Well, THAT wasn’t the response I was hoping for…

A couple days ago, I dropped a line to Miss Snark. (Miss Snark is a literary agent who, with her own snarky and anonymous voice, answers all the stupid and neurotic questions that writers have about the business.) I had picked up a couple of comments here and there that writers living outside the US are more difficult for an agent to represent. More difficult means, of course, that the other manuscript that is almost as good gets promoted. So I dropped her a question about how early on I should mention that the difficulties cited don’t apply so much to me, as, really, there is nothing whatsoever preventing me from waking up breathing American oxygen the day after tomorrow.

The reply was less than encouraging.

Here is my question:

Dear Miss Snark,

Evil Editor made a comment the other day that made one of those question marks pop up over my head. I managed to get rid of it, but they keep coming back (usually late at night, keeping me awake with their eery luminescence and faint wood-burning smell).

Currently I am living outside the United States. Evil Editor mentioned in passing that he would consider that a strike against an author because the author would not be available to participate in book promotion. I believe you have also mentioned payment headaches when dealing with authors not in the US.

However, I am not only willing to spend time knocking about the US flogging my work, I’m looking forward to it. Also there would be no problem paying me in dollars and I would pay my taxes in the US.

I assume these things aren’t deal killers, but are they worth mentioning in a query letter to an agent?

And, an excerpt of her reply:

I’m going to tell you the honest to dog truth.
I hardly read the stuff that comes in from overseas cause I’m just so unenthusiastic about the headaches associated with a client that far away. You’d have to write something REALLY great to get over that hurdle.

While this is only one agent speaking, she is still 100% of the sample, and I think I have to deal with this. I see a few options:

  • Put a paragraph in my cover letter expressing that I am geographically disconnected and I’ll live in hell if it’ll help my career (I’d have some good literary company there, I think. It’s even more hip than Prague.)
  • Make all initial correspondence reflect a US address. Because it’s always good to start a business relationship with an intentional deception.
  • Move back to the States and live in Mom’s basement
  • Move to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, and hope they don’t look at the address too closely, or wonder about all those stamps on the SASE.

I’m leaning toward that last option, myself. I could pepper my correspondence with y’all’s and references to Waffle House and whatnot, to reinforce the impression without actually lying. Plus, I hear they have nice beaches there.

12 thoughts on “Well, THAT wasn’t the response I was hoping for…

  1. I’d vote for the second option. It almost sounds like, at least for the initial contact, all that matters is the return address on the envelope. If your first submission has a U.S. return address and postmark, that at least means it gets read. That at least gives you a chance to explain your situation, instead of the door getting slammed in your face before you can show that you don’t have the usual problems that an overseas writer has.

    Yes, it would be dishonest if you continued to use a shell address. But if you use one only as a one-shot device to avoid an unfair bias that doesn’t even apply to you, I don’t see a problem with it.

  2. In the meantime, several folks, including other agents, have weighed in on Miss Snark’s site, saying it’s not such a big deal, but perhaps focusing on agents who take email queries is a good way to go.

  3. Goooooo ‘Canesssssss !!!!!

    I find Snark’s opinion on the matter annoying. Why be in the bizniz? But I guess it’s kind of like being annoyed at the outlaw for not takin his hat off inside…she’s the one with the guns.

    It’s good to hear other agents chime in as not so bugged.

  4. Unfortunately, Mom doesn’t have a basement! Would the storage shed do? 239 1/2 (B?) Loma del Escolar? Since we have dispatched many manuscripts from here, What’s the beef?

    Of course, new MEXICO has its problems, too. Many don’t consider us part of the US!

    And remember Alexei in Tomsk. He’s still in touch, and hoping to get together with us again–soon!

  5. Why not have a legitimate US address…that you seldom use? I might very will need the same…cutting the costs in half!

  6. Maybe Soup Boy would be interested in having a NM addy as well, so he can get some of those movie jobs. In my case, though, my mail would have to know where to go without stacking up there waiting for someone to forward it with additional postage.

    239 1/2 is starting to sound attractive, although staying in the shed to write is starting to sound like a reenactment of Milagro Beanfield War.

  7. We have lots of addresses … two households, plus the sailing club p.o. boxes, plus we could probably get mail at one or more of the marinas.

  8. I wonder, would Miss Snark be so low as to give one a discouraging word, hoping to weed out those who are not truly committed? I’ve heard of professional {insert area of expertise} telling aspiring {ditto} that they had no chance, knowing that the truly committed would ignore them and keep working at it.

    Really, is she so overrun with fabulous manuscripts that she would reject one soley because it didn’t have a US ZIP code?

    At least she gave you props for your e-mail addy, you clever boy.

  9. She may not be overrun with fabulous manuscripts, but she is overrun with all the queries she can handle, and maybe a few more. The filtering before an agent even reaches the manuscript is brutal.

  10. hola, Jerry. Catching up on your blog.

    If you do decide to do the “pretend you’re in US” thing, I’d be happy to act as the go between — mail the stuff to my address, I’ll forward, and vice versa.

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