Top 10 Questions I’m asked about publishing:

  1. How long should my book be? An adult novel is usually between 60-120,000 words. Children’s books are often shorter. The exception here is that science fiction and fantasy can often be much longer, but usually only for authors who have a proven track record. That means if it’s your first book, you should still probably keep it under 120,000 words. If it’s not 60,000 words long, it’s probably not a novel.
  2. Should I sell short stories first? Not if you’re a natural novel writer. Some people just naturally gravitate toward certain lengths. What’s easier for you to write? What do you naturally like to read? Move in that direction.
  3. How do I find agents to submit to? You can literally google Top 10 agents in Fantasy Publishing. You can also go to writersmarket.com to get lists.
  4. How do I write a query letter? A query letter is a business communication. It should be short, 3-4 paragraphs. It is an introduction to your book. Tell how long it is, what genre it is, why you’re contacting this specific agent. Then offer your hook, a sentence about what makes your character you unique, what the big plot arc is (and how it is resolved). Finally, tell a little about yourself (if it’s your first book and you have no other credentials, just say that).
  5. How many agents should I send to at once? I usually recommend about 10 agents at the same time. Then you’re not sending to everyone and you have a chance to tweak your query letter or manuscript if you get a lot of rejections, before you send out the next round.
  6. Can I just submit to editors without using an agent? The short answer to this is no. The long answer is: yes if it’s a small or indie press or if you’ve been to a conference where an editor has invited submissions (usually with a special code). But just as an aside, I would never sign a contract with anyone without having an agent look it over. Never.
  7. What if an agent wants to sign me? Immediately ask for a list of clients you can contact to ask questions about the agent, and a list of most recent sales.
  8. If my book has been rejected everywhere I can think of sending it, what should I do? Ideally, you should already have written another book and you should start sending it out?
  9. Should I keep writing in the same genre or try a new genre? If you’re unpublished, you can feel free to experiment, so write whatever you feel inspired to write. You’re going to learn new things either way.
  10. How long does it usually take to get published? I like to tell people it’s like an apprenticeship. It often takes 5-10 years of part-time work, maybe less if it’s full-time. There are no guarantees, however. And even once you have an agent, it can be several years before you have a book out. It’s also very common for your first book not to sell. If it has gotten you a good agent, however, that’s enough.
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