Sunday, January 24, 2010


Well known with us writerly types, Authoress is the mysterious webmistress, writer, blogger, tweeter extraordinaire who hundreds of aspiring authors rush to email every month with their first 250 words for her Secret Agent contest on!

If you’ve been in a witness protection program without internet access, or locked in a dungeon, you might have no clue what I’m talking about! Never fear – Authoress is here to fill you in!

Q: The first and most obvious question I have for you Ms. Authoress, is why the blog name Miss Snark’s First Victim?

A: Well, because that’s who I am, literally: Miss Snark’s first victim! The first time she ever put out an invitation to submit a first page for public critique, I took her up on it. And got (gently) ripped to shreds. You’ll find the story here:

Q: Right into the second obvious question, why the anonymity as Authoress?

A: As an author who’s had an online presence for years, I made the decision early on to keep my querying/rejection process private. I find it a bit…unprofessional…to flash those statistics around while journeying toward publication. So when I birthed the blog, I decided to stay anonymous.

Q: What is the Secret Agent contest? How did you approach the first Secret Agent about doing a contest? How long after you began Miss Snark’s First Victim did you host the first SA?

A: The Secret Agent contest is a 250-word, first page critique contest during which an unnamed literary agent — our “Secret Agent” — leaves comments along with the other critters and then chooses a winner(s). I approached the first Secret Agent — and subsequent agents — by writing a polite, anonymous business letter, which included a link to my blog. The first SA contest was held in July, 2008 (featuring agent Holly Root), three months after I started the blog.

Q: Just how important is the first, measly 250 words anyway?

A: In the grand scheme of things? It’s not any more important than the rest of your novel. In the nab-an-agent arena, though, those “measly” 250 words have the power to hook or to bore the reader. So they need to be well written, tight, hinting at conflict.

Q: 2009 marked the first SA contest leading to a writer gaining representation! Can you tell us a little bit about that? You must feel like a proud mama, huh?

A: Well, if the blog readers are my “baby,” then I suppose I do! 2009 actually saw two writers gain representation through SA contests: The first was our March winner, who signed with Secret Agent Josh Getzler (story here:; the second was our September winner, who signed with Secret Agent Ginger Clark (story here: I view these client signings as landmark moments for the blog. Our “premium slush pile” is living up to its name!

Q: You have an e-book available titled Agent: Demystified, Lifting the veil on the secret world of literary agents. Can you tell us about your e-book and what lead you to write it?

A: Two things led to my writing the e-book: my own (angst-ridden) journey and my desire to impart the truth that Agents Are Not Scary to all aspiring authors. Most of my readers don’t know the story of my Agent From Hell, and how that experience ultimately led to where I am today–informed, savvy, and definitely not afraid of agents! Agent: Demystified is a simple-to-follow “unveiling” that teaches writers to approach agents confidently and appropriately. You’ll find the trailer and purchase information here:

Q: Through Miss Snark’s First Victim, you’ve made numerous, valuable contacts. What advice do you have for writers who are looking to network with agents through blogs, Twitter, or conferences? More importantly, should they be afraid? Do agents really bite like we hear they do? Are there unspoken rules that will get your email address blacklisted for auto-rejections when you query? Like pitching in the ladies room????

A: Well, as I said above, I want authors to stop fearing those (fanged, blood-sucking) agents! The bottom line is that seeking an agent is like any other business contact, and should be approached as such. Anyone in the business world knows that there’s a lot of dysfunction out there, and the same goes for those seeking publication. Authors need to be informed, mature, and business-savvy. All this on top of writing well, naturally. And pitching in the ladies’ room is something I am CERTAIN none of my blog readers would even consider!

Q: Queries. In your opinion, more important, less important, or equally important as those first 250 words?

A: Is this a trick question? =) The query is equally important, because agents will see it first. Of course, many agents will tell you that a so-so query will be trumped by an excellent writing example tagged onto the end. Which is why I always (and everyone should always) follow the advice of the esteemed Miss Snark and include the first five pages of the novel.

Q: Anyone who follows your blog or Twitter knows that you have your own first novel ready to query! Congrats! Can you tell us a wee bit about it?

A: Thank you! It’s actually my fourth novel, and the first one doesn’t count (because, yanno, who actually admits she wrote that first, rambling, embarrassing piece of purple prose?). My current project is a YA dystopian about which I’m very excited! It’s already generated some interest, so we’ll see what happens. Fun tidbit? The main character is named after my husband (how sappy is that?).

Q: Favorite memory or moment from the blogosphere of Miss Snark’s First Victim?

A: I’ve got to say that my favorite moments occur when my readers flood me with outpourings of support, affirmation, and affection. I don’t know why I’m so blown away every time it happens, but it really does take my breath away. It’s amazing how much you get back when you’re not setting out to get something in the first place. My blog wouldn’t be what it is today without my awesome readers.

A great big THANK YOU from all of us who have ever benefited from the Secret Agent contest, and a great big GOOD LUCK to you for your querying endeavors! We’ll keep on reading along!

And THANK YOU for this wonderful interview! It has been my pleasure and my honor.

Readers – leave Authoress a big thanks in our comments!

Original interview published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Jamie Blair. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

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