Yesterday I touched briefly on the agent’s need to protect both their client’s and their own reputation. This reminded me that I wanted to talk about reputations in general.

As an author, you should always be aware that when an agent takes you on, and when an editor is interested in acquiring you, they’re putting their reputation on the line for you and your book.

Let’s start here: we’re all salespeople. You have to sell your book to an agent. The agent has to sell to an editor. The editor has to sell it to the Pub Board, including the sales team. The sales team has to sell it to bookstores. Bookstores have to sell it to customers. All down the line, your book is being sold. And all salespeople rely on their good reputation to get them in the door to be able to sell in the first place.

For the editors, their credibility hangs in the balance with each proposal they bring to Pub Board. It’s the same with agents. My reputation amongst the editors is at stake every time I submit a manuscript. The last thing I want is for them to start thinking, “Oh no, another proposal from her.” It’s the same with the sales reps who sit in front of the buyers at Barnes & Noble and Sam’s Club.

So that’s one of the reasons we’re so careful in choosing the books we want to champion. Each book reflects on us personally and professionally.

Of course, this applies to you as an author. Who your agent is will reflect on you. The quality of each successive manuscript will affect your reputation and ability to keep getting published. Your sales numbers will have a big impact on your reputation. And if you acquire a reputation for being a pain in the patootie to work with, that will affect you, too.

We all need to pay attention to how our actions of today will affect our ability to do business tomorrow.

Glass, china, and reputation are easily cracked, and never well mended.
~Benjamin Franklin

Q4U: What are your thoughts on the importance of reputation in the publishing industry and life in general?

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. Space Coast Conservative [dot]com on May 24, 2010 at 12:00 PM

    >Rachelle, I know those verses and agree with them. However, I do not think that my having a reputation of being a pushover to those who hate the Lord is a good thing. Nor do I believe that honey wins all flies. Nor do I believe that God wishes us to be sweet to all. Why be sweet to Satan and those who serve him? I stand with Eph. 6:10-20. That is me: "speak[ing] boldly, as I ought to speak."

    Christ wasn't sweet to the moneychangers. Nor was Christ sweet to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. If we are to follow Him, should we ignore that part of Him? We are told to put on the full armor of God — armor isn't needed if you're hugging someone; for battle it is.

    Spiritual battle you know about. Word battles (some would say they are physical because they aren't strictly spiritual) are necessary also. Otherwise, what happens to our light if we are not willing to fight for the right to shine it? Look at what happened to our schools when Christians took our hands off of the schools. Our nation started going downhill and our children's education included "abortion is okay" and education went toward Marxism. I do battle against that sort of thinking.

    I strongly believe in the Bible (every jot and tittle) and think that if "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" and "Thou shalt not lie" are God's words, then speaking the truth at all times about all things is important and I do so. I do not candy coat it, nor do I think that everyone responds to candy coating. I have been in the political arena long enough to know that if I were "sweet" that the enemy would try to walk all over me. I don't wish to make my battle harder, so I am strong up front and let them know that. I am the Christian God warned them about.

    As far as my reputation is concerned, I have a good reputation with my family and among those who are strong Conservatives and strong Christians (no offense to the sweet people). I am along the same lines as Doug Giles. I am happy with that. I have yet to be convicted by the Lord that I am doing it wrong. So I am not worried about displeasing Him.

    The way I see it, there has to be parts of both. There must be the Doug Gileses and I out there because our battle-ready, up front, stronger than steel attitudes and beliefs in these days when Marxism and evil are in the White House (look up how many of the advisers and cabinet members are socialists/Marxists), in the schools, accepted and practiced by the mainstream media, and how they're trying to take away our religious freedom (First Amendment protected) is all that stands between our God given rights and them being taken away. Yes, there are politicians who will stand up for it, but politicians have all kinds of things to consider and they sometimes change their minds (Nelson of Nebraska). If it weren't for those of us with the armor on who are willing to do battle, how much more difficult would life be for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ who are the honey?

    No, I am not saying anything negative against the "Sweet" Christians. I love them dearly. I am saying that God made some warriors and some He made sweet. We are not all on thing. He made us "apostles, and some, prophets, and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ:" (Eph. 4:11-12). We are different for the same reason: Christ.

  2. Rachelle on May 24, 2010 at 8:18 AM

    >I believe a good reputation here on Earth is important, because what I do and how I'm perceived reflects on Christ. The Bible has a few things to say about the importance of earthly reputation, too. I take my cue from verses like Proverbs 22:1, 1 Peter 2:12, Ecclesiastes 7:1 and others.

  3. Space Coast Conservative [dot]com on May 24, 2010 at 12:44 AM

    >While I agree that a good reputation is helpful, with whom I have a good reputation is more important. If I have a good reputation with the masses — everyone out there thinks I'm a sweet, lovely person who wouldn't hurt a fly and honey wouldn't melt in my mouth, then I have a problem. I don't think that is what God called me to be. Some of us have to be strong and fight the battles, and that is who I am.

    Therefore, if I have a reputation of being a strong, opinionated, political animal who also knows quite a bit of the Bible and takes its teachings literally and spiritually — and am hard nosed and unflinching about it — then I have a "bad" reputation amongst some groups. To be honest, though, I don't really care because I only worry about my reputation with the following: God (first, foremost and always); my husband of thirty-two years; my sons; my mother. Other than that I don't really worry about my reputation on this earth.

    It is when I get to the pearly gates and God says to me, "Well done, my good and faithful servant" that my reputation will be established. If I did as I was called by Him to do, that's what my goal is. Reputation down here? Not so much.

    I suppose that could be a hindrance to being published, but that is also a price I'm willing to pay to be who God created me to be: putting on the full armor of God to go to battle, full on, toe to toe, eye to eye and never flinching, never failing.

  4. Leigh D'Ansey on May 21, 2010 at 12:41 AM

    >In both our personal and business lives we should keep the promises we make. Once we've voiced a commitment, whether it's reading a bedtime story to a toddler or delivering a manuscript by deadline, we should do everything humanly possible to meet that commitment. I think all long-lasting and worthwhile relationships, business or personal, are built on integrity.

  5. Emily Casey on May 19, 2010 at 7:22 PM

    >So how does one make sure to find an agent with a good reputation?

  6. Jessica Nelson on May 19, 2010 at 6:54 PM

    >I think reputations are very, very important, and I think the bible backs that up. Good post.
    I didn't know patootie didn't end in a y. *grin* That's my new thing learned for today.

  7. patriciazell on May 19, 2010 at 6:51 PM

    >I am not a perfect person and I'm sure there are and will be times when I don't do or say the "right things." That's why I rely on God to make good out of my mistakes. I focus on pleasing Him because Proverbs 16:7 says if I do please Him, He will make even my enemies be at peace with me. And, if my focus is pleasing Him, I think my reputation will be okay.

  8. Julie Jordan a.k.a. @Writers_Cafe on May 19, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    >Great topic! I've read the other comment, and they mostly agree: protect your reputation – it's a lifelong benefit – or millstone.
    Reputations go far beyond our place as a writer/author.
    Even children, whether they realize it or not, must protect their reputations. As the daughter of the principal of the elementary school I attended, the term 'reputation' was driven home to me very early in my life.
    But, it's true. A problem child (whatever the reason) has a reputation with the teachers and administration of the schools.
    Later on, the term 'reputation' takes on a whole new and different meaning (esp. for girls – the old 'double standard). It can make a huge difference in the rest of your life!
    And, as an adult, your reputation is YOU. By then, we all know that, of course, but for some, it's already too late.
    We need to protect our collective reputations online, too. Keep your language clean on Facebook, Twitter, etc. THINK before you click 'SEND.' I unfollow those who use foul language. If I do that at the 'social' level, think of what your language can do to your career!
    Unfortunately, there are parts of our world that we can't control – but we CAN control how we care for our reputations. It's hard work, and worth the effort . . . but once it's damaged . . .
    Take care! J.

  9. nightwriter on May 19, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    >John, I second that notion and emotion! What's wrong with taking a few chances? I love mysteries, but they all seem to be cozies or hard-boiled thrillers, not much in between. No wonder Janet Evanovich is doing so well with her fun series.

    I'll bet that agent who wrote a nasty rejection to Stephenie Meyers wishes s/he could take it back, while Ms. Meyers is laughing all the way to the bank! Who knew?

  10. John Crittenden on May 19, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    >I'm afraid that I'm a bit jaundiced, as a newspaperman, on this subject, but I think one of the reasons the book publishing industry in general is in so much trouble is that everyone up and down and along the line worries a bit too much about their reputations. Very little that's original or experimental gets published, and this has been going on for years. Not enough chances are taken. Thus self-publishing — authors taking things into their own hands after rejections from too many people worried about their own reputations — has produced some winners. What little I've seen of the book publishing world has included far too many people who seemed to be trying to out-polite each other. Yet it's the red-meat stuff that sells big, makes for breakthroughs, while the markets for genial, unsurprising genre books — think "chick lit" and self-help and romance and food and action/espionage — bubble along "same as they ever were." I know it's hard to suggest that there's something more important than keeping up the daily fight for literacy in the face of all that's out there that works against it, but in a time of such cultural stagnation it's important to remember that taking chances (not over-worrying about one's reputation) is part of boldness — an admirable trait.

  11. lauradroege on May 19, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    >Reputation is one reason I want a Christian agent, even though my book isn't marketable in the CBA. I want someone who holds similiar standards to mine and who has a reputation for integrity, in addition to being business-savvy.

    Reputation is a reason why I work so hard on writing quality blog posts; I want a reputation for writing enjoyable, well-crafted, and thoughtful work, and if a reader doesn't see this in my blogs, then my reputation suffers a bit.

  12. scarlettprose on May 19, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    >It's so true. I read once on Stephenie Meyer's website that she received a particularly vicious rejection from an agent before finding representation for Twilight. She said she fought the urge to staple her stellar reviews to the letter and mail it back to the agent, but instead she chose to take the high road.

    We should all take the high road. After all, you're just withholding ammo for people to use against you.

  13. Michael K. Reynolds on May 19, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    >There is such a thing as "reputation equity" and this becomes an important tool for us to open doors, influence others and to impact the world. When we hire an agent, we're leveraging this equity.

    However; as Christians we must always be careful not to cross the line where our reputation becomes an idol rather than a virtue. I always am wary of those who say, "My reputation is everything to me."

    I believe if we concentrate on fixing our eyes on Jesus and do what is right in His eyes, we'll shine a light that will be evident to many. Our "yes" will be a "yes" we'll meet our obligations and we'll extend grace to all, even to those whose opinions we don't always share.

    An excellent reputation will be a highly probably side benefit.

  14. Jill Corcoran on May 19, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    >Well said, Rachelle!

  15. Anonymous on May 19, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    >Good points! I agree with Meredith: those tweets can do more harm than good. I'm surprised by how much boring, irrelevant crap people (and agents) put on Twitter for all to see–they seem like, well, twits. The agents who brag about how many queries they must delete, how swamped they are, how PO'ed they are that writers can't follow guidelines, how dumb the queries are…

    They seem too busy tweeting to do any real work, or take on new clients so why keep accepting queries? That's why I don't want an agent who's always on Twitter: What gossip would they spread about me and my book? So agents, that's one way to get rid of queries–problem solved!

  16. Loree H on May 19, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    >Q4U: What are your thoughts on the importance of reputation in the publishing industry and life in general?

    Well said, Aimee LS.

    I believe having a good reputation is important in life and at our work. I know my words and actions reflect on my boss and company's reputation, (as it would be in publishing – agent, editor, pub company). I also find it sad that sometimes we can't really be ourselves because of it. It can turn to be a popularity contest – we tend to go with the flow, not against it because…what might THEY think? Sometimes a reputation keeps you from truly speaking your heart.

    Over all, it's funny how often a reputation is tarnished, not by a stranger or acquaintance, but by a loved one: a family member or close friend.

    As always, thanks for the excellent post, Rachelle.

  17. Care on May 19, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    >Of all things that can be taken away from any of us under the disguise of another person's "false reputation"
    I find I am more solid in standing firm in my own. With truth and honor, and high integrity.
    I would only want to work with an agent and editor with the same principles and qualities. And I agree agents and editors deserve the same back.

    Rachelle, you have them all.
    It has been a blessing for me to read your posts and learn from them.
    Thank you.

  18. Arabella on May 19, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    >I have a reputation for being opinionated. Is that a good or a bad thing?

    I always try to remain professional in business interactions, however.

  19. David Jarrett on May 19, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    >Simple and concise, but very profound, this post should have a very positive effect on how we writers view and interact with agents, even those who reject us. Of course, the sword does cut both ways, and those agents who seem to take a perverse pride in rejecting our work should take notice also.

  20. sharonbially on May 19, 2010 at 7:47 AM

    >I think it's important to remember, too, that reputation's not only about "good," or "bad." Sometimes it's just a question of having a critical mass of supporters. Just look at what happens with originally self-pubbed books like Still Alice that were initially refused by all the pros but went on to become industry favorites after gathering a support base of fans. Or those social media success stories like "Sh*t My Dad Says," the Twitter feed that turned into a book deal then a TV series because so many people were following it. So while it’s understandable that agents need to be cautious and selective, I think the system of having this process lie in the hands of so few individuals at the outset doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality of how reputations are ultimately built, and often prevents good books from getting the attention and support they deserve.

  21. Erika on May 19, 2010 at 7:37 AM

    >I was just the other day discussing the concerns of social networking sites with a friend and this post hit home for me.

    As a debut author, I am more aware than ever of how I present myself, and I'd like to think that years of being professional and courteous have only helped me along the way. That said, it goes both ways. I can't say enough good things about the agents over the years who have generously given their time and input, even when they didn't offer representation. I feel very fortunate, and grateful.

    I am also somewhat conflicted about certain sites like Facebook and do see why authors (and agents, I'm sure) elect to have a professional page to keep a handle on their reputation. I do have concern for the younger generation who may or may not realize the archiving potential of the internet. As my husband is always reminding me, everything can be cataloged and archived on the web–permanently. A young person with a Facebook page may not realize that what seemingly harmless party shots they post at sixteen (or forty, for that matter) may indeed come up in an employer/admissions dir/etc on-line search.

    I'm by no means saying I think this sort of assessment is fair or even reasonable, but I think we can all agree it IS growing to be a common one in the world. I know I give it a good deal of thought when I use the internet.

  22. Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe on May 19, 2010 at 6:43 AM

    >Well said. We must always act and even post in a professional manner.

  23. James Castellano on May 19, 2010 at 6:41 AM

    >We reap what we sow in all areas of our life. Reputation and character are not excluded.

  24. Christine Danek on May 19, 2010 at 6:37 AM

    >A good reputation is crucial in any business. I know from being in business myself. Thank you for touching on some great points in this post.

  25. Meredith on May 19, 2010 at 6:37 AM

    >This is a great post. The publishing industry is a unique creature because someone's hopes and dreams are at stake, which always adds a mix of emotion, but in the end, it's a business just like everything else. I think it's very easy for aspiring writers to lose sight of that. Case in point: all of the nasty (and unintentionally hilarious) emails agent bloggers post from writers who receive rejections. It wasn't personal, and I'm willing to bet (or hope) that the writer wouldn't shoot off a similar email to a potential real-world employer because employers talk, and your reputation would be shot. Same thing in publishing.

    I'm a lawyer, so I have to use that as an example because it's all I know, but even though I'm in a big city, the community is small. You live or die based on your reputation. I know the typical lawyer stereotype says otherwise, but if you're consistently cordial, civil, well-prepared and professional, you're in a much better place with your peers and with judges than if you're rude, unprepared and inflexible. Every business is the same. Reputation is important no matter if you're a writer, a dentist, a teacher, an accountant, a banker, an actor, an artist, etc.

    Be professional. Always put forth your best. The rest will fall into place.

  26. Krista Phillips on May 19, 2010 at 6:33 AM

    >I think all your points say it all. A good reputation is crucial to success in ANY business.

  27. Adventures in Children's Publishing on May 19, 2010 at 6:11 AM

    >Reputation is critical. We'd like to believe that what others think doesn't matter, but you're right Rachelle. In this business in particular, sales are the engine behind the machine and they are affected by our reputation. We have to be conscientious about all of our choices, knowing that they contribute to an overall image.


  28. Buffy Andrews on May 19, 2010 at 5:47 AM

    >I think you can learn a lot about people by what they say (and don't say) and by what they do (and don't do). How do people act when no one is watching? I look for this. And in this crazy connected social networking world we live in, you can tell an awful lot about people. I am always amazed how much I have learned about people just by reading 140 character posts. Sometimes, it's led me to cross an agent off my list. I just don't think we'd be a good fit. And I'm sure people have crossed me off their list as well. And that's fine with me. I have amazing editors (those who work for me and those I work for) and I will tell you they are not only amazing journalists, but they are good people. They are the type of people I would want for friends even if we didn't work together. They are thoughtful and kind and helpful. Have good morales and do the right thing. And as silly as it might sound, those things are important to me in the people I choose to work for. I know that we don't always have that choice. I'm lucky in that I have found that and it's one of the big reasons why I continue to work where I work and do what I do.
    I found this quote recently and posted it on my blog. I'm going to post it here. I think there's a lot of truth to this. And my words of wisdom are to be who you are, be true to yourself. Don't compromise to "fit it." Blessings…

    "Every one of us, unconsciously, works out a personal philosophy of life, by which we are guided, inspired, and corrected, as time goes on. It is this philosophy by which we measure out our days, and by which we advertise to all about us the man, or woman, that we are. . . . It takes but a brief time to scent the life philosophy of anyone. It is defined in the conversation, in the look of the eye, and in the general mien of the person. It has no hiding place. It's like the perfume of the flower — unseen, but known almost instantly. It is the possession of the successful, and the happy. And it can be greatly embellished by the absorption of ideas and experiences of the useful of this earth."
    –George Matthew Adams

  29. Mary on May 19, 2010 at 5:13 AM

    >This is why it's important not to send an agent hate mail or badmouth them on the internet when you get a rejection – you'll get a reputation. 😉

  30. writer jim on May 19, 2010 at 2:11 AM

    >In publishing I prefer an agent with a reputation of being close to God…rather than one reputable for getting lots of $$$$.

    I'm glad I've lived most all my life, since 1951, in the same location; so my reputation is well known: Every day I want to talk about Almighty God, to anyone and everyone.

    For all of us, what really matters is what our standing (reputation) is in God's sight. He knows the real us.

  31. Aimee LS on May 19, 2010 at 1:31 AM

    >Reputation is critical. But authenticity is more important for building a good reputation than 'perfection'.

    Be it as a Christian example, or just a business partner, people would rather be near someone they can trust to be honest and helpful than someone who appears awesome but is dishonest or misrepresenting themselves.

  32. Ronda Laveen on May 19, 2010 at 1:31 AM

    >A good reputation is imperative! I'm not so concerned with people "liking" me as I am with their respecting me.

  33. Anne Lang Bundy on May 19, 2010 at 1:28 AM

    >Three thoughts:

    Reputation begins with the first impression.

    You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

    A Christian's reputation is a direct reflection on Jesus Christ.