Saturday, December 03, 2005

Miss Snark, the literary agent

Though I have no intention of writing a novel - the world needs "my" novel like it needs another macrame plant hanger - I've been reading Miss Snark, the literary agent's delicious blog with delight.

Miss Snark takes daily breathers from plowing through her real-life slush pile by posting generous and entertaining advice for her hopeful, aspiring "snarklings."

Sometimes they argue with her, which I think is utterly hysterical.

Last August she actually volunteered to take the first page of anybody's novel and run it through her "crapometer." She shared her stream-of-consciousness reactions and the yea-or-nay she would have given in real life. Check her August archives for the results.

The post below preceded the crapometer marathon. The snarkling's question had been:
What are the three most common reasons you reject a manuscript? In other words, if you had stamps you could use on manuscripts, what would the three you use most often say?

Extracts from
The Tipping Point

Use as an example the manuscript I read just this morning. (You can tell when I'm reading manuscripts and getting annoyed..I blog more!)

This started as a well written first 20 pages in the mystery genre. I asked to see the full manuscript. It arrived fairly promptly. All signs are still good. 100 points.
  1. The author sent me what she thought was "the rest of the novel". The first 25 pages are missing. She forgot she'd only sent me the first 20. Right off the bat, missing five pages. Clue to the unwary: when someone asks for "the rest of the novel" send the whole thing. Net loss: 5 points.

  2. In what can only be described as just pure bad luck, this writer had almost the exact same stock characters as a novel I'd rejected the day before. ... Minus five points. Net loss: 10 points.

  3. Typos. I hate these. I just hate them. It just smacks of sloppiness and lack of professional pride. It reminds me of sellers who want you to see potential in their house for sale when the rooms are badly painted and dirty. ... you're shooting yourself in the foot. Minus ten thousand points. Net loss: 11 eleven points really.

  4. Different paper stock, fading printer ink and tilted paper. ... I don't date boys with dirty hair and I don't sign writers who don't give a shit about how their manuscripts look. ... Minus another zillion points. Net loss: 11 points still.

  5. The writing is ok. Nothing special. And then the plot lines start to just fall by the wayside. ... does your plot end at the end? Or does it end halfway through? ... Minus: 20 points. Net loss: 31 points.

  6. Two endings. I swear to god. Two. Like I get to choose. ... Minus: 60 points for sheer ... stupidity. Net loss: 91 points.
This example illustrates the three top "rubber stamp" rejections I have:
  • The plot doesn't work right. It either doesn't work, it's emotionally unsatisfying, or it's stupid.

  • You sent me something that looks like you don't give a shit about your writing

  • It's not fresh or original enough to be something I can sell with any degree of enthusiasm.
Now, off to write a rejection letter for this poor author. "Not right for us"...yea yea yea.

And by the way, good luck to the Nanowrimo folks who now have "product" (as they say in the music business). Here's a writer's perspective, posted by HHSimmons to Agent 007 - it reminds me of what my daughter Melina says about being new in the work world. Be proud:
Yes, the agent might be considered the mud-sucking bottom feeder. But, no, the agent is NOT the pond scum. The agent is one step up from pond scum.

The author is the pond scum. We're at the bottom of the food chain. We don't get a lot of respect, but we do keep the ecosystem going.

Without us, you'd all die. But there's so many of us! There's really no worry about pond-scum extinction. (It's a pity, that.)

No, I'm not bitter. It is how it is.

I am a proud piece of pond scum.

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At 1:41 PM, Blogger Mirty said...

About a million years ago (or 25), I had written a novel and sent it to an agent in Chicago. She was very nice, and we kept corresponding as I worked on the novel and made changes as she suggested. Then she died suddenly in a car accident. It was so bizarre and scary I couldn't bring myself to shop the manuscript anywhere else. I know it had nothing to do with her death, but it just felt really weird.

I also had one agent reject my manuscript with a really mean note saying my characters were not just unlikable but despicable. Of course, the word "despicable" always makes me imagine Daffy Duck so I cracked up when I read the note.

At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Pearl said...

Love the macrame pot hanger remark! I was sorting books for a used book sale and what struck me is how much process hit print and couldn't even be given away much less sold for 50 cents. Sad but..


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