You’re Too Good For Us

Speaks for itself, doesn’t it? I think it points to an interesting topic:

What’s frustrating you about publishing at this very moment?

Have fun. And be nice!

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!


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  8. Tessa Quin on June 28, 2010 at 6:35 AM

    >How frightening the process looks to a new writer.

  9. Francis on June 27, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    >The thing I hate the most is without a doubt the freakin synopsis.

    I would rather get my legs waxed.

  10. dsmith77 on June 27, 2010 at 3:02 AM

    >Reminded me of this priceless quote:

    We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.

    – The Humanist Association of Canada, Spring 1992

  11. dsmith77 on June 27, 2010 at 3:02 AM

    >Reminded me of this priceless quote:

    We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.

    – The Humanist Association of Canada, Spring 1992

  12. Lucy on June 27, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    >@ Steeleweed

    Love it!!

  13. Leigh Lyons on June 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    >What is frustrating for me is I'll read an agent's and my book fits perfectly. They'll even say something like "purple monkeys a plus" and–ah-ha!–my book already has purple monkeys. Clearly it was meant to be!

    Only to have the agent say my purple monkeys are more of a dark violet color and they wanted lavender.


  14. John Overman on June 26, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    >I really love the writing, but the rewriting is exhausting. I feel like a basketball player trying to knock down game-changer free throws. For me, the writing is high energy and the rewriting is high stress.

  15. Lesa Stember on June 26, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    >The uncertainty of how the Kindle, Nook, iBook, and other e-readers will affect publishing guidelines and an agent's willingness to take on work that falls outside the normal in terms of word count. I completed my second novel only to learn that I need to add an additional 20,000 words before an agent will even consider representing it. Are e-readers going to break down walls?

  16. Jacqueline Windh on June 26, 2010 at 12:24 AM

    >Here's some light entertainment (it's only sad if you're an author) – Roland Denning's Youtube film "How to meet an Agent."
    It's in two parts, each about 7 minutes long – here's the link to the first half:

  17. Kathryn on June 25, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    >My elevator pitch.


  18. Susan Bourgeois on June 25, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    >I'm not frustrated. I'm excited. I've only recently begun to send out queries. The co-author and I worked hard on the book.

    We studied the submission process for a very long time. We then put together a strong query and proposal.

    I'm expanding my blog. I'm hoping to get representation in the upcoming weeks. I have an extremely strong background in sales and marketing. I've been a part of starting three business from the ground up. I would love to get starting with the marketing of the book.

    I can't wait to get started on a cookbook that will follow. I have a strong background in Louisiana cooking. I am a native of Louisiana.

    I'm not frustrated at all. I simply want to find one great agent that will accompany me on my journey.

  19. Anonymous on June 25, 2010 at 9:13 PM

    >Tired of hard-boiled, gory, graphic, violent mysteries when I can just turn on the TV if I want to see real crime. Who wants to read deep dark and disturbing novels late at night? Cutsie cozies just don't cut it–isn't here anything in between?

  20. Jessica Nelson on June 25, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    >I'm not frustrated so far, even though the wait can be hard.
    Like Timothy, I find the comments about bonnet historicals and formulaic romances interesting. Also, they're making me smile a little because I will always like those kind of books. Change the characters, make them real, but a plot with a widower who falls in love with the governess, hey, I'm all for it!
    Cut my reading teeth on Victoria Holt and Julie Garwood. 🙂
    I know it must be frustrating but I really think publishers know what they're doing when they print that stuff. I can only read serious (as in depressing or making me think HARD about the world around me) once in a while. I WANT those other books with the HEAs and the humor and the intense romances….
    Funny cartoon. Hope that never happens to me! lol

  21. Anonymous on June 25, 2010 at 6:15 PM

    >Almost exactly word for word, the dialogue in the cartoon was replicated in an email from an agent to me. Not kidding. My manuscript was rejected because it was "too smart" and too literary" for the American reading public. It is now a book which just came out in Britain last week, enjoying unprecedented success for the press. Still looking for an American agent for North American rights, but not actively. If they all have this opinion of the American Reading Public, then I am better off, as an American, having it published solely in the UK!

  22. Anonymous on June 25, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    >I'm weary of the 1 and 2 star fake reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I'm tired of seeing books get starred reviews from PW and LJ only to be trashed by anyone with a dozen fake Amazon accounts. They need to remove the stars.

  23. Rebecca Murray on June 25, 2010 at 3:04 PM

    >The most frusterating thing, for me, is editors who would rather substitute semicolons and cmas for conjuntions. Second to that is being told tasteful use of a socially acceptable word for one that is not (i.e. using accoster rather than rapist) is not a good thing. Come on. Who would rather read "rapist" when "accoster" works ecactly the same?


  24. Anonymous on June 25, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    >I need to go anonymous on this because I haven't raised the issue yet with my agent, but I will.

    I have a book coming out. A sequel is a definite possibility on my part. However, the publisher wishes to wait until the book comes out before deciding.

    So what, I can hear you ask. That's the way they've always done it.

    Which means that I have to wait six months before learning that I need to devote another eight months writing a book that will come out eight months after that.

    People say writers can't earn a living at this job. The above is one reason why.

    With one mouth, publishers talk about building a platform and marketing your book. With the other, they're unwilling to let the author put out two books in the same year (or, in my case, a year and a half), undercutting my platform and making me wait.

    It makes me seriously consider going independent and trying the Kindle and other readers.

  25. Michelle DeRusha @ Graceful on June 25, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    >I'd have to say the necessity of platform-building. I get it, but it still stinks! I wrote a book first…then realized I needed to build a platform. I almost gave up when I realized just how daunting that would be. Especially when one agent (not RG!) told me I need a blog with 5,000 hits/day; a syndicated newspaper column or radio show; and regular speaking engagements to audiences of 500+. FYI: I'm not Oprah!

    After I moved past that shock, I kept blogging and slogging. And the silver lining is the community I've found — an unexpected blessing and one that nurtures me every day!

    Thanks for being brave and asking the question, Rachelle!

  26. February Grace on June 25, 2010 at 12:54 PM

    >I'm just so glad I got my vision back and can read the question that I'm not sure I even want to contemplate an answer.

    Still, I loved the cartoon so much, I figure offering an honest answer is a fair exchange.

    My frustration would be how long it takes to figure out exactly what every agent/agency wants in queries.

    I have a limited amount of useable eyesight time a day- I get to choose between reading/blogging/writing (all of which we're 'supposed to be doing') and I am so afraid of missing something on an agent's site that will get me an 'auto-reject' after I spend so much time trying to craft a query 'right' that I'm frozen. It's bewildering, how different 'acceptable' is from one to the next.

    Blind deer in the headlights :/

    I wish that there was a standard query procedure to follow. That's all. A uniform cover letter plus a sample from the work or synopsis or both. Then let the pages stand or fall on their own merit (or lack thereof).

    If I get past that gate then I'll gladly retype my entire manuscript in Webdings 3 if that's the font an agent wants to read it in, I swear…

    I know it's not anybody's problem/fault/concern that I have this challenge- everyone has them and I'm working at things as best I can- but that is my personal frustration.


  27. Dara on June 25, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    >Not frustrated just yet as I'm still working on my project. Maybe the thing that's slightly boggling is how long it takes for a book to be sold and then actually on book store shelves. Oh well. 🙂

  28. Anonymous on June 25, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    >That agents and editors of young adult books keep advising people to write their passion rather than write to the market. But they keep paying big bucks for dark paranormal young adult novels or dark dystopian young adult novels and hardly buy anything else.

  29. Anonymous on June 25, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    >That agents and editors of young adult books keep advising people to write their passion rather than write to the market. But they keep paying big bucks for dark paranormal young adult novels or dark dystopian young adult novels and hardly buy anything else.

  30. Kimberly on June 25, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    >I think it’s fascinating that an industry based on the creative process is bound within the limits of black and white. Can't a girl get a book printed in blue? Or purple?
    Just kidding! When I make the hallowed leap to author I'm sure I'll find some foibles, but right now it would be like criticizing Ronaldo (of the Portuguese WC team) for that last shot against Brazil. I may think he should have passed instead, but hey, I'm not the one in cleats.

  31. Timothy Fish on June 25, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    >A few people have made comments about the publishing industry ignoring everything except bonnet books, historicals, and category romances. While that’s frustrating to those of us who don’t write in those categories, it may be worthwhile to consider why they are publishing that stuff and not the other stuff. The simple answer is that it is a business decision, but that business decision is based on what publishers believe readers want to read. We can try to make the “if you build it they will come” argument and say that the reason people aren’t reading what we write is because publishers aren’t publishing what we write, I think that argument would have a hard time standing up to the facts. The facts are that we are in an economic slowdown with a President that few people have confidence in. While the economic situation may not be as bad as it once was, people are still afraid they’ll lose their jobs or not be able to get a job. We have a big oil slick out in the gulf and every day when we turn on the news we hear about fishermen who can’t work and people who depend on the tourist industry who have no customers. With all that bad news, readers are looking for an escape. Bonnet books, historicals, and category romances provide that escape for some readers because they are written with a rosy-eyed view of simpler times. Given our current situation, I think it’s a safe bet that escapist fiction of all kinds will tend to do better than non-escapist fiction.

  32. Bernita on June 25, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    >At the moment? Nothing…my book will be released Monday!

  33. Beth on June 25, 2010 at 9:49 AM

    >This is why writing for publication is just as much about business than just the writing. You're writing can be great, but if a publisher can't make money on it, they won't take it. They have to be able to market that book so that it will sell and pay for all of the investment of printing it.

    I had a publisher look at one of my picture books for three months. The editor really liked it and I did a rewrite to try to get it to fit into their publishing niche, but in the end, the editorial board wasn't willing to risk going too far from what they felt confident would work for them.

    It's a little like buying shoes. You can go to a shoe store and find a beautiful shoe made with the quality you want in a shoe, but if it doesn't fit you, there's no point in buying it.

  34. Nate Wilson on June 25, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    >But Carole, I'm banking on that. Okay, technically my story only has two monkeys and no boat, and they only appear in four chapters (and "appear" is stretching it because they're invisible), but still…

  35. Julie Weathers on June 25, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    >Editors are like agents who are like any other readers. There are a lot of books which sell well and I want to throw through a wall. Some that don't do well are wonderful to me.

    In an interview with a trainer, we discussed her plans for the horse. That particular race was one where everything just fell into place. The horse was at the top of his game, he drew well, they got a great jockey after their regular rider opted for another horse and the horses all ran a clean race.

    She said, and I believe this, "You do everything you can to make sure you're ready and just hope for a little racing luck."

    I've been through this process before. Rejection is part of the journey. Dejection is a choice. I believe the right agent will fall in love with my work and they will find the right editor who also loves it. From there it will be just a little writing luck.

  36. Nicole on June 25, 2010 at 9:21 AM

    >Probably the ignoring of the "rest" of the market out here in favor of the bonnet books, historicals, and category romances. Then when accepting outside those markets often failing to market them effectively. Some houses relying on the author to do the majority of their marketing when the houses themselves have no clue how to effectively market certain books.

  37. WindyA on June 25, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    >I agree with a lot of the people above. It's the wait. Not much you can do, but grin and bear it, knowing so many others are in the same boat and that's just the way the business works, but honestly, it doesn't make me feel any better.

    I suppose someone's trying to teach us all the art of patience. 🙂

  38. Lenore Buth at on June 25, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    >Love the cartoon.

    Here's what feels crazy-making to me. On one side we get a stream of dismal pronouncements about the publishing business and how books may pass away. That discourages everyone on all sides. On the other we get the rising river of what any decent agent, editor or publisher expects from the writer before they'll even take a look-see at what we write.

    When all that "other stuff" becomes the standard it sounds like quality of writing comes in second. I know that can't be true.

    Can it?

  39. kathy taylor on June 25, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    >Some Christian fiction lacks dimension, protagonists too perfect and antagonists so mean they aren't human. This isn't real life, and I haven't followed the formula. I wonder if what this means for my chances of publication.

  40. Anonymous on June 25, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    >How much harder it's gotten to sell. Two years ago my publisher bought a manuscript from me that I hadn't even written yet. Now I can't sell stuff that's not only written, but pretty damn good– because publishers are so much more reluctant to buy.

  41. Mary P on June 25, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    >What frustrates me about publishing right now?
    The fact that it intimidates me. I've published poems here and there, a short story, etc., but now I'm grooming a 100,000+ word novel, hoping to start querying editors and/or agents this winter. And that scares me to death. Oh sure, I think my novel is good (or will be, once I finish editing and rewriting) but will agents, editors, publishers think the same thing? In spite of everything I've read and studied on how to hook a publisher on your book, how to write a stellar query, and so forth … will I be able to do it when it comes right down to it?
    How will I know if I don't try? And at the same time, I don't want to make a fool of myself and my writing with bungled attempts at publishing or querying.
    And that is what frustrates me about publishing right now. It intimidates me.

  42. Rachel on June 25, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    >My financial aid is coming through for my MFA in Creative Writing. I'm untouchably cheerful. 🙂

  43. Arabella on June 25, 2010 at 8:21 AM

    >Jill K., have you ever read those Amazon reviews on Christian books, where non-Christian readers say they feel that Christian books should come with warning labels? I don't know why. Everybody has a world view, but it becomes a division between two: one of following the world, and one of following Christ.
    So that's it for my preaching today. 🙂 p.s. I'm another Jill

    What is frustrating? Waiting. That's it.

  44. Jill Kemerer on June 25, 2010 at 8:08 AM

    >I don't know why, but it bugs me that novels with Christian messages aren't intermingled with secular books on shelves. I guess I should be happy I can easily find Christian books.

    But wouldn't it be nice if someone picked up a book and was pleasantly surprised by God's message? They aren't likely to do that with the Christian books segregated to the other side of the store.

    I pick up books all the time and am unpleasantly surprised by the blatant anti-religious content in them. Maybe they could segregate those books to their own section in the store? We could have "Christian," "Mainstream," and "Anti-Christian."

    I'm sure I'll get slammed for this, but really!

  45. A. Townsend on June 25, 2010 at 8:05 AM

    >To reiterate what others have already posted, my frustration is reading on publisher’s web sites (and on agency’s web sites) that they’re always on the lookout for stories that are refreshing, new, and different. When an author presents that story, however, the novel is rejected for being too new and different. My very first rejection letter for my current work stated, “Your novel is well-written, intriguing, and different, but I don’t believe it would fit today’s market.” I sincerely appreciated the agent taking the time to write a personal letter and sign it himself. From what I understand, that does not happen very often. But how frustrating to receive such encouraging compliments from a top Christian agent, and yet have the novel rejected for that reason.

    Those tried and true formulas get boring after a while. (Man in 1800’s America becomes widower. Hires young woman to take care of his children. After a book-length struggle over how impossible it is for them to fall in love and get married, they do. The end. Jane Doe returns to the hometown she left years ago for many and various reasons, including her unrequited relationship with the devastatingly handsome John. After book-length struggles with estranged family members and resolutions of childhood heartaches, Jane and John pick up where they left off and plan their wedding. Then end.)

    I’ll keep writing “new and different” – following my heart, as we discussed in last Wednesday’s blog – with the faith and confidence that God has a time and a place for the work He has given me to do. And that Faith alleviates my Frustration. 🙂

    Thanks, Rachelle. Have a wonderful weekend!

    ~ Angela

  46. lynnrush on June 25, 2010 at 8:02 AM

    >Oh my. What a great comic. It's FRIDAY and I love starting out the day with a giggle. Thanks!

    Frustrating me? Nothing, really. I'm just hanging out and writing a bunch while I wait to hear results from some manuscripts my agent sent out to publishers who requested them.

    Sometimes waiting gets difficult, but really, it's just that much more time to write, right? Then you have more novels in the "bank." Plus, it keeps my mind off all that is "hanging out there."

    So, write on!!
    Have a great Friday!

  47. B.K. Jackson on June 25, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    >Anon 6:42AM's post made me curious. I understand the frustration of no response after months and months go by (seems I recall someone saying at a conference once they got a rejection note from someone–SEVEN YEARS later!), but am curious how common it is to get people obsessively emailing after a short time asking for status? I suspect it happens quite a lot.

  48. Anonymous on June 25, 2010 at 7:42 AM

    >It's hard to know if agents/editors are rejecting you because of the economy or genre or market or what. All they say now is they doubt they can sell it–well, then I don't want a lazy agent anyway.

    Also very frustrating when they request partials and fulls then fail to respond to status requests as months go by. Don't they realize they're not the only fish in the sea? Hard to know if they haven't read it or if it's under consideration. Waiting is like slow, painful torture…

  49. B.K. Jackson on June 25, 2010 at 7:32 AM

    >Probably the most frustrating thing at any given time is when
    your genre isn't selling. It's just the market at work, but if you're writing in that genre, it's definitely frustrating.

  50. Rehman on June 25, 2010 at 7:06 AM

    >Looking all this publishing culture… I thank God that I've never ever tried to write a novel… I can't suffer like this… or like my friend Habib Sulemani, who wrote a novel, THE TERRORLAND, but before it could reach an agent, it landed in the hands of secret agencies… now he is being punished in Pakistan:

  51. Jason on June 25, 2010 at 6:54 AM

    >Oooh Rachelle…how dare you open this Pandora's Box. 🙂

    Really, I don't have any complaints with the industry. It's not perfect, but what is?

    I guess if I had to voice one concern though, it would be that I'm not sure what interests agents and editors represent a fair cross-section of the interests of the population at large. While that isn't a problem in itself, it can/could be if they're thinking more about what they like rather than what America likes.

  52. Shelby on June 25, 2010 at 6:42 AM

    >Being told to be nice. I don't need to be told. 🙂

  53. Krista Phillips on June 25, 2010 at 6:25 AM

    >Not a thing.

    I'm more frustrated with my own self and life getting in the way of my writing than anything else.

    Yes, today, I put the blame squarely on my own shoulders:-)

  54. Katie Ganshert on June 25, 2010 at 6:16 AM

    >I heart the publishing industry. But I'd heart it even more if it moved just a wee bit faster. Just a wee.

  55. scarlettprose on June 25, 2010 at 6:09 AM

    >Are you born bi-polar, or does it develop? Because right now all the ups and downs have me questioning if I shouldn't be on medication. Rejection on query. Partial request. Rejection on partial. Full request. No word. Still, no word. Awkward cough from the audience, and no word. Rejection on query. Partial request…

  56. Carole on June 25, 2010 at 5:52 AM

    >That any book, by any author that has a boatload of monkeys in it is published and widely read.

  57. Catherine West on June 25, 2010 at 5:48 AM

    >Frustrating? To be so close yet so far. I understand it all comes down to what they can sell and not willing to take a chance on a new author, but it is disheartening at the same time. The unfortunate thing in all that for me at least is that it causes me to question my own talent and ability to ever succeed in this business. Especially when contracted authors are getting multiple book deals. But thems the brakes I guess. Nobody said life was easy.

  58. steeleweed on June 25, 2010 at 5:39 AM

    >Take heart, Michael. When John Masters published Nightrunners Of Bengal (his story of the 1857 Sepoy mutiny) half the reviewers objected that it was biased toward the British Raj. The other half complained that it favored the Indians. 🙂

  59. Lance on June 25, 2010 at 5:11 AM

    >Formulaic requirements and hypocrisy/inconsistency.

  60. celesi on June 25, 2010 at 2:50 AM

    >I seem to be writing for an audience who doesn't seem to have a genre. I've decided I'll start worrying about this when I have a novel ready for submission.

  61. LorelieLong on June 25, 2010 at 2:37 AM


    I've studied my market and read widely in it. Paid attention to trends and more particularly what's *not* selling.

    And then I went ahead and wrote two western roms anyway, despite knowing how slow that section of the market is right now.

  62. iheartya on June 25, 2010 at 2:06 AM

    >That a journal that I really wanted to get into responded back to me a year after I contacted them to tell me that they are highly considering accepting my story; however, I have already placed said story. Also the journal which made me wait would have paid me. So now I am questioning whether or not I made the right decision.

  63. iheartya on June 25, 2010 at 2:06 AM

    >That a journal that I really wanted to get into responded back to me a year after I contacted them to tell me that they are highly considering accepting my story; however, I have already placed said story. Also the journal which made me wait would have paid me. So now I am questioning whether or not I made the right decision.

  64. Michael Malone on June 25, 2010 at 1:53 AM

    >on the formulaic/ non-formulaic argument I had one editor tell me my book was too derivative, while another opined that it strayed too far from the conventions. Same book, wildly different views from the gatekeepers. Go figure.

  65. Lucy on June 25, 2010 at 1:40 AM

    >I'm not ready to look for representation, let alone publish, so I guess I can't be too frustrated yet. 🙂

    Last night, I finally–finally–nailed that crazy one-liner from the contest you gave us a while back. Let me tell you, that was a feeling of accomplishment! I got it down to 25 words and squealed because I finally made it. And it works. And it's good!

    Thanks for the advice you posted on crafting what–honestly–is probably the hardest part of the book, outside of actually writing it.

    I am still feeling good; I will save being frustrated for another day. 😀

  66. writer jim on June 25, 2010 at 1:36 AM

    Writing my book at 2am is far more relaxing than those frustrating bad golf shots I hit today.

  67. Anonymous on June 25, 2010 at 1:07 AM

    >Honestly, that so many books in my genre have been published that sound so similar with lame plots and less-than-stellar writing, but agents seem to want the same old thing: the safe, tried and true, easy sale. If agents never took a chance on a fresh and original idea, then most of our classics may never have been published.