Random! Questions! Answered!

Over the weekend I asked my Twitter followers to send me questions. Here are some of them, with my brief answers.

Kennectto asked:
Do publishers sometimes accept queries and/or manuscript ideas from writers without agents?

Some publishers accept unagented queries and proposals, but most of the majors don’t unless an editor met the writer at a conference and requested the material. (“Manuscript ideas” are not saleable with or without an agent.)

WriteOnRideOn asked:
For an experienced journalist writing books, is it worth it to seek agent+publisher or better to self-publish? And how does someone with numerous writing credits find an agent for book proposals?

Like all writers seeking to publish books, it’s your choice whether to seek commercial publication or self-publish. The fact that you’re an experienced journalist with lots of credits doesn’t really change the game. You should only self-publish if you have the ability to sell large numbers of books yourself. If you decide to seek an agent, you do it the same way everyone else does. Query, go to conferences, etc.

BonnieBLatino asked:
Are you open to queries for novels that aren’t Christian market, per se, but don’t contradict Christian world-view?


bexDK asked:
I would be very interested in recommended resources for the fiction writer’s book shelf– beyond dictionary and thesaurus.

Check my blog sidebar under “Find Posts on This Blog” and click “Books for Writers.”

KCBOOKS asked:
Will agents represent an author who writes in different genres, fiction & nonfiction?

Some do, some don’t. It’s not uncommon for an author to have one agent for fiction and another for nonfiction. If you are a new, unpublished author, remember it’s usually best to break-in with one thing, then branch out as you’re able. So get an agent for the project you want to do first.

reginaldstjohn asked:
Do you think the market for literary fiction will increase in the near future?

I think the term literary fiction has different meanings to different people, and it’s difficult to generalize using this term. However, since literary fiction is generally not light reading, it doesn’t offer thrills on every page, and tends to require more from the reader, my sense is that it won’t regain popularity with consumers anytime soon. I think there will always be a market for it, but it will be a small, niche market. (Much like there is a market for small, thoughtful, well-made indie films, but their popularity can’t compare to the blockbusters.)

Alex_Moore asked:
Regardless of multiple reads/edits, I noticed (just as I hit send) that I misspelled a word in a query. What do I do?

I guess you break out in a cold sweat, feel mortified, and berate yourself mercilessly. What you DON’T do is send the query again, or email the agent apologizing for a misspelled word. If the agent can’t see past a single misspelled word to detect your brilliance, they’re not the agent for you.

paire asked:
As an unpublished author should I sign with the first agent that will take me? If so, how long am I stuck with them?

This is one of those times when I think a marriage analogy is fitting. Will you marry the first person who will take you? (Or do you think you might want to actually make a proactive decision about whether you like this person or not?) And do you think it’s productive to go into a relationship wondering how long you’re going to be “stuck” there? If you feel like that, perhaps it’s not the best relationship to be in. Anyway, the agreement with your agent (whether written or verbal) will specify the term of the relationship.

karenshaydunn asked:
Which should an author have first for non-fiction, a platform or a manuscript?

For non-fiction (except memoir) you don’t always need a whole manuscript, but instead you need a proposal and three sample chapters. In this competitive market however, having a complete manuscript can be an advantage. In any case, you need both a platform and a manuscript or proposal so there’s no rule on which comes first. I assume in most cases you would probably need to be building your platform long before you are ready to query, so that might come first.

RKCharron asked:
I’ve read that it is better to take no advance at all when first getting published. Is this true?

If you’re unagented and negotiating with a publisher, you’re free to work out any kind of deal you like. If you want to skip the advance and start getting royalties sooner, by all means, go for it. (A better idea might be to take a small advance and spend it on marketing your book.) If you have an agent, it’s highly unlikely they’re trying to get you a no-advance book deal since it means they’d be working countless hours for you but not getting paid for a year or two (or more). Those of you who go to a job and get paid for the work you did that week… think about it.

Elizaosborn asked:
Where are the best online communities for Christian fiction writers, published an unpublished?

This one’s for my readers! Where do you hang out online with other writers? Tell us in the comments.

Rachelle Gardner

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


  1. Rachelle on October 22, 2009 at 1:42 PM

    >Desertson, there is no way for me to answer your question, as there are so many variables involved. You'll have to learn a lot more about publishing on your own and then make the best business decision you can. I suggest watching the TV show Shark Tank for ideas on gauging how much is being offered you, versus how much of your business you want to give away. Good luck.

  2. desertson on October 22, 2009 at 1:53 AM

    >I am in desperate need of some help.
    I have an offer from a noted artist to do aprox. 40 pcs. of art in my book. Plus he will help me publish and promote it. He wants me to offer him a percentage of the profits. What percentage is it worth????

  3. The Writers For Hire on October 7, 2009 at 5:59 PM

    >I own a ghostwriting firm. Currently our company writes books for multiple clients — the topics really vary: we've done nonfiction business books, nonfiction financial books (for beginners and industry experts), autobiographies, family stories, philosophy books, and corporate scandal novels.

    Some of our books would probably not be very interesting to general readers, such as family histories. Others, however, like some of our business, financial books or true-story scandal/crime books, I think could be of interest to non-fiction publishers.

    Currently, we work with a really great small publishing company in Dallas — but they are pay-for-play. (Please don't yell at me, I know the word self-publishing can be taboo in some circles.) I've had several clients ask recently about more traditional publishing routes: through agents or traditional publishers, and to be honest, it's something I know very little about.

    So my question is: Is there any sort of solution in traditional publishing (through an agent or otherwise), that I could try to pursue for our clients? I'd love to develop some relationships with agents and/or publishers, but each of our books is so unique, that I suspect I might have to develop a new relationship for each and every book. Is that correct?

    Also, do you know of any agents or publishers open to developing a relationship with a ghostwriter, who might come to them with various types of books? Please, for the moment, assume that all of the material we provided to the agent would be high quality, marketable work.

    Looking for a good back end solution for our clients. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    By the way, I posted this question here already http://absolutewrite.com/forums/show…68#post4123668, and got quite a response! But it wasn't quite the response I expected. Apparently, ghostwriters approaching agents seems to be a bit controversial…

  4. Alex Moore on October 6, 2009 at 10:15 PM

    >thank you; and yes, I am dutifully humbled 🙂

    Check out writers who discuss various writerly things at http://adventures-in-creative-writing.blogspot.com – although it's not specifically Christian, all are welcome!

  5. Robyn Campbell on October 6, 2009 at 6:45 AM

    >The blogging community is a wonderful place to hang out. Everyone helps everyone. It's super. And I love She Writes. Also Verla Kay.

    Thanks Ms. Gardner.

    Serving At The Master's Table

  6. Mechelle Fogelsong on October 5, 2009 at 11:41 PM

    >Ms. Gardner, you said, "A better idea might be to take a small advance and spend it on marketing your book."

    Let's say an agent decides he/she wants to represent me and I mention this strategy when we discuss terms. Will this strategy throw them off or discourage them?

  7. Stephanie Shott on October 5, 2009 at 6:33 PM

    >I have to say "kudos" go to Rachelle Gardner and the info we get from her blog. Probably my favorite.

    I also am part of TWV2, an online writers group that posts two questions each week to respond to and learn from. There are several professionals in the industry that moderate the site and give great feedback.

    Then there's Michael Hyatt's blog which gives consistently good info for newbies like me. michaelhyatt.com

    Chip MacGregor has a great blog as well. http://chipmacgregor.typepad.com/main/

    I'm always finding info through Twitter and by looking at writers' blogs to learn as much as I can, but I have to say I am totally impressed by and thankful for all the help these professionals so willing give away for free. It's obvious that many of them see it as ministry.

  8. WhisperingWriter on October 5, 2009 at 5:05 PM

    >Fantastic post.

    Very informative.

    I'll be finishing up my first novel soon so any information on agents is always a good thing. So thank you. Your blog has been quite helpful.

  9. Beth on October 5, 2009 at 2:09 PM

    >Writer, Interrupted is another great one!


  10. T. Anne on October 5, 2009 at 1:58 PM

    >ACFW is great. Also, blogging has proved to be a wonderful relationship builder. I enjoy my regular blogging buddies so much! It actually feels like I'm part of a writing circle. Absolute write water cooler is another one of m fav's.

    Rachelle, will you be considering Young Adult in the future? Sorry for posting my question out of turn.

  11. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on October 5, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    >Hello Rachelle,

    As always, you give me food for thought.

    Fiction writers appear to have more on-line choices that do nonfiction writers, so I have started a new community for nonfiction writers at Calling All Aspiring Writers of Nonfiction Books . Everyone is welcome to check it out.

    Be blessed,


  12. David A. Todd on October 5, 2009 at 1:00 PM

    >I mainly hang out at Absolute Write; the forums are called the Water Cooler. This is a large site, and not Christian. Many Christians do post there, however. I'm mainly at the poetry forums, posting under the name Norman D Gutter. I find the non-Christian language and themes easy to look past and concentrate on writing craft and fellowship.


  13. lynnrush on October 5, 2009 at 11:16 AM

    >Great post. I really enjoyed the questions and answers. I always wondered how much cross over there was (CBA/ABA) with agents.
    OH, besides facebook and twitter, I like these sites:





  14. Sarah Forgrave on October 5, 2009 at 10:45 AM

    >I'd just like to echo those who said ACFW and other writer's blogs. There's an amazing community out there!

  15. Jody Hedlund on October 5, 2009 at 10:39 AM

    >One of THE best ways to meet other writers is by visiting blogs. Not only can we learn from each other, but we can build a network of support and encouragement. If you don't know where to find other writers' blogs, I have a link in the side bar on my blog listing over 100 other writers. Many of them have become some of my best writing friends as a result of blogging.

  16. D.I. Telbat on October 5, 2009 at 10:05 AM

    >Rachelle, thanks once again for some very helpful info, and to all those with helpful comments as well!

  17. ~ Bon on October 5, 2009 at 10:04 AM

    >Rachelle: Thanks for answering my question today – and those of others.

    You have been and continue to be a good friend to all writers.


    Bonnie Bartel Latino


  18. Dara on October 5, 2009 at 10:03 AM

    >Another place to find Christian writers that's free and doesn't require a yearly membership is FaithWriters (www.FaithWriters.com). They have weekly writing contests and if you place in the top 10, you get published in their quarterly anthology.

    I highly recommend the site too for fellowship, as the forums are a great place to hang out, ask questions, and overall just get to know fellow Christian writers.

    I've been there a few years now and I can honestly say that it was that site that really helped me grow confident in my writing in the sense that it let me break out of my shell and actually let people read my stories 😛

  19. MisterChris on October 5, 2009 at 9:51 AM

    >I agree that ACFW is a good place to get info. The forums can be sporadicly inactive though.

    Another great site is http://www.christianwriters.com – There's a critique area there where you can submit whole chapters for review.

    I also hang out in FB and Twitter. Twitter a little more now than FB.

    There's far too many venues to visit and name, I spend more time networking recently than I do writing. That's frustrating, for a guy with a day job, ministries, and a family to divide the time…

  20. Crystal Posey on October 5, 2009 at 9:46 AM


  21. Cheryl Barker on October 5, 2009 at 9:45 AM

    >The Christian Writers View 2 is for both fiction and non-fiction writers, and I get lots of great info/insight there.

  22. RKCharron on October 5, 2009 at 9:33 AM

    >Hi Rachelle 🙂
    Thank you for answering my question.
    I only hang out with writers on Twitter. There is such a vibrant writer/publishing/reader community there.
    All the best,

  23. Diane on October 5, 2009 at 9:01 AM

    >Good questions. Thanks for the answers! :O)

  24. Roxane B. Salonen on October 5, 2009 at 8:51 AM

    >Ah, I wasn't on Twitter much over the weekend so missed your question. But this was a great idea, and I took something valuable from it on one q/a in particular. Thanks!

  25. Reesha on October 5, 2009 at 8:39 AM

    >So far I've just hooked up with other Christian writers from my church. An ounce of face to face effort equals a pound of effort on facebook, twitter, or online stuff.

  26. Krista Phillips on October 5, 2009 at 6:47 AM

    >Other's have said it, but ACFW rocks. Also, blogs are a great way too… Click on the majority of the "commenters" on RAchelle's blog and most of us have our own blog. From there, find people on twitter/facebook, because we usually gab there too:-)

  27. Kate on October 5, 2009 at 6:19 AM

    >Great post – thanks for adding.

    Kate x

  28. Lisa Jordan on October 5, 2009 at 6:16 AM

    >I think ACFW is the best resource for Christian fiction writers with their email loop, prayer loop, and forum.

    Writers' blogs with a large following provide social interaction with other writers and readers.

    If you write romance, Romance Writers of America has a number of groups and loops to join, but the FHL (Faith, Hope & Love) loop is the only one specified for Christian fiction.

    I think there's also a site called Faithwriters that may offer interaction.

  29. Jessica on October 5, 2009 at 6:15 AM

    >Agent and writer blogs are awesome. I also really enjoy articles written by authors. There are tons of writing groups (online) where you can find support and friendship. Good luck!

    Thanks for answering those questions. 🙂

  30. Andrew on October 5, 2009 at 6:07 AM

    >Right here.

    Between writing, teaching, welding, and running our Pit Bull rescue, I had to choose one 'social community' in which to participate, and this one is best I have seen.

  31. Lydia Sharp on October 5, 2009 at 5:43 AM

    >(A better idea might be to take a small advance and spend it on marketing your book.)

    Great advice. Excellent post.

  32. Katie Ganshert on October 5, 2009 at 5:38 AM

    >For sure, ACFW. They have an online loop, specifically geared toward the Christian fiction writer. That's where I met my critique partner and my mentor. Other than that, there is the blogosphere. Like Heather said, there are many blogs out there.

    Katie Ganshert

  33. Heather Sunseri on October 5, 2009 at 4:54 AM

    >ACFW has a lot to offer Christian writers. Also, there are many blogs out there where many writers are forming friendships and offering great advice to each other and to anyone stopping by. You can join any of those discussions.