How Long Should I Try to Get and Agent before Deciding to Self-Publish?


It can take quite a while to find an agent, which is usually the first step if you’re seeking traditional publishing. But how long do you go at it before giving up?

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, you might send your query to dozens of agents before finding a match. Only you can decide when it might be time to move on — either write a different book and start querying that one, or possibly go ahead and self-publish. There’s no standard length of time to keep querying before changing course.

You’ll definitely want to get some objective feedback on your work somewhere along the way, which will help you make your decision. Please DON’T rope in friends or family members for this, not even your favorite English teacher. They’re unlikely to give you the kind of feedback you need.

The best feedback comes from others in the trenches with you — other writers who understand the publishing process — and professional freelance editors or coaches who do this for a living. Before deciding to self-publish, ask yourself: Do I need to take more time nurturing my craft? Do I need to work harder to make this a sellable idea? If yes, then step back and do those things.

But sometimes, all indications are that your writing is strong and your topic is compelling. Maybe it’s just not on-trend for publishers at the moment, or lightning simply hasn’t struck. If you’re confident in your work and want to put the time and energy into self-publishing, go for it. Meanwhile, you can write another book, and eventually you can try to find an agent with that one if you still want to. Your writing will always be improving, so it’s all good!

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!