It's just words

You've given yourself a challenge when you decide to write a book.

I think it's the art form that looks easiest. After all "it's just words"; how hard can it be. That very simplicity is the challenge. It's just words. No pictures, no sound, no costumes, no actors, no musicians, no frame in a gallery, no special effects wizards at Lucasfilm to build on your artistry to make it complete. Just words.

Every time you read one of my posts about nitwiticisms, or I sound cranky as hell, remember, I would not have a job doing work I love were it not for you.

We, the non-writer people of publishing, don't say that often enough. We certainly add value. We certainly help you. In the end however, this entire industry is an upside down triangle and the point we all balance on is your writing.

We need your words, and we need you to write them. Don't ever forget that.

10 Nitwiticisms

1. Not putting "synopsis" somewhere near the top of the page of...the synopsis. I don't ever ask for a synopsis so the fact you sent it in a query letter is stupid in and of itself, but whatthehell, I can get over that.

But, I start reading and it sounds like an FBI briefing, so I thumb through the pages and sure enough...chapter one is three pages into this mess. Do I have to explain why this is first stage nitwittery?

2. Opening with people sleeping, dreaming, watching tv, reading, blogging or otherwise doing static things is the EZPass lane to the "sorry not right for me" Crosspatch Expressway.

3. Opening your query letter by quoting the first page of your manuscript; a page you've enclosed. Why this is stupid should be obvious.

4. Writing "I fixed the six typos you marked on page one so here's my revised query". I marked those because I needed to do one good deed before close of business on Friday NOT cause it was the only reason I said no.

Don't requery unless invited. DO NOT. The way you can tell if I want to hear from you again about this project is: requery when/resubmit/send again after revisions. The way you can tell I want you to hear from you on OTHER things is: keep me in mind for other things. EVERYTHING else is just trying to make you less of a nitwit in your queries to OTHER agents.

5. Pictographs on your query letter- aka inkwells, pens, tablets, open books, or dog forbid, the authoress herself looking pensive --this is a 100% reliable indicator of bad writing. Why? Cause the writer is so busy announcing "I'm a writer" they forget the words are what count.

I don't care if you think it's cute or sweet or your ancient grandmama designed it, take it OFF your business correspondence. There is rampant prejudice against pictographs and you do yourself no favors by thinking we don't notice.

You might say "Miss Snark, you yourself said, 'write well; that's all that counts'" and that is in fact true. I did say that. But when I see those stupid fluffy Rabbitania rejects I expect stupid writing. I was not born thinking this. I have learned this. It's the same reason you do not sit next to the loudmouth at conferences--guilt by association. Don't excoriate me for this appalling prejudice---know it and deal with it.

6. Write your address in felt tip marker on the SASE. Despite all my yapping I do not actually keep a pail of gin on my desk. I do however keep coffee, water, and a vase of flowers. Sometimes those containers fall over--earthquakes; Mr. Clooney sightings; Killer Yapp fleeing the scene of the crime; wayward colleagues trying to steal MJ Rose's ARC of The Reincarnationist; the usual. You address your envelope in green ink and you may never see it again when the address dissolves under a wet paw print either canine, human or agent.

7. International reply coupons. Don't even get me started. Don't waste your time. These require me to go to the post office and stand in line. Not gonna happen. Not now, not ever. Never in fact. Ever. Either buy US stamps or query people who take equeries. I throw these out. I read the queries, and if I want more I email, but if I don't, I don't reply. Save your money. If you're writing from the far side of the moon, just put your damn email address in the query letter rather than include one of these.

8. When you quote an editor from a publishing house that takes unagented work, I know you're quoting a rejection letter. Don't do this. I don't care if the editor said "this is the niftiest novel since Carolyn Keene put Nancy Drew in a roadster with Ned Nickerson tied to the rumble seat". What the editor did not say is "and I'll be making an offer". If I can't figure this out I'm an idiot and why would you want me for your agent?

9. Do not call my office to ask if you can send a query letter. Do not stammer "oh I expected to get voice mail" when I answer at 9pm on Saturday night. Did you think I was going to call you back on Monday? No. I'm not. Neither is any other agent, ever. That doesn't mean you can't query me. You don't need an invitation. Just do it.

10. 8 point single spaced sample pages. Not now, not ever. Never. Discarded unread. No SASE. What a fucking waste of your time and money.

Show don't tell

Ok, get out your query letter.
Print it out if you're querying electronically.
Set it down here in front of you by the keyboard.

Now, read along with me.
Find the spot where it says "my novel is"
if the next word is "about" skip to the next place you find "my novel is".

What we want is the place where you're telling me about your novel.

Here are the things that should follow "my novel is"
1. word count
2. genre
3. finished.

Does yours say anything like "charming fluffy funny piquant hot sexy cool"?

Take it out.
Strip it out right now.

If you're telling me you're cool, you aren't.

That's just a fact.
You know it too if you think about it.
The people you want to work with are rarely the people who tell you how easy they are to work with.
The ones who make a point of telling you how busy they are aren't so busy they can't stop to tell you how busy and overworked they are.

Same with your query letter.
SHOW ME you're cool.
Show me you're hot.
Show me you're sexy (pictures are not involved here)

The truth is I've learned in my perambulations through the query letter heap o'love that the people who tell me what their novel "is" are most often wrong. The people who can SHOW me get my attention.

I'm pretty sure which one of those you want to be.

More on category

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm often recognized as Satan's sister, so I feel that a question to my brother's agent isn't too far out of line.

If the description in a query letter reads: It's the story of a selfish, but sympathetic, younger woman married to an older stodgy man who meets a handsome young officer, falls madly in love, and runs away with him--would that be mainstream or romance? Because actually it can describe (albeit badly) anything from Anna Karenina to an episode of Desperate Housewives.

So in categorizing a novel that's mainstream, but whose description shortened to fit a nutshell (no insult to agents intended) sounds like a romance, how does one go about it?

This is neither mainstream nor romance; it's boring.
Tone, language, pace and word choice tell me more about category (and your writing strength) than all those slacker nouns and flabby adjectives.

"Chic Central Park poodle collides with overbearing, snotty and yet oddly enticing puggle on the downtown B train to Barkville" is a romance.

If you can't see why that's a romance, you need to read more, and think about how you talk about your writing.

"Killer Yapp is alone. Frantically searching the six thousand stiletto heels on Central Park West at rush hour, can Killer Yapp find the only two that can save him from evil Dog Catcher of Central Park?"

That's a thriller.

Use the language, tone and pacing to convey what your work is. If you're not setting out to write a romance novel, don't call it that.

When is enough?

Dear Oh-So-Wise Miss Snark:

How many agent rejections (based on partials or full ms, not queries) should a person receive before they stop banging their head against the wall?

I know one could persist forever, hoping that the rejectors all just wrong -- and who knows, maybe they are -- but when would a more rational person stop?


If you're getting form letter rejections of full and partials, you need fresh eyes. Time for some beta readers with teeth.

If you're getting personal letters, and phone calls and liveried footmen delivering engraved calling cards that say "I love your writing but this particular book isn't for me" you're on the right path.

Idiot agents

Dear Miss Snark:

As a faithful and (hopefully!) not-nitwitty reader of your blog, I abide by, nay, cherish your advice. First and foremost: Follow the Damn Directions.

So: today I received from Agent, in my own SASE no less, the following directions (and I quote verbatim): "Please feel free to pass along a larger chunk of your manuscript, [name]."

I initially sent (as per directions!) a query and 3 chapters.

How much more is "a larger chunk"? Not the rest, or Agent would have said so, right? So, 4 more chapters? 6 more? I was tempted to send the rest but knew I should consult you first. I only seek clarity.

After all my yapping about following the directions this just takes the cake for unclear directions.

Send half the novel. That's just a random number but since she didn't ask for a full, or "all", your guess is as good as mine.



Not quite nitwittery cause you didn't DO it

Finally a solution for all of my friends who have decided that the pen really is mightier than the sword....This can be used in anger, burnt or pinned up on the wall along with all of your rejection letters... Not that I am jaded, just wanting to vent and had a great time writing this. Hope you are having a splendid day.

Dear Agent X,

Thank you for posting a web site announcing that you are now accepting queries in the following categories: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Childrens, Young Adult, Everything in-between and Non-Fiction. As you may already know, I am very selective about the agents I choose to query. My projects take up lots of my time, make me sweat, drink heavily and often have me considering the state mental facility as my next home. I have ignored family, friends and chosen a solitary state of mind (other than the voices that speak to me) in order to write the novel that I should be sending you.

As you might guess, this leaves me very little time to go through agent listings and I must seek out the brightest, most tenacious and best looking agents that I can possibly find on the internet. Plus, your website must be spectacular in order to catch my attention.

In your case, I must say, although you have piqued my interest with your website and the list of clients you have posted, I have to take a pass. Even though I am choosing not to query you at this time, this does not mean you're not good enough, or not even a real human being, it just means you are not on my personal "A" list of agents. So carry on with your work, as I am sure you will find a best seller among the slush pile that is probably propping up the door to your office.

Please feel free to query me regarding my works after I have made the NY Times Best Seller List or you can take a look at a sample of my works on the website: www.fatchance.comma

Thank you for not sending me hate mail,

Ms. Anonymous Jaded Writer

I'd have thought this was a joke if I hadn't gotten a couple like them in the mail.

Do you honest to dog think I don't get rejection letters? I get more in a month than you do in a year. I can get 12-15 rejections on novels and double that on non-fiction. That's for EACH project, and I have 25 active clients right now.

And before you get your feathers in a fluff and start twittering about how I should know who's the perfect editor for every project when I try to sell it, let's all remember that I DO know these editors and this IS the stuff they buy. Just not this.

One of the biggest hurdles you need to get over is not taking this personally. It CANT be personal: I do not KNOW you. If anyone could take rejection personally it's me: I DO know these editors; they are the ones I see at conferences, sit on panels with, go to lunch with, and pitch again on other things. They do know me. It's still not personal.

Get over yourself.

3 Things You Did Today That Scream "Don't Take Me Seriously"

1. Colored paper. When was the last time you received a serious business letter on colored paper? I'm not talking ivory, beige or jellyfishbelly white either. This color could be pea soup but more it's more charitibly called shale. It's stupid to do this. Don't.

2. Telling me your novel is really about teaching people about something. This is a kiss of death as far as I'm concerned. Sales wise it's a non starter. People buy novels for the stories. If they learn something, it's cause you wrote a compelling story. I get so turned off by "this novel will help people understand the joys of Rabbitania" that I barely skim the pages. That means you have to have BLISTERING good writing to survive the slush. Give your writing a fighting chance. Don't saddle it with a teaching credential.

3. Right hand justified margins and page layout to make it "look like a book". I read books; I know what they look like. This isn't a book, it's sample pages. There is a universal industry standard for ragged right margins on manuscript pages.

Stop wasting your time

Hi, Miss Snark.

I've become a crazed MySpacer. I'm hoping Silicon Valley will soon develop some kind of vaccine, because I'm not getting a lot of real work done.

I'm running short of ideas on what to blog about. What are your thoughts on unpublished bloggers posting intimate details of rejections from agents/editors? I can see that sharing this info might be inspiring to other writers.

But from an agent's point of view, is it the kind of thing you'd want to see on a prospective client's site? And what about posting a blurb or chapters of unpublished work - silly or savvy?

Since when is it your job to be inspiring to other writers?
Your job is to write.
Unplug the damn internet and get to work.
If you need to buy another computer that doesn't actually hook up to the net, do it.
Blogging is not writing.
Looking at MySpace is not writing.
Friending on MySpace is not writing.
Posting chapters and feverishly checking for comments, then obsessing about comments, and parsing out the hidden meaning of comments like "this blog is great. Have you enlarged your penis yet? Here's my blog that tells you how" is not writing.
Checking site meter stats to see if anyone from NYC is reading your blog is not writing.

There's a lot to be said for sitting down with your ownself and writing. Nothing, literally NOTHING replaces that. Focus. You're wasting time.

And don't post your work on the web. It's not silly or savvy. It's pointless.


Reality is not your friend

Dear Miss Snark,

This may be somewhat out of your purview, but I need your snarkiness right now.

What does one do when a terrible writer (sentimental claptrap!) gets appointed to a prestigious post, the holders of which are supposed to be chosen for their writing? There are lots of other talented writers who must have been considered for this post (I am not among them, so this is not a question of sour grapes), but this person was chosen. She schmoozes well, writes poorly, and publishes rarely.

How does one cope when things that are supposed to be about writing end up being about dog knows what instead?? I'm wishing I could jump off a bridge or drown myself in a pail of gin.

Reality bites, doesn't it?
It's never about the writing on stuff like this. Like Oscar isn't always about which movie was best. I mean really "Dances With Wolves" beat out "GoodFellas"??

Suck it up. Practice smiling pleasantly and saying "Yes, I hear hell is freezing over, I must go sharpen my skates".

Translation please

Dear Miss Snark,

An editor at a mammoth university press in my home state requested a non-fiction book proposal from me after I wrote an article about an unsolved crime. I submitted the proposal and was told it has "much in house support" and that it is now up for "contract approval" at their next editorial board meeting.

What does that even mean? I'm not represented by an agent and was never offered any contract.

Think of it as "we're going to the editorial board to get approval on making you an offer".

And do NOT NOT NOT sign this without having a contract review specialist or a LITERARY lawyer look at it. If you need a name, email me and I'll give you one.


Dear Miss Snark,

How does a writer know if he / she is any good?

You don't. And it doesn't matter. "Good" is a term we throw around a lot but it's meaningless mostly.

I always say write well, but that's just to get out of the slush pile and to get you to quit obsessing about margins and times new roman. What I look for is work I can sell. Mostly that's "good" but not always.

If you really have no sense of whether your work is lucid, clear, compelling or cogent and persuasive take a writing class. First, it's fun, and second, most colleges have writing labs where you can take your term papers or essays and some poverty stricken graduate student will snark you into improving. I learned a LOT about good writing in undergraduate school from those guys.

Lots of the commenters will suggest a crit group:
A critique group is only as good as the people in it, and you'd be surprised how much crap comes out of crit groups. I got a huffy letter from querier once (back in the days of trying to be helpful---long gone I assure you) telling me my advice to seek out a crit group was clearly stupid cause she'd been in one for years. I got a good laugh from that. If you're in a crit group and people tell you need a crit group after they see your writing, you need a new group.

If you need to hone your sense of good writing, cause the best way to know what's good is to read good stuff, read the ALA's good books. Forget those idiotic best seller lists, go for the librarian list everytime. And of course, read all the books that Miss Snark tells you too.

And then of course, when you're brave, Elektra stands ready at the Crapometer Annex.

Editorial obligation to nitwits

Dear Miss Snark:

I'm a sometimes freelance editor, and I've been working with a client to polish a nonfiction book. At first I thought she wanted to spruce it up before submitting it anywhere. Then, after the work was well underway, I learned that she already had a publisher -- her exact words were, "I already paid them and everything!" The POD press had asked her to get the work professionally edited before sending it to them for printing.

What I'm wondering is, am I complicit in ripping this woman off? I'm not affiliated with the publisher, so they're not scamming her on editing services, and I know that POD doesn't necessarily equal skulduggery, but the problem is that my client believes that she's been accepted for publication because the editors truly believe in her work and her mission, and that this book is going to make her fortune for her.

I doubt enlightening her would do any good, since she's already paid them -- and, frankly, because she's completely batty (though a fine client) -- so I guess I'm just wondering what you think.

First, you are not complicit in ripping her off. You're doing the work she's paying you to do, and we'll assume for the sake of pleasant discussion you're not making the manuscript worse on purpose or anything.

She hasn't asked your advice or opinion. She's not in imminent peril (and please let's all agree POD won't actually kill you). Those are the two times when you're obliged to speak up.

It's clear you think she leaped before she looked. The world is full of people like that. There's a reason AuthorHouse makes money and it's not cause they're selling books in bookstores.

The information is easily available for anyone who googles the words "how to get published". In fact the first four things that pop up, after the sponsored ads are pretty good sources of info. It's not your responsibility to save her from her own nitwittery.

Killer Yapp is not amused

I'm not sure if this is going to be as funny tomorrow morning as it is now, but I'm on the floor laughing.

This is just hilarious.
The best part however is the comment section.
"Is it flammable".
Dear dog.


The Next Harry Potter

Dear Miss Snark,

Your advance copy of the MJ Rose book makes me wonder.

Being that you’re in the publishing world, you could perhaps answer a trivia question that keeps some of us awake at nights. Along with the rest of the known universe, I’m waiting for the last Harry Potter book. I know this is a book release like no other. I’m curious how all the mechanics for the Harry Potter releases work, without ANYONE ANYWHERE getting hold of an advance copy. All those bookstores, all those UPS drivers, all those people who work at printing presses, all those mysterious warehouses where books are kept… and NO ONE gets a copy out early? The mind boggles. Please elucidate, from your perch on the inside of the publishing biz.

Lounging Labrador sends her regards and many pawprints of spring garden mulch to Killer Yapp. (Killer Yapp will send the dry cleaning bill for his muddied up Burberry rain vest)

You mean you want to read this copy of Harry Potter here on my desk?


Ok, enough screaming, I'm only joking.

First, the books come in big ol boxes with strapping tape, then shrinkwrapped and palletized. It's not like there's just one in a manila mailing envelope. There are truckloads.

And yes, of course, the copies will be all over town soon enough. It doesn't matter though, cause the fun of this is the waiting, and the excitement and being in line on the first day.

Those smug snots who say "oh I've read it already, Mummy's secretary had it messengered over" are not people you want to know. It's no fun to know first, cause you have no one to share the juicy fun details with. And NO ONE wants to have you spoil the surprise.

But yes, there are copies. We just don't tell you about it.

Yea, this works

How To Write A Query in 40 Simple Steps
by C.J. Redwine

1. Pour yourself a small glass of gin & tonic.

2. Sip slowly, savoring the taste, as you carefully list your novel's main characters and conflicts.

3. Struggle to label your work with the appropriate genre.

4. Pour more gin and tonic to boost brain power.

5. Craft a first sentence that both grabs the reader's attention and conveys the essence of your novel.

6. Re-read first sentence.

7. Acknowledge that first sentence is absolute horse-s*** and delete the entire thing.

8. Pour more gin and tonic, minus the tonic.

9. Skip first sentence and dive into character descriptions.

10. Re-read character descriptions.

11. Acknowledge that character descriptions cannot be three paragraphs each and delete all but a few sentences.

12. Drain gin bottle.

13. Toss in a few sentences describing the conflict.

14. Re-read sentences describing conflict.

15. Acknowledge that the conflict sounds rather weak.

16. Toss in a conflict that isn't actually in the novel but could be, if the agent asks for a partial.

17. Wander to the kitchen for more gin.

18. Wonder who the hell put that wall in your way.

19. Return to desk.

20. Re-read query.

21. Drink two swallows of gin straight from the bottle.

22. Decide that "I have a fiction novel that totally kicks Dean Koontz's sorry ass" is an acceptable first sentence.

23. Study the problem of deciding on a genre.

24. Take a few swallows of gin for fortification.

25. Realize you now see two keyboards on your desk instead of one. Choose which one to use.

26. Type madly for thirty seconds before realizing you are simply banging on your desk.

27. Swallow some gin and choose the other keyboard.

28. Decide that literary-paranormal-romantic-suspense-thriller-with-historical-sci-fi-elements is an acceptable genre for your novel.

29. Re-read query.

30. Insert adverbs generously and prolifically throughout to spice up the prose.

31. Print.

32. Spend five minutes cursing the foul beast of a computer for refusing such a simple request.

33. Turn printer on.

34. Print.

35. Sign name.

36. Realize you've misspelled your name.

37. Curse the gin.

38. Apologize to the gin.

39. Re-print, re-sign, seal in an envelope.

40. Send query.

Is there phone service in the afterlife?

Miss Snark--Help! my agent is an industry veteran. he won't tell me whether my novel has been submitted to publishers yet. He ignores my emails asking the information. What should I do?

Check Vital Records. Maybe he's dead.

Make friends with the assistant.

No assistant?
Make friends with someone else in the office.

Solo practitioner?
Time to get on the horn and give this guy a call.

You don't mention how long this has been going on.
Anything less than a month and the real answer is sit on your hands.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition

Miss Snark,

I am finishing my first book, as yet to be published. (Looking for an agent.) As I started on this book right out of the gate, I have no credits for magazine articles, etc. I am in the process of writing some devotionals and I was wondering if I can use two or three sentences from my book in the devotionals, or should I rewrite them? If I used them as is, how would this affect the rights for the book?

You can use your own work in devotionals. You own the copyright, and you can "give permission". If you get all nasty and cantankerous with yourself about permission fees, email me and I'll negotiate with your obstreperous self for a good deal from your nice self.

It doesn't affect the status of your rights in terms of a book sale at all.

If you published a big chunk of your book it might but most book publishers don't care much about that. (Magazine publishers and ebook publishers are a different story).

One of us, as were they all

Jamie Bishop, son of author Michael Bishop, is among the dead in Virginia.

As powerful as words are, as much as they can do, they fail me now.

This is the unbearable which must be borne.


Drive by James Sallis

How I missed reading this guy I do not know.
Drive by James Sallis is simply amazing.
Read it.
Then read it again.

If you don't admire this book, quit reading my blog.


This week's New Yorker has a piece on Don Imus. The hook for the story is Imus v Imus, a "bracketing" put together by Richard Sandomir to entice Imus to be in his book The Enlightened Bracketologist.

The NYer article describes Imus as a curmudgeon, and rightfully so given what I'd heard on the show sporadically.

Given Miss Snark is herself a curmudgeon, that caught my eye.

What Imus forgot, and what Miss Snark tries damn hard to never forget is you only get to bite the hands of volunteers. By that I mean people who in my case email questions, or send work into the crapometer, or pontificate on their blogs about the publishing industry, or in general offer themselves up to the blogosphere.

Going after politicians and public figures as Imus regularly did is fair game. I think his disrespect of the sitting presidents was loathsome, but a president is fair game in a democracy, and thankfully so.

The Rutgers Basketball team isn't fair game. They didn't ask to be on Imus's show, they weren't public figures in the sense of holding forth about much of anything other than wanting to win the championship, and they didn't do anything worthy of disdain.

The first rule of curmudgeons is you only get to disdain the deserving.

When you bite the hand that isn't deserving it's called bullying, hectoring, and witless, and you get called unemployed.

If Mr. Imus needs curmudgeon tutoring, Miss Snark is available. Written application of course. Spelling counts.

Miss Snark loves lists

The Top Ten Things I've Learned from Miss Snark

10. It's not them, it's you.

9. Killer Yapp beat up your dog.

8. "Pay attention to detail," said _Ms._ Snark.

7. Setting one's hair on fire is a reasonable response to poor writing.

6. The 1000 monkeys on the 1000 typewriters may not actually write Hamlet, but at least their story wouldn't be set in Rabbitania.

5. Clue guns don't kill nitwits...yet.

4. There really are some decent people outside the 212. You know, like farmers.

3. Stilettos hurt. Especially when Miss Snark uses them to walk all over your manuscript.


1. ...after gin and George, of course.

Follow up on MJ Rose

Dear Miss Snark,
A couple of questions re your MJ Rose story. Is it usual for writers to send agents copies of their books? Does this mean you are her agent? And second, if you're reading the book now, why isn't it coming out until September? What happens in the meantime?

I got the book from a colleague who has known MJ Rose for some time.
("Got" is a colloquialism for "stole when she wasn't looking")
MJ is ably represented elsewhere.
I'm reading an ARC-an advanced reader copy. The pub date is September.

What happens in the meantime is that Mira, MJ's publisher, will be telling booksellers that this is a hot title and they better stock up.


Here's a new one--thank dog

Miss Snark,

A question: the fiction editor of Esquire plans to send me a napkin for the magazine's Napkin Fiction Project. He says editors and agents have scouted writers who've written for this endeavor. Is this true? Could I really get attention for what I write on a napkin? Is this why I went to graduate school?

Should I go to the bar and practice now?

sure, why not;
no, you went to graduate school to get laid; and,

Never turn Serendiptity away from the door, even if she's only dressed in a cocktail napkin.

The Daily Obsession!-manliness!

I'm querying agents for a paranormal thriller somewhat along the lines of Kelley Armstrong or Kim Harrison. I am male, and all the popular romantic paranormals are by women authors (allegedly). Should I use my initials in my query rather than my name, or just state that I'm willing to use a female pseudonym? Or give all the agents credit for being unbiased against a man in a woman's otherworld?

And if I use a pseudonym, will that cripple promotional activities like booksignings?

Romantic paranormal does not equal paranormal thriller and if you think they do you've got a bigger problem than your name bub.

Since you're obsessing about your name I'm going to guess you mean romantic paranormal since "eeek, I'm a man" is more common among romantic obsessives than thriller obsessives.

Anyway. Quit obsessing.
Write well.
Write well enough to get asked to the prom before you start obsessing about whether the dress makes you look like an East German shotputter.

If you truly think some agent will ditch you cause you're anatomically incorrect, use your initials. It's not like we're not gonna find out soon enough.

And no, touring under the "wrong" name won't hurt at all.


Be all you can be...and less

Oh Most Snarky One,

My question boils down to a few words:

How much sucking up do agents have to put up with?

One of the opportunities a conference I am going to next week offered was a critique of the first 10 pages of your manuscript by an agent or editor Today they told me which agent I would be meeting with to discuss the manuscript. Once I get past apologizing to this woman, who had to read my manuscript when I submitted it to her as the first agent I'd ever queried so that she's now read it twice, in two relatively sucky incarnations (not that I thought so at the time, but I've learned a great deal in the meantime), we won't have much to talk about.

The thing is, the reason I submitted my work to her first is that she's my ideal agent. I'd supply her with gin and chocolate, or whatever her vices are, from now to eternity if she'd represent me. Now, I know I can't tell her that -- it would sound like sucking up. I'd like to be able to tell her something about the terrific work I think she does, however, especially since her original rejection was very kind. Plus, I have every intention of submitting my current work in progress to her!

So...how much sucking up do agents hear from unpublished authors and can I say some nice things without sounding like a boot-licking sycophant?

First, don't mention any of that before stuff. Just say hello. Admire her coiffeure (unless it is on fire, then offer pail of water NOT gin). Thank her for her time. Listen to her advice. Don't argue with her (you'd be surprised at the twits who do this at conferences).

At a conference there are a couple people you don't want to be:

1. The crazy lady. There's always one. She is always two standard deviations off normal but it can take a couple minutes to figure it out. She's always the one who asks for your phone number so you can discuss her ideas in more depth.

2. The loudmouth. This is the one who hasn't figured out that pitching a project to an editor or agent during Q&A at a panel is a bad idea. Don't sit next to her. Don't talk to her. Don't sit on the same side of the room with her.

3. The apologist. The one who says "I know you're busy but". You're just as important as I am. Maybe more so. Respect yourself.

4. The complainer. Nothing goes right, and it's always the end of the world. No soap in the bathroom? Throw a hissy fit. Run out of Q&A time before the mic gets to you? Throw a snit fit.
Someone drank all the gin before you got to the bar? ...well, ok that's not complaint, that's a catastrophe.

5. The ringy-dingy-dingbat. Put your fucking phone on vibrate.

If you are none of those people, I will like you just fine. Well, as much as I like anyone, which is of course, not much UNLESS you happen to have an ARC of LOTTERY in which case Miss Snark is very fond of you.

June 8-National Holiday

Miss Snark does not attend the cinema.
Miss Snark has not been inside a movie theatre for some years.
Too many yapping audience members who are not poodles.
Too many refreshments smuggled in from SisterLucille's Smoky BBQ

This will change.

June 8: Ocean's 13.
Just saw the preview.

Oh dear dog.
Where are my salts!!

Damn you MJ Rose!

Dateline: Friday 4/13
Time: 11pm
Location: Snark Central
Miss Snark SHOULD be sleeping
Miss Snark IS reading.

Dateline: Saturday 4/14
Time: 6am
Location: Snark Central
Miss Snark SHOULD be en route to writing conference
Miss Snark IS sleeping with book on face, spectacles on nose, light on.

Dateline: Saturday 4/14
Time: 7pm
Location: Snark Central
Miss Snark SHOULD be working after being late to writing conference and not getting any queries answered.
Miss Snark IS reading.

Dateline: Sunday 4/15
Time: 8am
Location: pew at St. Patrick's
Miss Snark SHOULD be polishing her halo
Miss Snark IS thinking about polishing off The Reincarnationist

Dateline: Sunday 4/15
Time: 12noon
Location: Snark Central
Miss Snark SHOULD be en route to Grandmother Snark's for Sunday dinner
Miss Snark IS reading

Dateline: Sunday 4/15
Time: 6:02pm
Location: Snark Central
Miss Snark SHOULD be writing MJ Rose a nice thank you note for the copy of her forthcoming book The Reincarnationist.
Miss Snark IS printing up warning labels:

The Reincarnationist
(Mira Books: Sept. 2007)