An Interview with Rachelle Gardner [Video]

If you are serious about book publishing, you have no doubt found Rachelle Gardner’s blog. That’s how I first discovered her. I immediately subscribed and have been reading her posts ever since. I also follow her on Twitter.

Please forgive the echo on Rachelle’s side of the recording. That was my fault. I am still learning!

Rachelle is a literary agent. She is part of the WordServe Literary Group based in Denver, Colorado. Prior to becoming an agent, she served in a variety of publishing roles.

She has been an editor and ghost writer with eight published books to her credit. She has also worked in licensing, international sales, and marketing.

In this fourteen-minute interview, we discussed:

  1. The advice she would give to new authors who are looking for an agent
  2. The most common mistakes new authors make in approaching agents
  3. Why it is important for authors to go through the process of preparing a formal book proposal
  4. Whether or not building a platform is critical for fiction authors
  5. Why authors should still consider publishing with a traditional publisher when so many self-publishing options are available

We only scratched the surface. If you are an author—or would like to be one—her blog is must-reading. She daily discusses publishing topics from the author’s perspective.

Question: Which of Rachelle’s comments stood out to you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.wizardofotin.blogspot.com otin

    Rachelle’s blog has been like a school course for me.  She has been very helpful.

    I came over from her blog.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Cool. Welcome!

  • Sherri

    I subscribed to Rachelle’s blog a couple of months ago and read it every day.I appreciate that she has a balance of reality and encouragement. It was great to see her start “vlogging” and nice to put a voice with the face, so I really enjoyed this and was once again educated and encouraged. Thanks for doing this. 

  • Wendy Miller

    Excellent interview, Michael. I have a great deal of respect for Rachelle.
    Question five intrigued me because of what Rachelle said about how the decision to self-publish is such a hot topic. I’m still looking to jump that traditional hurdle by engaging in an exceptional partnership in this business. I appreciated how Rachelle compared self-publishing to building a house. It helped continue to put that option into perspective.
    Thanks for this shared wisdom from two powerhouses in the industry.
    ~ Wendy

  • Debbie Baskin

    Thanks for posting this interview. 

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Publishing is a hard gig! I’ve learned so much about the publishing business from subscribing to both of your sites. I think the main myths in the business are…

    1. If you get published, you’ll make lots of money
    2. If you get published, people will flock to bookstores to buy your book
    3. Self publishing is an easy alternative to traditional publishing

    I used to believe in all three of these. Chris Brogan has a great post entitled Writing a Book – Making Money that really puts the publishing business in perspective from the monetary side. As far as self publishing goes, after spending a year self publishing my first book, I can tell you that it requires a lot of knowledge about editing, formatting, graphic creation, and typology. Then you have to deal with the fact that the average self published book sells under 100 copies on average.

    Should you go through the process? By all means… just realize you won’t get rich, people will not flock to bookstores to buy your work, and the real joy in the whole endeavor is holding your finished work in your hands.

    The good news… that joy is definitely worth it!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your insights, John. It might be worth making a distinction between DIY publishing where you do absolutely everything and “supported self-publishing,” where you hire a “general contractor” to manage these processes on your behalf. Our own WestBow Press is a good example of the latter. It»s definitely more expensive. But it really comes down to what your time is worth. 

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        I agree, Michael. Self Publishing has certainly become easier since I published back in 2009. You can now choose how much “support” you want along the way with many publishers. Obviously the more support, the higher the costs, so authors need to take that into consideration. Most people will need some hand holding along the way. There really is a lot to creating a finished and published book.

    • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

      “just realize you won’t get rich, people will not flock to bookstores to
      buy your work, and the real joy in the whole endeavor is holding your
      finished work in your hands.”

      Well said John. I think the average person wanting to get a publishing contract thinks this way. And thanks for the tip for Brogan’s book.

      -Mark

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Sure, people can do all the work of publishing and promoting by themselves, but like any other large project that one tries to do by themselves, it’s probably not going to be as good as if you had hired a professional for the things you weren’t good at.

      People should play to their strengths.  If they’re good at writing, then they should write.  If they’re good at marketing, then they should market.  If a writer isn’t good at editing or marketing, then they should hire outside help for those things.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      John,

      Thank you for sharing. Chris’s post is very good.

      Jim

  • http://flowerpatchfarmgirl.blogspot.com/ Shannan Martin

    Fantastic interview! I’ve learned so much from Rachelle and had the privilege of meeting her at a conference last month. The feedback she provided was invaluable. She’s as kind as she is savvy. Thanks for sharing!

  • Julie Jarnagin

    I love Rachelle’s blog, and it was great seeing her here on your site. I appreciate her willingness to educate writers on the industry and share her wisdom.

  • http://www.peaceforthejourney.com elaine @ peace for the journey

    A wonderful wealth of knowledge… can never get enough of Rachelle!

  • http://www.jillkemerer.com Jill Kemerer

    What a terrific interview! I’ve followed Rachelle’s blog for years, and it made my day to listen to you both. Great information–thanks!

  • http://marlataviano.com Marla Taviano

    It’s such an honor to be a client of Rachelle’s. I’m telling you, she is everything in real life that she appears to be on her blog–smart, kind, wise, helpful, unselfish, genuine. Her advice to me has always been spot-on, and her encouragement keeps me going whenever I hit a wall. Thank you, Rachelle, for everything!!

    And great interview, Michael!

  • http://www.tracidepree.com Traci DePree

    Great interview. Thanks, Mike.

  • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

    I’ve been following Michelle for about a year, particularly on Twitter. Her advice is pointed and sometimes shrewd — exactly what aspiring authors need to hear.

    Great interview!

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    Very helpful. I’m getting a great education on some publishing tips from your space here. Who knows, maybe one day soon…   :)

  • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

    Good interview!  I thought that it was interesting that she spoke of having an agent and a publisher as a lifelong dream of authors.  I think it’s true.  It’s almost a status symbol, to have a good agent and a good publisher, and to see a well-respected publishing name on the binding of your book.

  • http://twitter.com/RookieWriter David Barry DeLozier

    What a great interview - I will subscribe to Rachelle’s blog this morning.  Very interesting juxtaposition for me: I am an architectural designer, a home builder and multiple  business owner so I am entrepreneurial - all of which supports the case for self-publishing (loved her hombuilding analogy but I was answering yes to all the questions).  At the same time, everything Ms. Gardner said about wanting the validation of an agent and a traditional publishing house for my fiction writing is absolutely true.  My book is not ready to be shopped (I’m a habitual editor/revisionist) but when it is, I will have to stare down these issues.  Thanks for such a great interview.

  • http://twitter.com/jamespinnick7 James Pinnick

    Thanks for posting Michael.

    Even though my query letter was declined by Rachelle earlier in the year regarding The Last Seven Pages, I still respect her knowledge and insight. I was able to tailor the letter and my blog a bit more and land a Christian Literary Agent from the west coast. For that, I’m very grateful to Rachelle. I’m also grateful I get to prove Rachelle wrong for declining the manuscript! :)

    Blessings-

    James Pinnick
    Author- The Last Seven Pages
    http://www.jamespinnick.com

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Even the best people don’t get it right all the time :)

  • JeffO

    I, too, came over f rom Rachelle’s blog. Great interview, Michael. Thanks!

  • Kwbrayton

    Michael, I’ve been reading your blog for a long while now. I have enjoyed  watching your Chick-fil-A Leadercast Backstage programs very much. So believe me when I tell you that I admire your work and appreciate the people you talk to very much. But I gotta tell ya, this new video format, well, in a word - sucks. Now, it could just be my computer/monitor, but when I tried to watch the clip I ended up listening without watching. It was just too distracting. Your face is squashed and unnatural looking. The video was extremely choppy and herky-jerky. The sound track and video were often out of sync. I’m on a high-speed broadband connection with decent equipment which leads me to believe it’s a problem with the video and not my connection.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of these types of in-your-face camera shots and find them annoying and distracting. I readily acknowledge that others may feel differently. But if you are going to persist in this video format, please hire some professional help and work on this presentation style some more. I know you care about such things which is why I’ve posted this.

    Rachelle had some great things to say, by the way, and my beef is not with her. I trust that you can understand my heart and appreciate where I’m coming from.

    I remain your faithful reader,

    Ken Brayton
    Corvallis, Oregon

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I hesitated to post it at all, mostly because of the audio. I don’t see the herky-jerky problem here. That may be a bandwidth or connection problem. Regardless, your point is well-taken.

      I think I have three choices:

      1. Don’t post stuff like this at all, because it is just too much work.

      2. Do the best I can, but post it any way, because the content is still valuable. (I am learning, by the way. Much of this was caused by a new setup.)

      3. Do it professionally and charge for the content via premium access.

      For now, I have opted for #2.

      I do appreciate your input. I want to make this the best it can be. Thanks.

      • http://terripatrick.blogspot.com/ Therese Patrick

        Continue your option #2.  It is informative, appreciated and entertaining. Thank you.

        • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

          I like that your blog has a multimedia aspect to it. Yours is one of few blogs that I follow that does that (or, at least, produces their own video, rather than citing someone else’s). Keep it up.

      • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

        Even with the echo-y sound quality, I think there was valuable information in this interview.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Thanks, Robert. It was difficult for me to decide to post that quality, but I felt Rachelle’s comments were so good, it was worth it.

  • http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com Cynthia Herron

    I enjoyed getting both of your perspectives. The architect/contractor analogy was perfect. When we were building our home, I enjoyed selecting the lighting, flooring, paint colors, etc. To install and do  everything ourselves? We left those things to the experts.

    I can’t imagine navigating the publishing waters without my agent. For some people, that may work great. As for me, I improved my skills, took courses, joined professional organizations, and honed my craft all with the ultimate goal of obtaining a dream agent. It worked! Did it happen overnight? Hmmm…not so much. I worked my socks off, and like you indicated, Rachelle–the sense of accomplishment just arriving at this point is indescribable.

    Thank you both for continuing to tell it like is.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      I very much agree. It is hard work and the feeling of accomplishment is great!

      jim

  • http://profiles.google.com/jennabcw Jenna Benton

    Popped on over here from Rachelle’s blog. It’s part of my daily reading. Thanks for interviewing her here. Good stuff! 

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    I found her reply to the question on “Why authors should still consider publishing with a traditional publisher when so many self-publishing options are available” most intriguing. Now, I can understand the nuances between the two better.

    And, thanks for introducing her blog to us. I have just subscribed to it in my google reader.

  • http://www.cathrynhasek.com Cathryn

    I agree that the big discussion in the publishing industry is whether or not to self-publish.  In fact, it was a main topic at a writer’s conference I attended this month.  As a Christian writer, however, I feel that to publish non-traditionally would be a barrier to me.  I like to think of my work as discipleship in nature. Therefore in order to bring more people to Christ, it seems to me that having a traditional publisher, with all of their marketing know how and connections, would be the smarter route to venture.  Especially a Christian publishing house.

    Thanks for the head’s up on what is happening around the industry.  Both you and Rachelle are mentors of mine!

  • dpyle

    Popped over here from Rachelle’s blog. What a delight! Excellent interview. I’ve read your blog for about 3 months now, Michael, and it’s on my must-read list each time you post. Thank you for the time, commitment, and tenacity you expend to provide us with relevant, engaging topics. Blessings!

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Michael’s blog is one of very few blogs that I actually have delivered to my email Inbox each morning. I find that the posts are indispensable.

  • Thyrkas

    I clicked my way over from from Rachelle’s blog. Always helpful, the straight scoop without the hype, Rachelle’s blog is solid gold. Nice to see her on your blog, too.

  • http://www.destanley.com Dustan Stanley

    Thanks Michael! It’s great to hear Rachelle’s view – especially with the echo. Get’s in my head again and again and again. ;-) Seriously, thank you for this video. Love it!

  • http://temporary.rumorsofglory.com/ Lucille Zimmerman

    Can I put in a plug for a great new blog called The WordServe Water Cooler? It’s brand new and some Rachelle (and Greg Johnson’s) clients are posting the most helpful tips for wanna-be authors. 
    http://wordservewatercooler.com/

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love that idea!

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Lucille,

      Thank you for sharing. I will add this to my favorites.

      Jim

  • Marji Laine

    Excellent interview. I felt like I was in a class! Thanks so much, Mike, for asking just the right questions. And thanks, Rachelle for letting this eager learner glimpse your insight into the details of the publishing world.

  • http://twitter.com/C_Herringshaw Casey Herringshaw

    Wow, great, great interview. Thank you Mike and Rachelle! I appreciate the time you take as industry professionals to give advice to us just starting out!

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Rachelle uses a number of helpful analogies to clear up the murk between writing and publishing and self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. The new job analogy helps me understand why I need to know the market and why I need to do more than write a book to get published. Appreciate the interview and the insights. I can see why you follow Rachelle on her blog.

  • http://rockbottomworship.wordpress.com/ Liz Dugger

    Thank you for being a voice in the writing wilderness. This conversation can save people years of wandering aimlessly while thinking they’re headed somewhere. You created a sort of bridge for writers who need to cross over – or as Rachelle said, “make a mental leap” – to realizing writing is only the start. We have to be able to clearly come up with a plan. The thought that stood out most was “if you’re a Christian writer, we already assume God has told you….” (don’t remember exact words) This is challenging stuff. 

  • http://twitter.com/CoachTheresaIF Theresa Ip Froehlich

    Thank you for bringing Rachelle Gardner to us. She offers a big dose of reality that helps writers plant our feet on earth.
    While writers dream about our books becoming NYT bestsellers, many non-fiction writers simply want to get a message out there or share their knowledge.
    I tend to agree with her take on using the traditional publishing route. Having a book accepted by a traditional publisher represents endorsement and accountability. Self-publishing might fit writers who have the right skill sets, including marketing savvy (this is not one of my skill sets.)
    I have just recently signed a contract with my literary agent for my first book that shows parents how to let go of adult children and get on with their own lives. I appreciate having an agent I can trust and who coaches me along the process.

  • http://twitter.com/RachelleGardner Rachelle Gardner

    Mike, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview and post it! It was a lot of fun and I love sharing bits of what I’ve learned with others. I’ve been enjoying your entire interview series, so please continue! (Despite technical difficulties.)

    THANK YOU to all the commenters, too. I’m glad I can be helpful.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Rachelle! You did a great job.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you both for doing this interview. I took away a couple great insights.

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Rachelle, I agree completely. Thanks for doing the interview.

    • Sue Detweiler

      Rachelle,
      Thank you for being a forerunner as a literary agent and trainer. I learned a lot from this interview and from your blog.

      Michael,
      Once again, thank you for being an incredible resource and a catalytic connector.

  • http://www.christytruitt.com Christy K. Truitt

    I found the proposal segment the most intriguing. Rachelle is my agent, but also a bottomless well of information. She’s so encouraging and nurturing, but also tells it like it is. Kudos, Rachelle!

  • Anonymous

    I am brand new to the idea of seeking publication. I really appreciate the insights from both you and Rachelle. I am aware that living in the digital age likely means my competition to become published will be more fierce than it would have been 100 years ago. However, I am also aware that it means I have access to so much information to help me along the way. I am grateful for the resources!

    I think it was helpful to make it abundantly clear that this is a business.  If I want to break in, I need to do my homework, and ask myself tough questions. I am writing non-fiction. I love the clarity of asking myself whether I have the platform, credentials, and unique idea to make publishing a reality.

  • Clarice G James

    After listening to so many of my writer friends talk about traditional publishing as if it were so “old school” (and out of reach) and self-publishing as the way to take control of your future, I was glad to hear Rachelle confirm what I’ve always thought: you get what you pay for. I’m willing to pay a professional to do the things I’m not built to do. Thanks.

  • Davey

    Mike, thanks so much for that interview! Rachelle and you both have been a huge help to me in understanding better the publishing industry! I came over from Rachelle’s blog today, and am glad I did so. Great information and a fun interview.

  • http://rmabry.com Richard Mabry

    Mike, Thanks for this post. Rachelle shares her wisdom and experience freely via her own blog, and it’s great that you’re introducing your readers to her as well. They will be well-rewarded if they follow her.
    I was most taken by her advice about the advantages of seeking traditional publication rather than going the self-publication or e-pubbing route. It’s a lot of work, but I agree that it’s worth it.

  • Anonymous

    Great interview Mike and Rachelle. Great points and advice. I have been working on my platform and eventually would like to write several leadership books. When Rachelle was talking about the difference between self -publishing vs. a traditional publisher, it really became clear to me that traditional publishing might be the best way to go for me. (In the future) I enjoy everything you write about publishing and building your platform. Thank you for adding value into my life.
     

  • http://twitter.com/suzanneastock Suzanne Stock

    I’m so glad you interviewed Rachelle! I’m an aspiring author who stumbled across her blog a few months back, and it’s been an incredible source of information for me. I’m not sure if she’ll be one of the agents I query when I get to that place with my manuscript (only because of my content and style), but I totally respect everything she has to say. The content of your recent vlogs has been fantastic, Michael!

  • http://elainecougler.wordpress.com Elaine Cougler

    Actually Rachelle mentioned two things that clicked for me:  having a good knowledge of what competitive titles for my book might be out there, and having a fan page of Facebook.  I already subscribe to her newsletter but seeing her on video was excellent.  Always good to put the face with the name.
    Michael, I, too, have just started doing video interviews on my blog so I was interested that you are new at it as well.  It’s all a learning thing, isn’t it?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Actually, I was doing pretty well until I upgraded to Max OS X Lion. That seems to have thrown everything off. I’ll get there!

  • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

    Fabulous interview, thanks for sharing this! I love Rachelle’s blog it’s full of practical advice. I think the conversation to self publish or attempt a traditional publish was most helpful to me. I’ve gotten a bit bogged down in knowing which way to go with my novel and her thoughts were very helpful.

    I recently released a small ebook entitled Sister to Sister; A Mentor’s Handbook on my blog. http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/2011/08/get-copy-of-my-new-ebook-sister-to.html But for my novel I don’t think that’s the direction I want to go.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Beck,

      Thank you for sharing and I wish you the best of luck.

      Jim

      • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

        Thanks Jim!

  • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

    Great interview. I will start following her blog. Thank you for the insight.

    Jim

  • amy sorrells

    My favorite portion of this interview is when Rachelle compares “building a book” with building a house. Having just painted my entire downstairs, I know I’m pretty good at taping and fixing nail holes, using a roller, and getting paint all over my dogs. But I also I know for certain I’m not up to–nor qualified for–installing toilets or cabinets or hooking up an HVAC system.

    I also echo Rachelle’s points about how the art of writing is so different from the business of publication. I think the neatest thing I’ve learned to date about the publishing industry is how all the industry professionals I’ve come across value the author’s original art, and have hearts and passion for making that art shine.

    Many thanks to both of you, for this interview and for just being you! You inspired my walk toward publication nearly five years ago when I discovered your sites, and you both continue to do so today!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Amy. I appreciate you dropping by and commenting.

  • http://vvdenman.com/ V.V. Denman

    Don’t apologize for the echo. It’s great. Makes Rachelle sound like a movie star.

    • http://temporary.rumorsofglory.com/ Lucille

      Rachelle IS a movie star!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YAXZX6HS4WQEU5N76MQDS4GNPU James Mckay

    Great Interview. Thanks for providing such practical information. I’m thinking about self publishing because I’m 72 (quite healthy though), and wondering if publishers will shy away from investing in someone my age. I have a novel I feel great about, plus several more in the making. I would love to hear any thoughts.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, I do not believe publishers will shy Seventy-two is the new 55. ;-) The guy is having some to say and saying it well. Thanks.

  • http://www.susantornga.com Susan Tornga

    I am a long-time follower of Rachelle’s blog.  I enjoyed the more personal interaction of the video on your blog.  Thank you for hosting her.  Good information.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this post.  I have to say I am a bit overwhelmed by the whole process, but I’m trying to do my homework and above all PRAY and TRUST!  I’m confused about researching the market, I’m not sure where my book fits.  I think it is fiction young adult, but I don’t know how to get more specific…do you have any advice?  I write about religion and politics both on my blog (tcavey.blogspot.com) and my novel.  

  • Eileen Astels

    The video doesn’t seem to be working. I was really looking forward to seeing and learning from it, too!

  • Eileen Astels

    I got it to work! Needed an add on. Thanks so much for this interview. Very informative and I really liked Rachelles words on making the mental leap from writer to published author. It’s a scary transition for many!

  • Jody Day

    I found the comments about the importance of building a platform very helpful.   I do read Rachelle’s blog and fell like I am getting valuable instruction.:)