By Jennifer S. Wilkov, host of the “Your Book Is Your Hook!” Show on WomensRadio
The Literary Agent Matchmaker™
As authors and writers, we’re always learning about resources and industry tools that we can use to improve our book project performance and the enjoyment of our writing and marketing experiences. Today let’s talk about research and why it is the key to your writing and publishing career.
Research. Research. Research. We’ve all heard this term and the phrase, “Do your research,” for years. From back when we were in school to today, this catch phrase always seems to play a role in what we want to do.
It’s no different in the book publishing industry. Here’s why research has such a big role in your writing and publishing career.
In order to write about anything, it’s best to get more familiar with it. Some say you should write about what you know. Others say that’s not true – you can go research something or someone that interests you and learn more about it. Then write about it. Both methods work.
However, even when you know about something or someone, it still helps to do more research on it because, after all, it’s hard to know everything. It’s also a chance to open up more opportunities and storylines as you get more and more enmeshed in the information.
For example, today’s author guest, Ellen Sussman, lived in Paris for a number of years prior to writing her new novel, French Lessons. When she did write this book, she went back to Paris to research the places she had written about to confirm they were appropriate for the story. What she found was that a few places needed to be changed because they were not as she had remembered them or they were not at all what she had expected.
In a recent conversation I had with David Morrell at ThrillerFest last week, he said he got his pilot’s license when he was writing about one of his characters who was flying a plane in one of his books so he could accurately account for the flying experience as a pilot, not just as a passenger guessing at what it’s like to fly.
Heather Graham has a great time researching locations all over the world that claim to have great ghosts in their midsts. She writes about her adventures on her website, http://theoriginalheathergraham.com, and she uses her experiences to fuel the stories in her wildly popular paranormal books.
Katharine Sands, a literary agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, refers to herself as the agent provocateur as opposed to the author of her book, Making The Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye. She interviewed other literary agents and added their insights and perspectives to her book as opposed to just writing it herself.
John Grisham researched the life and court transcripts for Ron Williamson for his book, The Innocent Man. He expresses gratitude for those who were willing to talk with him so he could conduct his research for his first nonfiction tale.
There are so many ways to do research for your book including unique opportunities like Lee Lofland’s Writer’s Police Academy, a truly original undertaking.. The Writers’ Police Academy offers the most hands-on, interactive and educational experience writers can find to enhance their understanding of all aspects of law enforcement and forensics.
Research is what’s behind the authenticity of your story. Even though you have so-called poetic license when writing, when you do your research well, the readers appreciate what you’ve written that much more and are not distracted by your lack of accuracy and knowledge.
The platform for marketing your book runs the gamut from simple and sweet to large, expansive and complex. In order to determine what’s best for you, your book and platform, it’s best to do your research to find out what is involved in each component activity so you can understand what you are willing to do and what you might want someone else to do for you – or not do it at all.
So many new things are developing in the field of book marketing for your platform that your research is never really done here. A bit cliché but true. For example, while I was at ThrillerFest last week, I saw demonstrations of iDoLVine and Autography, two new products and services that are revolutionizing the virtual book signing experience. The presentation for these was truly eye-opening and the possibilities were endless. There will be more and more developments in the area of ideas for marketing your book. Not every one is for every book and author so research is the best way to manage your time, efforts, energy and money.
The publishing process is a friendlier journey when you know more about it and do your research. Don’t just self, e- or traditionally publish your book because someone else did. Identify your goals for your book, understand your options and then choose the appropriate method that can best support you with achieving these goals.
If you want to begin a long lasting relationship with an agent, start it before you meet them by doing your research and getting to know all about them. Look, if you’re interested in someone, it’s best to find out what you can before you approach them or meet them. Your efforts to research them shows when that moment to meet finally them comes. This is especially true when it comes to finding an agent. Don’t just research the submission guidelines so you can slam them with your stuff. Research each agent you want to submit to or the ones you’re going to pitch at a writers conference or pitchfest. Understand who they are, what they want in the authors they represent, and then craft your pitch to answer their submission guidelines appropriately.
Literary agent Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary Agency recently wrote a great article about this very mistake he saw made during the recent Romantic Writers of America annual conference in New York. The title of Scott’s post was “Pitching at Conferences: My Point Was Proven!” and in it he says that at writers conferences “…most writers just grab any appointment slot they can get their hands on to sell their story. There is no ounce of research done. There is not thought to why they would pitch their story to a given agent or editor. They just grab. Needless to say, because there isn’t that careful thought, writers will more than likely see a rejection later on.”
If you want to win in the game of getting an agent, do your research and you’ll find you’ll have much greater success.
One word of caution here: In the agent search, also be aware of getting too caught up in the “finding an agent” process that you stop writing. It’s best to look for an agent while continuing to write your next book. In a recent article on writer Nina Badzin’s blog entitled, “Are You Addicted to Finding a Literary Agent?” Nina writes, “…instead of working with the new characters and plot you’ve imagined—you’re researching agents again. You haven’t written anything new in six months. Rejection is demoralizing, but starting over is terrifying. You’re sending out query letters to every new agent on the scene. You’re out of control. My friend, you’re addicted to finding a literary agent. You need help.”
Publishers are like agents who become a business partner of yours for the life of your book. Before you jump into any business relationship, be smart and research each publisher you and, if you have one, your agent are approaching. Understand what imprints they have and why your book would be a good fit for them.
Don’t just leap at an offer. Be sure you’ve connected with the right agent and publisher for your book by doing your research to confirm it.
Research is a term that may seem overused in the book publishing industry, but it’s true in this case that you can never do enough of it. On the flip side, be aware of analysis paralysis when researching, as there is a point where you’ll need to stop researching and start writing or submitting to an agent or publisher.
In order to use your book as your hook more effectively, do your research to identify and connect with the right readers, the right agents, editors and industry professionals, and most of all with your great story and hook.
In the end, the time you invest in your research will pay off ten fold and more in appreciation of your efforts by others.
Jennifer’s show can be heard every week on Tuesday mornings at 9am when it is broadcast on WomensRadio.com and syndicated on Google News and Live365.com. Each show is archived for replay listeners in different time zones and countries.
For more information on this Education Corner topic and others, please refer to www.YourBookIsYourHook.com/blog for more articles and resources to help you with your books.