13 Things You May Not Know About Agents

paper bag on head1. We really hate getting bad news and we hate sharing it with you, but we trust you’re adult enough to handle it.

2. If we say we don’t want to submit a particular project to editors, we’re probably trying to protect both of our reputations (the writer’s and the agent’s).

3. While many of us do a great deal of editing and polishing of your manuscripts and/or proposals, the bottom line is that it’s the writer’s job to provide a marketable book. Agents shouldn’t be counted on to make it sales-ready.

4. We are very invested in your book and often feel like it’s “our baby” too (even though we KNOW it’s yours!)

5. If it seems like we’re too busy, it’s because the economics of this industry demand we carry a certain amount of volume to make a living wage.

6. We prioritize taking care of current clients above the search for new clients. So typically, queries and writer’s conferences take a back seat.

7. We really are interested in your long-term career, not just the size of the next advance.

8. We hate the slowness of publishing just as much as you do!

9. We want to set you up with the publisher and editor who will be best for you, not just the one who’s offering the most money.

10. When we’ve tried to sell your book but we’re not successful, we’re probably almost as disappointed as you. Not only are we often emotionally invested, we’ve put in a lot of time for no paycheck.

11. When you send us a manuscript to read, we don’t do it during the work day. We read in the evenings (our “free time”) and on the weekends. With Kindles and iPads, we may even be reading your manuscript on the treadmill at the gym.

12. We’re aware of all the new options for writers these days, and we’re doing our best to help steer each client in the right direction.

13. If your writing career keeps you awake at night, there’s a good chance it has kept us awake on occasion, too.

What are some things agents may not know about writers?

Image credit: photomak / 123RF Stock Photo

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. […] Rachelle Gardner We really hate getting bad news and we hate sharing it with you, but we trust you’re adult […]

  2. Lynette Benton on February 8, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    Some writers are baffled by the snarky tone a number of agents use in their blog posts. Professionals usually are moderately polite towards their potential clients, avoiding the “Don’t do this, or I won’t handle your business . . .” approach.

    I’m speaking here only about the tone of some agent *blog posts.* My only encounter with an agent regarding my own work was quite pleasant.

    For me at least, the way an agent communicates with her potential client will be a deciding factor when and if I query an agent. I wouldn’t like to work with someone who’s snooty to potential clients and courteous to current clients.

  3. Retha on December 19, 2012 at 12:33 AM

    Yes! Finally something about home hair removal”.

  4. […] And if you’re still not convinced that Agents aren’t fire breathing dragons, check out this article by Rachelle Gardner, 13 Things You May Not Know About Agents […]

  5. David Coles on June 28, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    Half a dozen Things Agents, Editors & Publishers may not know about Writers.
    1. Once a writer has written one and a half books, they’re hooked. The journey counts as much as the arrival. “Get out there and promote” the writer is told; when? What about the sequel?
    2. Many, if not a huge proportion of writers, are in the second half or fourth quarter of their lives. Waiting a year for a decision on your book, over two years for your book to become available means inevitably, some writers will wake up dead before it happens. We don’t have the time to waste.
    3. Writers are usually up for promoting their book but a timetable of what will happen when, helps in the planning. Even worse than an unreliable timetable is the profound silence that can develop between the three events: submission, acceptance, publication.
    4. A decent writer will submit a decently edited manuscript but the best writer in the world – perhaps excepting those who take 4 or 5 years over the job – will read what they expect to see rather than what’s there. There needs to be an editor between completing a manuscript and submission, but usually, that process will be completed by the publisher or by the agent recommending an editor. It shouldn’t be a process shunned by the writer, by the agent or by the publisher.
    5. If an unsuitable manuscript is submitted, for goodness sake say so and it’s usually possible to do that without crushing a new writer’s ego irretrievably. One of my most treasured possessions, until it was lost in a house move, was letter of rejection from John W. Campbell, then editor of Analog magazine. He found time to write a foolscap letter, he cared.
    6. Circumstances differ across the world. Unless they travel, a UK publisher will not know what works, what’s acceptable, what’s possible in the US or Japan and, of course vice versa. Credit the writer with a little intelligence when handing out advice across international borders.
    7. Just to redress the balance a little… my first agent was the gentleman, John Carnell who specialized in Science Fiction. There were no computers or emails in those days but the UK Post Office was the best in the world… John kept me up to speed with picture postcards from NASA.

  6. Megan B. on June 12, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Some things about writers, which you probably do know already:

    1. Many of us are as scared of being published as we are of anything else. There is a ton of work/responsibility involved once a contract is signed. (But we still want it!)

    2. Finding the right critique partner is often as much work as the writing (or more). It’s a painful process at times, like squeezing lemons by hand to fill a whole pitcher.

    3. There are so many resources for writers: online, in books, and at conferences. It’s overwhelming, and we don’t want to waste our time or money on something useless. That time is better spent writing!

    4. Writing in a not-so-popular genre or subgenre makes the process of seeking an agent or publisher doubly difficult.

    5. At any given time, we’d probably rather be writing. It can be tough having to squeeze our passion into our schedules. (True of any passion, not just writing).

    6. Sometimes people catch us staring into space and ask what’s wrong. The true answer is “I was thinking about my characters/story,” but we might just say “Oh, nothing, my mind was wandering.” Many of us are shy to talk about our works in progress.

    7. An email or letter in response to a query makes our hearts stop. That is the moment when we can no longer hope, only open it (and probably be let down). But the day it’s an acceptance we will shout and jump and shake from adrenaline for the next hour.

  7. Friday Features #8 | Yesenia Vargas on June 8, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    […] 13 Things You May Not Know About Agents by Rachelle Gardner at Rachelle Gardner […]

  8. […] in a nearly parallel post, Gardner this week has written about the 13 Things You May Not Know About Agents. When we’ve tried to sell your book but we’re not successful, we’re probably almost as […]

  9. Catherine Hudson on June 7, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    How much we love discovering you are as human as we are…really. It levels the playing field and for me, makes me laugh that we are despite all appearances, God’s creatures.

    Equally loved, equally valuable.

  10. Tammy J. Palmer on June 7, 2012 at 1:19 AM

    I don’t understand why writers think that agents owe them an explanation for a rejection. There are so many reasons to say no to a project, and so few reasons to say yes. Let’s face it, most manuscripts simply aren’t good enough. There’s a reason it’s called the slush pile. If your writing isn’t there yet, work at it until it is. If you don’t like the system, bypass it and publish it yourself. Maybe you’ll find readers, and maybe you won’t. If you don’t know how to promote, then learn. If you’re shy, learn to act as if you’re not. Writing/publishing is very hard work, and no one, not even an agent is going to do it all for you. If all you want to do is lose yourself in your imaginary world, then maybe getting published is not what you really want. Nothing wrong with that.

  11. Eric T. Benoit on June 6, 2012 at 7:41 PM

    Something you may not know about authors:

    With the rise of self/indie publishing fewer of us are looking for agents or traditional publishers. I see a time in the not too distant future where agents will be querying authors rather the other way around.

  12. Ann Bracken on June 6, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    You actually probably already know these things about writers, but I’ll list them anyway.

    1. How much we love constructive criticism, both positive and negative.
    2. How much we appreciate people in the industry who take time out of their busy day to write blogs that help us with craft/publishing/marketing. So, thanks a million Rachelle, I’ve learned so much from you!
    3. That we think of our characters as real people, and find ourselves talking to others about them as if they exist.
    4. That we also do #11 on your list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve blurted out to my husband what’s going to happen next in my WIP while discussing something completely different.
    5. That we love to see others succeed, knowing that it doesn’t diminish our potential of success but heightens it. Any book that gets a person to read will make that person want to read more.

    Thanks again Rachelle, for taking the time to teach us all!

  13. Nan Kilmer Baker on June 6, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    I have met many top notch,professional,personable agents over the years and fortunately several are interested in my manuscript. All are of course concerned about my platform. So recently I stopped thinking of social network as social disease and started a blog, joined twitter, and Linked in with the rest of the modern world. But I often wonder, do agents realize some of us are so old fashioned as to promote ourselves and our work in PERSON?!? Imagine that! I travel a great deal for work and fun and everywhere I go I talk with excitement about my upcoming book. Without being intrusive I start a conversation and most times end up with questions about me, my story,and when it will be available. So I hand out a little calling card made of paper and ink, with all my pertinent info. And I have to believe these are some of the people who will buy my book, tell their friends/family/co workers to buy it–maybe even in a real bookstore printed on real paper with ink. Imagine that.

  14. Agents and Writers « Terri Patrick's Blog on June 6, 2012 at 4:46 AM

    […] Gardner posted a list of 13 points writers need to know about agents. It’s a good list, and sparked a lot of comments. One of the greatest benefits writers have […]

  15. […] Rachelle Gardner on 13 Things You May Not Know About Agents. […]

  16. Doris Swift on June 5, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    Rachelle, I feel writers appreciate (or should anyway), agents who level with us and tell it like it is…As far as I’m concerned, sugar-coating is better left on Frosted Flakes…

    So many “writer’s universities” etc., promise things that quite frankly, they can’t always deliver. Promises to “get your book published by next week” or whatever catch-phrase they need to use to have you running to your Visa card…

    It amazes me that with all you have on your plate (I really hate that cliche, but it worked), you still manage to pump out these posts. What? An agent taking time to share knowledge and expertise with writers who may not even be on her client list?

    In my book, that’s what great agents are made of…

  17. Ellen Weeren on June 5, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    Writers appreciate feedback (good and not so good) and patience and agents who give more time than they promise. Sound familiar? 😎 Thank you again Rachelle for your insights!

    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 11:25 PM

      My pleasure, Ellen!

  18. Jim Gilliam on June 5, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    Like someone else said, I wouldn’t presume to speak for all writers, but here is a small window into my agent seeking thought process:

    1. Not having an agent is better than having the wrong agent.
    2. The relationship between an author and an agent is like a marriage. You can’t speed date and expect much to come of minimal effort. Why then go to a writer’s conference and stand in line to do your 3 minute spiel? Talk about your maximum stress level!
    3. The first step in finding an agent is to write a killer book and have it professionally edited. The operative word is professional. The quest for a good agent requires perseverance, professionalism, and evidence that you’ve put in the time to learn the craft.
    4. Don’t just buy a copy of 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market and start picking agents at random. It’s a guide, nothing more.
    5. You’ve just written your “breakout novel” so you should know what kind of book it is. Therefore, do not query an agent who handles romance novels and children’s books with your version of Moby Dick. Go to the agency’s website and see for yourself what kinds of books the agency handles. Find out what they are looking for currently. Pick out the one agent in the agency who represents authors who write the same kinds of books like the one you’ve just written. Whose philosophy matches your own.
    6. I personally do not query agents who only accept email queries. Okay, take me out and tie me to a tree. And if I did, it wouldn’t arrive for the agent to open on Monday morning. When you walk into your office and see over 500 emails in your inbox. Oh baby, just give me an excuse to hit the delete button. It’s also tempting to click on “select all” before hitting the delete button. I do that and I’m not an agent, much-less one who receives over 1,000 queries a month hot off the Internet.
    7. I also don’t query agents who tell me to submit query and an SASE only. The perfect query letter like the Unicorn is a myth. I’m not in a letter writing competition, I’m in a writing competition with agents and editors as my literary judges. If an agent isn’t willing to read at least the first five hard copy pages of my MS then I give them a pass.
    8. While the perfect query letter does not exist you can use your background research on the agent to write a pretty compelling letter. Start by giving the word count (80,000 is standard for a novel) and tell the agent what kind of novel it is: Book title is a psychologically complex thriller in the same mold as James Patterson’s Alex Cross novels. Hopefully your professionalism will keep the agent reading. If you say something like this book is better than anything John Grisham has written it might even be better than that other famous author. BONG! Your SASE goes into a pile to be stuffed with the standard form rejection by the agent’s stalwart assistant Malcom.
    9. If the agent is still reading she should be reading three succinct paragraphs that quickly summarizes your book. Write this like back cover copy.
    10. If she is still reading she should next read something like: Book title should fit in well with your other titles (you did your homework remember?), although it is a story with a different twist. Your website mentioned period suspense thrillers as a particular current interest (research pays off), and I’m hopeful that this is a good match.
    11. She is still reading. Good! Bring on your writing creds. My short stories have appeared in (publication) and last year I was the runner up in the Up All Night Reader Awards Competition.
    12. Wrap it up with something like: As stated in your guidelines (how many times are these not followed?), I’ve included the first 30 pages. Thank you for considering book title.

    If you try it my way there is no guarantee that you will hook an agent. I haven’t yet, but I’m still trying. On my first novel I set a deadline for finding an agent. That deadline expired and I published with a POD publisher. POD or Doubleday they all use the same printer.

    Anyway that’s my rambling discourse. Maybe others are of similar mind.

    Bottom line, we all feel the agent’s concerns, especially that writers who are already on-board deserve and receive an agents first attention. Meanwhile I keep trying and I keep writing.

    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 11:26 PM

      What a great post! Thanks for sharing your insights, Jim. I appreciate it.

      • Marylada on June 29, 2012 at 1:50 PM

        Your post is a tliemy contribution to the debate

  19. Diana Harkness on June 5, 2012 at 4:27 PM

    As a writer who is not full-time at that task, agents may find themselves weary of playing voicemail tag when trying to reach me. An agent should know that GOOD writing and editing takes time and patience so it will not be completed quickly. An agent must understand that an extreme introvert who has traveled 200 or more miles to a writing conference only to be assaulted by hundreds of unknown faces will not make a good impression during the 15 minute interview, but will be able to handle pre-arranged conference calls, book signings, and the like. My agent should know that even though I have a background in business and advertising, I know that I have little knowledge of how to sell my book and I am relying entirely on my agent to direct me.

  20. Joyce Scarbrough on June 5, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    I realize that some agents avoid giving specific reasons for a rejection because some writers respond with defensive vitriol. But whenever I get a personal note from an agent with any feedback at all, I always write to thank them for taking the time to send me their comments, especially since I know how busy they are. I don’t save form rejections, but I save every single personal response I get.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on June 5, 2012 at 3:58 PM

      Four years ago, Rachelle was the first agent I queried. She passed, but sent a kind note complimenting my style.

      It was one of the biggest things that kept me going, through illness and unemployment. And on July 10, that very book is coming out!

      Thanks, Rachelle. You made a difference. I’ll never, ever forget.

      • Joyce Scarbrough on June 5, 2012 at 5:24 PM

        Exactly my point. Form rejections do nothing, but personal comments help a writer keep going.

  21. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on June 5, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    Perhaps one thing we as writers need to know about agents is that they are (usually) the Wind beneath Our Wings.

    If our books are successful – we, the writers, will be remembered. The agent is standing in the shadows, cheering us on.

    Not the easiest place to be, and it takes a special kind of character to do that.

    So how about this, for #14 on Rachelle’s list…

    Agents are special people.

    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 11:33 PM

      Aw, thank you!

  22. Kristin Laughtin on June 5, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    A thing to remember, but which you probably know: we’re working through a lot of fear.

    Even on the days we think we’re awesome storytellers, we fear that won’t be recognized.

    Even when we are published, we fear our work will be unliked.

    Every time we put our work out there, we’re putting ourselves out there, and it is sometimes difficult not to conflate rejection of our work with rejection of ourselves. Of course, it’s our responsibility to handle that rejection with grace, but sometimes we may need a day of understanding and patience before we’re ready to tackle whatever comes next.

    • Jennifer Major on June 5, 2012 at 9:18 PM

      Nicely said. We’re a creative, sensitive lot, aren’t we?

  23. Vicki Orians on June 5, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Hmm…something about us writers. Well, for one, we know you’re busy, and we understand completely! We may be nervous about our book so we email you a million times a day, but we do understand that you have a lot on your plate. For us aspiring writers, we hate form rejection letters. Tell us what we can do to improve our story. We DO want to learn and be successful!

  24. […] Gardner (@RachelleGardner) offers 13 Things You May Not Know About Agents. This one, part of #3, shouldn’t be a surprise: “…the bottom line […]

  25. Laura Diane on June 5, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    Thanks for the great list.

    Hopefully agents know that writers love them and the work they do for us with all the time spent.

    As in all of life, unless we walk a mile in the shoes of another we don’t really know the score.

    Every job I’ve ever had has had those who feel no one understands or appreciates. The lesson for me was to always put forth my best effort and believe others were doing the same. If I found out otherwise then a change was needed.

    Thanks again for your flexibility and all you share with us in this blog.


  26. Paula on June 5, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    Hi Rachelle,
    Thanks for sharing your list. It opened my eyes to a few things.

    As a newbie writer, my thoughts are these:

    I’m terrified and excited by the prospect of working with you.You turn the knob of a door I desperately want to enter. My mind knows you could be my best cheerleader, but until you pick me I think of you as the hooded figure of death waiting to slash my dreams.

    I long to be a team player and part of the process. It’s been a solo show so far. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to work well with others.

    Thanks for letting my eyes envision a different world as I read your blog.

  27. Kathryn Elliott on June 5, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    I cannot speak for all writers, but for me…
    I digest criticism well and chocolate often.
    I over-punctuate and under-medicate.
    I welcome advice – agent, critique partner or otherwise – but get lost in the contradictions.
    I don’t fear the query, but synopsis work sparks insomnia.
    I believe my day will come, but struggle with self-doubt.

  28. Marla Taviano on June 5, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    On a personal note, I want you to know how thankful I am for you and how much I admire you. I know from experience how hard you try at everything you do for others and what an amazing advocate you are for writers. I’m one of the ones who cost you lots of time and made you zero money. Hopefully in the future I can make it up to you.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on June 5, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      Wow – Maria, that’s class, and I’m sure it took courage to say.

    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 11:34 PM

      Marla, what a wonderful thing to say! I’m blessed to have you as a friend and I admire your talent immensely. I pray one day I can be of some help to you!

  29. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on June 5, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    What don’t you know..?

    All REAL writers smoke cheap cigars, talk through their dialogue with a Pit Bull named Duke, and won’t use Twitter because “I’m not a twit, dammit!”

    -Sent From My iRock&Chisel

  30. Lisa Gant on June 5, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    Wonderful list, Rachelle! I also heartily agree with Terri Patrick’s follow up list for writers.

    The only thing I would add is that sometimes agents need to remember how hard it is for writers to be rejected for no reason other than our book isn’t “right for you.”

    I think most writers are control freaks on some level. We’re used to creating worlds and telling the characters in them what to do, and once we send you our queries, everything is out of our hands. Our words have to stand on their own, and if our work is rejected because of an agent’s personal preferences, we can’t do a thing about that. We no longer have control, and that can be pretty darn stressful.

    So, if some of us get a little nuts over rejections, that’s why. Many of us have deep psychological issues. That’s why we’re writers 😉

    • Vicki Orians on June 5, 2012 at 2:33 PM

      Hi Lisa! I’m on the same page as you! I love it when agents tell you something specific, like “I don’t really feel the voice is strong enough,” versus “It’s just not my taste.”

      It’s hard to wrap your head around that. It literally might just be that they don’t feel it, but it’s so nice when they give you something to work with!

      Thanks for adding this! 🙂

  31. Joan Cimyotte on June 5, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    I did not know how to answer. I keep loosing my focus as I wonder how some commenters have really nice pictures and I have a pattern.

  32. Reba on June 5, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Maybe that we are afraid….afraid of:
    failing,the agent/editor, and publisher laughing behind their face at us.
    Afraid they consider us not worth their time.
    Afraid they wonder ‘who told you you could write a book?’
    Dang….that’s lot of fear.

    • Vicki Orians on June 5, 2012 at 2:35 PM

      Dude, I think we all are terrified that we can’t write. I, personally, am afraid that I’m going to get rejected by every. single. agent., and that one of them is just going to come out and tell me I suck. lol

  33. Susan on June 5, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    One thing agents may or may not know is how much you all contradict each other’s advice – and how bewildering that can be. I did 3 critique sessions recently at a conference to get a “reality check” before querying my novel widely. The first agent said my query letter was great, just needed some more bio. The second agent said the query letter was ok, and not to worry about it anyway, because queries don’t matter as much as we think they do. The third said that though the query letter was technically correct, I should throw it out and rewrite it, breaking several rules, to bring in more of the manuscript voice, and that if I don’t do that, my novel will die alone in the hands of some sleepy editorial assistant. All three were from major agencies.

    Yet, all three had almost the same comments on the manuscript itself. You are fascinating people, you agents 🙂

    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 12:37 PM

      Not only do we KNOW about the contradictions, many of us have blogged about it a few times.

      • Susan on June 5, 2012 at 1:06 PM

        I’m sure you’re quite flexible. But there are a lot of other agents out there who aren’t, from what I can see. And most don’t blog, either.

        That’s how it looks from this side, that’s all I’m saying.

    • Vicki Orians on June 5, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      Contradictions are a pain. But I went to the Writer’s Digest conference this past year and they told me something that stuck – there is an agent that’s a perfect fit for you. You just have to find them.

      It’s unfortunate that all agents can’t share the same brain, but they all have their preferences, just like the rest of us. And one of them will be perfect for you. 🙂

      • Ann Bracken on June 6, 2012 at 10:22 AM

        I love that thought and totally agree with it. I see every rejection as winnowing out which agents aren’t that perfect fit.

  34. Dave Knickerbocker on June 5, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    Great insight. It’s comforting to know that literary agents are people too, and that you are struggling right along with us. I much prefer the thought of celebrating alongside a literary agent someday, though.

  35. Krista Phillips on June 5, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Love this list!!! I think I guessed/assumed most of it, but it is a fantastic reminder… and makes me super thankful for my agent:-)

    What agents may not know about writers:

    We may or may not pick up the phone and pretend you are on the line and say to the person we are with, “I’m sorry, I have to take this. It’s my agent.” Just because it sounds super cool, even though it’s really our mother who then rolls her eyes at our goofiness.

    OH, and we may or may not hyperventilate if the caller ID actually shows that it IS you who is calling, thus making the “It’s my agent calling” line much less impactful…

    🙂 (mostly just teasing about the above…)

    In all seriously, we understand the honor you do us by representing us, and how blessed we are for that. I believe the majority of us never plan to take that for granted and are thankful for the time you’re able to spend on our little part of the publishing pie.

  36. Wayne Kernochan on June 5, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Maybe agents know this, maybe not, but we think very higly of our agents whether the book sells or not. Don’t mistake disappointment for anything other than that

  37. Sandra Cody on June 5, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    A great list. It’s always good to look at a situation/relationship from another POV. I don’t have anything to add that you may not know about me as a writer (having read the list, I suspect you understand writers pretty well).


  38. Lianne Simon on June 5, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I bled all over my manuscript. The perfect agent for me cancelled out of my critique session, citing family issues. I sent her a personal e-mail, expressing sympathy, and attached a query letter. That was late on a Saturday night. Sunday morning, before the sun came up, I got a no-feedback form rejection from her. When I contacted publishers directly, I started getting feedback. And contract offers. I love that you’re blogging so much. I hope you’re also taking the time to treat writers with the compassion they need.

  39. Mercey Valley on June 5, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    If there’s one thing an agent may not know, it’s how powerful their encouragement is and how timely it can be. Agents do know this is a time-hungry process often with no reward. Discouragement can be massive, so a kind word at the right time does hold tremendous power.

    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 12:36 PM

      That is a great reminder to me – thanks!

  40. Jonathan Dalar on June 5, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    We know what’s hot at the moment. Sometimes we see what’s going to be hot for the next couple of years. But most of the time we don’t write that because that’s not the story that hit us at three o’clock in the morning, tapping on the window of our minds, screaming to be released into the wild.

  41. Lindsay Harrel on June 5, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Thanks for this insider’s look! I wasn’t aware that you did so much work during your “free” time. 🙂

  42. Preston Yancey on June 5, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    Writers are perhaps the most neurotic of creatures. Signing my book contract at once made me thrilled and completely horrified that I was now legally obligated to produce a manuscript on a deadline; waiting for an email back from my editor is like waiting to hear news from the front, I have more than once been tempted to reply, “You like me! You really like me!” before slumping into a heap of anxious exhaustion.

  43. Cherry Odelberg on June 5, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    What are some things that agents may not know about writers? We are all different, to say the least. Some write to encourage and some to incite. Some are exuberant extroverts and others suffering introverts. Some have a narrow view of the world and others an expansive, embracing global view. Some are educated in the ways of grammar and word usage, others would like to be knowledgable if they could just find the right textbook or teacher (and some agreement on the use of commas and semicolons), still others think it the job of someone else to worry about spelling and punctuation. There are others who, for one reason or another, jump impetuously into the writing world and start flailing regardless of prior knowledge of publishing, the world in general, or English language in particular.

    All of this, I have learned from your blog, Rachelle. Thank you for the forum. It has been better for me than 10 writing conferences – and; I have friends here – kindred spirits.

  44. Brandon on June 5, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    I enjoy reading your blog, Rachelle, and at this stage of my first book (prepping to query), I have found it very useful.

    I will say this for myself, as I can’t speak any more about all authors than you can all agents—its the “rules” and guidelines that agents put out there.

    I’ve been trying to do my research on who I should query that I believe to be my “best fit” and I’ll tell you, its like walking on eggshells!

    I get scared to ask valid questions because I don’t want to take up your (agents’) valuable time. I have seen several agents’ bios that make them appear to be a great fit, but we don’t know you personally—let’s face it, this business is very subjective—so we don’t know who the best fit is going to be.

    I don’t know who knows whom (I hope that’s right!) so you may be a better fit, though your message to querying authors doesn’t portray that.

    I know you hear it all the time, but its harder to find representation than it is to write the book in the first place.

    Seems like this is a “who you know” business heavily based on luck and connections rather than the story.

    Just my opinion.

    • Joyce Scarbrough on June 5, 2012 at 11:11 AM

      I totally agree about the frustration of finding an agent’s bio that says what they’re looking for and having it feel as if they’re describing your manuscript, then sending the query and getting “Dear Author, sorry but this is not a good fit for me.” I’d much rather get an honest reason for the rejection.

  45. Jillian Kent on June 5, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    Really grateful that agents are interested in the long term career of writers, I know I need all the help I can get. And although I’m sure agents know this, it is so hard to manage a day job, take care of family at any stage of life, and keep our dreams alive. That’s why we dream of seeing our novels made into Hallmark Hall of Movies and beyond.:) Sometimes it’s fun to take a little imaginary trip regarding our own lives. That’s why I love fiction.

  46. Richard Mabry on June 5, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    Rachelle, thanks for the reminders. I’m afraid that sometimes we forget that agents take on writers “on spec”–if our work doesn’t sell, they’ve put in a lot of work for no financial return, just as we do.
    Oh, by the way–pay no attention to the commenter who apparently 1) is trying to tell you what to do with your blog, and 2) can’t spell (?”conversating”).

    • Cherry Odelberg on June 5, 2012 at 10:03 AM

      Richard, I agree with you. The meddling is quite distracting.

    • Jennifer Major on June 5, 2012 at 10:12 AM

      Mmmm hmmmm. I agree.

      • Stephanie M. on June 5, 2012 at 11:24 AM

        Yes, not sure what the rants are about.

        Another great post which confirms that this particular mode of procrastination is useful to me as a writer 🙂 Yay.

        What you might not know about writers: We’re secretly jealous of your other clients, particularly the ones who are doing well and earning so much of your hard-earned praise 🙂

    • Beth K. Vogt on June 5, 2012 at 1:37 PM

      Thank you for addressing that, Richard.
      I keep thinking, “What is that all about?!”

    • Sandra Bell Kirchman on June 7, 2012 at 2:46 PM

      Richard, I also agree. Since this is my first time to Rachelle’s posts and ccomments, this person’s comments confused me with their demanding tone and incomprehensible requests. I wondered if she was a writer or what. Specificly?

  47. Jeanne on June 5, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    I suspect there’s not much you don’t know about writers in general. With your background and your concern for your clients, I sense you keep abreast of what is going on in the world of writers. You (and other quality agents) care about the writers you help. It’s nice to see that.

  48. Wendy Paine Miller on June 5, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    Yet another affirmation my work is in the right hands.

    I love how invested you are, Rachelle & I’m grateful for how hard you work!

    ~ Wendy

  49. Else on June 5, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    #6 is true of my current agent, but was not true of my last agent.

  50. Jennifer Major on June 5, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    Rachelle, #11 was like a pinch in my thought process. My reaction was “wait, why should you have to do that? You have a husband who works a tough job and kids who need you. This is *only* a job.”

    Or is it?

    I daresay, you don’t need us to tell you what you don’t already know. Perhaps some of us need to hear it from each other?

  51. COLUMBA KNOX on June 5, 2012 at 8:24 AM

    Please have the following bloggings—
    —LITERATURE, defined; you will explain that term in your own words and others will do the same…
    —LITERATURE, generally speaking; you will say if such, at these times, can be found in the publishing world and others will do the same…
    —LITERATURE, specificly speaking; you will defend a book that you think is such and others will do the same…
    That should bring about an important, thought—provoking, deep coversating about that topic of topics…


  52. Sue Harrison on June 5, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    What a super list, Rachelle!

    What agents might not know about writers? Maybe, because we writers are more likely to express our angst, they don’t know that we are so very grateful for their support, their wisdom and their understanding.

  53. PK Hrezo on June 5, 2012 at 7:40 AM

    Thanks for that great list! What you as agents may not realize, is every story we write is a product of blood, sweat, and tears and sending form rejections on full mss is like a slap in the face. We know your busy, but if you take the time to read a full, we appreciate so much when you tell us why you stopped reading or what didn’t work… Anything to better understand why you cant take our art on. Agents who DO say why, are always first on my list for future projects. 🙂

    • Jill on June 5, 2012 at 2:10 PM

      A form rejection is a million times better than no response. With a lot of agents (and editors), I just have to give my own closure after six months or so. One time, I received a rejection after over a year had passed–it was handwritten with an effusive apology. It just seems to be the way of things in a busy industry. If you don’t want to feel invisible, don’t be a writer!! That’s the conclusion I’ve come to, along with feeling sort of weird about someday not being invisible when I’m published (because I still have high hopes). 🙂

      • PK Hrezo on June 6, 2012 at 6:19 AM

        Totally understand. Except the “don’t be a writer” part. That will never change. It’s a cop out and an excuse for people not to treat you the way they should. Just my two cents. And I mean it most respectfully. 🙂 Thanks for your response!

        • Jill on June 6, 2012 at 11:58 AM

          Maybe you’re right, but I’m just trying to make sense of why no response seems to have become standard or common, even with a requested ms. I guess I still want to be in the industry–so I shrug and tell myself “that’s just the way of things”. I don’t know what else to do, except continue writing and re-writing.

  54. Otin on June 5, 2012 at 7:30 AM

    Great points!

    It is possible that agents may not understand how difficult the waiting process is for writers. Agents are so busy, and they have so many irons in the fire that I’m sure time goes much faster for them. For a writer it’s a drawn out and most times disappointing process. True, we can write while we’re waiting, but sometimes it’s hard to get your head in the game after a rejection or two.

    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 12:32 PM

      Otin, I think we do understand this, but there’s not much we can do to change it. So we expect you all to pull on your big-boy pants and deal with it. 🙂

      • Otin on June 5, 2012 at 1:22 PM


  55. carol brill on June 5, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    What you may not know about this writer is I frequently wonder how agents make a living on 15% of often very little.

    • Cherry Odelberg on June 5, 2012 at 10:19 AM

      And I wonder how they keep their own family together while giving so much attention to the job.

    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      Carol – I wonder the same thing, lol! That’s the reason we have so many clients.

  56. Gina on June 5, 2012 at 6:01 AM

    Terri Patrick, I concur. I would add: Writers have manners and therefore do not like to submit to agents who state ‘if you don’t hear from us in 6 months’ time, we’re not interested’. A polite form rejection is the least we ask.

    • Christine Dorman on June 5, 2012 at 1:39 PM

      I agree. Rejection is better than silence. At least it is a response.

  57. Marina Sofia on June 5, 2012 at 5:05 AM

    Loved the article and the comments. All I can say is, there are as many types of agent as there are types of writers, but if even half of them feel the way you all describe it above, literature is saved…

  58. Mahendra Waghela on June 5, 2012 at 4:36 AM

    14. We know the post has 13 critical points to make but that is all about it!

  59. terri patrick on June 5, 2012 at 3:47 AM

    What agents need to remember about writers:
    1. We don’t want to be agents.
    2. Most of us are not editors.
    3. Few of us grasp marketing or are comfortable in public.
    4. We put in tons of hours and still have to get our paychecks doing something not writing related.
    5. Contracts make our eyes cross.
    6. We’d rather be reading.
    7. We don’t understand why everyone is not totally enthralled with reading.
    8. We don’t want to read everything published by a publisher we’d like as our publisher to determine how to write for that publisher.
    9. We love our stories and want to share them. We know this is not a career path to be in for the money.
    10. We know there are easier ways to make money so we write for the love of the story.
    11. As writers, we totally “GET” the business model of publishing has many layers and we really don’t want to deal with that, so we accept pennies on the price of books sold.
    12. We’d rather go to the movies.
    13. Our writing career doesn’t keep us awake at night, our stories do.

    Keep up the good work, Rachelle.

    Being a writer means we get to unplug and savor the isolation of nature while stories percolate and we are devoted to the words on the page. That’s what we do best and leave the business frenzy to you… If we’re good and lucky.

    • Iola on June 5, 2012 at 4:09 AM

      6. We’d rather be reading.
      7. We don’t understand why everyone is not totally enthralled with reading.

      So true! And it’s not just writers that think that. I do too.

    • Jennifer Major on June 5, 2012 at 8:19 AM

      Holy frijoles Terri, this is exactly what I was thinking! Well said. VERY well said!,

    • Mercey Valley on June 5, 2012 at 11:18 AM

      This is hilarious, and for the most part, so true.

    • Kathleen S. Allen on June 5, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      Oh, so true!!!! I’d rather be writing than going to my day job. You should put this up on your blog, tweet this list! It says it all!

    • Lisa Marie on June 5, 2012 at 2:39 PM

      Excellent response, especially:

      3. Few of us grasp marketing or are comfortable in public.

      … and the publicity angle of writing makes those of us who *do* grasp marketing break out in a nervous sweat.

      The only thing that I’d add is:

      14. Some of us are very private people and instinctively recoil at the words “social networking.”

      • Elissa on June 6, 2012 at 11:18 AM


    • Kristin Laughtin on June 5, 2012 at 3:15 PM

      #7 is the truth! I’m always perplexed by people who don’t like to read.

    • Kat Hinkson on July 1, 2012 at 7:51 PM

      Wonderful list Terri, Jim and David,

      This are great lists.

  60. Christine Dorman on June 5, 2012 at 3:37 AM

    My first reaction was the same as P.J.’s: that you know everything about writers since you have to deal with them constantly. After a little reflection, though, I realized one thing that you might not know: that we know everything you’ve listed. We (or at least most of us) believe that you really care about writers, their work and their feelings, but that you also are an ethical businesswoman with a job to do — and you do it well. What you may not know is that we appreciate that and I appreciate you.


    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 12:29 PM

      Christine, thank you very much and I really do appreciate all you writers, too.

      • Christine Dorman on June 5, 2012 at 1:47 PM

        You’re welcome. Thanks for all you do 🙂

  61. Lesley McDaniel on June 5, 2012 at 3:19 AM

    You might not know that most writers really do understand how difficult the agent’s job is. We don’t want to make it any harder on you. Really, we don’t.

    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 12:27 PM

      I get that. All my clients are super understanding and gracious!

      • Lesley McDaniel on June 5, 2012 at 12:38 PM

        I’m glad. My agent is a sweetheart, but I have to fight my feelings that I’m bugging him sometimes with my crazy-writer questions.

  62. Annie on June 5, 2012 at 3:14 AM

    One thing an agent might not know about me? That I’ve managed to decorate my bathroom with rejections and I’m just a few short of a lengthy masterpiece.

  63. Amy Sullivan on June 5, 2012 at 2:50 AM

    Ahhh, Rachelle,
    Always using humor and shooting straight.

  64. Martha Ramirez on June 5, 2012 at 2:32 AM

    What a great list!

  65. P. J. Casselman on June 5, 2012 at 2:30 AM

    Some things you may not know about us? Perhaps one thing is that most of us don’t believe there’s something that you don’t know about us as a whole. You keep abreast of what we say and do as a part of your overall scan of the market. We know you know unless we’re clueless newbies. While we talk about you as “gatekeepers,” the majority of us think you’re pretty awesome and are just annoyed we can’t get in the door.
    I don’t write the genre you agent, so I can’t get frustrated here. You’ll just have to stay in the awesome category. Sorry! 🙂

    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 12:27 PM

      Aw, PJ, thanks for making my day!

  66. Becky Doughty on June 5, 2012 at 2:25 AM


    Something agents should know about fiction writers in particular is that we DO believe in you…. We also believe in fairies, elves, boogie men, wicked stepmothers, goblins, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and we believe that you know far better than we do the best route through the deep, dark woods of publishing to the other side. Sure, we may freak out a little, we may wander off (Ooooh! Look at the pretty lights!) and have to be dragged back to the path kicking and screaming, but in our heart of hearts, we really KNOW that you are our knights in shining armor and that you have our back…covers. And our front covers. You have us covered cover-to-cover.

    • Jennifer Major on June 5, 2012 at 8:40 AM

      Once again, a complete stranger diagnosed my ADD. I looked for the lights.

      • P. J. Casselman on June 5, 2012 at 12:37 PM

        Those lights are awfully magnetic, aren’t they? It’s like the old saying goes, “When.. Oh, my dog just made the cutest face!

      • Kat Hinkson on July 1, 2012 at 7:42 PM

        We call that OS– Oh Shiny. It’s great to see someone else …oh shiny. Where was I? Oh yea, welcome.

  67. Kate on June 5, 2012 at 1:59 AM

    Thank goodness for wonderful agents!

  68. Paul J. Gorzkowski on June 5, 2012 at 1:43 AM

    The most stressful time so far while trying to become a successful writer is writing the perfect query letter. I just can’t get past the query proposals before getting denied. I have read up, studied, googled and even spent countless hours at my local library learning how to perfect my proposal. But, every time an agent denies my proposal, they never give negative feedback, or any feedback for that matter. I have gotten bold every so often and reply with the question of what it was about my proposal that turned them away. The only reply I have gotten was “just not right for me.” I think if agents who have decided to turn down a query letter proposal, should at least give a little more feedback of their reasons why. That in return, we could take into consideration when sending out the next one.

    • P. J. Casselman on June 5, 2012 at 2:41 AM

      Paul, have you ever sent your query to a writer friend and asked them to evaluate it? I don’t mean some wannabe like me, but someone you know who’s been published? They might be able to help.

    • Else on June 5, 2012 at 8:57 AM

      I second PJC’s suggestion. If you don’t have such a friend, there are workshops for queries on AbsoluteWrite.

    • Susie Finkbeiner on June 5, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      I’m a writer who would LOVE feedback as well. However, we all need to realize the volume of queries both agents and editors get. They really don’t have a whole lot of time. That’s where we need to do our homework (yes…even more). I agree with the other two. Find someone who is in the know that will act as a kind of mentor. It will make all the difference.

      • Kristin Laughtin on June 5, 2012 at 3:13 PM

        Exactly. Feedback might be nice, but the more time agents spend providing it, the less time they have for other duties, such as actually signing clients and selling books.

    • Rachelle Gardner on June 5, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      These other commenters all have good suggestions. There are many ways to “workshop” your query letter with others, so you don’t have to rely on agents for feedback. Agents need to spend their time assisting their clients, not the thousands of people who aren’t their clients.

      Of course, we like helping writers as much as possible, which is why we blog and make ourselves available at conferences.

      • Esther Thompson on June 5, 2012 at 2:09 PM

        Thank you for all your helpful advice.

  69. Beth K. Vogt on June 5, 2012 at 1:41 AM

    Something agents may not know about writers:
    We know we’re not your only clients.
    And yes, sometimes we wish we were.
    But we only write fiction — we don’t live it.


    • Julie on June 5, 2012 at 7:39 PM

      My question is, when looking for an agent, how does one know if an agent truly might have too many clients to give adequate attention to you?

  70. COLUMBA KNOX on June 5, 2012 at 12:27 AM

    Would like to see agents defining LITERATURE; those who cannot, should be fired; those who can, need to boldly defend her, indeed!!!