The Path to Publishing

A couple of weeks ago, I invited writers to ask a few questions. Here is one: “Thanks for this chance. My biggest question is related to publishing. I know it is fraught with difficulty. I was thinking that perhaps a flow chart could be devised for a typical path to getting published? (Of course, that assumes that a typical path exists.)”

Okay, here is how you get a book published, and get it done right:

– Write the book.This might require a lot of work on your part—brainstorming a novel, drawing up the first draft, and revising it. Depending upon your natural skills and training you might need to study dozens of books on the topic, take workshops, and so on.

As you revise the book, you typically will give it out to “beta” readers, who will point out problems that you might want to fix.

You don’t go down the path toward publishing until you have your manuscript in excellent shape. Your goal is to make as much money as you can from that novel, and so you will want to make a good first impression with editors and agents. So you never send your novel out “half-baked.”

– If you are self-publishing, then you will simply format the book and upload it on places like, Barnes&, etc. Self-publishing is all that you need for romance novels and self-help books, but I don’t recommend it for people who are writing young adult, middle-grade, or thriller novels. With other genres, such as science fiction or horror, there is a lot of debate on whether you should self-publish or go with a big publisher. Self-publishing is a big topic just in itself, so there are a lot of online communities where authors talk about how to do it well. You can find groups on Facebook dedicated to the industry, where you can learn the ins and outs.

Before you go to a publisher, research your markets. That means that you go to the bookstore and look at the novels you are competing with. Study such things as the age and sex of the protagonist, the types of emotions that the book arouses, learn which books are bestsellers and why, and pay close attention to who the publishers and editors are for the books.

– Pick your desired publisher. Now, most authors ignore this step, thinking that the publisher will pick them, but do so at their own peril. You see, if you go to a small publisher who doesn’t have the funds to market your book correctly, you’ll probably find that the publisher really can’t do anything for you at all, and you’re giving your hard-earned book to someone you shouldn’t. So, go to and buy a subscription for one month. Once you’ve done that, go to the “Top Dealmakers” section and search for the best publishers in the business. There won’t be more than about eight. After that, the secondary publishers come into play. What you are looking for are publishers who know your genre, market books well, and who are cash-rich because they have a lot of books doing well. Those are the ones who can afford to treat you right and who have proven their worth in the marketplace.

– Once you know which publishers you want, do a new search on top editors. You’ll find out who the editors are who buy most frequently at the publishing house you want to use. When you know the editors’ names, you can do a search on the publisher’s website and on google to learn more about those editors and their tastes so that you can see if you might be a good fit with one of them.

– Next, while you’re doing your search for these top editors, you can see what books they have bought in recent years. Check to see who the agent is that they acquired the book from. This will give you a short list of the agents that you might want to have represent you. Please beware: There are a lot of people who call themselves agents who won’t be a good fit for you. Some of them are fake agents who try to scam authors, some are lame-duck agents who can’t make a big deal for you, and others are wannabes. You don’t want any of those. You only want real, working agents who can get your book where you want it!

– Now, if you are in a genre where you need an agent (thrillers/young adult/middle-grade), you will need to begin sending query packages out to your short list of agents. There are a lot of articles that you can find online for how to query an agent. Query letters work fine, but sometimes you can find agents at conventions, or you can contact them through a pitchfest. (Google “pitchfest” to learn more about them.)

– If you don’t need an agent, you can contact an editor directly. This is what you might want to do if you’re writing science fiction, fantasy, horror, or mystery. Simply look at the contact information on the website, make sure that it is okay to submit to the editor directly, and send your query package to the editors. You can often meet these editors at various conventions, such as the World Fantasy Convention, World Horror Convention, or the World Science Fiction Convention, and so on.

– If you do have an editor who wants to pick up your book, let the editor know that you would like to work with an agent and ask if he/she recommends someone. You can then contact the agent and ask them to negotiate the offer.

– Once you have a book offer negotiated, you can then prepare for the eventual release of your novel. There are dozens of things that you can do to prepare for it—such as setting up a web page, organizing publicity, and so on. But at this point, you simply repeat the process.

There are a lot of tiny things that go into this larger overall process of publishing, details that you should know, so do your research on publishing before you get too much further!


Writing Enchanting Prose Workshop

Due to popular demand, David has opened another session of Writing Enchanting Prose in Dallas. The previous workshop sold out very quickly. Catch this one now!

Dallas, Texas
Springhill Suites, Addison
15255 Quorum Dr, Addison, TX 75001-4639
+1 844-631-0595
March 5-9, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
10 Attendees Total

Provo, Utah
Provo Courtyard Marriott
March 19-23, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
10 Attendees Total

In this workshop we will work heavily on imbuing your prose with the richness and details that bring a story to life. The goal is to teach you how to fully transport readers as you take them on a journey that captivates their hearts and minds. David Farland will teach you how to totally transport you readers so that they become so immersed in your story, they forget where they are—they forget they are reading at all.

This workshop is similar to the Writing Mastery workshop, but will be more exercise-oriented, with in-class practices. Writing Enchanting Prose is more in-depth than any of David’s past prose workshops.

In this workshop, Dave would like to create an intimate environment where individual students will receive ample time for one-on-one interaction and critiques. Dave will be spending personal time with each student. Because of that, we will be strictly limiting the number of students allowed to attend to 10.

Learn more or register here.

The Eyes Have No Soul

My friend Matthew W. Harrill has a new book out. The Eyes Have No Soul came about as he was doing writing exercises for one of my Writing Mastery classes.

Forensic Analyst Clare Rosser has focused her career on becoming a detective, and solving the mystery of her parents’ murder.

When a series of grisly murders leaves bodies twisted and bereft of fluid in a mummy-like state, one fact becomes apparent: the monster that killed her parents ten years ago has returned.

Fighting the bureaucracy of her own police department, as well as her own prejudices and ailing body, Clare must take matters into her own hands before more suffer the same fate.

The clues are out there. The answers lie within her. But can she find them before it’s too late?

You can purchase the book here.

3 thoughts on “The Path to Publishing

    1. David Farland Post author

      In those genres–young adult, thrillers, and middle grade–the
      publishers almost always require that you have an agent before you can
      submit. So the rules change just a bit.

      I don’t recommend that you self-publish in those genres for one simple
      reason: the publishers put out their big books in hardcover, and each
      of those hardcovers act as an advertisement for the book. So if a
      reader wants to buy the book to read as an e-book, then they see the
      hardcover, scan in the bar-code, and then download the e-book.

      What this does is give the big publishers an advantage over
      self-published authors. It means that day and night, all around the
      world, a lot of sales are generated by the hardcovers in the
      bookstore. I’ve heard some managers complain that only one in three of
      their sales in a store actually come from people buying the book. In
      short, they have more people download the books than actually buy them.

      So let’s say that you put out a book, arrange for your friends to help
      publish, and so on. You get a big release for one day. But then the
      people buying books in the bookstore make their orders the next day,
      and guess what? Your book falls off of the bestseller list on Amazon
      within 24 hours.

      For this reason, you can’t compete with the big publishers. What is
      even worse, is that Amazon’s algorithms favor the big publishers.
      Let’s say that you put a book up at $2.99. You might get 400 sales in
      a day. You’d think that that would put you on the bestseller list.
      But if a big publisher has a book at $16.99, Amazon’s algorithms do
      this: They multiply the amount of the sale times the number of sales.
      Thus, one sale at $16.99 is worth more than five sales at $2.99. So
      that high-priced book only needs to sell 80 copies to beat your
      400–and thus they end up higher on the bestseller list anyway.

      Now, you can do some things to combat that. For example, you can sell
      a pile of books on Bookbub, and if you’ve got a series and the first
      in the series sells at a discount, people will order your other books.
      But guess what Amazon does? A friend of mine, Steven Saville,
      recently tried this and had some great sales on Bookbub–but Amazon
      accused him of “cooking the books” and unlisted his book for sale. So
      all of your promotional efforts can sometimes actually work against
      you, since Amazon will either knock you off the bestseller list or
      unpublish your book altogether. So a good ad campaign, blogging like
      mad, putting up Facebook ads, and things like that can end up draining
      your bank account and then end up bankrupting you as your books get
      taken down.

      Sigh, I didn’t want to get into such detail, but for these reasons, if
      you want to build a huge audience, I believe that you’re far better
      off to try to work through a major publisher.

      A lot of indie authors will want to argue with me, and that is their
      right. Going mainstream isn’t always the perfect choice. But in this
      case, nine times out of ten, it really is the best choice.

      Besides, you end up getting to spend more of your time writing as a
      mainstream author.

      1. Kevin Riley

        Thank you for going into so much detail. That’s the type of information I really need. There’s a lot of authors spreading the indie love, but I’ve yet to see great results.


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