Q4U: Too Much Information?

I’m wondering if the plethora of publishing blogs and the wealth of advice available for aspiring writers is making it more difficult for you, rather than easier.

It seems the more information and advice we give via our blogs, workshops, webinars and books, the more writers clamor for even more detailed advice. It also seems writers are stressing more about the details of publishing than ever before. Even with all the information available, one commenter on yesterday’s post said “good, comprehensive and transparent information is extremely hard to find” and called it one of the “flaws of the industry.” I’m flabbergasted by that. If you shop on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble, you will find hundreds of books on every aspect of getting published—many of them “comprehensive and transparent.” Don’t even get me started on the number of blogs and websites out there.

All I can conclude is that there is so much information available that it becomes confusing, because much of it is contradictory (coming, as it does, from different sources). This leads writers to pull out their hair in frustration and beg us for definitive answers. But isn’t it obvious that definitive answers don’t exist?

You have to write the best book you can, properly query agents, and see what happens. Beyond that, there are countless views on exactly what process to follow. You can keep asking until the cows come home but you’re not going to get that one magical piece of advice that is going to finally bring you success.

Maybe part of the problem is that we agents are giving so much information on our blogs—like how to write a query letter, etc.—that writers are becoming paranoid that they must do everything perfectly, so they keep asking for more and more tips on how to reach that perfection.

I wonder if writers’ frustration about the “lack of information” is really not that at all, but simply the age-old frustration about a difficult and time-consuming process that they wish were easier.

I’m just thinking out loud here. Help me out. What do you think about the flow of information regarding publishing? Is it true there is not enough of it?

If there’s enough information, why are writers still frustrated? And why do so many people write me with the most basic publishing questions imaginable, that could be answered fifty different ways from one quick Google search?

I’m interested in your answers. Have a good weekend!

(c) 2010 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!


  1. PatriciaW on August 18, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    >In a word, yes. There's so much info the focus shifts from learning all you can about craft, the business of publishing, the latest trends, hot news, etc. and away from telling a story.

    It's near impossible to succeed in publishing without some knowledge of the publishing world, but it is certainly impossible with a good story.

  2. ginny martyn on August 13, 2010 at 7:32 AM

    >This is a real problem no matter what "level" you are on. Tons of info. Some of it is bad and some of it is good. But reading it all and putting it into its different categories takes a lot of time out of the day.

  3. Jennie Allen on August 12, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    >I am catching up on my blog reading- but I would very much like to comment on this. You scared me to death. I thought I could never ever measure up. And when I took all of my materials to a writers conference, I got an agent and had the interest of 7 publishers represented there. But I am thankful you scared me- made me be perfectionist, work for this. It was not easy but i know in scaring the tar out of me- you made me better.

    So thanks- yours is the main one I read, so I have been meaning to tell you that.

  4. Madeleine on August 9, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    >I think lots of writers simply become hoarders of information, desperate for the most detailed and specific "how-to"s. And that desperation is unpleasant.

    For example: I horde books. Shamelessly. And yet, when I walk into Borders and am greeted by the seemingly infinite number of books, I feel overwhelmed. For the most part, buying books is fun (as is reading publishing info), but there are still moments when I get weary. It's endless, and endlessness is not something we naturally like. It makes me exhausted just thinking about how many books are within a 100 foot radius.

    What we need to learn to do is withstand. Stop subscribing to 1000 industry blogs. There's no way we're going to find time for them or process all the info. There's no way we're going to be able to make sense of the multiple views on the same 20 topics. So, in the long run, it's all about self-discipline. And not being afraid of the truth: It's endless, and you'll never have the time.

  5. error7zero on August 8, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    >I quit reading agent blogs except for three. Most of those were either frustrated writers or little more than PR. One Pez tells everyone what song is playing in her office. How does that help anyone? Why would we care?
    Don't get me started on the tone of most "comments."

  6. Brigid Kemmerer on August 8, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    >Wow, there are a lot of comments already, and you might have stopped reading. 🙂

    I don't think it has anything to do with the amount of information available, comprehensive, transparent, thorough, or not.

    I think it has to do with the general frustration among writers trying find something objective in a subjective medium.

    In life, we're taught that 1 + 1 = 2. If we follow a map, we'll get to our destination. If you refer to this flowchart, here, you'll find out whether you have appendicitis or an upset stomach.

    When we submit and are met with rejection, it's so tempting to say, "Well, that agent just wasn't clear about what she wanted! If that other agent hadn't said to put the word count at the start of the query, I would have put it at the END, and then I would have gotten a full request, for SURE."

    I think the bottom line is that people seek an outlet for blame. It's human nature to look outside ourselves to find a reason for our failures.

    I wish people would stop diagnosing their failures this way. It's such a waste of time. Time that could be spent writing a better novel, or playing with our children, or finding a new place to eat ice cream. It's futile. It's negative energy. It needs to go.

    I have an agent. She's fantastic. She signed me last year and she's an amazing fit.

    That manuscript? It didn't sell.

    I could sit here and belabor the point about why. But what good would that do? It didn't sell. We all tend to get so wrapped up in whose fault it was. Who cares? First off, if my novel doesn't sell, there's only one person to blame: me. ME. I wrote it. I put those words on paper. If it didn't sell, it wasn't the right time, the right story, the right whatever.

    The point isn't to look for things or people to blame.

    The point is to keep writing. To keep getting better. To keep looking forward.

    Anything less is like sitting in the driver's seat with your foot on the accelerator, forgetting to put the car in gear.

    It feels like you're moving, but really? You're not going anywhere.

  7. Beth on August 8, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    >131 comments so far, so this might be too much information for you, but I don't think there's too much or too little information. There just is information, and you have to go through it and see what's there and needs to be learned and used. That's all

  8. Lauren on August 8, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    >I think there's plenty of information out there for writers concerning the publishing industry. I think the problem is what you said: people want there to be one right answer for one questions – they want definitive, but that won't happen because each source has a different opinion and a different method. I think the best anyone can do is what you said: write the best possible book you can, and go from there. No one is ever going to write a 100% perfect query letter. I've never written one, but I would think your query letter needs to be just as honest as the book you're trying to sale.

  9. Debbie Maxwell Allen on August 8, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    >There is more than enough information out there, but as media consumers, we don't have the best skills at weeding out the best from the overload of information offered.

    Why do people write you with basic questions? Because they see you as a trustworthy source of information. How can they depend on what a random blogger said? (besides, you've made the Writer's Digest list three years running, and that adds credibility!).

    I believe as writers, we need to cultivate a balance in our lives. Reading every blog and writing book will not make us better writers. We may end up more informed, but we'll have less of our own writing out of our heads and down on paper.

    Just as we need balance in everyday life, we should pick a few blogs and books to read, then get down to the business of writing. Developing a filter on our reading about writing may be one of the most valuable skills for the future.

  10. Don Booker on August 8, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    >It's fantastic that the web is there and so much information is at hand for writers. Finding the best advice on many things is very time consuming, the best information I find is on dedicated blogs from those actually doing it.
    An Industry now exists to service the would-be writer. Writers sometimes make the mistake that their first look into something is truth. That the google rank suggests it's the best to be had.
    It is not.

    From my own point of view there was a time that i thought first draft was was completed work. Tough lesson that one!
    It's a learning experience for every writer, each journey will be different in the route it takes.

    Hoe genuine is the guildance offered by some. Only time will tell. So many writers lose the will to write when they have to set about the process of submitting. It's a tough environment for the faint of heart.

    Send what's asked for hasn't worked for me since i started submitting my first novel. 12 months of sweat and tears , editing with people, copy edits, proofreads have not got me one invitation to read the entire manuscript.
    What do you do differently then when most of the information is DON'T DO IT ?

    I had a few knowledgeable people read it over. All said they'd buy this book and i asked them to be unkind. It's the only way I know how to keep improving.

    To study a charachter in a coming-of-age-tale means starting at the beginning of that journey, which is usually a time when the charachter realises somethings not quite right. To explore that in the beginning and remain honest to that, may be not enough to get prospective agent to ask for more. That's the worry I have right now and I can't find answers to that.

    Someone said put it out into the world and let them decide. I like to write and hope my time for that in any given day will far outweigh the time I spend promoting. That's my dream. Only time will tell where it will eventually lead. I'm glad I'm doing it though. So may don't.

  11. juliette on August 8, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    >I recently went to the hugest craft store I've ever seen; it was awesome (in the true sense of the word)! Thanks to a very favorable exchange rate, everything was dirt cheap. I could almost buy one of everything if I had really wanted to!

    My first 20 minutes were spent in total amazement. In the next 5 minutes I started to zone out and get numb. By 40 minutes I was feeling totally overwhelmed. After an hour I was feeling physically sick and had to get out of there and was glad when my friend said she was ready to go.

    Initially I had just wanted to find some 'pretty ribbon', but faced with an entire warehouse room of ribbon I was at a loss of where to begin, how to decide which ribbon was most likely to be used, which worked with fabrics I already had, etc.

    This is pretty much exactly how I feel about the internet. It can be great, but unless I have self-control and know how to be targeted in my searches (and determining who are the reliable and appropriate-for-me sources), it's pointless and overwhelming.

  12. arbraun on August 7, 2010 at 10:22 PM

    >I think there's a plethora of great information if you're knowledgeable about the right blogs to follow, but what frustrates me is when I read on one blog that all it takes is writing a great book and query. Then another blog says I have to have an outstanding platform and become a video director, painter and publicist because of the rise of book trailers and picture-friendly technology coming soon in e-books.

  13. Tahlia on August 7, 2010 at 6:48 PM

    >There's masses of info out there and I think there's a time in the writing process to research whatever stage you're up to. There's also a time to stop, otherwise you read basically the same stuff over and over from a slightly different perspective.

    I solved the different options for what to put in a querie letter and what not to by following the individual guidelines for whoever I was submitting to.

    I find reading the personal experiences of other writers very heart warming. It's amazing how much support and good advice about the writing life ( including dealing with all this) that you can get from other writers on the path to publication.

  14. Wendy Saxton on August 7, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    >I am grateful for every person in the business who is willing to come alongside via books, blogging, and mentoring. I glean all that I can and then ask the Author and Finisher of my faith to tell me what to do with it.

    Six years later, doors are opening for me, and I am not overwhelmed by a to-do list. I am prepared and overwhelmed with joy! We write and speak to serve others.

  15. Cynthia Schuerr on August 7, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    >I will agree with you on this one, Joanne. We obviously let the claws out for whatever reason.

    I think an apology is due to Rachelle and her commentors; however, I can't help thinking she and they will all have a good chuckle over it.:-)

  16. Joanne Sheppard on August 7, 2010 at 12:41 PM


    Of course writers have to start somewhere. Where did I say otherwise? My point was simply that I think that too much and/or conflicting information from experts is probably the very last thing that is going to harm a writer's chance of being published, and that therefore by focusing on it (or worse, complaining about) is disproportionate and illogical, as the main reason that books don't get published is simply their quality.

    Neither did I once make any generalisation about all unpublished writers. I referred to a particular type of bad writer who refuses to accept that they are bad, and looks for people to blame. Whether you choose to believe it or not, there are plenty of those people about. I didn't say that all inexperienced, disappointed are angry and bitter. I said that some of them are. If you refuse to believe that there is a single angry, bitter failed writer out there, then you've obviously never read their posts on blogs like this or other forums. I've read blogs from other lit agents who have actually reproduced the emails they've received from such writers when they've rejected them. Believe me, there are angry and bitter writers around. As I said, that is simply a fact. Not all failed writers are angry and bitter. Not even most of them. But some of them are. I fail to see anything offensive or arrogant in acknowledging that fact. If I'd said that my own writing was great, that would be arrogant. But I didn't. I didn't say a thing about myself. Nowhere did I assert that I am a published writer, either, so I don't see what that's got to do with it or why you need to bring it up. I've never queried an agent in my life because my book isn't even close to being at that stage yet. And of course you don't know my name. Why on earth would you? And as for the 'writing community', there is no one single 'writing community' in which everyone knows each other, and I don't see writing as something which requires 'support' or any obligation to join some sort of community. Again, I'm not really seeing the relevance of any of that to Rachelle's post or the opinion I expressed in response to it. What assumptions you want to make about me as an individual are entirely your own affair, but are hardly likely to be accurate given the minimal evidence on which you can base them. If you want to know the truth rather than guessing, I've been writing for a living ever since I graduated from uni 12 years ago, because my salaried day job is copywriting, but no, I've never had a novel published, nor am I under any illusions that I'm ready for that yet.

    If you don't like my tone, then there isn't much I can do about that. I'm not angry in the least. I simply made my point directly, without making any personal attacks on a single individual, and expressed my opinion in answer to Rachelle's question. Apparently that has offended you. So be it. But if you are going to be offended, at least be offended by the things I actually said, rather than the things you merely *think* I said.

    I actually think that we are being immensely rude by having this debate on someone else's blog, so I would rather it stopped now. I have said my piece, you have said yours. Let's do Rachelle the courtesy of not clogging up her Comments with our bickering any more, as I feel that we're both at fault on that score.

  17. Cynthia Schuerr on August 7, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    >Sorry, BTW, my last comment was directed to Joanne Sheppard, in case anyone is wondering.:-)

  18. Cynthia Schuerr on August 7, 2010 at 12:12 PM

    >In reference to this statement….

    "Or are you saying that only 'positive' opinions have any validity? And that there are no bad writers or bitter people in the world, and that if they are, we have to pretend they don't exist?"….

    No! I am simply saying that opinions are opinions and do not have to be argumentative. Which is what you seem to want to do. I find that unprofessional.

    In reference to this statement….

    "I am really baffled that you could be offended by an acknowledgement that some writers are terrible. That is simply an indisputable fact. How is that 'accusatory'?"…….

    I guess I find the words you use a little brash and angry. I agree that some writers query before they are ready to query. And are disappointed when they learn their MS still needs work. That is part of the learning process. 'Terrible' and 'bitter' aren't the words I would use. Maybe, 'inexperienced' and 'disappointed' is how I would coin them.

    I am in no way blaming agents or publishers for not publishing the work of inexperienced writers. Just that all writers must start somewhere. It's all part of the process. I feel from you that you might not be very supportive in the writing community. I don't recognize your name. I don't know if you are on the NYB list, but with your arrogance, I would never buy one of your books.

  19. Kati patrianoceu on August 7, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    >Oh, and a question for you… do you get tired of writing about the same things on your blog over and over? Do you enjoy writing dozens of blogs about good-and-bad-queries, or does it drive you nuts? (I've been wondering that for a while.)

  20. Kati patrianoceu on August 7, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    >Hi Rachelle, I used to read your and others' blogs very carefully and eagerly in order to learn, but now I just glance through once a week or so, for that exact reason. The information is good and useful, but I feel I know all I need to know at this particular point in my career and more information would just blow things out of proportion.

    I actually do feel like there's a lot of temptation to blow things out of proportion – increased stress, increased self-importance, increased controversy, etc. – because of the enormity of information available.

  21. Justajo on August 7, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    >I agree with those who believe there is too much information and that much of it is in response to the massive crush of writers – either new or old – wanting to get published. Many of us, myself included, who are not greatly competitive are intimidated by this great number and seek to gain whatever advantage we can. Trouble is, we're all seeing the same thing with the result of little or no advantage to anyone. Being right back where I started before doing all this research has discouraged me to the point of nearly giving up. I'm not sure where I will go from here.

  22. Joanne Sheppard on August 7, 2010 at 11:00 AM


    There was nothing accusatory about my post at all. You chose to read it that way. As you say, opinions were requested, and I offered mine: I don't think there is too much information out there, but I do think lots of people are horribly over-reliant on it.

    That opinion is just as valid as yours. You can't 'call me out' on my opinion and dismiss it as accusatory, invalid and negative and then expect to have your own go unchallenged. Your opinion is yours, as you say. But if you accept that, then you really do need to accept that mine is also mine, that it's apparent negativity doesn't make it invalid or inappropriate, simply because you don't like it.

    Or are you saying that only 'positive' opinions have any validity? And that there are no bad writers or bitter people in the world, and that if they are, we have to pretend they don't exist?

    Regarding talent shows, the competition aspect of it is completely irrelevant to the analogy. I didn't refer to writers competing with others, and that's certainly not how I see writing. I referred to bad writers offering their work to be judged by agents/publishers on its own merits, and then refusing to believe that the reason for their rejection is that insufficient merits ever existed. How is that different from a bad singer asking to be judged by a producer/record company exec/whatever on the quality of their singing, and then refusing to believe that the reason for their rejection is that the quality of their singing is abysmally low?

    I am really baffled that you could be offended by an acknowledgement that some writers are terrible. That is simply an indisputable fact. How is that 'accusatory'?

  23. Bri Clark on August 7, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    >Dear Rachelle,

    It all boils down to personality, persistence and tolerance. Those are the things that will get a writer through, over or away from the process. There is a plethera of information. Yes you can become overwhelmed. Nevertheless, you control the amount. Wise up, shut up and get off the agents back. I'm so frustrated at writers these days. The amount of truly great agents and their time is not in grand supply. How about we quit bombarding them with useless questions that we could find on goggle with our on engergies so they can put more energy into reading queries and responding.
    Sorry that's just me thinking out loud as well Rachelle.

  24. Cynthia Schuerr on August 7, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    >Joanne, the first two paragraphs of your rebuttal is certainly true. The writing MUST be great. I considered that to be a given. Of course you have to be knowing of your craft and write the best you can, BTW, I haven't even sent my first query, yet. I want my book to be as perfect as I can get it before I query.

    The question here was – is there TMI about querying and publishing? That comes after learning the craft and the great writing.

    I don't believe Rachelle asked this question to create negative responses, but to collect a myriad of OPINIONS from every corner of the writing community. It does not need to be a "You're right, I'm wrong" type of dialogue. I haven't read every single comment, but yours had an accusatory tone to it and I don't believe that was the point of this post.

    I certainly appreciate the blogs and sites that offer their knowledge about everything to do with writing, I've learned so much from them and will continue to learn from them. I am only pointing out that there is much contradictory information about the subject at hand.

    I don't agree with your analogy of the talent show. I guess I don't look at my writing as a competition. I look at it as something I love to do. Maybe I will become a good or great writer and maybe, I won't. The only one I'm competing with is myself.I guess that's why I don't feel that accusations of being bitter are called for in this situation.

    If I offended you by calling you out on your comment, I apologize. But my opinions are just that, mine.

  25. Carrie L. Lewis on August 7, 2010 at 9:31 AM


    I've often commented to my husband how amazed I am that our society as a whole is so uninformed when there is such a wealth of information available. It's almost as if just knowing it's there gives us the 'comfort' to let it go until later.

    That doesn't seem to have much to do with the situation you're commenting on, since you're talking about people who devour information and never seem to get enough.

    But I think they do go together.

    And I think part of the problem – possibly a large part of the problem – is that we've gone soft on critical thinking (the ability to see that if A equals B and B equals C, then A equals C).

    That loss leads almost directly to an inability to digest and use the information we receive. Consequently, we take in information, but never satisfy our hunger by being able to digest it. The hunger to understand remains, so we 'eat' more.

    I grew up on a dairy farm. Most of what I learned in childhood I learned from farming, not school. I learned to do as well as learn and I learned that I don't have to know everything there is to know about something before I do it. Painting is like that. I taught myself.

    Writing is like that. I was writing stories before I knew anything about POV, voice, message, plot, structure or any of it.

    What I see around me is a loss of that attitude. Now, we have to have our Garmin or Nuvee before we leave on a trip.

    We have to check the weather before we step out the door.

    We have to have all our ducks in a row before we venture out on any adventure.

    Real life is not like that.

    Neither is writing.

    For myself, I know that if I spend too much time reading how to write, I tend not to write and am consequently looking for more information to help me get started.

    Seeking information is good; but it has to be digested and it has to be used or it's just one sweet treat in a long series of sweet treats. Tasty while we partake of them, but of no lasting value.

    Carrie L. Lewis

  26. PK on August 7, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    >I think there's plenty of info out there. The problem is that it conficts. I didn't have time to read all the other comments so this may be redundant, but I've researched the process for months, and found that some agents prefer queries one way, others another. Some resources say use a cover later not a query. Some resources say keep your query vague, others say tell the crux of the story. Then, there's all sorts of etiquette on follow ups with agents. It's not that the info isn't there. It's just confusing.Now, there's all whole new world of eBooks vs. publishing rights on printed books. Gee whiz I can't wait til I finally get one so he/she can help me make sense of it all! 🙂

  27. Joanne Sheppard on August 7, 2010 at 9:19 AM


    Yes, but in way, you're almost proving my whole point – not about bitterness, necessarily (although I'll return to that point in a minute) but about the fact that you're putting too much emphasis on slavishly following instructions and thinking that's all it will take to get your work noticed. Of course all agents will have slightly different preferences, because they're human beings with different likes and dislikes and different opinions. A lot of writers are too busy looking for some magic formula that will work every time when they're querying an agent, and think that this is all that matters.

    Moreover, even if there was a magic formula, if a writer has little talent and their novel is badly written, they could produce the greatest query in the world and follow every piece of advice there was in approaching agents and they still wouldn't get published. At the end of the day, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and about 99.9 per cent of unpublished novels are sow's ears.

    Frankly, I think people should be grateful that advice is out there. Lots of agents have blogs and websites now, and even if they don't all agree on what they want to see in a query or a manuscript, they are taking the time to be helpful and to engage with aspiring writers. What do you want them to, all get together one day, put their personal views to one side and come to a consensus on what makes the perfect query / manuscript, and stick to those rigid criteria from thenceforth, just to give amateur writers a definitive, inflexible and set-in-stone process for approaching an agent? Frankly, I don't think any writer is in a position to whine about information that they are being given, often for free, and often in people's spare time.

    Moreover, while agents might differ when it comes to certain details of what they want from a prospective client, there are still obvious no-nos that they all do agree on, and even knowing what they are is extremely helpful.

    With regards to bitterness, I can't see why that word offends you so much. If you don't believe that some writers are bitter about not being published, there is no shortage of comments on most writing blogs from crazed people who are barely literate and whose remarks are little more than an outpouring of vitriol about how their meisterwerk hasn't been published, not because they're awful writers, but because agents suck and don't know real brilliance when they see it. There are a million bitter, failed writers out there, and that bitterness colours their judgement on a grand scale. I see evidence of this on writers' blogs and forums on an almost daily basis.

    If you've ever seen a TV talent show, you'll have seen that terrible, terrible singers who cannot carry a tune to save their lives audition time and time and then blame the judges, the audience and the producers, not their own obvious lack of talent, when they're rejected. There are plenty of bad writers who react to a rejection in much the same way – they think it's the agent's fault for not recognising greatness, or they think it's because their manuscript was in the wrong font, or they were given the wrong advice, or that the publishing world is snobbish and narrow-minded. What they don't do is recognise that their work is appalling.

  28. Cynthia Schuerr on August 7, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    >Directing my comment to Joanne Shephard above:

    With all due respect, I don't believe it has anything to do with bitterness over not being able to get published. The fact that there is conflicting and confusing information out there is a real annoyance. If we are to write, we don't have time to pour over every bit of info we can find. Much of the information is put forth in generalities, when commonality would be more helpful. If you get a set of instructions from one publisher or agent, it would be more productive to know that this is it. This is the way to query or approach a publisher. Instead, each is just slightly different enough that the odds of satisfying the person reading the query is slim. I would be thrilled if I could just match the info of two professionals. Then those would be the instructions I would follow.

    These are my thoughts and I respect all the other thoughts and opinions out there, but I don't think bringing the word 'bitter' into it, explains any of it.

    Have a blessed day!:-)

  29. Joanne Sheppard on August 7, 2010 at 7:40 AM

    >I don't think the issue is that there is too much information about there for aspiring writers. I think the problem is that many aspiring writers think that following the instructions on formatting a manuscript, querying agents etc is *all* they need to do to get their book published. They think they've done everything right, and they're bitter that nobody wants to publish them. It doesn't seem to occur to them that the reason they haven't achieved any success isn't because they formatted their manuscript badly or didn't write a great query letter, but because their book stinks to high heaven.

  30. Catherine Johnson on August 7, 2010 at 7:28 AM

    >Rachelle, are you allowed to post excerpts from emails sent to you on your blog? Say a monthly round up of 'should have been googled questions'. Wouldn't that cut the numbers down a bit?

    I watched Sherlock Holmes last night and one scene was so relevant to writers wading through the blogosphere. Sherlock discovers a secret room and rather than standing staring at the magnificence of it, he homes straight in on the pieces of evidence he wants to steal and gets out of there leaving the officers ogling the room. Isn't this what we should all be doing, quick in and out and back to writing world?

    I think one reason for info overload is the pressure to have something new to blog about. So many bloggers regurgitate publishing news and yes its useful but its wasting our time. My blog has none of that (nor the subscribers) but I hesitate to bring more of the same news to everyone when all I want to do is write.

  31. Catherine Johnson on August 7, 2010 at 7:28 AM

    >Rachelle, are you allowed to post excerpts from emails sent to you on your blog? Say a monthly round up of 'should have been googled questions'. Wouldn't that cut the numbers down a bit?

    I watched Sherlock Holmes last night and one scene was so relevant to writers wading through the blogosphere. Sherlock discovers a secret room and rather than standing staring at the magnificence of it, he homes straight in on the pieces of evidence he wants to steal and gets out of there leaving the officers ogling the room. Isn't this what we should all be doing, quick in and out and back to writing world?

    I think one reason for info overload is the pressure to have something new to blog about. So many bloggers regurgitate publishing news and yes its useful but its wasting our time. My blog has none of that (nor the subscribers) but I hesitate to bring more of the same news to everyone when all I want to do is write.

  32. Leigh D'Ansey on August 6, 2010 at 10:57 PM

    >There's a lot of information but you just have to sift through to find what suits you. Some bloggers (like Rachelle)will strike a chord and you'll follow along, others you won't bother so much with. My main problem is that I find so much so fascinating that I spend too much time writing my own blog, reading other blogs, posting comments and getting diverted by intriguing links when I should be writing.

    I think a lot of people are looking for a quick fix (just like me with wanting to lose 10kg by like, tomorrow)and don't appreciate that writing is work like any other. Plumbers won't build a successful business by sitting around reading, thinking and talking about plumbing – and neither will writers!

  33. teacherwriter on August 6, 2010 at 9:31 PM

    >In one word: overwhelming

  34. sarah on August 6, 2010 at 9:28 PM

    >you guys are great…you've given tons of information…but for me sometimes I get lost in all that information. I need to keep things simple…short…almost in point form. I've also stopped reading alot of the how to's and keep it down to just a couple. But…know this Rachelle…I do appreciate you guys posting this stuff on how to write up a query etc….

  35. salarsenッ on August 6, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    >I think your third paragraph nailed most of the issue. For those of us who are newbies or 'newer' to the storytelling world, all the information out there can be daunting to digest. I believe the key to understanding is to find good, knowledgeable sources and listen to their advice. Then do a little research. See if that advice was sound or in the majority. Knowledge can be powerful. You just need to learn who and what to listen to.

  36. Rebecca on August 6, 2010 at 7:22 PM

    >Definitely too much information out there, making it hard to know which sources are worthwhile. I consider your blog one of the worthwhile ones, by the way.

  37. Kim Kasch on August 6, 2010 at 7:19 PM


    know no
    way weigh

    knot not
    four for fore
    eye I aye

  38. T. Anne on August 6, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    >I love how informative your posts are. Too be honest if there were no industry blogs I would feel lost. The information I've gleaned over the last three years is staggering in comparison to what I could have learned through magazines or books. Also, the industry has been in flux and blogs bring together information faster and more personably. It makes me feel not only connected, but like I've got front row seats to the best show in town.

  39. Emily on August 6, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    >I wanted to be commenter number 100. In my experience, people want detailed, personalized information on how to get their work published. They don't want to do any of the research and figure it out for themselves. They aren't interested in general information. They want specifics for their particular situation. This just plain lazy and unrealistic.

  40. LaylaF on August 6, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    I'm a total newbie to this process. And after doing alot of research and reading many of the wonderful agent blogs out there I have to say that the blogs provided by agents such as yourself, have been invaluable to me.

    At first I was overwhelmed by the different opinions in format, queries, etc. But finally, I got to that point where it all made sense.

    Simply put you need three basic elements:
    1. a clear concise query letter following the common guidelines given (and there is a common thread).

    2. A well written, interesting story (this of course is the most important).


    3. It needs to be something that the agent you are querying is either looking for or intrigued by/interested in.

    That about sums it up…again, thank you so much for all the time and effort that you and other agents invest in educating authors on the process.

  41. Anonymous on August 6, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    >Imagine that BING Maps, Google Earth, Yahoo Maps, MapQuest, Magellan, Garmin, and TomTom all gave vastly different directions to getting from one place to another. That is the electronic equivalent of asking five old men hanging out in front of the feed store how to find a farm house two towns over. Before you leave them, they will have started an argument among themselves and confused you completely.
    All you needed was a relatively new map.
    There are hundreds of agents, writing magazines, writers, editors, and bloggers all telling us different turns NOT to take.
    Yes, too much information is making it harder. It makes us believe that you are all right, and that we need to navigate the impossibly narrow courses that lie between the rocks placed by you, Nathan, Janet, Kristin, et. al.
    It is great that you all tell us the things that make you tend to reject. But, while we scour the blogosphere to find all the obstacles in our way, we forget that there are some well-paved roads.
    Write well. Revise, edit and polish. Query EVERYBODY.

  42. Linda Strachan on August 6, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    >Is there too much information out there? I would say there probably is and I have to admit that I have added to it (with a book on 'Writing for Children'). But I am not saying that you don't need to know how to write a coherent query letter or how to present your MS of course you do. My point is that if you spend so much time reading all the different ways that you should or shouldn't do this or that, you will have no time to write. The most important thing is to write well and to keep polishing it until it shines.

    You do need to get to know the market you are writing for but most of all you need to be professional in your approach. No one owes you a publishing contract.
    Publishers and agents want to publish great books that a lot of people will want to read and enjoy – but they also need to earn a living and this is their JOB, not a fun thing they do in their spare time.

    Treat your query letter as you would an application for a job.
    Research the agent or publisher to find out what they want and in what format. Address it correctly to them. Send them work that is as polished and perfect as you can possibly make it. Be polite.
    Act in a professional manner and accept that if your work is not good enough you will need to make it better, but if you have sent it to the wrong agent or publishing company for that kind of book it means you have not done your research well enough.

    Writing for publication is not a game – it is wonderful and amazing, heart-rending and difficult, but I do think people often forget that it is a job for all those involved in publishing.

    See – now I have added even more to all the information that is out there. 🙂
    But perhaps if you are reading this you should STOP – go back to your manuscript, and get writing!

  43. Jamie on August 6, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    >I read a tweet from RWA last week quoting Nora Roberts. In response to sentiment that it is so hard to get published these days, she said, "It was always hard." I liked that a lot. It's just plain hard to get published for most us mortal folks. Talent, long hours and perseverance. No amount of studying, no special formula — no magic wands. Great post.

  44. Kelly Jamieson on August 6, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    >I may be coming at this with a little different perspective than other commenters, as I already have an agent (though I can certainly relate to many of the comments). But I took your blog in a little different way. Lately I've been feeling a little lost in the business of publishing, unsure of where to submit, what to submit(I have several digital publishers plus agent) and I think I'm confused becase YES there is so much info out there! I read about NY publishers switching to digital, I read about agents becoming publishers, I read about this or that sub-genre being dead or a tough sell, I read about Amazon Kindle sales surpassing sales of hard covers and it makes me crazy! What does the future hold? What should my next steps be? The best part of your blog article:

    "You have to write the best book you can, properly query agents, and see what happens. Beyond that, there are countless views on exactly what process to follow. You can keep asking until the cows come home but you’re not going to get that one magical piece of advice that is going to finally bring you success."

    Thank you! I will just keep writing the best books I can.

  45. Danielle La Paglia on August 6, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    >While I appreciate the information that agents provide online, there is an insane amount of it out there, and because everyone is blogging and tweeting 24/7, it feels as though some agents expect us all to read every post everyday. If we did that for every agent we follow, there would be no time for writing, much less our day jobs and family.

    It is frustrating to read nit-picky things that can make or break your query, but that's all part of the process. Before the social media frenzy writers had no clue what individuals liked or didn't like.

    We can read everything that's out there, but at the end of the day it comes down to us writing the best manuscript and query we can, and following the submission guidelines.

    Best of luck to us all.

  46. Danielle La Paglia on August 6, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    >While I appreciate the information that agents provide online, there is an insane amount of it out there, and because everyone is blogging and tweeting 24/7, it feels as though some agents expect us all to read every post everyday. If we did that for every agent we follow, there would be no time for writing, much less our day jobs and family.

    It is frustrating to read nit-picky things that can make or break your query, but that's all part of the process. Before the social media frenzy writers had no clue what individuals liked or didn't like.

    We can read everything that's out there, but at the end of the day it comes down to us writing the best manuscript and query we can, and following the submission guidelines.

    Best of luck to us all.

  47. Julie Weathers on August 6, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    >I'm at that point where I feel like pulling my hair out.

    Put the genre in the first line word count. I hate reading query letters where writers think they are cute and hide them at the end of the query letter.

    Put the reason you're contacting me in the first line. I want to know you researched me and know what I want.

    Don't put any of that other stuff in the first line. I don't care about it. I want to jump into the story and see what it's about.

    That's just the first line. And what's really sad, is none of those agents had those preferences on their blogs. Unless you just happened to catch them talking about it you would have no idea.

    I want exactly four paragraphs. Just follow the formula. "Yuck, someone else who can't follow the formula."

    Wait, wait. There's a magic formula?

    I really don't care what agents want as long as they state somewhere in their guidelines they refuse to read queries that do whatever.

    We're not trying to be cute or make the agent's job harder. We simply don't know Agent X despises the word "could" and it gives them the shakes.

  48. Brad Jaeger on August 6, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    >While I understand that many could find themselves overwhelmed with the variety of opinions floating around the net, I still find that having so many resources available to me is a blessing.

  49. trendiestandy1990 on August 6, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    >I think it's important to have all the information you can get your hands on. That being said, I also believe the aspiring writer needs to set a time limit everyday on the informaton he/she reads, otherwise ther is no tme for writing. Setting up a routine, I think, is very important to getting in the writing time needed to accomplish a writing project.

  50. MCPlanck on August 6, 2010 at 3:35 PM

    >Nobody's asked the other half of the question: has all this information helped agents?

    Do you get a better quality of query or writing now that you've spent so much time educating people on how to do it?

    I'm guessing… not so much. 😀

    Still, I appreciate the effort. It definitely helped me!

  51. Designs by JoLea on August 6, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    >The sheer number of comments on this post give us an idea how too much is simply too much.

    Yes, we need the information, to write well, to query successfully, to market and network and keep track of details. It is really up to us to sort out what we truly need to spend time on, and what we don't.

    After reading everything I could get my hands on about querying, I figured out the aspects that were generalized, and applied them to a draft query. When I get ready to query a specific agent, I then adjust that draft to suit the agent in question. So, I don't obsessively read posts or articles on querying anymore.

    The hard part is knowing when to let go. There is so much information out there, that we fear missing that single critical piece, and spent way too much time searching, and not enough time actually doing the work of the writer.

    It's what I like to call a mixed blessing.

  52. Shawna Marie Bryant on August 6, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    >Sorry Wendy, I disagree… mostly.

    I am self employed and have been for over 20 years! Believe me, I know what it's like to wonder if I'll be able to pay the mortgage certain months, even after all these years as a successful business owner.

    The doctor's degree is like unto the publishing contract. The doctor's successful practice is like unto the number of books sold.

  53. Kay Day on August 6, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    >I think there is plenty of info available. It can be overwhelming and contradictory so we have to us our heads and our discernment and make some choices, but what if–horrors!–we make the wrong choice.
    Can't you please just tell me step by step what to do? In fact, could you come do it for me?
    I think that's a lot of what's going on. It's intimidating.

    I am grateful for all of the information and advice. And the biggest problem I have is getting ahead of myself. I read about publishing and agents and editors, etc and loose track of the fact that right now I JUST NEED TO FINISH the dang book!

  54. Wendy Delfosse on August 6, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    >To Shawna Marie Bryant and others who have posted about the frustrations of having no guaranteed results: As a writer you're self-employed. You're running your own business. The doctor analogy is false. The med student knows how many years to a degree. He doesn't know how long it will take to build a name and a reputation and a client base or if he might do something really bogus and have to take a class or twelve over again before he gets that diploma. He doesn't know if he'll graduate just to find that his tiny hometown has just gotten a new doctor. None of us know tomorrow, that's not unique to writers.

  55. Shawna Marie Bryant on August 6, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    >I agree with you, Rachelle. More than enough information is out there, not only on publishing but also on the how-to’s of writing.

    With plenty of books and blogs available, I can’t tell you why all writers are still frustrated, but I can tell you what bugs me.

    There is NO guaranteed formula.

    I’m not talking about a “follow-these-quick-and-easy-steps-to-success-in-publishing” formula. I’m in this for the long and grueling haul. I see the benefit in all the years of honing the craft and learning the business. No, I’m talking about a defined path (however difficult) to publication.

    When someone aspires to be a doctor, he/she knows exactly what classes to take as an undergrad, how long it takes to earn a degree from med school, and how much time to spend serving as an intern in order to become “Doctor So-and-So.” It’s so well defined you can mark it on your calendar.

    Just ask any best-selling author about his/her journey (or read their memoirs) to learn no such formula exists to become “Published Author So-and-So.” I’m frustrated by the prospect of investing time with no guarantee I’ll ever “earn a degree.” (But not frustrated enough to quit!)

    As for your last question, I think people write you with basic questions because they want to connect with you. In this business the only sure-fire formula for a gifted, practiced writer is who you know. And more importantly who knows you.

    I think a writer’s prerequisite to build a platform is EXACTLY why a plethora of blogs exists. After all, we aspiring writers need a place to post our comments and connect.

    BTW did I mention I have a blog…

  56. BK on August 6, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    >I think we writers have a propensity to make matters more difficult than necessary. It's up to each of us to read, study, and screen the info we receive.

    In simplest terms, we need to know: how to write a good book, how to format it, and where to submit it.

    In the first case–that's up to the writer.

    RE: Formatting, there may be a bit of variation but it's not earth shattering. And unless an agent or publishing house places a note on their site to the effect of "If you misplace so much as one comma, you're manuscript is toast!" I'm going to assume they'll be reasonable.

    As to the third–where to submit–this info is usually always available on websites or conference faculty pages and it changes all the time. That's life.

    I don't see why reasoning out the info presented is causing such a stir.

    The authorative list or guide someone mentioned seems redundant to me. That's what agents and editors are doing with their blogs in the first place. And in most cases with a little study it's pretty easy to learn who are the reputable players in the industry.

    Besides, one of the big gripes writers have is that it takes so long to get a response on a submission. Can you imagine the time involved in trying to dredge up and post every microscopic little detail of the publishing business?

    You think it took a long time to get a response before…

  57. Sarah E Olson on August 6, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    >Personally, I think there is a difference between the people who are complaining about the lack of information and the people who are complaining about too much or divergent information. The people who read the blogs, do the research, and actually use Google for information are the ones who have trouble sifting through all the information. The people who are sending personal emails asking questions that can be easily answered online are the people who just don't realize there is a wealth of information already online.

    I get emails from friends sometimes, friends who are computer professionals, asking me questions that could be answered in 10 seconds with a google search. It annoys me to no end. I can't imagine how annoyed I would be if I were an agent/editor/etc.

    I am a reader of your blog and I also try to follow as many people in the publishing business on their various blogs/twitter. It takes so much time to go through all of the information I receive everyday, and that is time I could be using to write instead. However, I feel like if I DON'T keep up, I'll be missing out on important information. So it's a daily struggle for me to balance that.

  58. kathy taylor on August 6, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    >TMI, no doubt about it. As I went from entry to entry and blog to blog, I grew so confused. Some of the best advice I've had has been from an author who saw one of my comments on your blog. She emailed me and has given me concise, wonderful advice. If people want to learn how to write a query, I recommend they take your webinar, Rachelle. It's worth the money because we get individual feedback from you.

  59. A3Writer on August 6, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    >I think there is a lot of information out there, too much even, and yet not enough of the right kind of information.

    The contradictory information doesn't bother me that much. It's the way it is whenever there are multiple viewpoints. Ask 10 people at the scene of an accident, you get 10 stories. Wait an hour, and you'll have another 5 as people change what they saw. This is just human nature, so I get it that there's nothing definitive.

    When I say there isn't enough of the right information, it's that sometimes the information is out of date, sometimes by years, sometimes by minutes. Books about publishing are way past their prime just by being books. It took awhile for them to get written, and then published, and in that time things have changed. The very nature of querying has shifted almost entirely to email, and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if eventually it got to the point where a 140 character pitch line via twitter qualified as an initial form of query. Things evolve and change so fast that it's hard to sort out old from new versus different perspectives.

    Another area that's difficult to keep up with is genre definitions. Is it romance, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, western, etc.? What about the popular sub genres? Paranormal romance, urban fantasy, thriller, police procedural and others that emerge? It's difficult finding the right people to query for these emerging genres because all of the listings cling to the established definitions.

    This is where I also think there's not enough transparent information. Agents are sometimes a little closed-mouthed about what they are looking for. I love the agents that are highly specific on their detailed pages, but others simply put out "looking for commercial fiction" or "most genre fiction". And that's only if authors can find listed agent information on publisher websites. The books (as already mentioned) don't go into that detail, and finding a specific agent's name is sometimes like questing for the Holy Grail.

  60. J.M. Lacey on August 6, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    It is very true that overall, we are overwhelmed with information. With that said, it's important to weed through such information and apply to ourselves what's going to work and ignore the rest. In fact, there's enough information about the publishing industry so as writers, we don't have an excuse to NOT write accurate query letters, or format manuscripts appropriately, or know where to turn to find the right agent, etc. The ones that aren't following obvious instruction or who e-mail you questions easily found with a Google search, are simply lazy. There's no excuse. We're living in a "What's in it for ME right NOW" society to the point where no one wants to do any real work, such as research. It's a shame, but if that's their attitude, it's very telling about their writing and how they will be as a client. I'm sure the ones who are professional and who do follow instructions, stand out to you. The ones who've taken the time to do their research are above the pack, and I'll bet they're the ones that catch your attention. I personally appreciate blogs (such as yours) and Web sites that keep us informed of what's new in the industry so we can stay on top of things. Reading them shows we're interested enough to care about how to market our art.

  61. sharonbially on August 6, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    >Addition to my previous post: develop industry-wide STANDARDS to use in evaluating the resources available to writers.

  62. sharonbially on August 6, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    >Rachelle, thank you for posting this. It resonates strongly with my comment yesterday about the lack of good, comprehensive and transparent information. I’m so glad you’re thinking about it.

    However, I don’t think quantity of information is the issue. I think it’s QUALITY. I see a lot of agreement about this in others' comments here. There are endless reams of information available, yet its quality (and preciseness and thoroughness) ranges dramatically. It’s very difficult for writers, especially those newer to the game, to sift through it and make good choices.

    Importantly, quality is more of a problem when it comes to information on “what is good/publishable” writing than to procedures such as contacting agents, crafting queries, etc. There’s plenty of excellent info readily available on the how-to’s of the business. And most often a good query flows naturally from a good manuscript and the path that led to its creation.

    What’s really missing is info on “what is good/publishable” writing, including current trends about what editors are buying and therefore what agents are looking for in a manuscript. (From my experience as a friend and publicist to many authors, I’ve deduced that what agents are looking for, especially from debut novelists, is far more specific than anybody has stated to date.) Mary DeMuth responded to my comment in your post about “Can’t Get Something for Nothing” agreeing that often questions don’t get answered specifically, as if the info were “a trade secret.” She is absolutely right. I have many fascinating, concrete examples of this in settings ranging from writers workshops to consultations with agents and editors. **I would like to share some of them with you in an e-mail: fodder for future posts?**

    My wish-list / suggestion would be to see the creation of some sort of authoritative list or guide or other resource of individuals and organizations willing and able to speak to this with clarity and precision.

    Mary concluded her reply to my comment by saying: “I vowed that if I ever figured out how to get published, I’d share that information freely. There are many of us who teach at conferences who give out this information.”

    I’d say it’s time to use this as a criteria in evaluating conferences, workshops, classes, writing organizations, teachers and even agent manuscript consultations.

  63. S Spann on August 6, 2010 at 12:22 PM

    >Rachelle: I think the increased availability of information is both a blessing and a curse. To those who understand how to analyze, harmonize and use information effectively in changing circumstances, it is an immeasurable blessing. To those who are confused by ideas like "If A then B, but if X then Y" it's confusing. In other words: those who have the skills to analyze situations and respond generally benefit from increased input. People who are easily confused or lack good analytical skills do not.

    Personally, I benefit a great deal from blogs like this one, and I think most of your readers do too. Computer programmers, attorneys and security experts will generally tell you that you don't program/draft/plan for the ends of the bell curve – the ones who already know or the ones who will never learn no matter how hard you try. You focus on the ones in the middle, and your blog and others do a fantastic job of that.

  64. Florence on August 6, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    >Please excuse the typo … "is an info-dump" Sorry.

  65. Kate on August 6, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    >I don't experience feeling of frustration around the lack of information. It's seems pretty cut and dried to me after spending the last year or two following agent blogs and reading info online. But I'm also not to the query stage yet, so…

    My thought is that you can do everything perfectly and still not get published. It's the nature of the beast. It's a bummer, but it is what it is.

  66. Florence on August 6, 2010 at 12:17 PM

    >I began this blogging and surfing for other blogs in October, 2009.

    Until that time, my "google" was reserved for research, live search for locations of different houses or landmarks … maps and historical background … and was not a source of information "dumping."

    One of the first things we all learn is to avoid is ab info-dump … especially early on. Don't put your reader to sleep with too much talk/talk/talk.

    I don't want to sound antiquated, but it might be better for some of us to surf less and work more … she says as she reads your blog daily. 🙂

    "You have to write the best book you can, properly query agents, and see what happens. Beyond that, there are countless views on exactly what process to follow. You can keep asking until the cows come home but you’re not going to get that one magical piece of advice that is going to finally bring you success."

    That pretty much says it all.

  67. Messy mommy on August 6, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    >For me it is worrying about reaching that standard of perfection since publishing as we know it is changing. Also, with so much info out there, writers can spend all their time researching the answers and not enough time writing. I also find that it is hard to find info for my particular genre of fiction (children's Christian Sci-fi). Right now, my biggest question is when do I know I am ready to submit a proposal (for my devotional)?

  68. Anonymous on August 6, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    >For me, the information is helpful, but daunting.

    I've written a novel and have been revising it since January. Now that I'm about to query it, I'm terrified about the process. No amount of information is going to ease this.

    If I understand correctly, I am supposed to thoroughly research each agent who represents my genre. This includes reading several novels they've represented so that I find an agent who would appreciate my style/voice. (If I pick an agent whose material matches mine too closely, I may be inappropriate for her because I'd be competing against her other authors.) I should query extensively (but not to multiple agents in the same agency), which means I need to read about twenty or so novels for every batch of agents I query.

    If I do the math of how much reading I should be doing–and I should not quit my day job–this leaves me about eight minutes a day to write.

    Then it's all dependent on a query letter, which in essence looks extremely simple: what is this novel about? Summarizing the novel into a paragraph or two is quite a task, but I understand the need. And my novel summarizes very easily. Except that the summary misses just about everything interesting in the novel and getting that into the query feels monumental.

    Even if I nail the query letter and perfectly encapsulate my novel into one page, I don't get any guarantee that anyone will ever look at the book, let alone read it.

    It's daunting.

  69. Aamba on August 6, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    >Personally, I think it's one of those things where you can never know what the other side looks like.

    No matter how much information about publishing is out there, a person just can't get a solid picture of what the process is like without experiencing it.

    I have not experienced it yet. I know that I sometimes wish for some kind of exact step-by-step of when someone calls and what they say and when you go into the office and what kind of meetings there are, etc.

    But I know that I'm never going to have a grasp on it until I go through it. It will always be veiled in mystery until I experience it.

  70. Robert Michael on August 6, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    >We are fortunate to live in a time where so much information can be gleaned gratis. If those who seek more "transparency" mean the publishing industry must be more open in the divulgence of publishing figures, then those comments are directed at folks who are already published. No prob.

    If, however, those comments were indeed referring to withholding of information necessary to BECOMING published, then I would say they are a little unrealistic. First, that word, transparency, has become such a buzzword lately, I feel it has lost much of its punch. Second, like you mentioned, there is a veritable overload of information available. Perhaps the confusion has created an opaque barrier to the knowledge they seek. I could see that. 🙂

    We writers tend to be such a fragile bunch, really. Our egos are tied to our art, our self-worth tied to the craft. And when we've birthed our masterpieces, we tend to search out the most detailed information to send that puppy on its merry way. It is self-defeating at times, cathartic maybe. Much can be gained in these pursuits, but much can be lost as well. Some of us lose our faith, some lose their temper, some their minds.

    I don't blame the writers, I don't blame the medium or the agents or the publishers. It is such a personal journey, not everyone will be served in a way that is constructive. It is like the disclaimer for a diet: results may vary.

  71. mary bailey on August 6, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    >Yes, there's a lot of information and some of it is contradictory. Just like when my son was a newborn and everyone and her grandmother wanted to tell how to take care of a baby. I read and did research and listened politely to advice, but I also used my heart, my gut, and my own common sense.

    I think you, Rachelle, and other agents, editors, and authors are so generous to share your time and talent with us through blogs. I only have a finite amount of time, so I have to limit the information that I have to wade through in both blogs and books. That's why I pick what's best for me to read each day—again trusting myself and my own wisdom.

  72. Heather on August 6, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    >I think its overload of information–and I think that some of it comes from people who don't know what they're talking about as much. Not that the fault is all the agents and editors'. The writers have made it harder on themselves by not being patient and learning the trade. If more people would take the time to learn the craft of writing instead of shooting out amateur query letters to everyone they can Google search, the editors and agents might be a little easier to contact.

  73. Jill on August 6, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    >Contradictory advice is frustrating, but the publishing industry isn't a machine. It's made up of people who have their own opinions and ideas on what makes for a great query or synopsis or partial manuscript. As they say, though, if the story is great, it will get noticed. Unfortunately, a writer also has to contend with figuring out how to describe her story so that it sounds great, as well as finding the best target agents that might like the story. It takes a lot of time.

    I wish it were easier. I feel so overwhelmed sometimes that I wonder if getting published will ever happen for me. If I ever do, it will be God that helps me through it, because I don't think I could do it without him. It's not going to happen by my own strength–that's all I know.

  74. Richard Albert on August 6, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    >I, for one, am grateful that agents, editors, and other successful* writers are willing to share. I don’t think it’s possible to have TOO much info. I believe the issue is new writers, or those just learning the publishing business expect the “… standard rich and famous contract.**” And, there isn’t really one to be found.

    (*Definitions of success vary depending on which blog/email/forum post you read. – LOL)
    (** I hate to admit it – but that comes from the Muppet Movie.)

    I liken the process of learning the industry (and writing in general, for that matter) to reading a good book. The plot may be crystal clear, but the theme of the story is woven in bits and pieces throughout. Read another book – different crystal clear plot, equally enigmatic theme. Understanding the industry is finding the commonality between those themes and discovering how the author hid them in plain sight.

    Finding the “truth” in this business is a lot like standing away from a TV, with each blog and post represented by a single pixel. Each has a tiny piece in the whole but is not specifically necessary for the whole image to come through.

    Specific conventions may be used by the majority of industry professionals, but as one posted said (paraphrasing): Whatever you do is fine so long as it isn’t on scented paper and comes with bribes of wine and chocolate – unless of course that’s what the agent/editor is expecting. 😉

  75. Erin MacPherson on August 6, 2010 at 10:20 AM

    >My answer is yes and no. I honestly didn't do much research before I queried my book. I was really naive and that probably hurt me some (sorry about that!). Now that I've read your blog and other books, I'm starting to learn how the industry works and that makes me a bit more hesitant, but also keeps me from making rookie mistakes like sending a query at the wrong time or to the wrong agent.

  76. Anonymous on August 6, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    >I think the wealth of info available now is great. And yet, as an author who broke in before the write-osphere existed, I wonder if it's actually making it harder for new writers.

    About the only mistakes I didn't make were bragging about my books and claiming they were going to be bestsellers. I made every other mistake. Nowadays a writer who makes such mistakes can end up looking like a real idiot– someone who doesn't even bother to read the blogs.

    I wonder if it was easier in the past to be forgiven for new-writer mistakes.

  77. Wendy Delfosse on August 6, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    >I definitely don't think there's too much. I think one has to ease into it all and then look at it as maintenance.
    When I started stalking… um, reading… publishing blogs there was a LOT out there and it was all new to me. I stuck to a few and went through their archives obsessively. Nathan Bransford, you, a few others. Then it became keeping up on them as RSS feeds instead of digging through all the time. Now I've added tons more to my reader and I usually don't go through archives as thoroughly.

    Sure, I see a lot of repeat and contrary information. If it's an agent in my genre that I might look at querying I have a spreadsheet so I can mark their personal preferences (Move the paragraph of why I'm targeting you to the top? No problem!) because with so many I won't remember who wants what and when you mention it in a blog or twitter it's not easy to find again like a submissions page… BUT those things are usually preferences not absolutes. I don't pull my hair out wondering which is right. If I've neglected to mark some down enough agents have said "write well and stop stressing this" that I've figured the basics stay the same and the rest is gravy. But if I can tweak it so it fits a particular agent's prefs all the better for me!

  78. Ariana Richards on August 6, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    >I think many of the things you've said sum up the issue perfectly. Writing is an art form, but so many people seem to be looking for a road map. It's not a math equation – the answer isn't the same for every person.

    In the end, all the advice in the world can't substitute for confidence in one's own work, and a desire to put in the time needed to get it noticed.

  79. Krista Phillips on August 6, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    >I think the problem isn't too much information (LOVE all the information!!!), but unrealistic expectations of some of those reading the blogs.

    We are used to getting what we want, to a point. There is a "how to" book for pretty much everything. But publishing isn't like fixing your dishwasher or changing your oil. There is no fool proof way, an exact science that tells you, "If you do ______ then you WILL be published!" Unless of course we're talking about self-pubbing, and that's a whole different topic.

    When it comes down to it, everyone who wants to be, will NOT be published. They can all follow the same steps, read the same blogs, devour the same books on craft, and there will be many who just won't get there. It's like when you go on a job interview, you have all the PERFECT qualifications, but you still don't get picked. Why? Because there were 50 other just as qualified people out there and only one job.

  80. Cynthia Schuerr on August 6, 2010 at 10:05 AM

    >Hi Rachelle,
    In a perfect world, all of the publishing information would be universal. Right now, there is so much confusion because each publishing house has there own criteria for submission.
    With all of the books and blogs out there on the subject, the information just becomes more and more confusing. I wonder how many great books and stories are passed over because the writer was misinformed by a blog or a 'how to publish' book. Or just unsure of which were the correct steps to take.

    Thanks for putting this subject on the table, Rachelle.
    Whew! I'm glad I got that off my chest:-)

  81. Anonymous on August 6, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    >I think there is a ton of info out there, but the problem is WHY people are seeking it out such small details.

    Everyone wants to believe that they have a great manuscript, and the only reason it could be rejected is because of something small/silly like having 1.5 inch margins instead of 1 inch. Not true. In my experience as an editor, most stories are rejected because of the story and writing ability. But writers don't want to believe that, because that's much harder to accept and more personal than being rejected because of formatting.

  82. Claudia Osmond on August 6, 2010 at 9:59 AM

    >I do think there is too much information out there and like you said a lot of it's contradictory. For me, I've had to seriously narrow down what I read (and WHO I read) to keep from info overload. Obsessing over what's the "right way to do it" has a negative impact on my creativity, so I have to distance myself. But then when I do, oddly enough, I feel like I'm missing out on vital information that I need to know. It's a real catch-22.

  83. Anthony Harden on August 6, 2010 at 9:59 AM

    >In my opinion, the path to traditional publishing has become too cumbersome for many of us. A little more standardization would certainly be helpful. I think I wrote a good book. I self-published because I had neither the time nor inclination to humor the system with queries including certain information written in a certain font and attached (or not attached) in a certain fashion so that someone might (or might not) look at it and maybe (or maybe not) get back to me possibly within 90 days or so. To this point, I have been very happy with my decision.

  84. Jacqueline Windh on August 6, 2010 at 9:57 AM


    There is so much information out there. And that's probably why some people feel it's contradictory. Because it is:
    Should you seek an agent or go indie?
    Should you direct email potential buyers of your book or not?
    Should you write your query this way or that way

    Answers to these and a gazillion questions are out there. And yes, what you find may be conflicting – we, as authors, need to take the time to read and digest the information (thinking of it as that – as information that will guide our decisions, not as instructions spelling out what we must do).

    I've only really participated in the blogosphere for just over a year now. I've been blown away by the amount of info that is out there. Good info, too.

    The bad side of it is that reading it all has really cut into my writing time. But the good side of it is that I feel that, these last 6 months, I have just come through an in-depth short course about the publishing industry. And I am finding that I am not reading many of the articles any more (in spite of the enticing Twitter feed titles!) because I am at the stage on that learning curve where I am now reading more of the same-old, same-old.

  85. Dustan on August 6, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    >Hey Rachel,
    New to your blog. I really like this post. When I first started this process I read until my eyes were bleeding Times New Roman. I know we must be informed and professional, but I think there's a line we can cross that causes us to leave our writing. Eventually I found a FEW books and blogs that I read and reread. That's just me.

    I have faith that deep down agents and publishers still want a good book. One that both engages a vast audience, and says something meaningful. I wonder of many of us, starting out on this journey, have lost that faith. Perhaps, many of us think the only way to get in the door is to jump through hoops.

    Just a few thoughts. Thanks again! God Bless.


  86. Nicole on August 6, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    >I haven't read the other comments, so this is no doubt a repeat of theirs. Yes, there is a glut. Much of it, as you noted, is subjective and confounds other information.

    I really don't think any more information could possibly be communicated other than for agents, etc., to keep their desires and/or restrictions for material current. Beyond that, what's left?

  87. Jan on August 6, 2010 at 9:35 AM


  88. RBSHoo on August 6, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    >I agree 100 percent that there is too much information, and I think the problem is compounded by the fact that 99 percent of all writers (if not more) will never achieve their writing dreams. This is a hard fact to accept, and so writers (including me) will keep searching for that mythical blog post or website that will give them the keys to the kingdom (while going crazy in the process). I know this because I was guilty of hunting for it, too.

    I read far fewer how-to-query, how-publication-works blogs than I used to, and I've been writing a lot more since.

    What I know is this: my first crappy manuscript several years ago got exactly one request for a partial. My third one got 14 partial requests and 7 full requests. This happened because I got better from manuscript to manuscript, not because I read a thousand blogs (no offense, Rachelle).

    Basically, authors need to read one blog post about how how to query (either on this blog, or over at Nathan Bransford's site), and that's really all you need to know.

    If you've written a good enough book, and you write a good enough query (and you could do a lot worse than to write a query that sounds like jacket copy of any book at the bookstore), you'll probably get an agent. If not, you won't.

  89. JRMann on August 6, 2010 at 9:12 AM

    >Hey Rachelle, I'm an aspiring author and I think what you're saying is somewhat true. Sometimes it seems like there is so much information – there isn't really enough. I've spent weeks (I'm guessing) just looking at query and synopsis examples, and how to do word count, etc. For awhile I was out of my mind with confusion, but then I just decided to let it all go and follow some of the advice, the advice that I thought applied best to me. So far, it's worked out great.

  90. Stephanie McGee on August 6, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    >This is just my opinion so take it with a grain of salt. For me, when I first started reading industry blogs and truly learning about the writing and publishing process, the amount of information was paralyzing.

    I almost gave up on two different projects because of all the contradictory information. (There were other reasons, too.) It felt as though I would never learn enough of the nuances to ever be successful. Then there were all the rules. No adverbs, yes adverbs, add description, don't add description. The list can go on for a good while.

    But then I reached a point where I'd synthesized enough information to be able to look at it all with a clearer head.

    Looking at it all, I found a balance. Yes, I need to worry on a hidden level about the rules and about the nitty-gritty mechanics of the industry. No, I do not need to conform to every single rule of writing put out there in the world, as long as I know why it exists and why I'm breaking it.

    There are some hard and fast rules, like following submission guidelines. But then, ones like no adverbs, are more fluid. The ultimate message is to write your book, revise and edit to make it shine, then jump into the rule book and figure out how to make your book stand out despite its flouting of the rules.

  91. adamo on August 6, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    >To those hand-wringing writers, I say… hogwash.

    There is good information out there, and it's remarkably consistent. While formatting details vary, the principles are steady: write the best book you can, do your homework, polish your query 'til it shines like the buddha's bald belly, and then… hope for a little luck.

    Incidentally, "How to Write a Great Query" by Noah Lukeman is a fantastic resource.

  92. Carol Benedict on August 6, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    >I think there is plenty of information out there, but finding the answer to a particular question can be time consuming. It's easier to ask someone than to dig through books and blogs for what we want to know.

    People need different things at different stages of their career, and sometimes it can get confusing knowing what we actually need to know at a particular point in our writing journey.

    When I decided to actively work at becoming an author, I read a lot of blogs and articles about how to write, how to get published, and how to market my work. Now I'm at the point where I check 5 of my favorite agent blogs every weekday, and spend the rest of my writing time writing, or researching information for my blog and novel.

  93. Chantal on August 6, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    >I sometimes find that I have TOO much information available. A lot of it is contradictory, too. One book/blog will tell me that the plot should do this, while another says something completely different. I also find that, while I follow tons of writing blogs, I hardly have any time to keep up with them. I read the ones that seem most important. In the end, I'm trying to do the best I can with what I have, and collecting advice as I go along.

  94. BK on August 6, 2010 at 8:52 AM

    >Are you kidding? I've learned TONS from reading publishing industry blogs. Nor do I expect one size fits all answers. There aren't any in the rest of life so I wouldn't look for them in publishing either.

    To me, I think what frustrates writers is simply the fact that it takes years to get published (usually). This is natural. Writing books and submitting them is our equivalent of job hunting.

    And how many people besides writers takes years to find a job?

    But that's the deal we signed up for when writing claimed us.

  95. Elena on August 6, 2010 at 8:52 AM

    >Yes…there is just too much contradictory and sometimes discouraging information out there. It's not just on the agents/authors/publishing blogs either. It's also in the magazines. When a friend of mine handed me the WD's issue on Memoirs it made me want to burn my manuscript. I felt like, "what's the point?" I put it aside for the summer and tried to forget about it but it kept nagging at me. I've now decided to transform it into something more "sellable" a novel based on a true story. I'm not even picking it up until after the kids go back to school. I've also eliminated reading many blogs telling me the best way to get an agent/published/query, yada yada yada. I figure the most important lesson I can learn is to not listen to everyone and write the best darn book I can. What happens afterwards will dictate what areas I need to read more on. Too much information can be a bad and discouraging thing. I'm following my heart on this one.

  96. Kate on August 6, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    >I love publishing blogs, and I'm thankful for the agents who write about how to submit and the best way to craft a winning query.

    That being said, it makes me crazy when one agent freaks out if the title and word count appear in the first line of a query and another agent says it's fine. Or if one agent's pet peeve is a letter ending in "thank you for your time" and another says it's imperative. I'm happy to move things around if agents specify, but I think it makes writers freak out about what to do when an agent does NOT specify! With so much information, we get caught up on insignificant details.

    And I agree. There's an element of wishing it were easier! "If only I had more info…" Not the case. We have more than we can handle as it is! (but, um, keep it coming. love your blog 🙂

  97. Susan Bourgeois on August 6, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    >In my opinion, if people are writing you with simple questions that they should already know through research, they're doing it for a few reasons:

    1) They're not that smart.

    2) They're lazy.

    3) They're trying to connect with you on a personal level in order to establish a relationship without conforming to the proper query process.

    When my co-author and I completed our book, I took the time to research in the area of submissions. That's when I immediately put on the brakes. My co-author is an English major and she knew the book was polished. I agreed but after quickly researching, it didn't take me long to realize, writing the book was the easy part! In fact, I was warned by many experts, it would take months of learning the craft of the submission process before I would be ready to send out the first query. This is the time when many would-be authors, fall by the wayside; they don't wish to put in the time. It is understandable.

    It didn't take me long to find Noah Lukeman's "freebies" on Amazon where he painstainkinly outlined how to write a query. I then found information written by him on Landing an Agent.

    I also listened to podcasts by Ted Weinstein. I was like a sponge that knew it needed to soak up as much information out there as possible, no matter how long it took. Only then would I be able to form my own creations as it pertained to composing a query, synopsis and proposal. I purchased the following highly recommended books:

    Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-Thomas.

    How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen.

    Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents.

    In addition to studying these books over and over again, I continued to research heavily on the web by way of blogs, articles and recommended sites.

    This is not an easy process. It takes time to learn the process but once you learn it, you will have it for life or as long as you wish to continue to write.

    I now have a clear picture, from all that I have gathered of how to write a query, synopsis or proposal. I wouldn't dream of writing to an agent and take up their valuable time in order to ask what I should have taken the time to find out on my own.

    To tell you the truth, it's sort of like cutting in line. Right now, I'm standing in line by sending out my "query" the proper way after close to a year of studying the process. I personally feel that people who contact an agent to ask a question they should already know are trying to cut in line due to one of the three reasons I listed above.

    If I were an agent, I wouldn't answer them. I would spend more time on the writers who wrote the query, put the time in and followed the proper process.

  98. MJR on August 6, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    >I think it's good to start with some basic books about publishing and writing. Just go to your local B&N and look in the reference section. Buy a few and keep them on your shelf for reference. You'll find out that there isn't all that much variation in advice about how to write a query etc. Agents do have preferences–you can look at their blogs or websites before you send a query. I'd also suggest following a few good publishing blogs. When you have a question about query letters and so on, check their blog archives first before asking your crit group etc. Then you know you're getting your information from a good source.

  99. Catherine West on August 6, 2010 at 8:33 AM

    >There is a ton of information out there, but I think it is wise to be selective. Join some reputable writers groups, ask opinions on which books to read and follow, take classes, do whatever you can to improve your craft, but even after all that, you're still left with the fact that this entire business is subjective. Don't fall for the marketing title of such books like, "Writing The Breakout Novel" – sure, great advice, but following it does not necessarily mean your book will be picked up. I think this might be a stumbling block for many new writers. As people have said, you want to be published so badly that sometimes common sense is left sitting by the side of the road. There are no guarantees in life, in writing, in whatever you pursue. Do your best, pray for direction, leave the rest up to God. And try not to get discouraged. Yes, I am talking to myself!

  100. JoAnn on August 6, 2010 at 8:27 AM

    >When I query, I read the guidelines and blogs carefully. If Agent A says "include a bio" I include a bio. If Agent B says "I don't care who you are, just tell me about your story," I take the bio out. I don't have a one-size-fits-all query. I think a lot of writers think "multiple submissions" means sending the exact same query out to a hundred agents. And this is where they get confused and frustrated. Perhaps they should follow the directions? 😉

    And, as several people have mentioned, if you have a great story, no one's going to reject it because you included a bio or didn't.

  101. Marta Daniels on August 6, 2010 at 8:21 AM

    >I am addicted to information. That said, i do think there is simply too much on the internet, and its tempting to spend all my time collecting it and not enough time doing it. Lol! God bless!

  102. Rowenna on August 6, 2010 at 8:13 AM

    >One problem, if you can call it that, with the wealth of informaiton out there is that it's not always consisistent. For instance, one agent blogger says in regards to queries 'Put the hook right out front' and another says 'Briefly introduce yourself and your project first.' I think I've learned to put these disparate pieces together as "the industry is subjective, and there are some definite no-nos, but for the most part you're dealing with people who all have opinions and preferences." I've seen some writers, though, who are driven nuts by this–how to write a query to please everyone, how to write an opening to hook everyone. I think the answer is that you can't 🙂 Just do the best you can with what you have (and tailor your query to each agent, like you know to do anyways!).

    To be honest, there's also quite a bit of bad info out there–folks have to learn to tell a good source (industry blog, agent website) from a crummy one (opinionated writer, seven-year-old article on rights agreements). It's so easy to create a website and have a presence that I've definitely seen some very misleading but very professional-looking sources out there.

    As for why you get questions on the most basic stuff–you seem nice and it's easier to barrage you than search Google?

  103. Kelly Combs on August 6, 2010 at 8:10 AM

    >I think your blog has been a huge help to me, and I feel empowered that I know more about how the "system" works.

    I think writers need to remember that even if you have the PERFECT query letter, it doesn't mean you have the perfect book; whether the fail be the idea, the writing or even that your proposed book is great, but it's been done.

  104. Timothy Fish on August 6, 2010 at 8:09 AM

    >When in doubt on standards, I turn to The Chicago Manual of Style. I realize that not everyone follows The Chicago Manual of Style (as is evidenced by the sloppy way some publisher number pages), but if I do then people can’t say I’m wrong, only that I didn’t follow their guidelines.

    As for why someone would ask a question they could easily find through Google, that’s somewhat like asking why people go to church when they can read the Bible at home. What a search engine can’t do is apply it to our specific situation. It is always helpful to have someone who’ll say, “This is how this applies to you.” Experience has shown me that I can spend hours trying to understand something enough to know what to do, but if I go to an expert he can probably tell me in less than a minute.

  105. Lori Benton on August 6, 2010 at 8:00 AM

    >Not more difficult, no. But I need to keep things streamlined. There's only so many blogs I can read in a day or week, and those that are truly helpful quickly rise to the top. Yours is one.

  106. Rachelle on August 6, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    >Y'all are very insightful and I'm really enjoying your comments. It's great for me to hear the writer's perspective. Many of you are hitting the nail on the head, I think, with the idea that this business is subjective yet we all fight to find "objective truth" somewhere. I also resonate with the problem of trying to sort through what's important and what's not.

    Thanks for everyone's perspectives… keep 'em coming!

  107. Llama Momma on August 6, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    >I agree — there is so much information out there! Personally, I find it overwhelming. Two years ago when I started writing my YA novel, I stopped reading anything about publishing. It just freaked me out, to be honest. I focused on the writing, and then the rewriting and editing.

    I'm just now coming out from under the covers to read about the rest of it.

    I'm not sure the advice is that contradictory — or maybe I just haven't read enough? Everyone seems to be saying the same things: hone your craft, write well, ask for feedback, follow submission guidelines carefully (which vary from place to place), and perhaps most importantly — don't quit your day job! 😉

    One step at a time.

  108. Marcia on August 6, 2010 at 7:47 AM

    >I think people don't want to face how subjective this business is, and are trying hard to objectify it. They also perceive huge competition because the plethora of such sites makes it seem as if EVERYbody is writing and is getting better at it. I've heard there are more people trying to write than ever before, and have no idea whether that's true or it just looks that way. Why do they ask such basic questions, even with all the info out there? Maybe because there are just a lot of people who want to ask a pro a "quick question" rather than do their own research. It puzzles me, because I'd always rather research on my own, but evidently a lot of people aren't that way.

  109. Jan Cline on August 6, 2010 at 7:45 AM

    >I agree that too much information makes me a little frustrated. It's like being on a yo yo of "you can do its" and "never get your hopes up." It's easy to lose sight of just sitting down and writing the story that is in you.

  110. Jason on August 6, 2010 at 7:42 AM

    >I agree that there's WAY too much info out there. And a lot of it is contradictory…but I think there are certain themes that you find repeated everywhere.

    Like, you gotta have a great voice, the story has to have good pacing, and readers have to care about the characters. There may be a few others, but after that, I think things are mostly subjective.

    For me it's useful to focus on two or three blogs rather than surfing every writer/agent/editor blog out there. Your blog and Nathan's blog pretty much cover everything a writer needs to know…imho

  111. Jules - Big Girl Bombshell on August 6, 2010 at 7:30 AM

    >Great QUESTIONS! I think it is that we look for the "quick" answers, the instant success, perhaps even the easy way, and at least for me, it is the process of writing, pulling your thoughts together AND then finding the Right time and place and agent. I think that self-publishing and the advertisement of that, brings along a misrepresentation of what it takes.
    Yes, there are a few that have that natural talent to sit and write that miracle masterpiece and sell it the first time. But the focus should be more on the craft rather than the end result.

  112. Adam Heine on August 6, 2010 at 7:26 AM

    >I think it's just part of a writer's growing process. At each bit of new advice you think, "This is it! THIS is why I've been getting rejected."

    Then you get rejected some more.

    Eventually you learn that it's as much luck/timing as it is skill, but that takes a long time. I, for one, am super glad for all the info and wouldn't trade it for anything.

  113. Heidiopia on August 6, 2010 at 7:24 AM

    >There is ALOT of information out there– my frustration stems from my own tendency to get too bogged down in too many details and in conflicting information. Maybe we just need to be more discerning and focus on the basics rather than looking for the "magic formula."
    Thanks, Rachelle!

  114. Heidiopia on August 6, 2010 at 7:24 AM

    >There is ALOT of information out there– my frustration stems from my own tendency to get too bogged down in too many details and in conflicting information. Maybe we just need to be more discerning and focus on the basics rather than looking for the "magic formula."
    Thanks, Rachelle!

  115. Metropolista on August 6, 2010 at 7:13 AM

    >There are no substitutes for patience and diligence. Technology has not changed this. I love industry blogs because – over time – I'm getting a feel for how agents and publishers think. After writing for years and researching how to publish for a year, I've started submitting query letters for the first time. I've found the information available to be not only transparent and comprehensive, but extremely valuable. It's just not a short cut.

    That said, I highly recommend reader.google.com for keeping track of blogs!

  116. Anonymous on August 6, 2010 at 7:07 AM

    >There are some interesting agents blogs (yours is one of them) and some less interesting ones. I don't see anything wrong with the different opinions they express – it's what makes them interesting. Are writers looking for information on how to build a one-size fits all submission? Looking for the golden formula that will guarantee a MS request? Subscribe to as many blogs as you want to, but when making a submission home in on the targetted agent's blog (if they have one) and their website before submission so you can identify any of their preferences and quirks (lots of those) and tailor the submission accordingly. You might also get a view on who you could best work with. It will take more time but it might just pay off – hopefully. Good luck.

  117. Sue Harrison on August 6, 2010 at 7:04 AM

    >I love the information available, contradictory or not. I do, however, think the plethora of information might feed a writer's mania for perfection.

    I submitted a manuscript earlier this week and the next day realized that I'd forgotten to date the cover letter. Submission guidelines specify a dated cover letter, and I DIDN'T DO THAT.

    Oh rats! Should I email an apology? Should I resubmit?

    No, the last thing in the world that agent needs is another email. Which means that now she knows the great hidden secret of my life. I'm imperfect! AARGH…..

  118. Katie Ganshert on August 6, 2010 at 7:02 AM

    >I think you sort of alluded to it in this post.

    Here's one aspect of the problem:

    Writer queries Agent. Agent says no. Not because the query didn't have the proper greeting or had too short of a bio or had four paragraphs instead of three, but because the story Writer described didn't interest Agent. Simple as that.

    Writer receives Agent's rejection, and instead of working on the story or the blurb about the story (which is the problem), Writer frets over those other, not-so-important things.

    Later, Writer reads a blog that says, "Include your bio. We want to know who you are" and another that says, "Don't write anything in your bio if it's not writing related. If you don't have any credentials, leave bio out." Writer shakes his fist at the computer and concludes, "If I just knew WHAT to write in this stupid query, I could get an agent!"

    When really, the problem isn't the bio at all. It's that the story didn't appeal to the agent. Either Writer needs to improve the blurb, or fix the story, or write another one.

    Anytime a person is faced with rejection, we like to pardon ourselves and our babies (aka our books) from the cause. It's so much easier to blame it on the "contradicting information", but also counterproductive. Pointing fingers isn't going to get us anywhere.

  119. Anonymous on August 6, 2010 at 6:27 AM

    >I've decided not to run in circles any more. That's what it feels like when one site says, "do this," and another says, "don't do it."

    I'm going to write the novel in my heart. It's my story and I've read pleanty like mine on the best seller's list that di what another says is wrong and will keep me unpublishable.

    I'm going to write for the love of it and the joy it brings my soul. Then I'm going to query agents who represent the authors I love. If that does not work, I'll start reading all the do's and don'ts again that contradict each other and what's selling.

  120. S. Paul Bryan on August 6, 2010 at 6:26 AM

    >"And why do so many people write me with the most basic publishing questions imaginable, that could be answered fifty different ways from one quick Google search?"

    Because, when they do a Good search, the question is answered FIFTY DIFFERENT WAYS. They (we) are looking for an authoritative answer (or even a majority consensus). It took me over a week to come up with a "standard manuscript format," which, it turns out, is anything but a standard. I had to wade through countless conflicting instructions from people and sites all claiming to be authorities on the subject. In the end, I took bits and pieces from each.

    Perhaps what we need is not more information on how to do X, but a little advice on whether X is actually all that important in the first place. There is a huge fear in the budding author world that an out-of-place title, or a mis-formatted ellipsis is going to give a potential agent just the excuse they need to reject yet another manuscript, with the requisite evil grin and maniacal laughter (an image perpetuated by things like #queryfail).

    Tell us which things are absolutely essential to get right; which things are nice to have, but not essential; and which things make absolutely no difference.

  121. Gwen Stewart on August 6, 2010 at 6:09 AM

    >This writing endeavor continues to humble me. Recently, I reread Pride and Prejudice and watched the movie. (2005–best version out there, even though it's not the "purist's" favorite. Keira Knightley = Elizabeth Bennet IMHO.)

    I marveled at Jane Austen all over again…she wrote that incredible novel in nine months, ON PAPER, with a PEN. What novel-writing guidebooks existed in 1813? What webinar did she take? What websites did she visit?

    Don't get me wrong–I want information, and I need it, badly–I'm no Jane Austen (hahahahah). But information will only get you so far. The imagination required to be a novelist can't be neglected. Perhaps, like Lizzy Bennet, we should spend less time cramming info into our heads and more time being arch and playful, taking long walks and rejoicing in the ridiculous among us. 😉

    Rachelle, I think you do a great job balancing both aspects of novel-writing. You remind us to unplug and let loose. Seems like we continue to need those reminders, in my humble opinion. 🙂

  122. James Montgomery Jackson on August 6, 2010 at 5:51 AM

    >My guess is that the transparency issue had less to do with the amount of advice available to writers and more with the difficulty of obtaining solid information about the financial underpinnings of the publishing business as it adjusts to the electronic era.

    In times of uncertainty, people will always want to know the one, true, "right way."

    It doesn't exist and not all purveyors of opinion should be granted the same level of credibility.

    I read Rachael's blog because (in general) it seems credible and provides useful info. My comment, however, is opinion-based, not fact-based. Reader beware.

    ~ Jim

  123. Sara on August 6, 2010 at 5:44 AM

    >There is a lot of information but I can't see that as a bad thing. It is impossible to read every word about publishing so I have had to filter through the sites to find the agents/authors/publishers that resonate with me. Just as no author can write the same thing, and no reader will have the same experience, no publisher or agent will work the same way. Once we have accepted that we can find the our own place. Finding "contradictions" has only shown me that there is more than one way to take this journey, and that there is no magic escalator to get us to the top. For my part, thanks to everyone that takes the time to share their knowledge.


  124. illukar on August 6, 2010 at 5:16 AM

    >There is a lot of information out there and most of it is not too contradictory.

    But it's general advice. Any and every writer will want to know why their specific submission was rejected – that is the detail they want.

    And that is practically never what they get.

  125. Tessa Quin on August 6, 2010 at 5:04 AM

    >Reading all the different blogs on how to query and such took the breath out of me. I sat down and wrote one, and then another, and then another, all differently written because of the different advices. I posted two on She Writes and asked which was better, and one said that it was as if I was describing a completely different story. One dark and serious while the other was up-beat and fun. It's really hard to guess which to use, because some agents would no doubt prefer the up-beat, while others would prefer the dark one. It's a gamble which to use on what agent. It would be easier if an agent could post a query letter that worked for them, but I suppose that's risky for an agent because they'd get all these perfect letters and it would be difficult to find the right manuscript to request.

  126. Toby Speed on August 6, 2010 at 3:58 AM

    >Writers are frustrated because they haven't allowed themselves to tap into – or to strengthen – that strong core that is able to distinguish the advice "out there" from the messages "in here" that give them creative direction.

    Yours is one of my favorite blogs, because you gently reveal the major issues we need to think about, without tearing down what we've learned and determined as relevant to our work, our goals, so far. You boil things down to the essence. New writers sense this, which is why you're getting such an influx.

    I say this even though I was crushed when you used my single-sentence summary as an example of what not to do a while back. 😉

    I agree with Ernessa: "I think a lot of becoming a capable writer is being able to hear a lot of information and being able to disregard the stuff you don't need and use the stuff you do."

  127. Micah Maddox on August 6, 2010 at 3:49 AM

    >Information overload is everywhere. We have to be selective based on our interests and exposure to various media. As one just delving into the business aspects of writing world I imagine much of the frustration is grounded in authors doubt and ignorance. People put a lot of work into writing, and they don't want to mess it up with something (seemingly) unrelated to the book. It's easy to press. Ultimately, queries-to-contract, I think it's still mostly (just) about good, interesting writing. I try to remind myself of that often and keep it simple. Really simple.

    My lighthearted, novice understanding goes like this:

    Queries show I know how to form complete sentences and generate interest.

    Synopses (hope I can skip this one LOL) show I can write an active plot progression.

    Literary fiction (in a query) means people who write better than I do until someone tells me my work is literary (or artistic, or boring).

    Mainstream/Commercial fiction (in a query) means it appeals to almost everybody, but only after I become published and make it onto the shelf.

  128. Jeannie on August 6, 2010 at 3:33 AM

    >@ Ted

    Watch out for crit groups. Some know what they're doing and some don't. This is the painful part: you have to be experienced AND confident enough with English language and publishing conventions to sift the useful from the not-so. That means reading widely, totally up opinions from different sources, evaluating them from your own experience, and comparing their credentials. And doing it again and again and again. In the end, you'll have to stand or fall by your own decisions.

    Yeah, I know, it stinks.

  129. Lucy on August 6, 2010 at 3:28 AM


    There's a lot of desperation to be published. Try as you may, you'll never convince the unpublished writer that there isn't a magic formula SOMEWHERE, and if he says and does everything perfectly, then Presto! a book contract.

    But since there actually isn't a magic formula, the Unpublished labors on, undeterred and unconvinced that it isn't just around the next turn of the maze.

    And since he's myopically convinced there MUST be a magic formula, he becomes infuriated when everyone offers a different variation of what he's sure is really the magic formula in disguise. Because, darn it, how many magic formulas do you have to recite before you find one that works?

    "Because it's not the book, it's not the book; I've written a perfect book, and why do you crazy editors and agents make this so hard? It's my life's dream; I need the money; everybody says I can do this; where's the **** formula; and why are you all crushing me?"

    Dear souls… look for validation elsewhere. Look for your worth, and the worth of your dreams, in something more than publication. You won't find it here. Whether you publish or not. Fame of any kind is a chimera. Like the perfect magic formula that will see you published, you are chasing what you cannot, what you will not find through any human endeavor.

    Persist, of course. But don't worship at an alter that will vanish in smoke at the moment you think you've touched it.

  130. Ted Cross on August 6, 2010 at 3:19 AM

    >It is confusing and frustrating. I read a lot of blogs about how to format my MS, for instance. Then I used what I learned to make my MS as perfect as possible. When I sent some chapters to my crit group, they all pointed out things and said it was formatted wrong!

  131. Ernessa from 32 Candles.com on August 6, 2010 at 3:00 AM

    >What's interesting is that the amount of information on the web has EXPLODED over the last two years. I remember searching for information back before I got my deal and finding it hard to come by. That all said, I think more people are writing b/c there's a recession on and why not pursue your longtime dreams? But also, I think what you might be experiencing is new waves of writers.

    For example two years ago, I had a lot of questions about the business. But now, I just like reading about the business from agents and other writers' perspectives.

    However, I'm sure there's plenty of new novelist to take my place in asking a lot of questions. Some of them will get deals or self-publish, some of them won't. Either way, in another year or so there will be another wave of writers asking lots of questions. And as your blog gets more popular, more and more of them will come to you.

    Consider it a compliment, I say.

    As for writers, I think a lot of becoming a capable writer is being able to hear a lot of information and being able to disregard the stuff you don't need and use the stuff you do. Either way, I don't think there's anything such as information overload. Just bad processing.

  132. Nicole MacDonald on August 6, 2010 at 2:38 AM

    >Yep! Too many cooks spoil the broth. It's good to learn when and what to tune out – just takes practise

  133. S. Behr on August 6, 2010 at 2:19 AM

    >As a published writer, I find that there is too much information available about certain aspects of the publishng business. I also get questions like, "What do I say in a query letter?" When that question comes up the best information I have to give, is what was given to me when I started serious writing, find a publisher within your genre, look at the writer guidelines for that publisher, and give the information they request. How you write the query letter I suggest the three paragraph style, Who I am, What I write and Why I am submitting to the specific publisher.
    I also tell them not to despair over the rejections. I wall papered two rooms with rejection letters before I found one publisher that was willing to take me, a freshman writer into the fold of her business and see what I could produce and I'm still there.

  134. catdownunder on August 6, 2010 at 1:36 AM

    >I read you and several others out of curiosity. I think I have learned there is no one right way to do this although there are definitely wrong ways – such as scented note paper and bribes of wine and chocolates. 🙂
    I may just end up writing something like, "Dear Agent, Please find enclosed the first three chapters of my novel."

  135. Marja on August 6, 2010 at 1:32 AM

    >Personally, I am very selective about what I read… too much is overkill. To be honest with you it depresses me a bit to see all the sites, blogs, forums and books out there, to help me. If I spend that much time reading and researching, I will never have time to actually WRITE!
    I love your blog though, great information, thought triggers and a pretty smile 🙂

  136. Wildlypoetic on August 6, 2010 at 1:18 AM

    >I think the amount of info is fine but I have found a general lack of consistency as to how to present our works from Query to synopsis and beyond. When we do what agent A asked us to do for Agent B we get ridiculed. My writing skill is far greater that a query or synopsis.I think it's sad when there are sites dedicated to being nasty about our attempts. I would never open myself up to that type of ridicule. I've opted for Indie publishing where I can be treated with the respect I deserve and have more control over my work. There is TOO much rudeness shown to the struggling artist. trying simply to get their work read.

  137. April on August 6, 2010 at 1:17 AM

    >Just found your blog the other day, I believe through Chip MacGregor's blog. I appreciate your candor and your writing style/voice. I think you're very clear. You also sound approachable, while also being professional. Thank you for sharing so much with us.

    To answer your question today, I think you're basically right. It's a combination of information overload and the "give me a personalized answer right now and for free" thought that seems commonplace these days, fueled in part by our ability to Google answers instantaneously.

    But I also think that it's part laziness. I suppose that ties into the "gimme" tendencies you alluded to. A lot of people want information served to them on a silver platter, rather than go to the book store, find the right books, read the books, and then process the information themselves. They'd rather be spoon fed because, hey, it's a lot easier! That I don't doubt, though I don't think it's healthy.

    There is plenty of information out there—specific suggestions/instructions, as well as the caveat that this whole industry relies on gut instincts, and therefore is very subjective.

    It's a matter of us writers taking 2 and another 2 and making 4 out of it. You, nor any other professional on that side of the table, can do that for us.

  138. Lila Swann on August 6, 2010 at 1:09 AM

    >Hi Rachelle! I personally adore your blog, and I tend to read a lot of other agents' blogs to stay current. Sometimes it IS a little confusing, but I think the confusion for me stems from what you said – there are so many different ways of doing things. Every agent is different when it comes to querying, every agent is different when it comes to things they like to see vs. things they don't. It's hard to keep everyone straight (in terms of preferences, etc.) but I think I'd rather have all the information out there, even if sometimes it gets tricky.

    I've read some agent blogs out there that tend to be a little more callous than others. Miss Snark's blog, for instance, is lovely in terms of concise, clear information, but sometimes she would give us an unbreakable rule. I love unbreakable rules – until I go to another blog and hear someone else tell us that he or she wants us to break that same exact rule.

    This is never something I would complain about because, like I said, I would rather have more information than not enough. But that's where the confusion comes from, IMHO.