Your Questions Sweetly Answered

Kati Patrianoceu asked…
Do you get tired of writing about the same things on your blog over and over? Do you enjoy writing dozens of blogs about good-and-bad-queries, or does it drive you nuts?

I like writing the same things over and over. I like writing the same things over and over. I like writing the same things over and over. I like writing the same things over and over. I like…who am I kidding? It drives me nuts.

Steven Till asked…
Does getting your book on the front table in a bookstore have something to do with how much a publisher will pay for that spot? I’ve always heard that’s valuable real estate, and publishers compete for those spots to promote their titles.

That’s an urban legend. Books are chosen for the front table based solely on how well they stack. Also, the attractiveness of the author photo on the back cover. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly accurate. Yes, publishers pay for that very expensive real estate, so if “front table” is in your marketing plan, you should require all other authors bow and genuflect in your presence.

Terri Tiffany asked…
Ok –here’s a dumb question but I know others have asked this. If you write 77,000 words, do you list it as 75,000 when querying? Do you round up or down?

Always round to the nearest Harry Potter Book. In your case, you’d say, “My novel is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone-ish words long.” Agents love this. But if (gasp!) you don’t have the entire Harry Potter series on your shelf with which to compare your book, simply round to the nearest thousand. So 77,000 is fine.

CFD Trade said…
What do you think of Do they really fish the great ones or is this another form of slush, only done where everybody can see?

It’s a great place for authors who are truly dedicated to the craft of building unrealistic expectations. But occasionally the process works and someone gets a publishing contract. Not anyone I’ve ever met or heard from firsthand, but people tell me this is true, and I believe everything I hear.

Lynette Benton asked…
When an agent surprises you by asking to see a manuscript in passing, is it okay to say you’re (truly) revising it, and would it be okay to send it in a month?

It’s probably best just to admit you haven’t actually written the book yet. (Good rule of thumb: the truth, whatever it happens to be.)

Walt M wondered…
I want to understand why, even though I’ve set up a writing space within my house, I still get more done if I leave the house and go to my favorite coffee shop.

Because your house was built over a cemetery and the ghosts don’t like your writing voice so they’re always trying to distract you from writing. Either that, or your muse is invigorated by the scent of coffee and yuppie desperation. Plus you need a handy excuse to get away from your family. Hey, you’re the one leaving home, not me.

Daryl Sedore asked…
Why do agents use cartoon avatars on Twitter? Are they ashamed? Hiding? Is this a joke? Is the industry laughing at itself?

Those aren’t cartoons. Those are actual photographs, and here you are making fun of them. I bet you laugh at dead puppies on the side of the road, too.

Anonymous said…
I wonder if editors are more receptive to unagented submmissions now. I see a lot more editors who work for top publishers attending writer’s conferences these days…Do they want to bypass agents to save time and money?

Editors don’t go to conferences to bypass agents. They go to conferences to earn more frequent flyer miles and get the great chicken dinners. By the way, editors for top publishers have always gone to conferences. And when they meet authors they’re interested in? They often recommend the author get agented pronto (if the author isn’t already).

Christopher Grisham asked…
When reading manuscripts do you utilize speed reading strategies, read for comprehension, somewhere in between, or does it vary?

I only read the good words. That’s how I get through so many manuscripts in such a short time.

Hope that helps! I’ll post another set of questions and answers next Wednesday.

(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

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


  1. CSS Investment on July 16, 2011 at 3:47 AM


    I found that you blog was great,nice and i love it….

  2. Bonnie Doran on August 22, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    >Thanks for the laughs, Rachelle. I'm working on the bow and genuflect bit. So far I've progressed to curt nods.

  3. Marjorie on August 20, 2010 at 8:01 PM

    >To Anon, 11:32 AM

    I didn't care for the post either because I do not approve of professionals who at their blogs are sarcastic. I also dislike professionals who try to be funny like they are on the dais of a Dean Martin roast. I strongly believe in professional ethics. Humor does not have to be snark. Snark has jumped the shark. It's just ugly and is almost a morph of lashon hara.

    However, why do you have to post as "anonymous?" I always post with my real name. I am happy and proud to own my opinions. I can even make fun of my own opinions at times. I hate snark. This whole city is driven by a dynamic of conflict and it is sickening. Everybody looks to fight with everybody else in sarcastic style. You have hipsters who think they are Don Rickles… all day.

    When you post as "anonymous," it is like you are fearful. An opinion should not generate fear. And, when you post as "anonymous," the readers can wrongfully conclude you are somebody else.

    P.S. It should be "you're not."
    "Your" denotes possession and "you're" is you are.

  4. Martha Ramirez on August 20, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    >Loved ur answers, Rachel:) LOL

  5. Anonymous on August 20, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    >This post didn't make me laugh at all. This attempt at over-the-top snark doesn't suit you. The entire post reads like it was written by someone else and I actually had to scroll up and make sure it wasn't a guest post.

    You talk about voice a lot and with this post I felt like you lost yours. Please don't try to be something your not.

  6. Diane Marie Shaw on August 20, 2010 at 12:27 AM

    >Oh how I laughed and laughed. Thank you for a great post. :>

  7. Lenore Buth at on August 19, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    >Thanks, Rachelle, for making me laugh. Love your sense of humor.

  8. Heidiopia on August 19, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    >I just love your wit and your honesty! Great information, as usual, delivered with a little spice. Thanks!

  9. Steven Till on August 19, 2010 at 9:39 AM

    >Thanks for the info, Rachelle!

  10. Anne Lang Bundy on August 19, 2010 at 1:56 AM

    >Rachelle, if you're going to be this outrageously funny and snarky doing Q&A, you and Chip should at least coordinate different days. I don't think I can handle you both at the same time and then hope to accomplish any serious writing.

  11. Marjorie on August 19, 2010 at 1:45 AM

    >Dearest Anon, 11:09 PM
    I am quitting stand-up… and calling my booker, Gladys, and canceling all of my shows at The Comic Strip. Who needs it? This whole debate has thrown me into a major depression and I am weary and worn out. I can see the bones through my fingertips. I feel like Jack Torrance.

    Nobody gets the fine points anyway and I feel like I am teaching a goldfish that 1 + 1 = 2.

    I am moving to Century Village, joining Lucy's Friends of the Friendless… and sitting at my computer wearing mittens. It's a hopeless cause.

    Early bird specials are starting to sound good.


  12. Anonymous on August 19, 2010 at 12:09 AM

    >Marjorie, I suspect you're being funny, but your implication that I'm the sort of person who laughs at "anything" is incorrect. I might laugh at your show. I might not. But I can assure you I wouldn't question the sincerity of those who do laugh.

    And on that note, if you really believe humor is subjective, why not assume that the folks who comment here with an "LOL" or admission of coffee-snorting really do find the post funny? It's a wee bit presumptuous to accuse people who apparently have a different sense of humor of being brown-nosers. I like to believe if someone says "that's funny" they really mean it. And if I don't think what they're laughing at is funny, that's okay. I can simply be happy that they're laughing. Laughter is good.

    Anyway, it's been an entertaining conversation. Here's hoping you get tons of laughs next time you hit the stage. I'm being sincere. I really do wish you well!

    And about the anonymous thing? Witness protection program. Sorry, can't say more.

  13. Beth K. Vogt on August 18, 2010 at 9:50 PM

    >Responding to your answers to questions with yet another question:
    Have you ever thought of taking your act on the road?

  14. @kelybreez on August 18, 2010 at 9:22 PM

    >It was very thoughtful of you to make up all those fictitious names, though. Thanks for that.

  15. @kelybreez on August 18, 2010 at 9:20 PM

    >Wow, Rachelle, I never guessed you would use every question from my last email to you.

    Should I feel self-conscious about this?

  16. Walt M on August 18, 2010 at 8:34 PM

    >The house is built over a cemetery? That explains a lot.

    Thanks, Rachelle. That was hilarious. (Now if I could only convince my kids that the ghosts will come after them if they keep trying to stay up when it's bedtime.)

  17. Marjorie on August 18, 2010 at 8:20 PM

    >I found you on YouTube, lmao:

  18. Marjorie on August 18, 2010 at 8:14 PM

    >Well, I am glad you laughed. Come see my show at The Comic Strip in NYC. I can use an audience member who laughs at anything, lol. I do a set and on stage I always wish I could have had classes so nice and quiet!

    I think I got sidetracked anyway because my main point was that I believe people laugh not so much because it is funny stuff, but because they are tuchas lekkers or brown noses.

    I see comments such as "hilarious" and "I snorted coffee out of my nose" for the most unfunny stuff. I don't think in reality they even crack a smile.

    Humor IS subjective. And of course, my comments are my own opinions and not universal truths. I speak only as I see it.

    Why do you post as "anonymous?" I think it is funnier that you have to enter wearing a mask. Own your opinions. I am glad you posted a reply. Are YOU "The Unknown Comic" from The Gong Show? Remember him? He used to carry on with a paper bag over his head! LOL

  19. Anonymous on August 18, 2010 at 7:46 PM

    >I don't understand why people feel the need to write comments that state "this isn't funny" as if their claim is irrefutable and universal truth. Humor is subjective. If you didn't like it, then just don't laugh.

    For the record, I thought it was funny. Does this make me a bad judge of humor?

    Nope. It means I laughed.

  20. Marjorie on August 18, 2010 at 7:04 PM

    >re: "And anyone who thinks I'm a failure as a comic… *sigh*. I guess I'll cancel my audition for Last Comic Standing."

    Now THAT was funny and I laughed! It was funny because it was self-effacing humor… it worked!

    Humor that is sarcastic on a blog can be funny if it is political humor, jokes about celebrities, or jokes intended to "roast."

    But, if you are a professional and you are making fun of your "clientele" at your blog, it comes across mean spirited and sarcastic and unprofessional. The same material could work on the stage, however. For instance, if you are in a contest at Stand-up NY comedy club to find the funniest literary agent… this material could work and get some laughs. For instance this line:

    "Because your house was built over a cemetery and the ghosts don’t like your writing voice so they’re always trying to distract you from writing."

    That would get huge laughs in a comedy club…. at the blog of a literary agent, it fails. Why? Because we see the REAL PERSON behind the question and he asked a serious question. We might feel for him. On a stage, that question is just all part of the blind "set-up."

    I was a teacher. The material I may say on stage can get laughs, but if I wrote that same stuff at a blog, it might not work. I would be considered unprofessional. Bill Cosby's stuff is a perfect example of what I am talking about.

    Think about it. Food for thought. And by the way, I WON a contest at Stand-up NY comedy club to find NYC's funniest teacher. Hard to believe, huh?

  21. Tahlia on August 18, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    >I love your straight talking and sense of humour. Thanks for the laughs Racheal.

  22. Rachelle on August 18, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    >Thanks everyone for the comments – love reading all of them!

    Shellie – you could either buy the Harry Potter series, or else the Twilight series would work in a pinch. You know, "My novel is about Eclipse-long."

    Vicki – Sometimes the desserts at conferences are even better than the chicken dinners. Totally a reason to show up.

    Deadly Accurate – I could be wrong, but I bet most assassins are unrepentant. Doesn't mean they don't get it in the end. 🙂

    Les Edgerton – Ack. You and my husband have the same sense of humor.

    Jessie Mac – The "good words" aren't hiding in the dictionary! They're under your house with the ghosts. And sometimes they hang out at coffee houses with the yuppies.

    And anyone who thinks I'm a failure as a comic… *sigh*. I guess I'll cancel my audition for Last Comic Standing.

  23. Shellie on August 18, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    >Wait, you mean you really shouldn't believe everything you hear about publishing?? And those Avatars aren't really photos?? Rachelle, you've uncovered a whole new world to me. I must go now. Have to run out to buy the Harry Potter series. (Love snark–morning, noon, or night!)

  24. Vicki on August 18, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    >Great chicken dinners, now that was funny. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing both sides and for being honest with your thoughts. You made me laugh.

  25. DeadlyAccurate on August 18, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    >I like this side of you. If only you repped books about unrepentant assassins.

  26. Posey on August 18, 2010 at 3:08 PM


    Love it.

  27. Belle on August 18, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    >another, not snother… coffee was coming out of my nose so I did a typo! Dopey me.

  28. Belle Barth on August 18, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    >Funny? We have snother wannabe stand-up comic whose day job is a literary agent? I saw better funny on "The Gong Show!"

  29. ed cyzewski on August 18, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    >Ah, I love it. It's like being back in NJ again…

    Regarding the dude who writes better in a coffee shop, I usually do better in public spaces too. Though I learned recently that there is a definitely correlation between more productivity and more sunlight. My last two offices were really tough places to write and I had very little sunlight in them. Now I write by two huge south-facing windows at home and I'm good to go! I could be crazy, but that's alright with me.

    So long as I can also deal with my yuppie desperation at a coffee shop, writing there feels like I'm multitasking…

  30. NinjaEditor on August 18, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    >"I only read the good words." Bahaha!

    Rachelle, I knew you were funny; I didn't know you were this funny! Up there with Miss Snark, Janet Reid, The Rejectionist, etc.

    Of course a lot of people will be offended by the sardonic tone. IMHO, your years of offering helpful advice and a godly witness aren't negated by a little sarcasm!

  31. katdish on August 18, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    >Ah, Rachelle lets her inner snark shine! Love it.

  32. Anonymous on August 18, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    >Hey kids, it's just a post with a little humor in it. Rachelle hasn't been possessed by the evil Snark Demon, nor is she testing material for a new career in stand-up comedy.

    If the humor isn't your cup of tea, don't drink it. But I'm all for letting Rachelle have a little fun once in a while. Yes, even in public. Right here on her blog. Not your blog. Hers.

    Besides, she answered all the answerable questions, didn't she?

    Lighten up writer friends.

  33. Marjorie on August 18, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    >OMG and all that stuff! I could say that this post is awesome, amazing, and full of so many part of win. I could if I were a lil tuchas lekker. (I never in the past ever used the word "amazing." I said "cool," but I am showing my age.)

    But, I am not a tuchas lekker. I am what they call a designated "trouble-making troll." Ver vais; I hate labels but it is fun to own them. Anyway, I am slapping my forehead in disbelief.

    Another literary agent who is a wannabe stand-up comic on the internet! Puhlease…. let me set you up at The Comic Strip for an open mic night. Test your skills. Give it a shot. The lemmings will the next day say it was a coffee on keyboard night. And everybody finds their smiles.

    This comment was intended to be courteous and respectful. It's just my own special brand of crazy funny. Can we all say "The Gong Show?" In a 360?

  34. Anonymous on August 18, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    >Count me as another person disappointed by this Post, but it's not as bad as Chips was yesterday. What's going on? Relax. Life is precious. So are the people who care about what you think and what you say.

  35. Tami Boesiger on August 18, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    >Rachelle, you crack me up.

  36. Anonymous on August 18, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    >Daryl, I'm with you. These questions were posted in all seriousness and the replies sound more like snark. Sure, writers have a sense of humor but we don't like being laughed at or made fun of–who does? Perhaps Rachelle is trying to fill "The Swivet's" sarcastic and not-so-nice shoes? Please say it ain't so!

  37. Saloma on August 18, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    >Perhaps you could replace the word "sweetly" in your title with "sardonically." Are people really so desperate to be represented by a literary agents that they put up with being insulted? Not me… I'm removing my name as a follower.

  38. Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw on August 18, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    >I really enjoyed this post.

  39. Les Edgerton on August 18, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    >Funny stuff! Being raised in Texas, I never laugh at dead puppies alongside the road. When I was a kid, we called that "supper." Roadkill au gratin…

    I've found the tastiest are poodles, although it takes three to feed a family of four…

  40. Daryl Sedore on August 18, 2010 at 11:32 AM

    >I'm trying to ascertain the take on this post. My question was serious. I've been in investments and owned retail companies for over 20 years. All pictures in the Financial papers of up and coming professionals and/or people attaining promotions were actual photos.

    When I see numerous cartoons (not referring to yours)I was simply curious to see if there was a reason I was missing. This anonymous posting with personas is new to me. I was looking to see if there was a reason I missed. I sincerely want you to know that I have no intention of making fun of agents. That wasn't my goal.

    (For the record: I don't laugh at dead puppies. Quite offensive actually, since my 8 year old and my 12 year old daughter saw daddy's name on a Google alert and called out for me to come look at what an agent had posted about me.)

  41. Razorsharp on August 18, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    >I like this, very witty… or as a writer is instructed to write: This is F'ing funny.

  42. Nikole Hahn on August 18, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    >You had me laughing today with this one! Also, thanks for the info.

  43. CFD Trade on August 18, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    >BTW, I heard your client list is FULL. Does this mean, you are no longer considering queries and representation? Please advise…

  44. CFD Trade on August 18, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    >I also believe everything I hear…:D

  45. Gabriela Lessa on August 18, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    >This is great, Rachelle, thanks!
    Now a follow up question: should I round up the number of words a page and just multiply the number of pages on each Harry Potter book by 250? Or should I count word by word? I might need to start counting now…. 😉

  46. T. Anne on August 18, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    >The ghosts under my house don't like the crap I'm writing either. And BTW, my muse happens to prefer sushi. Just saying.

  47. E.J. Wesley on August 18, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    >I just shot a little coffee out of my nose when I read the response to the "Word Count" question.

    Thanks for the laugh this morning, Rachelle, I needed it!

  48. Karen Carr on August 18, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    >I am an authonomy veteran and made it to the editorial review. I did get an editor from HarperCollins interested in my book through authonomy and might (might might might) maybe possibly might get more…and I'll let you know if I do…(hope I didn't jinx anything here,ack!) I found the whole experience mostly positive and it did teach me a lot about writing — believe it or not!

  49. Jessie Mac on August 18, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    >Let me get those Harry Potter books out. They're somewhere. Better still, I'll stack them up against the wall and measure that way.

    I love coffee shops for that very reason – yuppie desperation – I wish I could locate it and bottle it and make a fortune.

    Where are the 'good words' hiding? I can't seem to find them in the dictionary.

    And Rachelle, I never joke about your cartoon photo. Never.

    Great post, thanks.

  50. Silver the Wanderer on August 18, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    >Oh good. I always round to the nearest Harry Potter book.

    Thanks for the helpful post!

  51. Erin MacPherson on August 18, 2010 at 7:37 AM

    >This is HILARIOUS! And informative at the same time. Thank you Rachelle!

  52. Richard Mabry on August 18, 2010 at 7:08 AM

    >Miss Snark lives! Hallelujah!
    Can't wait until next Wednesday.
    (Also can't wait to see how many comments you get from people who wouldn't recognize sarcasm and an attempt at humor if it bit them in the…well, you know).

  53. lynnrush on August 18, 2010 at 7:07 AM

    >OMG, this post was awesome. I'm still laughing out loud.

  54. andrew mackay on August 18, 2010 at 6:45 AM

    >This was a great post. Round to the nearest Harry Potter book. Stellar!

  55. Wendy Paine Miller on August 18, 2010 at 6:42 AM

    >Keep on reading the good words. 😉

    This was pure awesomeness. Thanks for the laughs.
    ~ Wendy

  56. Gwen Stewart on August 18, 2010 at 6:32 AM

    >Eau de yuppie desperation peaked in about 2006, in my humble opinion. Since then, the economy has lent it a slight pungency I find off-putting, especially when combined with whatever annoying music Starbucks finds "introspective" or "cutting edge" that week.

    I'd rather write in my home. Even if it is built over a cemetery.


  57. Katy McKenna on August 18, 2010 at 6:30 AM

    >Nothing better with coffee than SNORTS!!!! Thanks for the early morning grins, Rachelle!

  58. A3Writer on August 18, 2010 at 5:55 AM

    >Love the answer about authonomy. I tried it out, but just became increasingly frustrated to the reality of how it worked, and the time requirement involved to get anywhere.

  59. Ellen Brickley on August 18, 2010 at 4:24 AM

    >Rachelle, I once overheard the following exchange between two beauty-care students on a bus.

    Girl 1: I can't believe we have to write a five thousand word thesis this year [sigh]. I suppose a lot of those words will be taken up with 'the', 'it', 'like' 'that' and so on.
    Girl 2: You know they don't count those words, right? Only the important ones.
    Girl 1 [panicked]: REALLY??!!
    Girl 2:. . . . em, no.

    It took a lot of work to stifle those giggles. Your speed-reading response reminded me of it.

  60. Marja on August 18, 2010 at 3:02 AM

    >Absolutely great Rachelle, puts everything in perspective. Very funny!

  61. Christine Macdonald on August 18, 2010 at 1:21 AM

    >These are fantastic. Thanks for this valuable post.


  62. Christina on August 18, 2010 at 1:12 AM

    >Why do agents use cartoon avatars on Twitter? Are they ashamed? Hiding? Is this a joke? Is the industry laughing at itself?

    Those aren’t cartoons. Those are actual photographs, and here you are making fun of them. I bet you laugh at dead puppies on the side of the road, too.

    By far my favorite. I literally LOLed. Funny, funny.