Answering Your Questions

John said…
Do you welcome queries from England in the same way as you would from America?

I welcome fiction queries from everywhere. Non-fiction is tougher, because most non-fiction books are more dependent on the author being able to promote the book here in the US, but if I loved the book I wouldn’t say no just because the author doesn’t live here.

Debbie Barr said…
If you get a query for a book that’s not for you, but sounds like something one of the other agents at your agency would like, do you pass the query letter on to them, recommend the author query them instead, or do you not say anything?

We only have two agents in our agency, and if I think a project might be right for Greg, I forward it to him. I think most agents do this; some agencies say it’s okay for you to query others in the agency, and some say they’d prefer you don’t.

Jaime said…
If you’re writing a trilogy, is it wiser to hold off querying an agent until you have the synopses of books #2 and #3 written, or can you submit book #1 with ideas for the other two rattling around in your brain but no synopsis?

If you don’t have clear ideas for what books 2 and 3 are about, I’m not sure why you’re set on writing a trilogy. You may have some fuzzy ideas but the publisher isn’t paying fuzzy money, they’re paying real money, so it’s best to have real book ideas. In any case, I think it’s okay to query as long as you have a single paragraph description of books 2 and 3, and they’re compelling enough to warrant the agent selling it as a trilogy.

However, if you’re unpublished, you’re safer having more than that. I’d rather you have full synopses of books 2 and 3, and I’d also like to see that you’ve at least partially written book 2 (in draft form). Many authors have spent literally years on that first book, and if they get a contract, they won’t have that luxury with the next books. You need to satisfy both yourself and your agent that you can actually produce two more books in a reasonable timeframe.

Flower Patch Farmgirl said…
You mention in your “What I’m Looking For” that it is important for a writer to do her homework prior to submitting queries. What would you recommend as some good starting places for doing this initial ground work?

Reading agent blogs and other publishing blogs; getting Writers Market and Guide to Literary Agents and reading the articles in the front of those books; reading articles in The Writer magazine and Writer’s Digest.

Julie Geistfeld said…
How many queries should go out before a MS is put on the back burner?


Okay, kidding. Only you can decide when to back-burner a project. It’s not a matter of “how many queries.” Seems like you’d want to try and identify why you’re not getting positive responses, perhaps work with an editor or critique partner to revise it, send it out again. Try and get some honest, objective feedback and if a knowledgeable person says, “This one’s just not going to work,” then think carefully about whether to spend more time on it or not.

Sally Napthali said…
I’m about to start a charity for the area I write in. I already use the book material as a resource to run individual and group programs. So if you already have an audience for your non-fiction book, do you really need an agent? What would suit this best for publishing—a publishing house or self publishing?

You have to decide whether your book has a large enough potential audience to interest a major publisher, or if the audience is very niche and therefore best served by self-publishing. Will anyone beyond those in your programs buy it? If not, then self publish. But if you determine there is a large audience for the book and you want a major publisher, then you’ll probably need an agent. Don’t forget there may be a middle ground—are there any independent niche publishers that might be interested in your book? Also, beware of fooling yourself about the potential size of your audience.

Carlene said…
Should an unpublished author create their own website before becoming signed to better promote themselves and their work? Does it make the new writer appear more professional to an agent?

Fiction, no. Non-fiction, yes. Everyone should have a blog, and it’s a good idea to reserve some domain names if you plan to be published, but there’s no need for a novelist to have a website before having a contract. If you have the resources and you want one, go for it. On the other hand, a non-fiction author may already have a website for their business or whatever they’re an “expert” in, which is also the topic of their book. Remember, a non-fiction author needs a platform before they sell a book to a publisher. That “platform” may involve a business or being known in the area of your subject matter.

© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

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!


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  5. Carlene on February 1, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    >Thank you for answering my question about the website, Rachelle. I think like many others, reading your blog has been essential in preparing for all aspects of a new writer's career. Thank you so much!

  6. Jessica R. Patch on February 1, 2011 at 9:24 PM

    >Thanks. You answered my question about creating a website.

  7. Kristin Laughtin on February 1, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    >I've heard the same thing as Josin as well, that all your work on book #2 could be wasted if book #1 doesn't sell, or if it sells too poorly for there to be a book #2 (assuming you didn't get a multi-book contract). But it's one of those things where I suppose multiple agents will have different advice, and so working on #2 is a calculated risk.

    I would say, no matter what, that book #1 should be self-contained enough that readers won't feel cheated if books #2 and 3 don't get to happen.

  8. sarahanneloudinthomas on February 1, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    >I love that you answer general questions periodically. It gives me great information and reminds me that you're the kind of person who's responsive to your audience. (And your how many queries answer was awesome–I promise to stop after 67.)

  9. Scooter Carlyle on February 1, 2011 at 1:51 PM

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  10. Sean on February 1, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    >Great info!

    Thanks again, Rachelle.

  11. Jaime on February 1, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    >Fantastic questions and answers – thanks, Rachelle! 🙂 Your insight is helpful as always.

  12. Graceful on February 1, 2011 at 12:01 PM

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  13. Casey on February 1, 2011 at 11:06 AM

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  14. Anonymous on February 1, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    >Wondering if it can work against a fiction writer to have a website?

  15. Erika Robuck on February 1, 2011 at 10:34 AM

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  17. Tamika: on February 1, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    >Great questions! I wish there was a magic number for the query submission.
    Thanks Rachelle!

  18. Walt Mussell on February 1, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    >Love the response on the trilogy. I’m with the others above about being told to start something new in the event the first book doesn’t sell. I’ve been working on a trilogy, though it didn’t start out that way. The ideas for books two and three developed as I wrote the first one. I wrote partial drafts on books two and three and was designing them to be stand-alone. However, several friends suggested that I should put away the trilogy (as I haven’t sold the first book) and write something new. I finally did so, but it was tough to do.

  19. Amy Sue Nathan on February 1, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    >I wanted to also address the "how many queries" question…because it's not like finding your lost glasses/keys/cellphone. Your agent doesn't always come from your final query. So keep sending until you run out of agents who *might* be right for you and your book.

  20. Linda Jackson on February 1, 2011 at 7:28 AM

    >Great info. Thanks.

  21. Heidiopia on February 1, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    >Great information, Rachelle. Thank you, as always, for being so forthcoming and generous. 🙂

  22. Timothy Fish on February 1, 2011 at 6:43 AM

    >"there's no need for a novelist to have a website before having a contract."

    Actually, I can think of one reason. Because they don't want junk showing up in their search results, search engines frequently give preference to older established websites. Granted, the time between signing the contract and actual publication is most likely a long enough time to get past that probation period, but the website needs to be established before it is actually needed. Even if the author doesn't connect it to a website, he will want to register the URL earlier rather than later. URLs are sold like trading cards. People will register URLs on risk, hoping that they can sell them later.

  23. john on February 1, 2011 at 3:55 AM


  24. Dawn Embers on February 1, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    >Excellent answers.

    I think with the series question, most discussions I've seen that don't recommend writing the rest of the series focus on writers who write every book of the series before/while sending out book 1. There is a big difference between starting book 2 and having 5 books of a series written. One thing to consider is that if the series sells, book 1 will receive edit notes that may require large changes with the possibility of making the drafts written on the rest of the series barely useable. Or that's how I've seen the topic discussed.

  25. Tabitha Bird on February 1, 2011 at 1:38 AM

    >Helpful stuff. Thanks.

  26. Debbie Barr on February 1, 2011 at 1:19 AM

    >Thank you for answering my question! It was more of a curious thing than anything else. Thanks for the other answers, too!

  27. Josin L. McQuein on February 1, 2011 at 1:15 AM

    >What you said about starting book 2 of a series (trilogy) is interesting. Most agents whose blogs I've read have said the opposite, that working on the 2nd book puts you in the position of wasting the work if book 1 doesn't sell.

    I'm glad you addressed the website vs. blog thing, too, because sometimes it's hard to figure out exactly where to focus your time and effort.

    Thanks for this.

  28. Arlee Bird on February 1, 2011 at 1:09 AM

    >This was a great post. Good questions that were well-answered and provided a writer's educational experience.

    Tossing It Out and the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

  29. Martinelli Gold on February 1, 2011 at 12:42 AM

    >Why "no for fiction and yes for non-fiction" to Carlene's question? That's one I've wondered myself.

  30. Barbara Kloss on February 1, 2011 at 12:22 AM

    >I'm with Dunx. I too am working on a series and have been wondering exactly how much of it I need to have worked out before querying an agent with my first book. This helps me more than anything else I've found while perusing the world wide web. Thank You! Back to the writing board…

  31. Dunx on February 1, 2011 at 12:16 AM

    >Thank you for the answer to the trilogy question. What I am working is something that I knew was a trilogy within weeks of starting the initial draft, and I now have early drafts and blocked out plot lines for all three books. It is good to know I have not been wasting my time!

    (… which it never would be because i Like writing this world so much)