Talk to Me!

Aren’t you glad that mountain lion is behind that chain link fence? I sure was. I was standing about eight feet away from her at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo when Brian snapped this pic. It has nothing to do with today’s post – I just like it.

So… I have a few questions for you. Feel free to answer all or none or anything in between. Or click over to Nathan’s blog – he’s probably got The Week in Publishing.

Q4U:

What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?

Least favorite topics?

What topics are overdone? Not done enough?

What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you’d like answered?

Who do you like in the Super Bowl? Will you be watching? Having a party?

Have a great weekend!

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. 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!

87 Comments

  1. Nishant on February 12, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    >I just love anytime you give clear instruction on issues like submitting proposals

    Work From Home



  2. Mechelle Fogelsong on February 9, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    >Maybe an agent doesn't even know the answer to this question, but I've recently had a NUMBER of fellow writers offer to do cyber-edit-exchanges with me. That's where I send Johnny Writer my first chapter and he sends me his. We edit each other and send 'em back.

    It's very flattering to have both published and unpublished writers making this offer, but how SAFE is it? Now that e-publishing is possible, couldn't someone just type their name into my MS and e-pub it?

    FYI: I've actually turned down published authors; I've only said yes to people I've met in person. Wise choice or foolish?



  3. Indigo on February 8, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    >I'm probably late on this bandwagon but I do have a question.
    (Not to mention it's a subject that isn't brought up often).

    When querying an agent how should the subject of pen names be broached? Should you query under the pen name and bring up the matter once a request is made. Or is it just better to query under your own name and work out the pen name issues later on with your agent?

    Thanks, for taking the time.



  4. Monika on February 8, 2010 at 1:27 AM

    >What are your favorite topics? What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions? Not done enough? Trends in publishing now and 3-4 years from now, what you/friends are picking up, why certain topics are/aren't popular now, typical day of an agent –> how an agent gets something from author submission to book on shelf. What author topics are interesting, which ones are overdone? Examples of winning proposals and why they were good (like what Writer's Market has done.) Do you have additional "best practices" for self-editing beyond/deeper than what's in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers?

    Least favorite topics? What topics are overdone? Query letters, guest posts, devotional, "how to get published" (when it's a repeat of previous posts or info found in popular how-to books). It'd be nice to have things for more advanced writers than only those just starting out and naive about publishing.



  5. Serenissima on February 7, 2010 at 10:59 PM

    >Hi Rachelle –

    I'd like to see more on the submissions to editors process. e.g., What kind of feedback do they typically provide? How should one interpret their comments? How long does it usually takes to hear back from one? Plus any other helpful advice for those of us waiting on publishing houses.

    Thanks!



  6. Little Miss Allicatt on February 7, 2010 at 10:47 PM

    >What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?

    I like learning about agents' pet peeves. I like knowing what writers do to make you pull your hair out in anything and everything.

    Who do you like in the Super Bowl?

    I wish the Vikings would've been there.



  7. lauradroege on February 7, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    >Questions I have:
    AimeeLS said this, but I'll second it. How do I know when my book is ready to be submitted?

    Super Bowl? I don't like football and I don't own a TV, so I could care less. That's enough to brand me as a heretic in my homestate of Alabama, where football is king!



  8. Care on February 7, 2010 at 8:42 AM

    >Hi again Rachelle,
    There is a question I have,
    Does one need to have a finished manuscript before they can Query an agent?
    And,
    If not, how many finished pages would be recommended?

    Thanks!



  9. lightfeather on February 6, 2010 at 11:01 PM

    >I love the commercials and the hot wings! I am glad I found this blog. I will be back!!



  10. Jeannie on February 6, 2010 at 10:36 PM

    >I love reading query stats, along with queries and opening pages that actually worked.

    I know some agents don't find those topics to be all that interesting in terms of blog material, but from my side of the desk, it's fascinating and very educational.



  11. Care on February 6, 2010 at 8:33 PM

    >Rachelle,
    Last Fall I read one your blogs titled Chasing Your Dreams.
    It touched me deeply, to this day I remember the almost kid – like magical way I felt when I shut my eyes and hoped that I, an adult, had even a sprinkle of what you called the "magic fairy dust factor" in my writing.

    I enjoy your daily blogs and feel
    encouraged by them.

    I don't know how far my journey in writing will take me, but I know for sure, I will carry joy with me in the process.

    Thank You!



  12. Dana on February 6, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    >I just love anytime you give clear instruction on issues like submitting proposals and queries and the proper way to approach the publishing world. I don't care how many times you talk about it. It keeps me focused on my goal. I like boundaries.

    Dana



  13. Ryan Hunter - Writer on February 6, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    >I'd love to know what exactly it is about a query that makes an agent toss it or finish reading to the end.

    Overdone? I've seen on too many sites tips that should be obvious to any aspiring writing like having the query typed with black ink on white paper and reminders to use spell check.

    Thanks for the opportunity to contribute!



  14. Jil on February 6, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    >Once when I took my dog to the vet they had a mountain lion in to have a tennis ball removed from its throat. That animal had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen!

    I like to learn from an agent's blog but at the same time to be left hopeful – not to feel like crawling into a hole with my manuscript, never to come out because everything is doom and gloom. You, Rachelle, are often encouraging and I appreciate that, but as my books do not have a religious theme I fear I can't approach you. But I still love your blog.

    I get annoyed when told to write and do my best because I really always do!

    I'll watch the Superbowl – well, just because I don't want to be left out of the next day's conversations= and it's late enough so I'll have done my own activities and will feel like relaxing.



  15. Kristen Joy Wilks on February 6, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    >I love to see the sample queries and sample pages of authors that piqued your interest and you decided to represent. It helps me to see all that good writing and what it was that made you love it.



  16. SharonKendrew on February 6, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    >In random order –

    Since the Patriots aren't playing then it's the Saints of course. Our church is sponsoring a chili, chowder and soup cookoff called the SouperBowl and that's where we'll be, watching on our big screen – if anyone is near Pelham NH come by to Crossroads Baptist, you're all welcome!

    I commend any agent that takes the time to post information for writers. It's so competitive right now – the more information the better! Having said that the most overdone topic would be query letters, imo. Every agent has their own take on what makes a great query however some agents post about it too frequently.

    And speaking of queries – I think more agents should address why they use form rejections. I totally get it but based on some comments on querytracker and writer forums, many writers don't seem to understand the concept that it is not an agent's responsibility to critique or offer specific feedback. Some writers are insulted that they received a form letter and not a personal rejection when the truth is, other that the opening line or two most writers are using form queries.

    Along those lines, hearing more about what it's like to be an agent, what you do in a typical day, walking through the process from the time you read that query that gives you goosebumps until you see it on the shelves would be fascinating.

    Oh and I'd also like to hear about how you specifically found your authors – I always ask published authors how they found their agents. It would be interesting to hear the flip side.

    Great questions, Rachelle, thank you for asking!



  17. Kathryn Magendie on February 6, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    >What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?Least favorite topics?What topics are overdone? Not done enough?What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you'd like answered?

    All those above can be answered with a simple: I'm pretty happy with what I've been reading on the few agent blogs I go to – each one has a different voice even when speaking about similar things.

    Who do you like in the Super Bowl? Will you be watching? Having a party?
    Dang right I'm watching! My husband is a New Orleans native; I lived in South Louisiana (BR) for many years – I'm watching those Who Dat Saints!

    Have a great weekend!
    You too *smiling*



  18. Sue Harrison on February 6, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    >Your Blog? Fantastic. Well written, interesting and full of useful information.

    Super Bowl? My team blew it two weeks ago, so I just want to snuggle up with my husband and see some really fine football. Once in a while it's renewing to be non-partisan!

    Sue Harrison



  19. Heather Marsten on February 6, 2010 at 6:10 AM

    >I'd say keep up the good work – your blog has a mix of topics that interest me. I think that if you write on something that is impressing you at the moment it is helpful.

    As I am writing nonfiction right now, I do like articles about nonfiction topics, but topics in other areas can also be applied to nonfiction.

    I sort of hope the Saints win because they would be a newcome to the Superbowl world.



  20. Jesterhawk on February 6, 2010 at 4:14 AM

    >What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?Honestly, I like to read the ones that let me know that you are in fact human. I understand that publishing is a cold hard business and that agents have to find what will sell to a publisher so that they can get paid as well. And in all of that, agents many times come off as heartless (the "it doesn't matter if Jesus himself helped you transcribe your book, if you don't have an established platform then your book will not be looked at" kind of thing). So, it is good to remember that at the other side of this coin is someone who lives and breathes and worships God and just happens to swim in the deep end to make a living.

    Least favorite topics?I have two topics I dislike. First is the all the ones that make it seem like I will never get published because my circle of friends (about a 100 in church, 100+ on facebook and 200+ on my blog feed) are just not enough to get noticed especially since people aren't beating down my door to have me come and speak.

    The second is the posts that are cynical in nature. I know that as a Christian literary agent you get thousands of people to tell you that "God" told them to write this book and many of them don't. However, there are some whom God has told and has inspired and has given them something to say. I realize in the truth about publishing that doesn't matter what is in your book as much as how well it can be sold on your name. But to hold on to the hope that because God may have just given me something to write about that might just be new because even the Word testified that God has hidden mysteries and wisdom contained within (Daniel 12:9-10, 1 Cor 2:6-12).

    What topics are overdone? Not done enough?Actually, I would love a series on how to build your platform from a perspective of how to get people interested in having you come and speak at their engagement. Basically a good run down of how do you get yourself known when you don't have a clue. I have seen some tips, but none of them really seem to add people to my email list on a regular basis. I realize that on the one hand you may think this is not your job and not something you do. But I think that you at least know, after all you represent people came from nowhere and are now someone with a platform and a published book or bunch of books.

    What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you'd like answered?Curiosity. What would happen if someone truly did have something from God that God gave them. And they wrote a book about it. What next? I mean really. What next. I realize that publishers don't want to do their job and make the authors sell themselves before they even get to talking about a deal. But an author is someone who may be gifted as a writer and a speaker, but not necessarily a pimper of self. I mean, for example, how do I convince Joel Osteen that he needs me to preach at his church/convention/etc when to him I am a nobody and don't even live in the same town? It is easy to say that you build a following and then the engagements will come but it is not so easy to do. Even harder as time goes on and more churches are closing down the open pulpit.

    Who do you like in the Super Bowl? Will you be watching? Having a party?Saints. Yes. Yes. I was a Saints fan back when they were the aints and Jim Mora relied on Morten Anderson to kick a 60+ yard field goal to win the game or else they punted. And they lost a lot. Even though, in my life today with three kids I don't have time to follow football, I am excited for the team I used to root for and want to see them win.

    Love in Christ,
    Pat



  21. Steve on February 6, 2010 at 2:55 AM

    >"What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you'd like answered?"

    My question may well not be appropriate for this venue. Feel free to disregard it if so.

    I'm curious about the relationship between "Christian" publishing and the rest of publishing (mainly in the world of fiction). One minor part of the question is whether writing published as "Christian" always reflects Evangelical theology, or whether other Christian viewpoints are also represented.

    I am also wondering whether it is possible to find a "niche" for a YA novel which is primarily secular-themed but features a main character who goes to church, believes in God, and who would qualify as "Christian" under some definitions. The main character in my aspiring novel goes to an old mainline Protestant church (probably Methodist) and her personal theology is not well-formulated. The novel does not revolve primarily around her church or faith life, although significant subplot elements do. The novel otherwise will include elements that would almost certainly make it objectionable to the CBA community. But would the religious elements disqualify it from mainstream publication?

    I'm aware that there are possible cans of worms to be opened by such a question. Again, feel free to disregard it if you feel it is inappropriate.

    -Steve



  22. Amy on February 6, 2010 at 2:47 AM

    >I love hearing about the industry, client success stories and other tidbits about life in general. Also the hilarious failings of some of your queries.

    As for the superbowl, I will be driving an hour out of town to attend a hafla, with other women who also don't know who's playing.



  23. Rosslyn Elliott on February 6, 2010 at 2:00 AM

    >My husband is a Louisiana native and a REAL Saints fan. Party at our house! Meanwhile, I will be playing cards in the corner and making encouraging comments when the people start yelling. 🙂



  24. Kathleen Pooler on February 6, 2010 at 12:19 AM

    >Rachelle,

    I am an aspiring memoir writer who is trying to learn as much as I can about the writing and publishing process. My favorites topics: the practical advice about submissions,do's and don'ts, guest bloggers who discuss their writing experiences. Least favorite..None..I figure I need it all right now so I haven't ruled out anything yet;

    I hope the Saints nail it for their city and our country to show how triumph and hope can be resurrected from the devastation.



  25. patriciazell on February 5, 2010 at 9:47 PM

    >I know how you and your fellow agents feel about people who have no clue (like juniors in high school who can't discern the main idea in a reading selection), but I don't like it when agents ridicule people who don't get it. Many have had their hopes raised or they wouldn't be querying. I guess the best thing to do may be saying a little prayer for those who query without understanding and asking God to minister to them.



  26. Kathleen L. Maher on February 5, 2010 at 9:43 PM

    >I would LOVE to talk with you, Rachelle. ; )

    For the Superbowl, I am a house divided. DH likes the Saints, but son #2 is a Colts fan. Oy vey! I'll just serve food.



  27. Nordicblogger on February 5, 2010 at 8:02 PM

    >I like to know about the current trends in publishing, which is one of the main reasons I read your blog. The advice given on queries and what to expect throughout the process is also very helpful.

    No superbowl here. Football is played with a round ball where I live. But for those who will be watching, Happy Superbowl Weekend!



  28. Kent Sievers on February 5, 2010 at 7:36 PM

    >I absolutely love to read examples of work that your finger off the giant red REJECT button. Although I've never seen one myself, I'm pretty sure all agents are issued one of these buttons once they pass the requisite, "Sinister Laugh At the Poor Putz's Prose" (SLAPPP) class at the literary agent university 😉

    Comparing my work to what ignites that spark of interest from the slush pile is about as close as I'll get to professional feedback till a kind agent takes time to offer a personalized opinion.

    I like 3R statistics. How many queries you've Read, Rejected and Requested.

    Horror stories are always good. It makes me feel better when I read that I'm not the only one whose backside has puckered within a millisecond of hitting the send button.

    Your blog has a nice balance of work and play, but I have run across blogs that were so much play, I wanted to reach through the internet tubes to tap the creator on the shoulder and point their attention to the slush pile of hopes and dreams sitting next to their giant red REJECT button.



  29. Kate on February 5, 2010 at 6:51 PM

    >Hi Rachelle!

    1. Writing advice. Whether it's craft, query, or synopsis related, etc.

    2. Ebooks.

    3. Ebooks.

    4. Since I haven't read a ton of romance novels, I'm wondering what separates a romance novel in the "romance" section from a romance novel in the "fiction/literature" sections in terms of style, plot, etc.

    5. Who dat.



  30. Nicole on February 5, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    >My favorite topics to read about are stories or interviews with authors about their works. It is very inspiring to a not yet published writer to hear them talk about their work.
    I least like to read about how hard it is to get published. I know this. I don't want to dwell on it. I just want to be positive and go for my dream so any article that helps me int that area is my favorite type of article.
    I'm not much of a football fan, but my brother-in-law is a football fanatic so I am sure we will be forced to at least watch in the background. I'm looking forward to the commercials and the half-time show to get me through the torture.
    Thank you for your blog.
    Have a great weekend as well.
    -Nicole Rivera



  31. Mel Skinner on February 5, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    >What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?

    The “too much” and “not enough” line we walk constantly, in branching topics.

    Social skills, manners and behavior in relation to agents are fascinating. They always seem to be subtly changing in small ways as well. I fear social blunders, being reclusive, so I tend to keep quiet. Then I wonder about that and it all seems like a vicious circle with no answers to be found. So when an agent has something to say on the subject, it sets me quite at ease. Knowledge is empowering.

    Stories from the inside, where I can understand by dramatic example…those are good. They tend to stick with me.

    Anything that makes me laugh, while teaching me something at the same time. 🙂

    Least favorite topics?

    Let’s see…subjects that are currently being rehashed on other prominent agents’ blogs. I don’t understand why some agents need to talk about the same thing, in the same way, at the same time, when they are all smart enough to do differently. What can I learn from that?

    What topics are overdone? Not done enough?

    I think if you are an agent with a FAQ sheet(s) or “what I am looking for” link(s) at the side of your blog, you needn’t discuss any of the material therein more than in a single post. In my opinion, the “followers” will grow weary of it. I think some might even become a little bit nastier toward new writers who make common mistakes that agents like to snicker or rant about in blogs.

    As far as what is not done enough…I think agents should talk more about the subject of editing. I believe there is a good deal to be learned from the process from an agent’s POV. I’ve seen a few tips that have made the process more efficient, and I liked that. So I would like to see more.

    What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you'd like answered?

    I sometimes wonder about YA in Christian fiction. I wonder about the sales in that market, too. A post or posts on any point in those subjects would be interesting.

    Questions…I won’t take any more of your time.

    Who do you like in the Super Bowl? Will you be watching? Having a party?

    I attend a party, but I only watch the commercials while I’m present.



  32. SM Blooding on February 5, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    >I like hearing the lastest market/industry news.

    For those of us still slogging through Query Nightmare, it's good to hear query news. How many you received, how many partials/fulls you've requested. (lately I've fallen off the reading blogs bus because I've been busy.)

    I love the stuff you Tweet, actually. Um…#agentday? #agenttip? I don't pay too much attention to the hashtag, but I really enjoy the information that comes out at that time.

    I'd like to see "A Day of Agent X". I think that might be fun. You would be Agent X, of course, but it would be fun to see what things come up.

    I haven't kept up with football this year, either. I didn't realize the Superbowl was here until Roomie let me know. Whoops!

    I really enjoy your blog.

    Frankie



  33. Chris Morrow on February 5, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    >As a football purest, I felt compelled to weigh in. I love parties, but not Super Bowl parties. This should be a great game and I want to watch it with real football fans, not casual one-day-a-year fans.
    If big department stores are responsible for the overcommercialization of our sacred holidays, then Velveeta is responsible for the overcommercialization of the Super Bowl. Cheese dip killed the Super Bowl.

    Every year I get stuck going to some party where the food, the commercials, the celebrities in the stands and everything but the game is the topic of LOUD conversation. It's as if there isn't a game being played. For those of you who aren't football fans, let me explain. Have you ever missed a movie in the theater that you really wanted to see? You know how you can't wait to rent it and take it home, pop into your DVD player and sit down with your favorite beverage? Now imagine twenty-five other people in the room, milling about, chatting and crunching Doritos.

    This is the match-up I would have chosen before the season had it been up to me. I can't wait. This year I'm boycotting the parties and my five year-old son and I are going to lock ourselves in the basement and watch the game. We might eat some pizza, but absolutely no cheese dip.

    Thank you for letting me vent.



  34. Anonymous on February 5, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    >If you submit a query/sample pages and receive a rejection or no answer at all but later down the road (talking maybe six months to a year) can you resubmit to said agent the same mss if the mss in question has had a bit of a facelift, so to say? J/W



  35. Beth on February 5, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    >Perhaps touch on a little of what agents want for children's writers. It's a tough market, and it's always good to hear a little more about it.



  36. Beth on February 5, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    >Perhaps touch on a little of what agents want for children's writers. It's a tough market, and it's always good to hear a little more about it.



  37. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on February 5, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    >Hello, Rachelle;

    It's been years since I visited that zoo, but I remember it as an excellent one.

    Since I have (gratefully) read your blog for almost a year, I have developed a fondness for one type of article from your blog. The articles I most appreciate are the ones where you share your passion. Regardless of whether you are sad, angry, excited or happy, the emotion comes through with the topic and makes it stand out from the rest. So, as you work in the business, just continue to share those things that reach you emotionally. Those posts will reach me best.

    And, oh, yes, I'm part of the "Who Dat Nation…"

    Be blessed,

    Lynnda



  38. Eileen Astels Watson on February 5, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    >Hubby will be watching the Super Bowl in T.O. with buddies while I deal with the girls and all their horsey chores.

    As for what I like to see in agent blogs…since you asked…a mix really. How-to's, what-not-to's, publishing-to-know's, and some about the agent herself/himself as well to help us get to know you better so that we can venture into discerning whether or not an agent/writer relationship would work and if we should submit a project or not.

    Have a great weekend, Rachelle, and may the best team win!!



  39. Cindy on February 5, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    >I love the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo–especially the giraffe area 🙂

    I enjoy agent blogs the most for the input about publishing, although it's great to hear success stories and encouragement to keep going even when it gets rough.

    Posts about craft and what you or other agents are looking for are always helpful, too.

    Go Saints! I chose the Jets and the Saints to go to the Superbowl before the season started and they almost both made it. So I'm definitely going for New Orleans (although I really like the Colts!). Hubby's birthday is on Sunday, too, so we're having a double party!



  40. Rebecca LuElla Miller on February 5, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    >What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?
    Insights into how an agent thinks—what catches her eye, causes her to thing, Maybe …

    Posts explaining the ramifications of the every-changing publishing minefield.

    Least favorite topics?
    Guest bloggers. I have to have a reason to want to read this other person's thoughts when I come to read the blog owner's.

    What topics are overdone?
    1. Bad query letters. Helpful, but it's apparent query letters don't sell a book or produce automatic rejection. Seems like too much attention goes to the introduction and not enough to the "getting acquainted."

    2. Platforms.

    Not done enough?
    What makes for a good story.

    What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you'd like answered?
    1. Do agents who work primarily with ECPA houses edit their clients' work before sending it out?

    2. If an agent is willing to work with an author on revisions before signing that person to a contract, is the writer ethically bound to stop seeking representation elsewhere?

    Who do you like in the Super Bowl? Will you be watching? Having a party?

    I'm a Drew Brees, Reggie Bush fan, so New Orleans, I guess. (Really a Denver Bronco fan, but … sigh!) I'll be watching, but no party.

    Becky



  41. JustWriteCat on February 5, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    >I've found all your blogs helpful, some push me to think about things in a different light or to consider an issue I might not have otherwise. So thank you for all your work and helpful advice.

    At this point in my journey, I'd love to see a post on working with a developmental editor. It's challenging to know which suggestions to follow – or rather, which you can follow and still feel it's your story and your characters. Perhaps something on what to expect when you are fortunate enough to have an agent – in terms of the editing process, the relationship one might expect to have, the type of work involved…that sort of thing.

    Thank you for asking!

    Catherine



  42. Rachel on February 5, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    >I like posts on writing life and craft, and "What I'm Looking For" updates. I also like it when you discuss what works for you and what doesn't–in queries, fiction, emails, etc. OH–and I also really appreciate the good reading recommendations. I still like to read more than I like to write. 🙂



  43. jess on February 5, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    >I miss your "stats" posts. Where you'd tell how many queries you got, how many you wanted to see more of, how many people you signed.



  44. Anonymous on February 5, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    >Instead of agents saying how bad queries are, why not tell about all the bestsellers that were passed up by all the super intelligent agents?



  45. Jenny on February 5, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    >Thank you for the information provided on your blog. I have been reading it for 5-6 months. Although I am new in taking writing seriously, I appreciate learning about all stages and areas of writing and publishing. It is good to eliminate misconceptions sooner as opposed to later. Less painful.

    I read your entry on freelance editors. That is an area, along with retreats/seminars/conferences that I could use some guidance. Thankfully there are many options (from large conferences to 2 day retreats with authors and a limited small group of attendees), but that can be overwhelming to a newbie. When looking to get feedback, who do you think is best? Not a name necessarily, but for a fiction author, is it best to consult a fiction author who also mentors/instructs, a former or current employee in a publishing house, or an agent? What would be the pros and cons to each option? This is assuming we cannot afford to attend sessions with all 3 🙂

    Also, along the lines of getting feedback – critique groups. How are they most effective? Should all members be writing the same type of book (fiction as opposed to non-fiction), or is that not important? I have recently joined a group that just started up, but not sure of the type of feedback I should expect from a diverse group such as ours (memoir, writing for hobby, newspaper). Only 3 of the 7 are interested in fiction. Is this good or bad for me since I am one of the fiction writers?

    Thank you for asking. Clearly I can use the help 🙂 Have a good weekend.

    Jenny



  46. Anonymous on February 5, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    >I'd like more industry news, and what it means for aspiring authors, et al. e.g. What's selling and why, trends, what publishers want, how do publishers determine advances for new authors, how to select the best agent for your book, etc.

    Also really liked your writing tips: Your post on "backstory" was excellent! Not as interested in agents' pet peeves: If they're that picky and anal, they should be fact-checkers at a magazine or newspaper. (I should know, I worked with them.)



  47. myletterstoemily on February 5, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    >i am hoping to turn my blog posts into a book some-
    day.

    is there a place to help me do that?

    thank you for all your help.

    loved the cats!



  48. Arabella on February 5, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    >I want the secret password. Ha, ha, just kidding.



  49. Empty Refrigerator on February 5, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    >I love it when agent blogs look at specific queries and analyze what does / does not work about them.



  50. Mira on February 5, 2010 at 12:22 PM

    >I love the picture. 🙂 I really appreciate that you asked us this question, Rachelle.

    Thank you. You and Nathan are just both so terrific – I feel very lucky to have found your blogs. Bookends, too. Very helpful, good people.

    Since I spend most of my time on these blogs critiquing the industry, I probably don't say enough how much I appreciate the agents who blog.

    I think your instincts are great in terms of blog posts. Better than mine. 🙂 I trust you.



  51. Sarah Forgrave on February 5, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    >I love reading about specific things that catch an agent's eye, whether it's in a query letter or in a live pitch session. What elements in a story make the agent say, "I have to read more"?

    As far as the Super Bowl, I'm from Indy so I'm rooting for the Colts all the way! In fact, my husband and I are so serious about watching the game that we're forgoing parties in order to avoid distractions (namely the distraction of our 2-year-old son who will be in bed). 🙂



  52. Kristen Torres-Toro on February 5, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    >I don't know what I'm doing this year, but I usually go to a movie during the Superbowl. It's the best time to go because no one is there. I take a meal in and enjoy myself. :0)



  53. Jan Cline on February 5, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    >Go Colts!!! I like hearing about the steps to publication. I am just finishing the editing on my first book and want to start my second. So I am in the "need to write a query/proposal-how to get an agent-what to do next" phase.



  54. Shelley on February 5, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    >I'm pretty new here, and as I've skimmed the other comments, I'm sure my answers are just repeats. But I couldn't help myself. 🙂

    What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?

    Anything current about querying and publishing. What do you all see in queries or manuscripts that you like? I'm not necessarily looking for the next trend to follow, but I like to check mine in comparison to what agents like.

    Least favorite topics?

    Thankfully, I don't think I'm the first person to say this, because I feel bad, but some of the e-book articles can be a little dry. Maybe they'll be more important down the road, but right now I'm a little e-booked out.

    What topics are overdone?

    I'd say this fits in with the one above; I'd say e-books.

    What would you like to see addressed here?

    I've seen a lot of what-not-to-do's, but seeing examples of what agents like would be great, too. I love commentary on good queries or good prose that shows exactly what agents like about that particular piece.

    About the Super Bowl… not really into football. But I might keep it on in the background to see the commercials. 😉



  55. T. Anne on February 5, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    >When it comes to blogs it depends. If it's an agents blog, I gobble up all info business related. That's how I like my agent blogs, business related. When I read writer blogs, I get bored if it is always business related with tips and tricks. I want to get a feel for the person, know what their struggles are. I like when the blog captures their personality. Of course agent blogs do too, but I don't expect agents to share too much personal info. The wealth of publishing info an agent can share trumps everything else.

    Regarding future topics, I would really love to get some tips on putting together a fiction proposal. I'm in the process of doing one right now and I really want to nail it. I know there are a few great places online with examples, and I'm utilizing those, but what do you like to see? How should they be formated? What sets them apart and makes them sparkle? Thank you Rachelle.



  56. Kat Harris on February 5, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    >What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?

    My favorite agent blog post ever was one Nathan Bransford did on cliches. I have that one bookmarked. The post and the comments always make me smile.

    I like it when Kristin Nelson takes apart query letters that got her attention.

    I love your posts on craft. More please. 🙂

    Least favorite topics? What topics are overdone?
    iPads and eBooks. I realize technology is changing the face of publishing as we know it, but ufff…

    Any questions you'd like answered?

    Yes. Are there books on the market now that you wish you'd have had the opportunity to represent? Which ones?

    Also, are there themes or plots that you think are being overdone?

    Who do you like in the Super Bowl? Will you be watching? Having a party?

    My interest in football went into hybernation mode when the Crimson Tide broke my heart at the end of the college season.



  57. Anonymous on February 5, 2010 at 11:04 AM

    >Since you asked…

    I would love to see more regarding current submissions you have under review.

    I always hope, but know it is not likely to receive specific feedback on what could have made a difference in our manuscripts.

    But if you were to say what could have boosted manuscripts up in your estimation(going into specifics), that is what I would like to see.

    Nothing extensive, just by way of, "I wish I had seen…", or "If they had paid more attention to…"

    Since you asked..

    I enjoy the blog!



  58. Kathleen MacIver on February 5, 2010 at 11:04 AM

    >I always skim anything having to do with queries, since I've read it all a million times. But I don't necessarily think you should stop posting that. There are always going to be newbies who really want to know going online, and very few are going to sit and read through all the back posts. It's much easier to subscribe and read them as they come. So for them, at least, continue to post occasional reminders and at least links to older posts that are still valid.

    What would I love to see more of? My weakness is character arcs and plots. I don't know if my character are complete enough, I don't know if my character arcs are enough or done well, and I don't know if my plot is too shallow, not well executed, etc. I would love more posts that touch on these subjects.



  59. sexualchivalry on February 5, 2010 at 11:00 AM

    >What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?:

    Honestly I love the horror stories. They're good fun. Oh, and success stories are encouraging.

    Who do you like in the Super Bowl? Will you be watching? Having a party?:

    I don't care much who wins, but the Super Bowl is the only sporting event of the year that my wife will watch with me. Which means it's pretty much the only sporting event of the year that I still watch at all.

    jay



  60. Dara on February 5, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    >What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?

    Anything publishing related or the agent's views on what's happening. It helps give me insight to the complicated and overwhelming world of publishing.

    Of course I love the occassional contest too 🙂

    Least favorite topics?

    I don't know that I have any least favorites…

    What topics are overdone? Not done enough?

    As much as I like the occassional news on eBooks and ePublishing, I do get tired of it. But it is important since that's the wave of the future. I just get overwhelmed by it all.

    What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you'd like answered?

    Um…I don't know. Many of the questions I have were already posed by previous commenters.

    Who do you like in the Super Bowl? Will you be watching? Having a party?

    I don't watch football so I don't care. I will probably be using Sunday to watch one of my Netflix movies or cleaning 😛

    Thanks for posting these questions! I really appreciate the interactive aspect of your blog.



  61. Julie Gillies on February 5, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    What started out as a small get-together has morphed into a do-I-have-enough-chairs Super Bowl party at our house. Guess I'm cooking up two big pots of chili instead of just one. Side note: My hubby and I are totally bummed that "The Who" is performing in the half time show. Who cares?

    I appreciate your heart to help writers, Rachelle. Though I enjoy all your posts, I'd like to read more about nonfiction and memoir, if anything.

    One question: How important do you think it is to "click" with an agent? Is it advisable to go with an agent (with a sterling reputation) who might not have the likeability factor certain other agents possess? I'm thinking a good agent we don't necessarily click with is better than no agent. (I think I just answered my own question. :p )



  62. Bethany on February 5, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    >Since leaving the US, I've seen nary a football game – because I've not developed an interest in the Canadian Football League – so I have no idea who'll be in the Super Bowl and probably won't get to see it.

    Now that you've brought me to the brink of tears…I love reading about the specifics: what you're looking for; what word count you expect for certain genres. To be honest, my favorite thing is reading about personal stories that flabbergasted an agent, such as queries from hell, etc. It's just good fun. Particularly if you've read certain blogs by aspiring writers and thought, "Holy crap, I think this person is actually crazy and I'd hate to be on the receiving end."



  63. Abby Stevens on February 5, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    >Thank you for valuing our input! That mountain lion is gorgeous, but I've always been afraid of them since I read a Reader's Digest article about a mountain lion that was killed in the Rockies and found to have a HUMAN RIB lodged in its stomach!

    What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?
    I like hearing about an agent's thought process in weeding out the good from the bad, and specific examples of what works and what doesn't work.

    Least favorite topics?
    The things that all the agents cover – not because they aren't great or helpful but because all agents cover them – the simple things that people do wrong with queries, the little mistakes people make on manuscripts, etc., etc.

    What topics are overdone? Not done enough?
    See above. 🙂

    What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you'd like answered?
    I like posts like Kristen Nelson's recent blog on why prologues don't often work. I'd like to see more samples of successful queries, opening pages (in their unedited form), etc.

    Who do you like in the Super Bowl? Will you be watching? Having a party?
    My husband and I are going to his coworker's house for the big game. I barely understand football but am learning (read half the Wikipedia before the Saints/Vikings game) so I will just be trying to understand. My husband thinks the Colts are going to destroy the Saints.



  64. Roxane B. Salonen on February 5, 2010 at 10:22 AM

    >I have a confession to make: I don't always read the guest posts. I come to your blog to hear from you. I host guests monthly on my blog too, and I love doing this and think it's a great benefit to both of us. But, as a reader…I sometimes skip on past because I'm wanting to hear your voice most when I visit your blog. I wonder if I'm the only one, and I feel badly admitting this! No offense to your wonderful guest bloggers, because the few I've read have been awesome. As for the Superbowl: I'm in Vikings territory and we're still licking our wounds here, so no further comments at the moment. I'm sure I'll get excited about it in the final quarter. I think the thing I'm most looking forward to is the prolife ad.



  65. Alexis Grant on February 5, 2010 at 9:57 AM

    >I love practical advice — how to make my submissions materials meet your expectations, how things like royalties work (your series on that was fabulous), what I can expect during the publishing process. All of the ideas help me put my best foot forward.

    I also enjoy when literary agents address my genre specifically — memoir. But I imagine everyone feels that way!

    Thanks for your work!



  66. Suze on February 5, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    >I'd also love to hear about a regular day for you – if there is such thing. I'd like to read opening pages from authors you have signed, query letters that caught your eye (for better or worse), and I like hearing about books you represent that are about to hit the shelves. Thanks for a wonderfully entertaining blog!



  67. Matilda McCloud on February 5, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    >I enjoy your blog as it is–I don't have many suggestions for improvements. I particularly like your posts about the craft of writing–some of the advice has been so useful for me and I haven't read it elsewhere (for example, the post about getting rid of "I knew," "I noticed," etc, which I was guilty of writing without even realizing it).

    I look forward to reading your blog every morning and I like how you connect to your readers here. Thanks!

    Go Saints!



  68. CKHB on February 5, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    >I'm curious about foreign rights. I've heard a number of authors say that the bulk of their money comes not from the original advance, but from foreign rights sales. REALLY? How is that possible? Wouldn't they want to pay less than in the U.S., what with translation costs and all?



  69. April Brown on February 5, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    >Hello Rachelle,

    Thanks for asking what questions we would like answered. I have had a non-fiction question for a few weeks now, and have been thinking of which agent to ask. Perhaps you know some links to non-fiction submission guidelines, I have found one, and it doesn't answer my question.

    I am working on a non-fiction workbook – with pages the user can fill in. Normal submission guidelines require double spaced text. They appear too spread out at double spaced, and may be more difficult for the user to use. Does double spacing apply to workbook pages as well?

    Thank you,
    April Brown



  70. Annie on February 5, 2010 at 9:11 AM

    >First, I echo the sentiment of the other grateful writers out there who benefit daily from your posts. Thanks for taking the time to work with us! 🙂

    -What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?

    I love the "How to Do It Right" posts and the "How to Not Go Crazy/Get Discouraged While Trying Desperately To Do It Right" posts. 🙂

    -Least favorite topics?

    Don't have one. There are some things I find more immediately useful than others, but I think the topics covered are all relevant to the process.

    -What topics are overdone? Not done enough?

    I know it's big news and the potential effects are enormous, but I'm all e-published out. 🙂 I'd really like to know more about what agents do, and what the process is like once you get picked up by an agent. I have no real idea of how that process works (aside from the fantasy in my head which is probably far too much like Jo March getting her published book in a beautiful package in the mail).

    -What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you'd like answered?

    Shoot, there are tons of questions I'd like answered-but we'll stick with the relevant ones. 😀 I'd like to know how much trends really influence what an agent will take on, how many projects agents actually accept each year, and possibly even a short sample of an accepted ms-a chunk of the writing that, when you read it, made you think,"I am going to represent this book."
    Basically I want a gauge, a way to see if I'm even in the ballpark or if I should go back to the drawing board.

    -Who do you like in the Super Bowl? Will you be watching? Having a party?

    I like Manning, and I feel like the Colts are going to bulldoze the Saints, but I think it would be fantastic for the Saints to win. I'm sort of counting the Saints/Vikings game as my superbowl, because I'm guessing that the Colts/Saints game won't be quite as exciting. Hope I'm wrong on both counts, though, and I hope this crazy blizzard that's about to womp on my state doesn't mess with my ability to watch it! 🙂

    Have a good one!



  71. Rachelle on February 5, 2010 at 9:05 AM

    >Marla, I posted giraffe pics on Twitter from my Blackberry WHILE I was at Cheyenne Mtn Zoo. Guess you missed it but I didn't want to be repetitive. 🙂



  72. Jason on February 5, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    >Rachelle…sometimes I don't even know what topics I want to see (that's how little I know about the industry), but you always surprise me with something I never thought of before. So on the subject of topics, I will defer to your greater knowledge.

    Though I will say, I'm much more attracted to a positive approach to the subject. IOW, I'd rather read about that one person who made it than see a post about how hard it is to make it. Or an example of a great Query letter rather than a list of all the things you shouldn't do…does that make sense?

    The Super Bowl…my wife's half-cajun and we used to live in New Orleans, but I'm secretly pulling for the Colts. Don't tell my in-laws. 🙂



  73. Amy Sue Nathan on February 5, 2010 at 7:53 AM

    >I like reading a wide variety of topics on agents blogs – from what it's like to be an agent, to how publishing works, to writing tips, to personal stories. Anything about publishing interests me right now, it all fascinates me.

    My least favorite topic is anything where I feel I'm being preached to. I don't mind the helpful hints or queries that work or even the snark-laden blogs when they come from the right place.

    Honestly what bothers me most of all are people who comment and ask questions they could have answered themselves with a little (or a lot of) research.

    On Sunday? I'll be watching the commercials.



  74. Tchann on February 5, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    >1) I love getting a glimpse inside the world of publishing. I've read inside and out what not to put into a query, but the little snippets of the life of an agent are fresh and new.

    2&3) Actually can't think of anything. Contentless posts, maybe?

    4) Same as #1.

    5) Dunno. My husband and I will be raiding in World of Warcraft on Sunday night.



  75. Lola Sharp on February 5, 2010 at 7:42 AM

    >Rachelle,
    I'm just happy you (and Nathan and Janet) take the time to write your blogs for us, giving us your perspective. Blog posting can be very time consuming, so I thank you.

    Also, good luck, 'cause you just cant make everyone happy. One person's 'wanna see more of' request is another's 'this is played out and I'm sick of seeing it'.

    What dat? What dat? Saints!! Woot!

    Have an awesome weekend,
    Lola



  76. Sharon A. Lavy on February 5, 2010 at 7:37 AM

    >Just keep them coming. Thanks.



  77. Krista Phillips on February 5, 2010 at 7:27 AM

    >Colts, Colts, and oh, wait, did I mention the Colts are TOTALLY going to win???

    Fav topics: This is a hard question. There are so many! I guess any relevant to the publishing industry is a favorite topic. I do like it when agents share their version of "what's hot, what's not" just because it's the only way for me as an author to know if what I'm doing is in the ballpark (besides browsing the aisles at B&N)

    Least Favorite? ANYthing you write is wonderful, Rachelle! (hold on, I have a bit of brown to wash off my nose…)



  78. Lance on February 5, 2010 at 7:26 AM

    >As a beginner, reading about the whole publishing process, beginning to end, is always interesting.

    I'd like to know more about specific things publishing houses are looking for, things they communicate to an agent when considering a book.

    Overdone? I'd have to say electronic readers and electronic publishing. As a traditionalist, I couldn't care less about either.

    I'm picking the Saints. I'd rather see them win since they at least tried to win all 16 of their games.



  79. Claire King on February 5, 2010 at 7:08 AM

    >I really appreciate agent blogs, they are illuminating so thank you for making the effort.

    What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?
    – What makes the difference between rejection and representation – the query, the synopsis, the elements of the book, the author, the time, the place…
    How authors succeed – the hard work, the craft, the persistance
    What life is like as an agent (in the shoes of…).

    Least favorite topics?
    Anything thin on content, anything that says 'don't do this' rather than 'do this'.

    What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you'd like answered?
    – I'd love to see more on what to expect once a publisher takes on your work. How the author, agent and publisher work together, the process that is gone through including timescales and realistic expectations on advances and sales, the leg work of marketing etc

    Who do you like in the Super Bowl? Will you be watching? Having a party?
    – I have no idea who is playing. *waves from Europe* !

    Have a great weekend!
    – You too!



  80. Shelby on February 5, 2010 at 7:05 AM

    >These get me (in a good way) every time:

    1. epiphany posts/the unexpected..for example, 'I read the most intriguing post today by an unknown and it got me thinking…'

    or

    2. suspense posts/'I submitted a work last month to dingaling press and yesterday you wouldn't believe what happened –it's good — ya gotta wait a couple days for it tho..'

    or

    my very most favorite (I love that phras).. the JOURNEY posts/I was here doing this and hated my life or at least part of it.. and then I decided to do something impossible yet I was driven and then this happened along the way and then and then and then.. and you don't even have to be done with the journey.. I just wanna know you dared start and tell us.

    Least favorite topics? The kind that tell us what bores readers or what bores you.
    Newsflash–bored already.

    What topics are overdone? Telling us how many query letters you read or received or responded to.. just read mine and if you don't like it.. tell me (I'm all that matters really–tongue buried deep in cheek)

    Not done enough? first answer sorta.. want more epiphany, suspense and journey posts.

    What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you'd like answered? same as above.

    Who do you like in the Super Bowl?
    I actually do not know who is in it this year.

    Will you be watching? Maybe.

    Having a party? No.



  81. Marla Taviano on February 5, 2010 at 6:33 AM

    >That is a lovely mountain lion, but the next time you post a picture from the gorgeous, fabulous, stunning Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, may I request that you make it a GIRAFFE?? (Gabe has an awesome one you may borrow.) 🙂

    I'd love to hear about your typical day.

    And I love it when you talk about why you're still positive and encouraged in the midst of all the doom and gloom.



  82. Beth on February 5, 2010 at 6:27 AM

    >I'd love to hear more about what your work is like after you sell something – how much is an agent involved in the actual publication, and anecdotes (if you can) of what can happen, what misunderstandings can occur, what wonderful things can go right.



  83. Katie Ganshert on February 5, 2010 at 6:00 AM

    >I will be watching the Super Bowl. I'll probably root for the Saints, only because they've never been, so how cool to not only go, but win. Hubby and I will be watching it over at our small group's house.



  84. Jon Paul on February 5, 2010 at 5:05 AM

    >Rachelle–I'm a fairly new follower (love the blog BTW) so if you've already answered this question elsewhere, simply suggest I sit down and color. 😀

    Clearly, agents (and publishers) look for originality in submitted work, but my guess is that there's a line where originality goes overboard and a work–though fantastic–is not judged commercially viable (the market is too narrow, perhaps). I expect also that there are certain ideas (supernatural influences, vampires, to name a few candidates) once considered tremendously original; however, due to overuse, industry pros might now consider them passe.

    Is it possible for you to briefly sketch for us the kind of original ideas that are currently catching your eye and the eye of others in the industry?

    This may be an impossible question to answer in the space provided, but it's something I've wondered.

    Many thanks!



  85. Aimee LS on February 5, 2010 at 3:52 AM

    >I'd like to say I appreciate all the time and effort you put into this already…and the fact you're asking for info from us means a lot to me!

    1. What are your favorite topics to read about on agent blogs?

    Common mistakes or things to avoid either in queries, or in the writing process – things that STOP writers from being in that top 2% of queries.

    2. Least favorite topics?

    The hardship of being an agent – please don't take that wrong. I genuine appreciate that you guys are…er…unappreciated in this kind of forum (which is mostly frequented by those of us yet unpublished). I think in most cases you're 'preaching to the choir'. Those of us REALLY listening to your advice wouldn't do / say that stuff in the first place…I hope.

    3. What topics are overdone? Not done enough?

    Not done enough: What you're selling NOW that hasn't seen the bookshelves yet (in terms of genre, wordcount, voice, etc).

    Overdone: "This writer wrote me and look how stupid they are…." I always get the point, but it feels wrong to publicly humiliate a specific person. I'd prefer to see a 'hypothetical' advice scenario.

    4. What would you like to see addressed here? Any questions you'd like answered?

    – How to tell the difference between a manuscript that's getting rejected for things that are fixable and one that's just useless.

    – Tips for identifying when your manuscript is 'cooked' (i.e. 'ready for submission' as opposed to 'still needs work').

    – Reality checks on timeframes and process for submissions / partials / fulls / editing.

    – Reality checks on money and timeframes around publishing / advances

    – ANYTHING about how to circumnavigate the current publishing industry

    – Advice on how to handle yourself as a novice in correspondence to agents / publishers so you don't look like a novice (I'm aware of the irony regarding the answer to #3). Is there any time that it's okay to ask questions of someone you've submitted to???

    Thanks again Rachelle. I read you daily. You're advice is a blessing.

    Philippians 1:3



  86. Kim Kasch on February 5, 2010 at 2:55 AM

    >I love quick helpful hints, tips and tricks to help all of us wannabe writers get published.

    And football to me is soccer 😉



  87. Alexis on February 5, 2010 at 2:17 AM

    >First of all, thank you for all your hard work to keep us writers informed about the "going ons" in the publishing world. You are awesome, Rachelle!

    I enjoy reading all things publishing. As an aspiring writer, I yearn to be informed about what is going on in the industry. I also enjoy reading posts associated with nonfiction writing (as that is what I write at the moment).

    Topics that are overdone: what NOT to put in your query… although the posts are quite amusing, they become somewhat repetitive.

    I would like to see more posts related to nonfiction writing, specifically what agents and publishers are looking for in the area of nonfiction.

    I have a question I've always wanted to ask you:

    1.) What are your suggestions for people writing nonfiction for a very specific audience? My feedback from agents/editors has been "the book's good, but the market's not big enough". Any suggestions for getting my message out there? I'm wary of self-publishing, but part of me thinks there is no other option. (My topic is eating disorders, by the way)



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I love books and publishing and talking incessantly about them.

I love authors and all the intricacies of managing a writing life.

I sell. I negotiate. I coach. I brainstorm.

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