Researching literary agents, compiling tidbits that help you personalize query letters, and staying abreast of submission guidelines are among the most tedious tasks you will face in the traditional publishing process.
You still need to do it. And it’s a risky strategy to outsource the research.
Writers who have been successful in other walks of life have gotten used to outsourcing tedious tasks and many would rather pay someone to handle it for them. People reach out to me often to ask if I can provide them with a list of literary agents to query.
Here’s why you shouldn’t outsource your agent search.
Your relationship with an agent is crucial
Having the right literary agent can literally make or break your writing career. It’s a phenomenally important relationship, akin to co-founding a business with someone.
And yet you don’t have a huge amount of information at your disposal to gauge how much you like an agent or how much you trust them. You’re not going to be able to do an extensive background check or casually “date” an agent to get to know them prior to cementing the relationship.
That’s why every morsel you absorb about agents through your research is so important. As you research, you’ll find yourself having good and bad gut feelings about agents. This is good! Pay attention to those feelings.
This is a very personal part of the process. What rubs you the wrong way about someone might be a quality I like in an agent. If you aren’t researching yourself, you’re missing out on these important cues.
You’ll learn more about the business from your research
It has never been enough to just write a book and let other people handle the rest. Knowing how the industry works and conducting yourself professionally gives you a significant leg up at every stage of the publishing process.
In the course of researching literary agents, you’re going to come across informative interviews, you’ll get a keener sense of the different flavors of literary agencies, you’ll develop a sense of “who’s who” in the business, and you honestly can’t help but be better informed when you’re finished.
Embrace this part of the process.
Weave industry research into your productive procrastination
Sometimes you’ll need a break from writing and just won’t have it in you to push your book forward. Engage in productive procrastination and
I have a spreadsheet in my how to research a literary agent post that you can start filling in with potential agents. My friend Natasa Lekic also started a great service called Literary Agent Alert (affiliate link), which will give you weekly notifications about deals and new agents who represent your genre.
Whatever approach you take, make sure to do this stuff yourself.
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my online classes (NEW!), my guide to writing a novel and my guide to publishing a book.
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Art: Landscape with the Chateau de Mariemont by Jan Brueghel the Elder
Ekta Garg says
Wait…what? I mean, I’ve heard of outsourcing other things, but…what?
I get it; researching agents is hard. I spent several months doing it to pitch my first novel, and it’s tedious and time-consuming and makes you want to reach into the screen and say, “Why won’t you just read my book already? It’s EXACTLY what you’re describing in your guidelines!”
But it’s necessary to do it for ourselves. Just like writing the book in the first place.
Thanks, as always, Nathan, for sharing your insight and resources!