How do I get published?

Dear Writer Guy,

I have written a science fiction novel, and I live in India. I am a newbie and I have no idea about this publishing business. However, I do know that I do not want to go with the self-publishing route. I have worked really hard on my book, and I am writing this since 2016. I have also been a subscriber to your newsletter since 2011. How to approach publishing a book? Can you help with some tips? Anything would help.


Dear Siddharth,

The publishing business is a complex one, but I’d be happy to give you a few pointers. (Bear in mind that these are based on the American publishing business. I know nothing about publishing in India.) It takes patience and persistence to get your story published, but if you’ve been working on your book for five years, you probably have those qualities.

Basically, there are two paths to pursue for getting your work in front of someone who can buy it: submitting your story to agents who can represent you or submitting it directly to publishers. Sorry to say, both paths are equally challenging.

In the U.S., Writers Digest Books publishes a book called Writers Market and updates it every year. This lists publishers, tells what they publish, and details how to submit stories to them. Some publishers you can approach directly, but others are closed to unsolicited manuscripts. That’s where agents come in. Agents can submit to all publishers, plus they have many contacts in the publishing industry and know which editor is looking for what.

Before I got an agent, I used to submit stories to agents and publishers both. A good rule of thumb is to send out about 5-7 query letters at once, as everyone takes months to respond. Writers Market will tell you whether the publisher wants just a query letter or query plus manuscript, and whether to submit online or to physically mail something.

Here’s a resource for finding reputable agents: the Association of Authors’ Representatives (http://aaronline.org). There may be a similar group in the UK or India; I don’t know.

If you’ve gotten good feedback from beta readers on your manuscript and feel it’s ready, do your research and look for sci-fi publishers who might appreciate your kind of story. Then submit your story to them and see what they say. It may take a while, and that’s where patience comes in. I always try to get another story going while one is out for submission, so I don’t lose my writing momentum.

Happy writing,
Writer Guy

2 thoughts on “How do I get published?

  1. Diana Patton says:

    Great suggestions, Bruce. But I’d like to add, that if Siddharth feels his sci-fi book would be appropriate for young adults as well, or if he ever wrote something for children, he might want to check on SCBWI.org, the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (as you well know, Bruce, for I met you briefly at one of their NYC conferences many years ago). They publish The Book which is a wonderful source of information, not just for publishing for children, but actually, writing and publishing in general.

    1. Bruce Hale says:

      Good point, Diana. I usually recommend SCBWI, but since he didn’t say he was writing for kids, I neglected to mention it. Good catch!

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