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Know Thy Reader

It seems that daily I’m receiving comments about how sad it is that the people who really need to hear my advice aren’t reading the blogs, and while that’s true when it comes to those of you who have been here for a while and have been reading the blogs of other agents, I’m not convinced it’s true across the board.

Just the other day, for example, I received a very lengthy email from an author who, after querying me, discovered the blog and spent most of her evening reading all my past posts. She was new to the publishing world and was thanking me for all the insight I’d provided. Every day I see comments from some of my die-hard readers and every week I see a comment or receive an email from someone who has just discovered me.

One of the biggest challenges I face is trying to appeal to as many people as possible, but I think as writers we can all agree that I’ll never please everyone. I work hard to write my blog for all audiences. In the end I know that who I appeal most to are the unpublished, although I do know that a number of published writers also read fairly regularly and I hope they too find information they can use from time to time.

When I post something that you feel you know already, I apologize, but please keep in mind that to someone else this might be new information. While I have no real statistics of whether or not the blog makes a difference, my queries tell a different story. I do think my blog is making a difference in a much bigger way than just those who comment. I think the blogs of all agents make a difference. I think we’ll all agree that query letters are getting better. Most important, though, professionalism has improved. Authors are coming into publishing (from the beginning) with an understanding of what exactly it is they’re getting into. They know it’s not easy and they know it’s a business. I have to say, that’s a vast improvement over what I was seeing five years ago.

So I think this is the best time to remind you that if you want to see something specific on the blog, the best way is to ask. Many of my posts are based on the emails I receive from readers. I keep all identifying information confidential if quoting the email directly and frequently I simply use your question as a launching point for a post of my own. So if there’s anything you’d like to see more of or a question you’d like answered, don’t hesitate to send an email to [email protected]. As always I have a backlog of questions, but I’m always looking for a new topic.


Category: Blog


  1. Thank you for this post. I visit here every day and couldn't be without it.
    I am unpublished, unagented, unknown and just about un everything in the publishing industry. The one thing I am not un at is uneducated.
    That is wholly due to this blog and the vast amount of information on the internet available to anyone willing to look for it.
    You can take credit for giving me–and all other hopefuls who visti here–the advice, tools and guidance needed to submit the best query letter I possibly can and do it in a professional manner. I'm not even close to the query stage, but I know when the time comes, I'll be ready.
    Thank you again for all the great information.

  2. This is a really nice post, Jessica. Thank you.

    Your sincere desire to help writers with the process just shines through.

    That deserves more than one thank you. Thank you. 🙂

  3. I appreciate the professionalism of your blog posts. There seem to be a few agents blogging anonymously and making fun of writers and of the submissions that they get, and I'm terrified of accidentally submitting to one of those agents!

  4. I've been published since 1992. And even though I do know a fair amount about this business, I don't know everything.

    And this business is also a CHANGING business. That's another reason I like to keep up with the excellent and informative blogs (like this one) that are available free of charge.

    It's an amazing thing, really.

  5. Since I was one of those query letters that Jessica received a number of years ago–long before blogs existed, and most especially THIS blog–I have to agree with her. The letter I wrote then was horrible. I'm still amazed I got an agent, but I knew nothing.

    I'm one of those published authors who reads this one daily, and not just because Jessica is my agent. I read it because, as Nancy Coffelt says, this business continues to change and evolve. As writers, we also need to change and evolve, and the only way to do that is to stay informed. Thank you Jessica!

  6. The agent blogs are definitely useful. Occasionally, there's a blog entry that doesn't interest me, but those are very few and far between.

    It's certainly worth checking in every day to see what's been written. I start with yours, zoom over to Nathan's, see if Editorial Anonymous has posted anything new, and then make the rounds to the others (the ones who tend to post later in the day!).

    Thanks for all the free advice!

  7. I agree with the previous comments–your blog is a valuable source of information no matter what stage of the publishing process we're in. I don't comment much, but I do read your posts every day.

  8. It's your honesty that is so helpful. And for me anyway, a little repetition is useful.

    I didn't know much about the business part of publishing. Reading your blog and others keeps things in perspective.

    I also notice how often your blog is linked on that of other agents and publishers. Of course they all could be family members.

  9. Though I now have an agent, when I was searching, I wished all agents took queries with at least partial pages, and requests were for elec fulls. I sought out those who did.

    I understand the practical (or okay, maybe not. I have a Kindle, and the list of titles still looks the same regardless of how big the doc is, a partial would look no different than a full, so I'm lost on how that would be overwhelming. Hard copies, okay. But e-copies?), emotional and symbolic reasonings behind the current process, but as we hear over and over–it's not personal, it's business. And let's be honest, as is, it's a very long, drawn-out, convoluted process with too many steps where things get lost, messed up, etc. Streamlining, while it might lose whatever symbolism or meaning for the people involved, would be far more organized.

    Regardless, I very much appreciated those agents who took pages with a query and immediately just req'd e-fulls. Very much.

  10. Oh, I absolutely think this blog and the others like it (not just from agents but also from authors, editors and other people in the industry) are immensely valuable. As it see it, there are three types of people querying.

    First there are the people already familiar with the industry. Blogs like this are useful for them to keep up on changing trends and policies.

    Second there are people who are generally ignorant of the industry but who want to learn (that would be me and probably a good majority of your readers I'd guess). Without the blogs it would be a whole lot more difficult (or impossible) to find information and we'd make a lot more mistakes out of ignorance.

    And third there are the people who just aren't interested in learning. They'll pick up a few things here and there, but as often as not it'll be misinformation. For them, it's good to keep pushing the good information out there so that they're at least as likely to stumble over something useful as they are over something totally wrong.

  11. That second should read: "who start off generally ignorant" rather than "who are." Because thanks to all the information out there, I like to think we don't stay that way for long!

  12. Jessica,
    I'm not a new writer, but fairly new to actually dipping my toes into the publishing waters (I'm just getting past the ankle now!) Also fairly new to discovering your (and a couple of others) agent blog. Just wanted to say that ALL your informed and expert postings are appreciated. If it's something we already know, it can never hurt to hear it again (and again, and again…)
    I, and I'm sure tons of others, really appreciate your taking the time to share and illuminate.
    Good karma! Thanks again.
    Deb Lewis

  13. Thanks, Jessica – you're always so nice to all your blog readers! 🙂 And as someone who had no idea about anything in the publishing industry before a few months ago, thank you so much! You definitely help a lot. 🙂

    (I read on one publisher's website last year that they didn't accept unsolicited manuscripts, and was confused about how else you would get your story to a publisher, other than snail-mailing them the whole unsolicited manuscript. I'd never heard of writers' conferences, query letters, literary agents….)

  14. I really appreciate all your information. As someone in the revising and querying process right now, I love and appreciate the insight you have to offer. It makes me calm and relax a bit more than I otherwise might be feeling right now.

  15. Ma'am, you don't need to apologize for "posting something that you feel you know already." The older I get, the less I know for certain and the more I realize how uncommon a "common experience" actually is. Besides, sometimes we all need reminding — and anyone who has a problem with that can always read someone else's blog. I'm just sayin'.

  16. This blog (and several others like it) is like the Holy Grail for the unread! And, from some of the comments posted, for the read as well 😉

    Coming from a "call it like you see it" kind of gal, the mix of honesty and knowledge given up here is downright refreshing. Plus, *Gawd* are you guaranteed at least one laugh while browsing this blog. Does it honestly get any better?

    I can honestly say that agent and editor blogs are a true gold mine for me, and I am so grateful (in a non-sucking-up kind of way) that you take the time to do it.

    Oh! BTW…Book Maven, I think I want to be you when I grow up! 90 books. *swoon* 😉

  17. Jessica, I find your blog informative and professional. Because of your willingness to allow writers take a peek through your perspective, I am able to answer questions that come up in conversations with my fellow writers. Or I can just point them in the direction of your blog. 🙂

    Thanks for all you do!

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