Let's all celebrate! (Pic by Photobunny)

Today is both my birthday and my agent, Rachelle Gardner’s birthday. Reason enough to start a party!

As if that weren’t enough, as a bonus to really get in the mood to celebrate I have a few words of wisdom from Rachelle about building a career rather than just selling a book.

I was one of Rachelle’s first clients and right from the start I knew there was the potential for something special. It started with the way Rachelle chooses her clients, the writers.

Rachelle has never been afraid to take on a new author. She now has about 50 clients, 90 percent of whom are new authors, which says something wonderful about her approach to the publishing business. Her intention is to build a strong roster of credible writers rather than make the quick sale. That takes time and talent on both the author and the agent’s part and can be just as rare in an agent as it is in a writer.

“It’s great for me because as agents go, I’m still one of the newer agents, coming up on four years, and it’s kind of neat for me to help build writers from the ground up,” said Rachelle. “Now, keep in mind, I’m making very intentional decisions,” she added, as she looks for writers who have something to say and are willing to work with her.

I’ve had agents before, good agents who quickly sold my work but I’d never had anyone speak to me in terms of a career. Not only in general terms but specific steps I could take if I was interested in making a decent living. Rachelle was doing that from the start even while we were talking about the project at hand. She was taking the long view of me as a writer.

That approach was going to take more work and a lot more patience but has the potential to payoff with steadily rising book sales.

That’s like gold in this business.

Most agents will not take that much time and may not even be able to tell you specifically what you could change (even if they did pause for a moment), beyond edits to the manuscript, to tell you how to better position yourself in either fiction or non-fiction in order to sell books. However, in the years I’ve known Rachelle she’s pushed and prodded me in the right directions so that my energy has become focused on an ever-more narrow goal. Instead of expending energy on different genres or marketing ploys that don’t work, all of my time and talent is now focused on thrillers.

Rachelle has also been in the publishing industry for awhile and has taken a very long and thoughtful look at what works and why and what doesn’t and that means the advice is generally structured, thorough and on point.

A few last birthday tidbits from Rachelle to take with you if you want to do well as a published author:

  • Write a good book
  • Put money into PR or marketing “Every bit of effort could mean more money.”
  • Get a reasonable advance that you can earn back and then some in the first year rather than look for the big bucks upfront. “If you recover it and even double it, you’ll look like a rock star to the publisher.”
  • Listen to your agent!

Okay, that last one is from me but take it as my birthday present to you to always remain teachable as a writer, and willing to just do what a trusted agent asks you to do without having to first know what it’ll all mean in the end. Happy Best Seller Everyone!

56 Replies to “Celebrate!”

  1. Yay – I get to be the first to wish you both a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Party on, Martha & Rachelle!

    Aaaaand….. I want to say thank you to Rachelle for being patient and long-term thinking. I am blessed to be one of those 90% newbies in whom Rachelle has displayed tenacious faith. She gets little out of me at the moment aside from rambling emails (working on making those bullet lists with actual points & questions, really!) and yet honors me with her time, her advice, her patience and her industry wisdom. (Agent of the Year material if I’ve ever seen it…)

    What excellent parting advice, Martha. Especially investing in PR. We would do well to follow Rachelle’s example and plan intentionally. Not go shopping. Not very much, anyway. šŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Camille! Rachelle is Agent of the Year material and may we all reward her for that this year with book contracts and sales. šŸ™‚

  2. Happy birthday, Martha & Rachelle! (: Having a trusted agency’s advice is gold. For those who may not yet have an agent to listen to, it’s a good thing Rachelle blogs!

    1. It is gold! It reminds me of the adage that walking a journey with a friend cuts the hard times in half and doubles the celebrations and I think every one of Rachelle’s clients also thinks of her as a friend. I know I do. Thank you for the birthday wishes!

  3. Aw, pshaw, I’m just doing my job. šŸ™‚

    Happy birthday, Martha, and thank you for the kind words. I’m blessed to have so many talented authors to work with – people who honor God with their time, their words, and their lives. What an amazing gift!

  4. Happy Birthday, Martha! Sounds like you and Rachelle have been wonderful gifts to each other. I love your description of how Rachelle helped focus you on writing for a specific genre so you could really move forward. A wonderful agent/author relationship is cause to celebrate!

    1. Isn’t it! Best birthday ever and it’s made better because I have all of you to celebrate with! šŸ™‚

  5. Adding to to the birthday wishes for both you and Rachelle, Martha! I enjoyed your post – I so appreciate Rachelle’s insight, too, and her willingness to share her expertise both in a general and individual sense.

    I may have to take you up on that offer for dinner since I’m in the Chicago area, too. šŸ™‚

  6. Happy Birthday Martha & Rachelle! I feel SO blessed to be part of this team!

    One sentence. When Rachelle and I spoke recently, she offered great wisdom in one sentence alone and I’ve been brainstorming ever since. I’m deeply grateful to be with an agent who knows this industry and how to grow authors–an agent passionate about doing just that!

    Yeah for birthdays! (We make a big deal about them around here!)
    ~ Wendy

    1. How to grow authors… That’s a great phrase and so true! We make a big deal about them around here too! There’s a picture on FB of me blowing out a cake on Saturday that looks like it’s engulfed in flames and I have a huge smile on my face! I’m looking at the people all around me and feeling such gratitude. That’s the exact same way I feel for not only Rachelle but all of my Water Cooler gang. Very grateful!

  7. Happy birthday, Martha and Rachelle! I hope you have oodles of fun celebrating!

    I appreciate Rachelle’s desire “to help build writers from the ground up.” As one of those in whom she saw promise, I’m extremely grateful. šŸ™‚

    1. I’ve been celebrating all week Keli! So grateful that Rachelle has taken the time to help me build a career. Sooooo grateful

  8. Happy birthday to Martha and Rachelle. May this day be a blessing to you both. I receive much information and writing guidance from the postings here and at Rachelle’s blog. So nice to know that the authors here have such a fantastic relationship with Rachelle as a person and as agent, too.

    1. It is wonderful to see how many of us are friends with Rachelle as well as clients and now thanks to the Water Cooler blog a lot of us have become friends and support too. Such a rare gift!

  9. Happy Birthday, Martha & Rachelle!
    When Rachelle talks–I listen. OK, that’s a cliche, but it’s also true. She knows the business and she’s also taken the time to get to know me as a writer. She also took a “curve” with me when the writing road took a detour and she was excited for me as we changed directions.
    This blog is a great way to celebrate both Rachelle, your relationship with her, and her reputation as an agent!

    1. And it doesn’t get written about very often that the slower building of a career has the longest payoff and is so worth it! Thanks for the well wishes Beth!

  10. Wow, I’m in good company–it’s my birthday today, too šŸ™‚ And this post is like a birthday present for me. Although I write for children, the points apply on this side, too. Thanks!

      1. Happy Birthday Kenda! So many great people share this birthday (including in memory – my Aunt Anna Deane and Aunt Pearl)!

  11. Must be “Literary Agents Birthday” day. I noticed it was Tamela Hancock Murray’s birthday, too. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” ~ Ps 118:24 Rejoice on your special day!

  12. Happy Birthday Martha and Rachelle!
    May you both be blessed with a wonderful day of celebrating you. Martha, you said: “I knew there was the potential for something special.” I felt that way too and am ever so glad that Rachelle was willing to take me on as a client. I still feel that way.
    Rachelle you just have that God given ability, that gift, to help your clients develop their gifts. I remember our first conversation on the phone and you said something about only being an agent for 3 years, but it seemed to me that you had the wisdom of someone who’d been in the business of agenting much longer. I think that is apparent to all of us.

    Martha, I’m looking forward to reading your thrillers! I like those. šŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Jillian! By following Rachelle’s advice my career went from lurches to a smooth plan.
      And as part of following Rachelle’s advice I put my first thriller Wired on Smashwords.com (the publishing house went out of business and the rights returned to me). I like to spread the celebration around so I put out a coupon this week and reduced the price to just $2. The coupon code is YY24X

  13. Happy birthday, Martha and Rachelle — I am blessed to know you both.

    And Martha, thank YOU for being so kind to answer my emails personally and offer great advice on the questions I had recently about syndication. I know how busy you must be, and to get that kind of personal advice really is special. Thank you for being so generous with your time.

    1. Thank you MIchelle and anytime! So grateful for all the help other authors have given me and glad I get the chance to pass any of it along.

  14. Happy birthday to you both! My anniversary and my niece’s birthday also fall on September 6th. I do believe today is just an incredible day to celebrate!

    Thanks for the advice in this post. As a new follower of this blog and aspiring author, I’m already gleaning a lot from what is being shared. I wish this group of writers all the best!

  15. I really enjoyed your post. I am new in this publishing business and I appreciate all the help and encouragement. I pray you both have a wonderful and special birthday. You touch many lives.

    1. Thank you Glenda! Keep coming back and check out all of the wonderful blogs each of us has as well. They’re all listed under the contributor tab at the top.

  16. Thanks, Martha, for your great post! I didn’t know most of this about our awesome agent. I’m so thankful to Rachelle for using her expertise and knowledge to professionally serve us, but even more thankful for her heart and dedication behind it all. Happy Birthday, Rachelle!

    1. Thanks Donna! I believe it is true that we attract to ourselves a reflection of the kind of person we are and I’m feeling pretty good right about now because of the wonderful men and women I get to work with from Word Serve Literary. Blessed life!

    1. Thanks Rosslyn! It was so much fun and made all the better because of my Water Cooler pals and readers. šŸ™‚

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