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Dear Miss Snark,
As a hugely successful and incredibly wealthy New York literary agent, I gotta tell you that you’re really causing me heartburn.
In the good old days, crappy writers did a crappy job of submitting their crappy queries, and I was able to cull through the crap at the rate of five per nanosecond, no problemo. And then you came along, dishing up advice and giving away our industry secrets.
I now have thousands of submissions in my slush pile that are perfectly executed, beautifully formatted, and follow my agency’s amazingly complex and intentionally contradictory instructions precisely.
So, even though 99.9% of the actual writing is still atrocious, it’s taking me ten times longer to slog through the slush.
Are you trying to make my life a living hell, or what?
Clearly my work here is done!
Dear Miss Snark,
I’ve got papyrophobia (fear of paper) and bibliophobia (fear of books). My therapist says my phobias are the most severe she’s ever seen, and there’s no hope of a cure for me.
I’ve written a novel (on my PC, as you might expect), and now the publication date is looming. I’m deathly afraid of seeing my novel rendered on paper, in the form of a book. And yet I’m thrilled that others will be able to pick up a copy and read it. I want to make sure the book is okay, but because of my phobias I can’t get anywhere near one.
So, since you’re in New York, and my publisher is in New York, would you be willing to pick up a copy, call me, and read it to me over the phone?
oh shur, no problem.
Is your phone number 648-9487?***
*clue: telephone numbers also have letters
Dear Miss Snark,
There are approximately 6,800 spoken languages in the world, but only around 2,200 of them have writing systems. That leaves 4,600 languages that don’t have alphabets. When I saw that data I pounced on the opportunity, and I’ve just completed my new book titled “How to Invent an Alphabet”.
But I can’t print the book in any of those 4,600 languages, because they don’t have alphabets yet! And if it’s published as an audio book, those people might not see the need for an alphabet in the first place.
I know my book will be a best seller if I can get past those tiny little details. Any suggestions?
Who wouldn't want to have books and a library after seeing this
**when she's not down to the PigglyWiggly of course
O Glorious Miss Snark
Answering my question will really help nobody in any way because it isn't a particularly useful question, but I've been curious about this for a while. Please share your wisdom. When and why did the profession of Literary Agent come about? I understand how invaluable you are in the current market, but I get the feeling people in "olden days" didn't have agents. So what happened?
thanks for any illumination on the subject, and please give my love and this juicy steak to KY.
KY is pretty bummed out that "this juicy steak" is made from electrons and not a steer. I'm not sure if he's sulking or plotting in the corner and but he appears to be mapquesting your house.
And no, Shakespeare and Milton didn't have agents. The profession is pretty new.
Here's a link that gives a nice overview
of things got started if you're interested.
Killer Yapp reads several papers around the nation. His discovery of this headline merited
what can only be described as a true Gallic sneer and sardonic "as if".
I have a novel called THOUSAND DOLLAR ADULT. It is about a woman who cannot box worth a flip, so she becomes a literary agent. All is well until she starts developing homicidal impulses toward some turkey in California who keeps sending her nitwit queries stuffed in with stale cookie crumbs. Tormented by her inner demons and her envy of Muhammad Ali, she stalks the would-be novelist and blows his brains out, not with a .357 magnum, but with a surprise attack right hook from her old boxing days. And he thought she invited him to dinner to discuss his book. What a sap.
The agent is put on trial, meaning she has to pay lawyers for years and years and years (the crime took place in California, after all and they are in no hurry.) She doesn’t mind the prospect of death row, but the legal fees are killing her ahead of schedule. Fortunately while the idiot prosecutor is not watching, the defense attorneys stack the jury with other literary agents. Then at the climax of the story the agents in the jury box all stand up as a group and shout “Not Guilty!” (I stole this from the movie HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE.)
That despite twenty eye-witnesses, a signed confession, numerous character witnesses who testified for the prosecution, and an old Wal-Mart security video showing her giving the janitor a shellacking.
Finally she gets back to her office in New York, only to be confronted by the result of a long absence: The Slush Pile From Hell.
My only concern is that this story could never happen in reality and that no literary agent will take it seriously.
What say you?
Bring it on.
I fell off my chair at this one.
Honest to dog, I'm not sure I've ever laughed that loud at 12:07am when sober.
(audio alert if you're sneaking this at work)
People are so down on my honey pie Satan!
It's really unfair!
On the other hand, I was laughing so hard when I read
it was hard to maintain my snit.
After many consecutive rejections written on the outside of my unopened query letter envelop, I have decided on a different approach to querying.
My plan is to kidnap George Clooney, duct tape some caviar-flavored Scooby Snacks and a couple of bottles of prime Mountain-made Gin to his chest. After writing my query letter across his butt in Sharpie, mail him to the agent most likely to read and respond to my query. So that no physical harm would come to him, I will include a Sharpie-removing sponge bath kit in the query package.
Now, I know you would never want to be part of such a scheme, but I thought that you might have an address or two of some worthy agent that would be interested in my query letter. Could I prevail upon you for such information?
825 8th Aveneue
New York, NY 10019
1325 Ave of the Americas
New York, NY 10019
Miss Snark will be taking phone queries.
(thanks to Kitty for the link)
Dear Miss Snark,
I’m a newly established freelance book/blog editor/reviewer. Here are the services I offer, and my price schedule:
- $100 – book/blog review with praise (but I won’t read anything).
- $200 – book/blog review with glowing praise (I still won’t read anything).
- $300 – book critique (includes 100 words of worthless, boilerplate comments).
- $400 – book critique (random passages circled in red ink, but no comments).
- $500 – book critique (meaningless comments sprinkled throughout ms).
My services may not be industry best practices, but hey, at least I’m up front about things.
But now I need customers. Since I know how gullible you are, here’s the deal: Post a link to my web site on your blog, and in return, I’ll give you a $100 blog review for free! What do you say?
well, I would of course, but you forgot the link.
Hi Miss Snark,
I heard the 24/7 gin pail delivery was shut down in the New York area, so I hope you're coping well.
You occasionally post messages with the tag "Miss Snark is amused", which made me wonder. Do you and Killer Yap enjoy April Fool's Day? Has KY ever hidden your slush pile or did you ever pretend the cat of an agent friend would come to stay, requiring KY to share his bed or wherever he sleeps?
By the way, people at Wikipedia get the weirdest questions. Just now, I came across some oddball with the username Gclooney who was asking for your email address there.
Thankfully my email address is published in sixty gazillion places and any incoming email with the name "clooney" triggers a mail rule audio buzzer and flashing light when it arrives.
Killer Yapp is far too cerebral for practical jokes. He prefers puns. In Latin:
veni, vidi, video
So I finished my novel and tucked it away in a lightly trafficked part of my hard drive. I come back a month later and I discover that somebody has been sneaking onto my computer, opening my files, and putting "that"s in the most extraneous, unneccessary places. I mean whoever did it just went hog wild. I had to root them out like I was pest control. Do you or does anybody in the devotion know anything about that?
nefarious little thatgnats aren't they?
Fortunately KY earns cigar and swill money by copyediting my cover letters. He's vanquished many an attack of the thats.
I'd offer his services but I want him to cut back on the hooch.
Guess who Killer Yapp is voting for?
Thanks to Kristal for the linkage
Dear Miss Snark,
I’m in the process of writing a celebrity soup-and-stew cookbook. It will feature the favorite recipes of many big time stars. For example, it will have recipes for Groucho gazpacho, Red Buttons red bean, Chuck Norris chicken noodle, and Robert Goulet goulash.
I need one more soup recipe to finish out the cookbook. Since you’re such a humongous superstar, it would be swell if you’d contribute a recipe for any of the following soups:
- Snark snert (as you no doubt already know, snert is also called erwtensoep, and is a split-pea Dutch soup).
- MissSnark MineStrone.
- Snark shark fin.
Would you be willing to share one of your yummy-in-the-tummy soup recipes?
Sure no problem! In fact here is the recipe for all three!
Ingredients: one phone, one Andrew Jackson, one dog.
Surrender Mr. Jackson.
Divide into bowls.
Give one to dog.
Enjoy the other.
You are a newcomer to this blog if you think Miss Snark uses that room with the locking white cupboard for anything other than storage.
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.
2. THE WRITING IS MOST IMPORTANT.
1. ...after gin and George, of course.
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.
32. Spend five minutes cursing the foul beast of a computer for refusing such a simple request.
33. Turn printer on.
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.
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 Miss Snark,
I’ve been a practicing nudist for over 60 years. I wrote a book about my lifelong love of the nudism lifestyle when I turned 82, and the book is due for publication in the fall. My publisher wants me to go on a book tour, and I’m excited to do so. The only problem is that I never wear clothes, and so I’m a bit concerned my naked body might shock some of the more timid people in the bookstores. I can’t bring myself to put on a full set of clothes, even for a book signing.
Do you think I can get away with only wearing socks?
well, no. You also have to wear out your welcome.
This is hilarious!
And I learned something!
Can you guess what it was?
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!
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.
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?
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I'm always looking for more cost effective ways to manage my agency.
Steaming stamps off SASEs is a long established practice of course.
Making sure all novels are under 100,000 words and printed in a small font saves paper.
Corraling interns to read the incoming mail; always a plus.
My ISP bills have always been a problem though. Thank goodness Google is now offering FREE ISP service. The details are here.