Ask Me Your Questions!

I love answering questions about writing and publishing. For example, blog reader R.D. Allen asked:

Once you have an agent, do you have to query them the same way for your next books as you did the first?

And my answer is this: It depends on whether your agreement was that the agent would represent a specific project, or if she would represent you. Most agents, I think, would handle things less formally once they already have a working relationship with you. Hopefully, you’d just be able to shoot them an email asking if they’re ready to talk about your next project. I have several clients who are working on second and third books, and we usually have quite a bit of back and forth and brainstorming on them.

Now it’s your turn: What questions would you like to see me answer on the blog in the next few weeks?

(I may answer some questions in the comments; others I’ll save for future blogs.)

Have a good weekend!

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. Joanna K. on November 23, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    >I'm wondering about children's books (ages 4-6) – do agents/publishers want an author to already have illustrations to go with the text? Or do they prefer to take the text and find their own illustrators? If I'm pitching my kid's book to an agent, which is the better way – text only or full package?
    Thanks! I love your informative blog!

  2. Renee Gold on November 22, 2010 at 10:31 PM

    >Once you submit a book proposal at an agent’s request, how long should you have to wait for an answer? Can you call or email if two months go by and you don’t hear. Or should you wait a little longer, or not call at all? Are the follow-up rules any different from that of a query?

    Thank you.

  3. Denise on November 22, 2010 at 6:53 AM

    >Increased opportunities in publishing means increased complexity, and more time investment for both authors and agents. How might that necessarily change the agent commission structure? Part two: Due to these new complexities, do you forsee a time when an author will be advised to have both an agent and an attorney? It seems that with the addition of new marketing tools, e-books, apps, etc., that we must all be more well-informed than ever.
    Thanks . . . for this answer, and for your valuable and much-appreciated dedication to your blog and your readership

  4. Melanie on November 21, 2010 at 11:53 PM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    I'm a new follower and have been spending a lot of time over the past week, reading through your blog. I have only been blogging a few months and I'm still trying to catch up with this crazy busy blogging world. Reading, posting and commenting on blogs could easily be a full-time job in and of itself! Anywho, love your blog. 🙂

    Question: How much say does an author (new or old) have in the final decision regarding the title of a book to be published and in the artwork for the cover? And who are the people that come up with the design/photograph for the covers. Does each publisher have a team of people or a department that does this?


  5. Sally Napthali on November 21, 2010 at 7:31 PM

    >My question:
    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-ficton book, do you really need an agent? What would suit this best for publishing – a publishing house or self publishing?

    Thank you

  6. Rosaline George Melki on November 21, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    >Rachelle, another question, please. I've been hearing about another publisher, Tate Publishing. It's also promoted by a former Miss America. Have you heard of this publisher, and what is your advice about submitting to them? Should I pay attention, or is this just another vanity publisher? I thank you.

  7. Rosaline George Melki on November 21, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    >Thank you, Rachelle, Anonymous 7:08 Nov. 19th, and Krista, for the advice. I think I'm going to try and get an agent. That sounds like the best thing, since I don't want to stop writing, and my contract won't be up for a couple of years.

  8. John Watson on November 21, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    >Hey there. Sorry, you have so many comments; thought I'd add my two cents.

    What is your opinion on dialogue?

    Like how to write it both so that it doesn't use a repetitive 'he said' 'she said' over and over, but properly written so that you are not confused about which character is talking.

    Some authors add mundane details in between 'he took a bite of his sandwich before replying'.

    How important is dialogue to a story? Can a point be gotten across better with a godlike third person narrator?

    Thanks so much, would really appreciate any help along these lines… check out my blog if you want…

  9. Care on November 20, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    I am looking for a line editor for my memoir. Do you have anyone you could recommend?

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. T. Anne on November 20, 2010 at 3:10 PM

    >When you send out proposals for your clients, how many publishers do you submit to at one time? Do you send a few, wait for a bite, retweak, then send another round? How long on average does a publisher sit on proposals?

  11. Anna Zagar on November 20, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    >How many sales is considered good for someone who signed with a small press? How much weight does a major publisher give to those sales?

  12. Carlene on November 20, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    >Dear Rachelle,

    Happy almost Thanksgiving. My question is about websites. 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 or do you prefer someone who is a clean slate that you can build this professional outlook together?
    Thank you!

  13. Anonymous on November 19, 2010 at 11:09 PM

    >Rather cool place you've got here. Thanks for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

    Jane Swenson
    london african escorts

  14. Julie Geistfeld on November 19, 2010 at 4:47 PM


    One more question. I have a blog and listed at the bottom are projects I am working on. Although I have working titles for most the projects I am leery to display them for fear of giving someone the idea. I don't need a query going out for a book with the same title from someone else right about the time my book is ready.

    Also, how much of a synopsis is safe to display on a blog. I would love to generate interest, but don't want to give away everything in the event of publication. Is the summary you would include in a query letter ok to display? Just a logline?

    Curious to know your take on those blog/visibility questions.

    Thanks once more!

  15. Bobbi on November 19, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    >When writing Memoir, is it legal to use real names – and is it legal to write about actual events that took place in the courts also using court transcripts, as long is everything is 100% truth?

  16. Julie Geistfeld on November 19, 2010 at 4:35 PM


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

    Is it best to only query one MS at a time?

    I know that all agents have different ideas on this one, but what's your take on saying in Query that a MS is part of a series (planned or already partially written)?

    Thanks for any answers!

  17. Flower Patch Farmgirl on November 19, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    >I am very, very new to all of this, so please pardon my question if it is too elementary. 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?

    Also, to be terribly specific, I am curious about whether or not there is typically a market for nonfiction books that are quite market-specific. In particular, I am thinking of a personal account of adoption. I know that people are adopting in record numbers, but I also know that this remains a niche market.

    Thank you for offering your professional advice in such an open and forthright way. It is invaluable!

  18. Reesha on November 19, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    >How should one go about finding an agent after they've already been offered a deal by a publisher?

  19. alisha on November 19, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    I've seen some great author-produced video book trailers recently that made me want to go out and buy their books. My question is whether you think creating a book trailer for your unpublished book and linking to it in a proposal to an agent would be a help or a hindrance.


  20. Debbie Barr on November 19, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    >This is something I've been wondering about, and I realize it might be different depending on the agent.

    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?


  21. Anonymous on November 19, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    >I am researching agents and have come across a few general market ones that say they do not consider things aimed for the Christian/inspirational market. Okay, that's straightforward enough. But does that mean they also don't consider ANY material with some Christian themes or from a Christian worldview, even if the novel is aimed for the general market and not the CBA?

    I've looked at their recent deals and can't see any books with overtly Christian themes, but I also haven't read all their previous deals, either.

    I'm sure that this varies from agent to agent, and how heavy the novel is on Christian/religious references, but I'd like your take on this.

  22. Heather on November 19, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    >Hey Rachel,
    I was just wondering, how could a published author go about selling her own books without violating the contract with her publisher? Could she offer autographed copies off her blog and go around to local independent bookstores to ask them to carry her book? Or does she have to stick with selling them at her book signings and speaking engagements?

  23. Timothy Fish on November 19, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    >How open are Christian publishers to packaging in terms of books with subject matter that falls outside their usual area of expertise. For example, a technology book targeted at pastors. Are there any publishers out there that would consider such a package and how would a person go about offering it to them?

  24. Jaime on November 19, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    >My question is how much do you feel coffee plays a role in the crafting of a great book?
    LOL – kidding – I know the answer to that one already … 🙂

    Actually, my question: If you're writing a trilogy (Historical Romance), is it wiser to hold off querying an agent until you have the synopsis' of book #2 and #3 in a trilogy written, or can you submit book #1 with ideas for the other two rattling around in your brain but no synopsis.

  25. Anonymous on November 19, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    >Rachelle, what do you look for in "mainstream" novels? Does religion have to play a big part (if any) in genre fiction? Do you worry about offending your CBA followers if you took on a mainstream work that wasn't "Christian?" Also do you have many contacts in the mainstream publishing world? Seems you go to mostly CBA type conferences. Just curious…

  26. Anonymous on November 19, 2010 at 11:00 AM

    >Q: If your novel is totally revised, can you re-query agents who requested partials and fulls in the past, esp if they changed agencies? I tried to query one but never got a reply so not sure what's the protocol. Or should we just move on?

    How detailed should queries be?
    Some want market info, etc others only 3-4 graphs at most. Hard to tell when they all want diff info.

    Also when do you give up on an agent? An agent has had my full ms. for several months without a response, but it's since been revised (8 weeks is now 8 MONTHS). Should I send the new version without prompting or withdraw the old one?
    Agents are good at giving deadlines but many can't seem to meet them.

    Thanks for your help.

  27. Anonymous on November 19, 2010 at 10:57 AM

    >When is a facebook following large enough to be worth mentioning in a query? I started a writing page and put up a couple of chapters about 2 1/2 months ago. (I'm unpublished so that was the only way I could think of to gain fans.)

    I also placed a small fb ad that targets fans of books similar to mine. I'm gaining about 100 fans a month as an unpublished nobody with only $35 worth of marketing. At what point would this make a difference?

  28. Katharine on November 19, 2010 at 10:55 AM


    I love it when you do this. Simplified, my question is this: What's with all the bonnets?

    Explained, my question is this? Why is it that the best sellers in the CBA are of the Amish/historical fiction/period romance type of book? It seems to me that not every Christian reader out there is drawn to those type of novels, yet that seems to be the trend. I realize that there are also other genres in the CBA, but none of them make list as often as bonnet books. Do CBA publishers driving the market toward what is safe or are they really aware of the tastes of the post modern Christian reader? I ask this because I believe that a thoughtful, humorous, non-necessarily romantic novelist — say, a Christian John Irving — has yet to "break out". Am I right in this assessment? Is there hope for writers who are smart, literary, funny and refuse to wear a bonnet?

  29. Stephenie on November 19, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    >What's the best way to break into picture book publishing in the Christian market?

    I see "agent only" signs on several publishers doors. I have found only one agent who knows CBA well and represents picture books.

    I do have an "in" with one pb editor, so I'm working on that. I also know about attending conferences.

    Anything else?

  30. William on November 19, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    >When or if an agent finds interest enough to request sample chapters of your book to look over. How perfect does your text have to be? Does it have to be completely perfect as if to be sent for publication or can it be slightly rough?

    One more question, when should you seek out representation? It is proper to start sending out query letters when you are about half way through the novel or do most agents request you be completely finished the manuscript?

    Thank you so much for the time you put into answering all of the questions presented to you today. I think it is amazing to have those few out there who are willing to help the common person with their hopes and dreams.

  31. William on November 19, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    >When or if an agent finds interest enough to request sample chapters of your book to look over. How perfect does your text have to be? Does it have to be completely perfect as if to be sent for publication or can it be slightly rough?

    One more question, when should you seek out representation? It is proper to start sending out query letters when you are about half way through the novel or do most agents request you be completely finished the manuscript?

    Thank you so much for the time you put into answering all of the questions presented to you today. I think it is amazing to have those few out there who are willing to help the common person with their hopes and dreams.

  32. Krista D. Ball on November 19, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    >Rosaline – I just want to add to be very careful for the last year of your contract. Publish America has been known to auto-renew your contract because you did not spend proper notification before the end of the contract.

    As for being without a publisher, being with PA is worse than not having a publisher. Get out as soon as you can.

  33. Jan Cline on November 19, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    My question is: If I submit a manuscript to an agent, and then several months later had it professionally edited, making some moderate changes, could I resubmit it again to the same agent? If so, do I mention it's been edited and "improved"? And would it matter whether or not I had a rejection or no response yet?
    Thanks so much

  34. Rachelle on November 19, 2010 at 9:19 AM

    >Rosaline: Anon 7:08 is correct. I'd advise you leave them as soon as your contract is up if you're not happy with your experience. You can go the normal route of trying to get an agent and seek traditional publication, or you could look for a better self publishing arrangement.

  35. Anonymous on November 19, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    >Rosaline, PublishAmerica is infamous as about the worst vanity publisher out there. You do not want to stay with them.

  36. David A. Todd on November 19, 2010 at 8:38 AM

    >1) Is there any market for Bible-era historical fiction?

    2) With general market publishers buying up Christian pub houses, how has this changed Christian publishing? Is it expanded, or is it actually compromised somewhat as to the integrity of the Christian product?

  37. john on November 19, 2010 at 7:31 AM

    >Rachelle, do you welcome Queries from England in the same way as you would from America? Does the Atlantic Ocean matter when you are comming to a decision about requesting a look at someones work?
    Would distance hinder the author/agent relationship?

  38. Wendy Paine Miller on November 19, 2010 at 7:29 AM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    I’m curious to know what gets you fired up about your job in a good way and in a not so good way. And what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned since you started as an agent?

    I know those are more about you than specifically about writing and publishing, but I imagine your answers would provide intriguing insight into the industry.

    Have a great weekend,

  39. Stephen on November 19, 2010 at 6:16 AM

    >What are the legal ramifications of writing a story from your past(not so much as a memoir) using real events, maybe stretching them for more effect? Can you substitute imaginary names for real ones, without trouble? Would it be considered 'ripped from the headlines" category?

  40. Nerine Dorman on November 19, 2010 at 3:06 AM

    >What would the protocol be if one has an agent who represents you for you, the author, but you have a story or two among your better ones she feels don't have the broad appeal? Is it okay to release these via small presses yourself?

  41. Rosaline George Melki on November 19, 2010 at 3:02 AM

    >Hello, perhaps, you could assist me with this question. I do not know if you know of the POD publisher, PublishAmerica, or not, but I signed with them in 2006 for my first book, and at the time, POD wasn't really explained until after I was signed. It's difficult to get bookstores to order my book and PublishAmerica doesn't help in the promotion whatsoever. The author does all of the work. I am working on my second book (I've finally figured out the direction I'm taking the subject in), and I'm not sure if I want to stay with my publisher, though, I did sign a contract, of course. Is it advisable for me to try to get an agent? Would this be beneficial? Should I try to query other publishers, perhaps? Or would this not be advisable because of my contract? The thing is, it's a six year contract, so I've got a little more than two years left, and it's not going to take that long to write my second book. And also, if my contract exhausts, or I terminate it, I'm without a publisher. And it's better to be with a publisher than not, isn't it? Sorry for this being so long. I found your lovely blog through Writer's Digest, and thought I would ask for a literary agent's advice. It would be much appreciated. Thank you.

    Rosaline Melki

  42. Pippa Jay on November 19, 2010 at 2:44 AM

    >If I found a publisher to take my first book, how would I then go about approaching an agent to represent me for future books? Do I submit my second book in the same way as I would the first? Obviously quoting that the first is being published. Would I need to send them sample chapters from both books?