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...
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.