Years ago I wrote a novel that basically stank. A lot.
Thank god I never tried to flog it to any publishers lest they still remembered me after all these years.
Since then I’ve confined myself to writing blogs, and blogged like nobody was reading, except a few actually were. Ok, maybe more than a few. Growing restless and bored, I decided to abandon the former blog site and seek something new and fresh; and voila, Hello Word Press.
A year ago while undertaking my daily twenty minute drive to the addiction treatment center where I work as a social worker in a methadone program, I was struck out of the blue with a concept for a new novel while listening to Leonard Cohen’s “ Famous Blue Raincoat. I mean, who doesn’t get inspired after listening to Leonard? I started writing that same evening.
The novel was completed in record time and me being the naive optimistic fool that I am, began sending it off to both publishers and agents alike, not realizing of course that convincing someone to even look at a manuscript, let alone have it published, is about as likely to happen as hey diddle diddle, oh look, a cat with a fiddle, or some random cow jumping over the moon. Now having said that, after a few polite rejections from agents who said “no” while endeavoring to avoid crushing my Sagittarius optimistic spirit, a publisher surprisingly contacted me a mere ten minutes after sending off a flurry of new e-mail queries, asking, (it’s crazy, I know) to see the manuscript.
He did advise however, that it typically takes up to nine months to read, so me being me, decided to jilt my Cuban lover, thus saving on not only airfare to Havana, but valuable time wasted on romantic reverie that could be used so much more productively in say…. writing. Bye, bye, Alejandro.
I subsequently wrote my second novel.
Two weeks ago I sent off approximately twenty query letters along with a brief synopsis of said new novel to both agents and publishing firms. Since that date I have received two nays (both from agents) and one yea; a request from a publishing firm to forward on the full manuscript.
Apparently, I’ve gotten past the first hurdle. It seems that I can write a decent enough query letter with sufficient “hook” in my novel outline and brief synopsis that they actually want to see more. Now the burning question is whether the novels themselves can stand up to the brutal eye of editorial scrutiny. While I am waiting to hear back from them, I’m embarking on my third novel.
In the mean time I am passing on to you, my readers, what editors really think of us when they receive the mounds and mounds of query letters submitted by “Joe, and Josephine Wannabe a Writer Some Day”. I present to you the cojone shrinking Miss Snipes, and one grumpy literary agent responding from the Slush piles of Hell. Apparently the following represent real query letters written by wannabes like us, and their snarky and grumpy responses. Pray that yours is not among them.
1.Dear agent, my name is xxxxxxx. I’m GOD…. I feel like I’d like to get out and produce something. I’ve been shopping for a book agent. It would help to get the word out. Any help available from you? Now, don’t go with the crazy thing. Remember, there are consequences. Adam and Eve called me a liar. They died.
Dear God, if you’ll look more closely at the submission guidelines on my website, you’ll notice there’s a strict “No Deities Represented” clause. Sorry. Perhaps you could try Andew Wylie.
2.If you see any virtue in my books, I would like to submit the manuscripts for a deal that is not “vanity” but “royalty.”
You’re in luck. I insist that all of my authors’ contracts include a clause that crowns them king or queen of a mythical land.
3.This work has been my chosen path for far too many years to admit freely. The excuses are longer than the length of my arm, one of which was the standard, “it isn’t the right time,” causing it to ferment on the back burners of my mind. Last year it bellowed so loudly for recognition that I could no longer ignore its pleas. I send it to you within the spirit of intention that what I have discovered during periods of personal research will touch others as it has touched me.
As much as I respect your “spirit of intention,” I’d rather not have the thing you’ve discovered touch me the way it’s touched you. I don’t have any idea what else it’s been touching.
4.I have never attempted to publish a novel. As such, I have no clue about the process. Could you help me understand it?
Oh sure. I’d be happy to take time out of negotiating deals, arguing with contracts departments, working on proposals, reading manuscripts, and watching the Sarah Palin’s Alaska marathon on TLC to explain the publishing process to you. After all, it’s not like you could find that info in any of a thousand different books readily available at any bookstore or library.
5.Dear Esteemed Official, forthwith I am attaching my query for your keen consideration.
Dear Humble Mendicant, I stopped reading your query after the salutation, as I prefer to be addressed as “Omnipotent Potentate
6.There may be a potential for extremely large sales WORLDWIDE if professionally redesigned, corrections made, edited, expanded, updated and promoted. This may turn out to be “The Ultimate Theory of Everything” ! (I haven’t been called a crackpot yet!)
And now for Miss Snipes.
Dear Miss Snark,
1.Hello. Sorry to trouble you but I just wanted to pitch you my crime thriller, Danny Dreams Of Guns.
If I ever, I mean EVER see you do this again I will track you down, duct tape you to a chair and make you chant “I AM somebody” accompanied by Up With People, the Reverand Jesse Jackson AND Tony Robbins. Then I”m telling Dr. Phil.
Never start a query letter like you’re chopped liver.
Miss Snark is a vegetarian.
2.Danny and Christina. Danny and Christina. For years, they’ve dated, fought, broken up, gotten back together and then started the circle all over again. But now that he’s been framed by the Sicilian mafia for a murder he didn’t commit, she has to risk her future to save him from both death and the FBI.
and we should care..why? He sounds like a jerk. She sounds only slightly better.
I’m rooting for the Mafia.
3.As for myself, I grew up in New Jersey but have lived for the last decade in London. I work as a freelance journalist and write occasionally for [a tiny little news service you've never heard of]. I’m also a member of the Foreign Press Association and have a long-ago stint at Newsday under my belt.
That’s nice. Does it have anything to do with the novel at all? Or maybe you’re inviting Miss Snark to London. If so, first class Virgin Air, leave the tickets with the doorman Mr Henry and I’ll be there this afternoon.
4.Dear Ms Snark, That’s Miss Snark to you bucko.
I am contacting you in regards to seeking representation for my completed, 108,000 word Contemporary Women’s Fiction manuscript. A STATE OF GRACE is a story in which a woman travels to South America to escape the demons of her past and search for her true self, only to discover she was looking in every place except where the real answers lie in her heart.
“in regards to” …about
“seeking representation for”…about (trust me, I know you know I’m an agent)
“in which a woman travels” …a story about Grace’s Amazing trip to South America
“to escape the demons of her past”…..oh I give up. You’re using every cliche in the book.
I look for fresh and original writing. It’s hard to cough up new ways to say “the demons of her past” but you’ll just have to.
5.I have worked as a freelance travel writer and lived and traveled in South America. A STATE OF GRACE is my first manuscript and currently I am working on other manuscripts- FOUR SEASONS and a trilogy EXPECTATIONS. I am an Australian author living in Canada.
Permanently? It matters. Getting PAID when you live in a furrin country is a bit of a trick. Miss Snark is on a first name basis with bankers who delight in taxing you for living in odd and strange locales like …Canada.
6.In 1994, being a cop in a dying New Hampshire mill town may as well mean
enforcing the law in 1974. Working-class families are just beginning to
recover from the 1990-91 recession, and police departments haven’t yet begun
to reap the technological and personnel benefits of the Community Oriented
Policing Services Act. So, when a serial killer begins to target the
disillusioned teenaged girls in fictional Mapleton, NH, the police are
almost as limited as the citizens as they bear their fears, frustrations,
Yawn. Yawn. Yawn. You know what’s interesting? People. Action.
Describing the sociological situation of a fictional town in New Hampshire makes me want to reach for the gin bottle. (Well, a lot of things make me want to do that..but you get my drift).
Miss Snark Reaches for the Clue Gun..again
1. Ah, the slush pile, Miss Snark loves it so.
Grist for the blog.
Today, a lovely large white envelope. Nice query letter for a novel. Some pages even…all good. Then, what to Miss Snark’s astonishment should appear but a “blurb sheet”.
Miss Snark was fascinated. Normally one sees blurbs for books that are PUBLISHED. In fact, obtaining blurbs is one of Miss Snark’s favorite tasks because it means she gets to yap on the phone with friends and pass it off as work.
Perhaps this was a book previously published, or a sequel? No no. In fact, it’s a list of blurbs from…can this be right…editors?
In fact, what this NITWIT has done was cull phrases from his REJECTION LETTERS and use them to try to persuade me to represent the book. And not even personal rejection letters, this guy thinks “due to my heavy workload I can’t take this on” means that.
Clue 1: a rejection letter from an editor means you’ve already pissed in the pond so taking you on means I have fewer places to submit.
Clue 2: rejection letters from editors mean they aren’t willing to BUY it, a sure clue for ME that perhaps this isn’t going to be a project I love
Clue 3: the fact you think this is a smart marketing move; that perhaps I don’t recognize the names of editors means you are the nittiest of nitwits and thus absolutely ineligible to be a client.
Miss Snark is retiring to the gin parlor for a stiff one.