their assistants.

The responses were essentially the same: "Joe Agent would be delighted to read your manuscript. Please sent it to the address below and we'll read it as soon as possible. Signed, John Assistant."

This may be a stupid question, but do I address the package and cover letter to the assistant or to the agent? I figure I should start the cover letter with a "Per John Assistant's email, I am submitting... Blah blah blah" so it doesn't get tossed in the trash or whatever... but I know how assistants in my line of work react when they think they're being dismissed by someone as
just being "the assistant."

What's the proper protocol? Does it even matter?

Well, it probably doesn't matter, but that doesn't mean you won't obsess about this.

I actually have this happen too. I'll call up the estimable Liz Scheir to pitch my fabulous new find "Space Ark" only to end up talking to her overworked and underpaid but deeply appreciated assistant Felix Buttonweazer. Felix, clever lad that he is, says "send it over".

My cover letter to Liz says "Dear Liz, I was glad to hear of your interest in Space Ark from Felix Buttonweazer on Thursday. Herewith. Send check. Love, Snarkles".

So, the short answer is you address it to the agent on the envelope and on the salutation but you reference the conversation or email exchange with the actual person you communicated with.

Out of order chapters

Dear Miss Snark,

When sending sample chapters with a query, is it acceptable to send non-consecutive chapters if an agent hasn't posted a rule stating otherwise?

My concern is that while chapters 1-3 of my comic novel are funny, they're not representative of the full-tilt depraved craziness that kicks in around page 50.

Instead of sending chapters 1-3, could I send chapters 1 & 2, then, say, sexy chapter 10 with a small bridge paragraph preceding it?


This kind of thing makes me NUTS. If I get stupid ass shit like this I STOP READING at chapter 2.

First, if you're any kind of writer, I won't know what the HELL is going on in chapter 10 if I haven't read 3-9. If I CAN understand chapter 10 you might consider writing for Days of Our Hives or other soapy formats.

Second, oh there is no second, just do not do this.


Your name in bytes

Dear Miss Snark,

Recently I came across an agency web site that included a page of short bios and photos of all their clients. The strange part was that several of the authors listed were not yet published. The titles of their novels were included with “out on submission” in parentheses, or something to that effect. And yes, this is a legitimate, albeit relatively green, agency.

Is it me, or is this outside the box? Personally, I would not want to be listed among clients on an agent’s page until my first book sold.

What is your opinion?

Well, I don't do that but it's also not the imminent arrival of the antichrist. And thinking outside the box isn't my idea of a bad thing either. I'm constantly kicking people in the keister to think of new ways to promote clients and projects. I have specially honed cowgirl boots and rollerskates for just such motivational talks.


Fools, and angels rushing, fearing, treading

A new site that reviews POD books!

I'll be interested to see how it goes.

I thought you liked me!

Dear Miss Snark,

I've been reading your blog for a while so I do know that if I assume that my writing doesn't suck then 1) I must follow agents' directions, 2) query widely and 3) not take rejections personally. I understand that publishing is a business so could you give me the business reasons why an agent would reject what is an "engaging novel" with "believable characters" and a "relatable plot". (These quotes are from my various rejections letters.) Isn't that what sells these days?

You cannot parse out the reason for no or you will go crazy.
It's a one way ticket to the loony bin, not to Clooney &Gin and that's not where you want to be.

Keep querying.


Dear Miss Snark,

I sent out a query letter for my novel to an agent who, incredibly, replied the same day and asked for five pages. I happily agreed to send them, only to receive a rejection letter a few hours later because the story didn't draw her in as much as she had hoped. Since she's one of only two people who've requested to see more pages, I thought long and hard on the subject, and decided that I could drastically change the opening pages to make them more action-picked and more to the point.

My question is, would it be improper to requery this agent? She showed initial interest, and one would only hope that she might be interested if there were some changes to what originally didn't compel her. Just curious if I burned that bridge.

Do not re-query, particularly not this soon.
There are MANY agents. Give the others a chance.

There are ways that agents indicate they want to see re-writes, re-drafts, or re-submits and "sorry not for me" isn't one of them.

Way to Go!

Richly deserved, warmest wishes to our very own Orion.

Here's why


Gift novellas

Hey, Miss Snark.

Hope you're having a good weekend.
(yea, nothing much going on really)

Every year for Christmas, my friends and I each write a cute little novella and give them to each other as gifts. They're not the greatest things in the world, and none of us have any grand designs on selling these puppies. They're just for fun, for us to stay connected over the years.

The other day, my friend Nan (Talese?) suggested maybe we could self-publish them through Lulu.com, not to sell to the masses, but because a 6x9 hardcover on a shelf would look a whole helluva lot better than, say, 200 manuscript pages in a three-ring binder (like we did last year). Personally, I like the idea. It's cute. It's personal. And I know - as well as they - that it is NOT a publishing cred, and not something that should be listed on a resume, christmas newsletter, query, love letter to KY, etc. So...

Is there any way it could bite me in the ass, should I decide to go along with it?

Is this something I need to discuss with my agent, even given those circumstances?
Where's the line between my business and your business?

Yes, just to keep her in the loop; and
Dunno..what's your business? Taxi dancer in a waterfront dive bar?? I thought I had the exclusive on that!

This is fine as long as you don't slap an ISBN on it or sell it. And even if you do, you're probably ok. This is a bit like the thing Otto Penzler does at Christmas time. It's just for fun for friends and they become collectors items when you're Lee Child.

Spring Cleaning at the mailbox

286 people got a form email saying sayonara snarklings.
I've hosed out the email box in honor of spring.
If you sent a question it's either answered or deleted, I'm not holding anything in the pen right now.

Dan'd if you

The question now is, does #170 mention in query letter to Dan Lazar, “Winner, Miss Snark Idols of March Writing Contest?” Form rejection or request for partial?

You'll be lucky if Mr. Lazar doesn't request a full restraining order!

Just FYI for the totally cluefree: the IOM is not a writing or publishing credit. Don't mention it on anything you want taken seriously. This was a fun game but that's all.