The Art and the Industry

I watched a YouTube video from 2016 that featured Pharrell Williams giving a Masterclass with music students at NYU. The thing that’s really neat about this clip is that it captures the moment recording artist Maggie Rogers was “discovered” by Pharrell. It’s fun and heartwarming watching his reaction to her song. (Start watching around the 23-minute mark.) Things went nuts for her after that. Her debut album released a couple of weeks ago, and she’s now on a world tour. (Okay, yes, I bought her CD.)

But the reason I bring it up is because of something she said in a recent NPR interview. As they were discussing the amazingly fast journey from studying music to recording and touring, she said:

“I’ve never had any doubts about the music. But the reality of the music industry is something I had to learn.”


The music. The art. The writing. The craft.

You know that part. You’re an artist, you’re a writer, you’ve been patiently and diligently working on it, developing your voice, nurturing your skill. You’re comfortable with that aspect of the journey.

But publishing! The industry! The reality! It may be frustrating. It may not make any sense. There is so much you don’t know. It may seem arbitrary, unfair, a long shot, any of those things. The point is, as Maggie Rogers so aptly pointed out, it’s a whole new thing to learn.

And that’s normal. Everybody deals with the same difficulty: making that transition from developing the craft to navigating the industry. Luckily there are practically unlimited resources these days for learning about the industry, from podcasts to blogs to conferences to online courses.

As you transition from the writing to the industry, I hope you take heart in knowing it’s a learning curve for everyone. It’s something you have to learn, and you will learn it. It’s sometimes frustrating but it’s totally doable.

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. Doris Swift on February 7, 2019 at 9:28 AM

    This made my day! Thank you for sharing this inspiring video, so relevant to the writing journey. Of course, we have you, Rachelle, to guide us as well! This really hit home for me in thinking about the book proposal thing. I want that kind of reaction when someone reads my proposal. So cool.