Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Miss Snark and the Three Aspiring Authors/Skeleton Bob

Miss Snark started out her journey with gusto and good cheer. It seemed a lovely day to stroll through The Wood of Aspiring Authors. The sun was shining, the birds chirping and her waterbottle was stocked with gin.

And, of course, Killer Yapp was anxious to explore this new terrain.

But the early enthusiasm dissipated when she reached a field beyond the first cluster of trees. It was The Singed Forest. Burned down long ago by rejection after rejection, writers afraid to submit again, the foliage just beginning to recover from the last searing fire. She saw some beautiful saplings with great potential and asked them when they would submit.

"I want to re-write it for the sixteenth time, then get it professionally critiqued and then get a second opinion. Then, maybe.."

Miss Snark's initial enthusiasm at returning to living woodlands was soon dashed by her discovery that this was The Dying Forest. The trees were old, tired, unwilling to yield, the branches drooping, the leaves hanging limply on their stems. They wanted to discuss contracts and terms before showing their work. They had been somebody's/ they told her, once upon a time, and she should know that. "Who published you?" she asked. "It doesn't matter," they said. "Well, what can you do now?" she asked. They refused to answer.

Miss Snark was discouraged, but still she persevered, pressing on through the forest, looking for trees that were ready. Despite the fact that her feet were starting to hurt and she'd long since run out of gin, and Killer Yapp had utilized a few of the more cantankerous trees for, um, bodily funtions, she didn't give up her quest to find the next great tree.

At last she came to a small rise where there stood three trees. They looked beautiful, enticing. The bark was the right color, the branches lifted with character, the leaves created a lovely tapestry against the sky. They oozed with potential.

She approached the first tree and asked if the tree had a submission for her. He did. Three manuscripts, SASE's, synopses for each story and a detailed profile of his life and work experience.

"Choose one," Miss Snark said. "I can only review one work at a time."

"But you must look at all three."

"I can't," Miss Snark said. "I can only look at one."

He would not choose so she went to the next tree.

"Do you have a submission for me?" Miss Snark asked.

"I do." This one had the first three chapters, a one-paragraph summary of the plot and no SASE.

"I can't reply to you then."

"Why can't you bring it back to me?" the tree asked.

"I only come here once or twice a year. And no other agents come. We are so busy. Usually the trees come to us."

The tree folded his branches and glared at her. "You do not respect me," the tree groaned. He ran away down the hill, leaving Miss Snark looking at his chapters, sans SASE. She shrugged, and dropped them on the ground where he'd stood.

She approached the last tree. The light in the sky was starting to fade. This would be the last tree before she returned to the World of Concrete.

"Do you have a submission for me?" she asked wearily.

"I do. It is what you asked for. Three chapters, a one thousand word synopses, and SASE and a brief cover letter with my contact information."

Miss Snark took the submission gladly, for the query she'd received from this tree had shown promise and she knew the tree was capable of producing wonderful work.

She returned to the World of Concrete, Killer Yapp snuggled up at her feet after the fresh air and exercise, a pail of gin beside her, thinking how sad it was that of so many forests of trees, only one had been prepared.

She sighed, wishing again that there weren't so many blogs giving the Aspiring Authors bad advice.

Okay, okay, so you might have an idea of where this came from. And I wrote it up on a whim.

I think the point here is that anyone can dispense advice. It might be good. It might be terrible.

What you decide to do with it is up to you. But just because you decide to follow the advice of one particular person as opposed to another, it doesn't make it right or wrong, necessarily. And because someone else does it differently it doesn't make them right or wrong, necessarily.

But the dispute between JA Konrath and Miss Snark had me shaking my head. Over SASE's, no less. Whatever JA's initial intent in his post about his reasoning, his assertion that you shouldn't include an SASE with your manuscript submission seemed to take on new form in the responses to comments on his blog.

Mr. Konrath has a right to his opinion. He has the right of free speech to express it.

So does Miss Snark.

So do I.

It's up to everyone else what they decide to do. Personally, I completely appreciate where an agent is coming from when they require an SASE. I also think that it's part of my job when submitting, along with telling a damn good story and spelling the agents name right and all that jazz.

But running around saying, "This is the way" and getting everyone on the bandwagon is a bit idiotic.

Let people submit their manuscripts however they want. They may or may not hear back.

And that will be their risk to take.

As for me, I will follow the advice of Miss Snark. And the guidelines on the agency website or in the Writer's Market.

Now, according to some, this means I lack balls. Not really bad, in my case. And I think ignoring what people ask for doesn't mean you've got a pair, or at least a pair worth inspecting. More like overcompensating for a lack of something.

To me, it means you probably don't give a shit about me, so why should I give a fuck about you?

Let's face it. When you want people to treat you like an adult, you have to act like one. Similarly, when you want people to think well of you, you have to behave decently.

And if you want people to think you're a professional...

One of my favourite authors once said that you're only as good as your last book.

Maybe not a bad idea for some people to remember that. Even signing a deal doesn't mean you've "arrived".

Or that you've corned the market on the perfect way to launch a career. Book deals come and book deals go...

Skeleton Bob

Some of you are new to Skeleton Bob. Shockingly enough, you're new to Stuart MacBride, 8th Bearded Wonder of the World*, fabulous author, hearty drinker, finder of used condoms and bacon bits.

If you're new to Stuart, then the whole Skeleton Bob thing might have gone past you. Sandrablabber has gone pink and knitted in honour of the return of Skeleton Bob. And if you haven't read the first Skeleton Bob, or The Princess and The Pervert, or the wondrous 12 Days of Christmas gems of delight and good cheer, then check them out here.

Worthy of a snort and a chuckle and far more entertaining than my sorry little post today.

Okay, bring on the scathing criticisms...**

* I'm not sure who all of the 7 Bearded Wonders of the World are, but I don't want Stuart to be confused with a dwarf. Unless he likes that idea. In which case, what number was Dopey? God, it's past my bedtime. I'm outta here.

** About my post. Not Stuart's stuff. Which is like fine wine with a bit of Paris Green tossed in. Too much can kill you.


M. G. Tarquini said...

Do great minds think alike? Check out my blog.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

Great minds DO think alike - go check out my blog, too.


What a bunch we are - we're SUPPOSED to be writing, not fiddling with the keyboard!

By the way, loved the imagery!

Sandra Ruttan said...

I feel like we're an unholy trinity, LOL! You guys rock - your posts are great! Almost make me embarassed I wrote this! (What was I thinking?)

R.J. Baker said...

and the beat goes on...

R.J. Baker said...

Wow, after rereading your blog today, I think you misconstrued my balls analogy.

If the "balls" comment was not directed at me than...sorry for what follows.

I am well aware of the different anatomical parts of the human species, and that females actually do not have testes. In fact, I have a certain attachment to them both.

My point was and is that it would take "balls" or supreme confidence to believe that talent can overcome disregard of clear submission guidelines to achieve publication.

This was not said chauvanistically nor as an insult to the female gender.

It was also a subtle attack on anonimity. If someone has an opinion and they seek to attack someones ideas viciously, calling them a "nitwit" then they should not stand behind the veil of anonimity.

So, if the overcompensating comment was directed at me, it is also missdirected and incorrect. Professionalism seems to be a catch phrase everyone espouses but does not adhere to. I was making a futile attempt to raise the level of debate above name calling.

Evidentally, I didn't succeed.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hi rj,

No, the balls comment had nothing to do with you or what you said - something and someone else entirely.

And I hope I'm not offending the guys by my remark - please trust me rj, I'm not offended by a comment about "balls" in the slightest.

I hope that in all of my posts on this matter I have not been misinterpreted as name-calling. I've simply tried to state my opinion that it isn't proper to judge people for following the guidelines - hence my rolling my eyes at those who inferred I lacked a pair because I would do what the agents asked.

Having a "pair" to me was when I cornered Jonny Geller at Harrogate last year and didn't let up until I had the names of two agents he recommended I submit my material to. That's way outside my comfort zone but I knew that I might never have the opportunity again.

There's nothing gutsy about blatantly disregarding what people ask for. But I mean, that's just my opinion on it. I haven't seen a single post from you anywhere that bothered me on the subject, but I haven't seen a post from you that I thought was directed at me either.

Though I must say, there's nothing gutsy about an author with a book deal telling others what they should do. It doesn't affect him in the slightest. His initial idea on the matter might have been fine (re: the confidence perspective) but in the comments section the opinions seem to have become polarized, and perhaps the strong stance was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction that came up without really thinking about the consequences of telling all these people that they shouldn't include SASE's with their submissions.

Maybe we should all submit to his agent or publisher that way. Tell them he told us we should.

(Okay, I've gone a bit extreme there - this just bothers me. People dispense free advice from the standpoint of what seems to come across as superior knowledge and it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference if it works to them or not.)

So, anyway, I'm sorry if I caused offense with my remarks, because that's not my intent. My post was just my way of blowing off a bit of steam and putting my 2 cents out to the world.

Really, I was only being flippant.

As usual.

Irreverently yours (but not because I don't respect you! Just 'cos that's who I am.)


Trace said...

I don't think it's such a hard thing to give an agent what he/she asks for. Call me crazy.

R.J. Baker said...


Points well taken and articulated. I made the balls comment a few times yesterday so maybe I felt a little guilty. Some of the ballsiest people I know are women, my mother included. We are all in the same game, with similar goals.

I took your overcompensating comment as maybe an attack on, er...the male anatomy and I have a certain attachment to it-mine anyway.

Konrath sent out 200+ complete marketing packets to every agent listed in Writers Market without SASEs. He had over 500 rejections prior to that. This was his method. He now has a six book deal.

My only point is.....we should be writing. I enjoy your blog BTW and your flipness.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hi CraZY!

RJ, glad you enjoy the blog! You'll love Stuart MacBride's Beardcave then.

Not to mention John Rickard's sandbox!

I don't blame you for being attached to, er, certain anatomical features. And any further comment I might make on the subject would be likely to bring evilkev out of lurkdom and into the fray, plus get me in trouble later.

So whether you've got a pair or not (anatomically speaking) I'm happy for you. As long as you're happy.

I would never have this conversation in person.

Bernita said...

Well done, Sandra.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks Bernita!

Anonymous said...

It does seem odd to me to advise people not to follow guidelines. And why stop at omitting SASEs? When you're sending SASE-free submission, you could print it on fluorescent pink paper to make sure it stands out!

r.j. said

"It was also a subtle attack on anonimity. If someone has an opinion and they seek to attack someones ideas viciously, calling them a "nitwit" then they should not stand behind the veil of anonimity."

I'm sure Miss Snark doesn't choose to be anonymous just to call people nitwits.


Anonymous said...

Interesting thing, being anonymous, kind enpowering to say whatever you want and not be held personally responsible. I agree, Miss Sanrk probably doesn't stay anonymous just to call be nitwits. Is she anonymous because she is Snarky or is she Snarky because she is anonymous...hmmmmmmmm?


Sandra Ruttan said...

I believe that Miss Snark is anonymous for one pure and simple reason: so that she isn't overloaded with queries (sans sase) from people reading blogs.

I completely respect her right to her alter ego. Hell, I'm altering my ego on a sometimes hourly basis.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

" You guys rock - your posts are great! Almost make me embarassed I wrote this!"

Sandra, we Bunions should be the ones embarassed in your prescence! A couple funny lines of dialogue ain't gonna make me a living, but you got talent that can put food on the table.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Dana, thank you for the lovely compliment. Really, it astounds me to think people like what I do.

Boy Kim said...

Do the trees use people as the raw material for their paper?


Sandra Ruttan said...

Where do you think the term 'beat you to a pulp' came from?

Boy Kim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Boy Kim said...

I never try to analyse my needs.

Gabriele C. said...

What a charming little story, Sandra.

I've only browsed the recent controvery (heck, I was actually writing *gasp*) but I can easily see why agents would want a SASE, so they'll get one. Simple logics. And that from a woman. ;-)

JA Konrath surely has a lot of good advice, but I have before found things that were too simplified or one-sided for me to accept without question.

M. G. Tarquini said...



Oy. Vey.