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How to Get (Traditionally) Published

Welcome to 2019, everybody!

I know a lot of people want this to be the year they finally get published. That’s a great goal! I get a lot of questions about how to do that. I can only speak about traditional publishing because that’s the avenue I’ve chosen, but if that’s of interest, buckle up!

First, I have some bad news. Likely, you’re not going to get published this year. Or the next. Sorry.

Publishing in general, but traditional publishing in particular, is famous for being sloooooow. A book that gets bought by a publishing house now won’t see the light of day for two years. (TWO. YEARS!) But, if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re not even at that step yet.

Job one: Write an amazing book.

People's faces when they read your book.

This is the absolute key. Your book has to kick ass. (Which it does. Obviously.) This means it’s gone through a lot of revisions, hopefully with the help of critique partners and beta readers. (Hey! The OWC can help you with that.) You want this book to be the absolute best thing you’ve ever written.

Next: Query literary agents.

What you do every time you press "send".

If you want to get into any of the big publishing houses, you need a literary agent. (If you want to indie publish, you do this but for publishing houses!) This is a lot of work. There are a lot of resources out there. Google is really your friend here. (The OWC runs occasional query critique circles and how-to query workshops. Keep your eyes open for upcoming ones!)

Basically, a query letter is your introduction to the agent, who you will have carefully researched to ensure they represent and are excited about the type of book you’re sending them. (Right?) This is a 250-300 word description of your book. It’s very specific. (Seriously. Read the guidelines. Or come to my workshop!) Then, you send along the requested pages. It could be five, ten, fifty. Just send whatever you’re asked for. (And, yes, the pages have to be from the beginning.)

(Oh, and hey, if you need help with any of that, I offer editing services for submission packages!)

Next: Be prepared for a lot of rejection.

It’s nearly impossible not to, but don’t take it personally. Agents get thousands of queries a year. (This is just July for one agency.) They can’t say yes to everything. That’s why this is a numbers game, and it only takes one “yes”.

There’s way more to it than this, but this is not the blog post for all that detail. (Seriously, just come to my workshop. I teach you everything you need! Join my mailing list to make sure you hear when I announce the next one.)

Next: Revise, revise, and revise some more.

Nowadays, most agents are editorial. That means they’re going to give you notes on your manuscript before they submit it to publishing house editors.

Next: Go on submission.

This is where it’s completely out of your hands. Your agent basically goes and queries your book to publishing house editors the same way you queried them for representation. Best advice for this phase? Write your next book. (But not the sequel. That’s another story.)

Next: Profit?

Hopefully an editor buys your book. What happens here is a whole other blog post. However, we all know we shouldn’t go into this business to make money. Even a big advance is subject to agent commission and is split up over multiple payments (and, therefore, sometimes years). However, with some more revising with the editor (I KNOW) your book is only two short years from publication. Good luck!

Have any questions about the process? Leave them in comments!


Do you have a question you’d like answered? Shoot me an email!

In addition to running the OWC, I am a freelance editor and writing coach. Check out my website if you're interested in learning more!

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