I Am Not a Gatekeeper

I Am Not a Gatekeeper People in and around this business have long used the word “gatekeeper” when referring to those in publishing tasked with choosing which books to publish or represent.   Since the rise of self-publishing, it has become a debate—often heated:   Down with the gatekeepers!   Hooray for the gatekeepers!   Some bemoan: The gatekeepers are trying to keep us out. They’re making it too hard for good writers to get published.   While others retort: Be thankful for gatekeepers—they protect us from all that evil bad writing out there!   Well… here’s a news flash for you:   There are no gatekeepers.   There is nobody in publishing whose job is to “keep you out.” It’s not anybody’s job to protect the...
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The Benefits of Having an Agent

The Benefits of Having an Agent Today I’m covering some back-to-basics information. While people have always asked me about the advantages of having an agent, I’ve noticed an increase in the frequency of the question in this age of independence and do-it-yourself. People want to know: Do I need an agent? If I had one, how would they help me? Is it worth paying out 15% of my revenues? Not everyone wants or needs an agent. Your job is to assess your situation and decide if it is the kind of partnership that would serve you. Here I offer you an overview of the ways the right literary agent can enhance your writing career. What kind of publisher do you want? You only need to consider an agent if you’re interested in pursuing traditional, full-service, advance-and-royalty paying publishers. If you’re...
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Literary Agents: Not Quite Dinosaurs

Literary Agents: Not Quite Dinosaurs Over the last few months, I’ve read posts around the web about how literary agents aren’t needed anymore. Agents are just “middlemen.” Extraneous. Who needs them? Everyone can just self-publish, or work with a publisher on their own…right? Such is the word on the street. But some people aren’t saying those things. Want to guess who? Our clients. (And of course, all the writers still seeking representation from us.) The people who are loudly proclaiming literary agents “dinosaurs” and “unnecessary” have a limited understanding of what agents do. (Recently, agents Steve Laube and Janet Grant each gave a rundown of what they do in a typical day.) Agents are not just middlemen. Agents are more than gatekeepers. Agents are business partners and trusted advisors. Steve Jobs...
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What Agents Are Doing These Days

What Agents Are Doing These Days In this age of rapid change in publishing and expanding options for writers, I hear the question “Do authors need agents anymore?” more often than ever. While I can’t answer the question for any individual author, I can tell you that agents are busier than ever helping authors find their readers — one way or another. Here are some of the things we’re doing: 1. Business as usual. Agents are still selling books to publishers for traditional publication, and this remains the major part of our business. Along with that, we’re managing authors’ careers, advocating for our clients, and sometimes talking them off ledges. It’s also important that we nurture strong continuing relationships with publishers, despite our occasional adversarial positions,...
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Why You Should Pitch a Single Book

Why You Should Pitch a Single Book If you’re like most writers, you’re probably not writing just one book. You’ve written multiple books, possibly in different genres. You may have a whole 3 or 6 or 9-book series planned. So the question naturally arises: Should I pitch my whole series to an agent? Should I tell them about my entire body of work? After all, I want an agent to represent all my work, not just one book. Along similar lines, reader Jan wrote on Facebook: Whenever I check an agency’s guidelines, they always talk about pitching a particular book. I already have a book published, and I’m looking for an agent to help me build my career. How do I query/pitch in that situation? The answer is simple and clear: When querying or pitching an agent, always start with just one...
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What If My Agent Doesn’t Like My Next Book?

http://www.rachellegardner.com//HLIC/ab940c383710d2c03021989f37d80c96.jpg As if it’s not stressful enough getting an agent based on that first book, it seems everyone wonders the same thing. What if they love my first book but hate my second one? I’ve had quite a few authors ask this about agents and publishers. So first I’m going to ease your mind; then we’ll cut to the chase. Here’s the easing-your-mind part: you can relax. The agent or publishing house signed you because they like you, they really like you. There were forty thousand other authors they could have signed, and they signed you. Yay. When an agent or publisher signs you, they have some degree of belief that you can write, not just one book, but hopefully many more. They have a commitment to you. They’re putting their time and effort into you, and they’re...
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Are Agents Running Scared?

Are Agents Running Scared? I’ve been answering questions from readers, and today I’m responding to Mark, who (along with plenty of others) asked if I’m afraid of the future in which agents will be extinct. He suggested we are all terrified of losing our jobs, and when we write about traditional publishing, and even (gasp) defend it, it shows how desperately we’re clinging to an outdated model. Hey Mark, way to put me on the defensive! Ahem. Just kidding. Along with everyone else, I’m carefully watching the new developments in publishing, and I try to think through how each change will affect readers, writers, and everyone who works in publishing and bookselling. I’m not afraid of the future of publishing. For now, despite the loud voices online constantly screaming about the...
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To Champion Worthwhile Books

To Champion Worthwhile Books An agent’s job is to sell books to publishers, right? Well, yes, but it’s more than that. Agents partner with authors to help make their writing careers as successful, seamless, and enjoyable as possible. Another thing agents do is champion worthwhile authors and books—trying to convince publishers to take a chance, even against market conditions or conventional wisdom. Most agents have a few of those projects on their roster—the ones that have obvious problems with marketability yet we decide to represent anyway because we truly believe in them. We think the author has talent and deserves to be read by many people. We know they might be a tough sell to publishers, but we’re going to try anyway. The book’s just that good. I know some writers complain about...
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When To Call an Agent

When To Call an Agent A lot of people wonder when it’s okay to call an agent or editor on the phone. The simple answer is: When they’re YOUR agent or editor. If you’re my client, I love talking to you. Don’t be afraid to call. Don’t worry about “bothering” me, and don’t worry about being  “high maintenance.” If you need to call, call. If I can’t answer, I won’t. Leave a message, I’ll call you back. For anyone who’s not represented by an agent and not contracted with a publishing house, then it’s almost never okay to call an agent or editor on the phone. I say “almost” but honestly, I can’t think of an exception. This is why God created email, right? Don’t call to ask questions about submissions,...
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Missing Out on a Bestseller

Missing Out on a Bestseller Agents frequently hear questions like: Have you let many books slip through your hands that went on to be bestsellers? and… How do you feel when a book to which you said “no” goes on to success? Most editors and agents have passed on books that went on to success (if not bestseller lists), and I think we all feel regret to a certain extent, maybe a little professional jealousy, yet we can’t lose any sleep over it. Most of us realize that if we didn’t recognize the “X” factor that makes a book a bestseller, we may not have been the best agent for it. The truth is, many bestsellers are freakish surprises, even to the publisher. So we cut ourselves slack knowing that most likely, we weren’t the only ones who rejected it, and just because we...
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What Do You Expect?

What Do You Expect? I might be getting myself into trouble by asking this but… What is the most important thing you expect from a literary agent? (Let us know if you have an agent, or if you’re seeking one.) Have a good weekend!   Be Sociable, Share! Tweet
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When to Re-Query an Agent

When to Re-Query an Agent One of the most common questions I receive is, “When is is okay to send another query to an agent who previously passed?” Sometimes people are talking about re-sending a query for the same book that was already queried; the writer has either improved the query or improved the book and wants another shot. Other times, the question is referring to the timing on sending a different book to an agent that previously rejected a project. So here are my thoughts. First, whenever you are going to re-query, it’s a good idea to open your letter with a brief mention of your previous interaction with the agent, and an explanation of why you’re writing to them again. (BRIEF.) That way, if your name sounds familiar to the agent, they won’t be sitting their scratching their...
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Why Agents Don’t Give Reasons with Rejections

“Two Minute Tutorials” Ohmygosh! Another video! And guess what. I decided to name my video series “Two Minute Tutorials” and wouldn’t you know, today’s video is 3 minutes. C’est la vie, as they say. So this installment of “Two Three Minute Tutorials” answers the question, “Why Don’t Agents Give Reasons with their Rejections?” (I’m trying to get better at this vlogging thing… give me some time. I promise I’ll get better with practice!) Here’s a recap: 1. We get a LOT of queries and it takes quite a bit of time to go through them. 2. Brief explanations of the reason for a query rejection don’t tend to be helpful, and often bring up more questions than answers. 3. You may think it...
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