Category: publishing

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Kindle Direct Publishing, a NaNoWriMo 2019 sponsor, is a free self-publishing platform that can help you reach millions of readers. Today, author Julian Simmons shares how he found his writing community through NaNoWriMo:

This NaNoWriMo, participants are busy with the exciting challenge of bringing their stories to life. The time has come to seduce our stories onto the page with the dream of reaching people all over the world. But as some of us know from experience, our narratives can be shy, and therefore we have to start small and simple to get them ready for literary splendor. 

I went into my first NaNoWriMo with no outline, no storyboards, and no expectations. All I had was a simple plot and the drive to devote 50,000 words to my book. The zero prep work allowed me to focus on taking the words from my head and putting them on paper. I never looked at NaNoWriMo as something that would give me a completed novel, ready for publication at the end. For me, this competition was only about writing 50,000 words as the foundation of my story. That was it. What I didn’t expect was the level of support I received from the many different writing communities I found by just joining my home region.

Our network of writing communities met for write-ins, used online platforms to play games to increase our word count, shared writing prompts, and challenged our NaNoWriMo buddies’ word count to keep us motivated. I even joined a group of Wrimos at work and we scheduled short breaks to write together. All of these activities had one focus: getting as many words out as possible. And it worked! I finished the challenge with over 50,000 words and went on to write an additional 30,000 words in the months following NaNoWriMo. What worked best for me was to avoid making the writing process feel like a project with spreadsheets full of story timelines and character outlines. This would make the process feel like a never-ending homework assignment, and I would never finish. Some writers prefer to plan and organize their NaNoWriMo journey, and ultimately you have to do what works best for you.

“What I love most about NaNoWriMo and KDP is that they provide a path for writers to create, nurture, and share their stories with the world, lending a voice to those who may never have had the opportunity.”

The community and support that I experienced continued after NaNoWriMo. My home region stayed active on social media. Through my network of friends I made during the writing challenge, I was able to connect with an amazing editor that fit the needs of my manuscript and even found multiple graphic designers to help me with cover and interior design. When I was ready to publish, I used Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The KDP community forums are heavily driven by authors sharing tips and tricks for publishing and gave me a true sense of authors looking out for each other.

What I love most about NaNoWriMo and KDP is that they provide a path for writers to create, nurture, and share their stories with the world, lending a voice to those who may never have had the opportunity. I’d watched many of my friends publish their books over the years, but finally being one of those authors by submitting my final manuscript for publication was an incredible experience. 

To find out more about the KDP community, visit the KDP Community page.

Julian Simmons is an award-winning author of the middle-grade novel The Writer’s Table and works at Amazon KDP in the books division. You can find him at and through social media @writerjsimmons

Top photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.


Maybe you’re at a point in your writing where you have an actual manuscript sitting on your desk. Congratulations! Now, how do you take that looming stack of finely turned phrases and well-placed plot points and convert them into a bound book? Today, author and NaNoWriMo participant Nikki Hyson delivers a step by step guide to support you on the journey to publication:

For the record, those two words still leave me in a state of dazed awe: Published Book. As a lover of words from a very early age, seeing my name on the cover of a book… just wow…

But you didn’t come here for the wow. I’m betting you came here for the facts. How did I turn a squalling, unwieldy, fledgling NaNo novel into something bright, shining, and ready to walk the stage with diploma in hand?

In November of 2012 I finished my third NaNo Novel. Like the first two, I loved every minute of it. The world building, the character developing, and the plot twists that came out of nowhere. In true pantser fashion, I even gave myself a cliffhanger ending that not even I saw coming. But that’s where it ended. It went on a shelf and I moved on. It’s what I did with all my stories (I have boxes of journals to prove it). Except, this novel, these characters, wouldn’t stay on the shelf. There was a quite decided “what if” hanging over it like a golden cloud.

I heard about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, so I spent all of 2013 second drafting, asking a few friends to beta read, and polishing it with the help of a story coach. In the meantime, I wrote the sequel during NaNo 2013. Well, I didn’t make it out of Round One of the Amazon Contest. Still, two novels deep in the series, I started thinking about traditional publishing.

Over the next four years, I redrafted it twice with EJ Runyon of  and wrote at least a dozen different query letters to over forty agents. Radio silence. Hmm. Give up? I nearly did. For a year, I stopped sending it out even though I’d written two more NaNo novels, rounding out the story arc and tying up the loose ends. 

That’s when I finally heard the question that’d been nudging for a while. “Why not publish it yourself?”

There’s an easy answer to that. It’s terrifying! Having the final say on every word can be extremely liberating to most, but it also had me shaking in my boots. What if I mess this up? Of course, I was watching Batman Begins for the eleventh time. Why do we fall? To learn how to pick ourselves up.

All right then. Time to learn. I spent nine months learning everything I could about self-publishing, marketing, what to outsource (cover design!), and where I could cut corners (not buying ISBN and using whatever KDP gives you—for now, anyway). It was a crash course (thank you Chris Fox, Writing Gals, and 20BooksTo50k), but I learned enough to move forward—to plot a course.

On March 16th, 2019 I hit publish on my first fantasy novel, Second Door to the Right. On May 8th I published the sequel, The Forsaken Corridor. Currently, I’m second drafting the third novel out of my messy NaNo 2014 first draft. I hope to have it out the end of July. I still set aside time every week to keep learning, watching podcasts, and scrolling group feeds on Facebook. There’s always something to learn, some new direction to grow, and the words… they won’t mine themselves either. So, like Dory, just keep swimming. Just keep writing. Have faith. Keep your joy. Hope to see you on the shelf beside me.

After spending her teens hopscotching around the country, Nikki settled in Alaska and found it suited her. When she isn’t weaving spells with her words, she can be found snuggling with one of her senior-aged Labradors, walking in the woods, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book. She believes chocolate was invented by wizards, a good cup of Matcha can cure anything, and every maiden is just waiting to rescue the fair prince in distress. If only he’d stop to ask for directions. Visit Nikki on Facebook, Pinterest, or check out her books.

Top photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash.


Maybe you’re at a point in your writing where you have an actual manuscript sitting on your desk. Congratulations! Now, how do you take that looming stack of finely turned phrases and well-placed plot points and convert them into a bound book? Today, NaNoWriMo participant Kyesubire delivers a step by step guide to support you on the journey to self-publication:

Self-publishing is the production of media (including books) by an author without the involvement of an established publisher. It is a growing alternative traditional book publishing, where a publisher buys the right to your books, sells them through bookshops, and pays the author royalties on sales they make. Over the years, the royalties have been in decline in some markets, creating the perfect conditions for self-publishing. 

Even through it’s gaining popularity, there are key elements that need to be in place to ensure the book is well done so that it will capture the interest of the readers and create impact and income for the author. Five key elements need to be in place for a well done book:

1. Be accountable.

Once the author decides to write a book, it is important to ensure it is written well. The work needs to be finished within a set time-frame, and adhere to a high standard. So, the author must focus to ensure that targets are set, communicated, and all effort is put towards making this happen. This can be achieved by committing to an accountability process with fellow writers and readers.

2. Have a good editorial team.

Self-publishing removes the usual support structure of editors, managers and staff associated with a publisher. It is important for the author to build a team who will read, assess critique and ensure it is well done. Your team will also help keep you accountable to the tasks and timelines of writing, reading, editing, and approval before the submission to print.

3. Have a good designer.

Despite what you may hear, a book is always judged by its cover—particularly, the front cover, layout, and back cover design. An interesting book with a bad cover won’t sell well, plain and simple. The author needs to be deliberate about design quality as it affects the quality of printing and readership. A good designer will bring out the main precepts of the book; add artistic value; and follow rules on size, layout and image clarity and appearance before print.

4. “Print On Demand” 

Conventional printing is quite expensive. There is often a need to print in larger quantities, but storing these large quantities—as well keeping stores’ shelved consistently stocked—can quickly become costly.  “Print On Demand” is a reasonably new print method that allows an author to print as few as two books at a time, with the option to steadily increase the numbers while keeping costs in check. This will ensure better resource management and allocation, no matter how limited the publishing budget may be. 

5. Have a marketing plan.

It is harder to market books as an individual because one cannot be in two places at once. It is important to develop partnerships with authors of complimentary books, and to book speaking engagements that will make room for sales. Combined with efficient use of social media to create awareness of the book and its availability, together these strategies produce a robust marketing plan.

My mother has always said that your book sales are as good as your ability to sell and showcase value. We have found that to be true in the sales of her books in Kenya. A self-published author is only as good as their ability to sell and entice satisfied readers to promote the books for them. Self-publishing may not be ideal for all markets, but if you are in a location that thrives on it, then take the idea and run with it.


Kyesubire is a visual scribe and storyteller using words and images to connect all aspects of life. She powers from faith to food to health to nature to fiction in ways that encourage viewers and readers to find joy and balance in life through its connectivity. She is telling HIStory of faith, hope, love and family. 

Top photo by Host Sorter on Unsplash.


Are you finding yourself caught up in transition time between being a hopeful writer and a published author? Today, author and NaNoWriMo participant Katya de Becerra offers insight on what it’s like to put your novel through the publishing process:

So you’re finally done with your manuscript… What’s next?

Finally finishing your manuscript could be daunting. Is the book good enough? What to do next? All authors, emerging and established, are faced with these questions.

When I finished writing what became my debut, What The Woods Keep, I only had a vague idea about what I should be doing next. I’ve heard about critique partners, but I’ve never had one. My creative process is individualistic, and I require total isolation to think and write, so it was unnerving to reach out to friends and ask them to be my first readers. 

I’m glad I did! Receiving insightful comments aside, friends reading my work (and loving it) gave me an enormous confidence boost that propelled me toward the next step: finding an agent.  

1. The Query

Querying agents can be soul-crushing. Curating agent lists as well as carefully researching each agent I approached, meant that each query I’ve sent out was tailored and targeted. It also meant it’s taken me a long time to prepare and email each query. I could only do 2-3 a day, and 10 was the most queries I’d have out at any given time. Though time-consuming, this process worked for me, allowing me to receive feedback from each “batch” of agents before I’d approach new ones. Being rejected based on query alone meant the pitch needed revising while rejections based on pages indicated there could be something to tweak in the manuscript itself. Though, in the end, it’s important to keep in mind that the subjective element is strong in publishing. “You only need one yes” sounds like a cliché but it’s true. In the end, all it took was one agent’s interest and, before I knew it, I had representation for my weird, genre-bending book.       

2. Submission

Depending on how editorial an agent is, a manuscript could go through one or many rounds of revision before it’s deemed ready for publishers. 

The only advice here is to trust your agent. They chose to represent you – this means they believe in you and your work. Even if you don’t hear from them with regular updates, agents are working tirelessly, hyping your work. I had to wait for about eight months before I had an offer for my first book! But it was absolutely worth the wait. My publisher and editor are perfect for me and the types of books I write and want to keep writing.

3. The Waiting Game

Here’s where the real nail-biter starts: the waiting! Some books sell quickly. Some take months—or more—to find its home. Being “on sub” is a surreal time of being stuck in limbo and trying to go about your regular life while nervously checking your inbox or staring wistfully at your phone.

My second book, Oasis (forthcoming in January 2020) was a NaNoWriMo novel! I’d written it while I was on submission with my first book, and it sold alongside my debut. At the time of writing Oasis, I wasn’t sure what was to become of it and was seriously considering self-publishing it during those 8 agonizing months that I was waiting for my debut to sell.

While my pathway to publication is rather traditional, it’s not the only way to be published. Indie publishing has grown and evolved so much over the years. It allows creators to take full control of their books and become their own publisher. So many traditionally published authors these days become “hybrids” combining different modes of publication. There’s no right or wrong way, but rather a way that’s right for you and allows you to achieve what you set out to achieve.  


Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology and now works as a university lecturer and a researcher. Her genre-bending debut What The Woods Keep was published in 2018 and her second novel Oasis is forthcoming in January 2020. 

Top photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash.

Maybe you’re at a point in your writing where you have an actual manuscript sitting on your desk. Congratulations! Now, how do you take that looming stack of finely turned phrases and well-placed plot points and convert them into a bound book? Today, NaNoWriMo participant Kayla Stansbury delivers a step by step guide to support you on the journey to publication: 

You’ve written the thing.

You love it. You hate it. You’re ready to publish it.

The starting point for your publishing journey depends on your work and your goals for your writing. There are a few common steps regardless of whether you are publishing a children’s nonfiction book on plant emotions or a high fantasy epic poem.

1. The Market

First, you should determine the market for your work. Start with readership: children, middle grades, young adult, or adult. The age of your protagonist doesn’t necessarily dictate the readership age, but keep in mind that most publishers expect to see a young protagonist in children and middle grades fiction and a teenage protagonist in young adult fiction. Consider the content of your work. Are the themes of your novel, poem, or short story relevant to the concerns of your readership age? Once you have an audience, start researching the publishers who target that market.

Sign up for information through Publishers Weekly, or if you have the $25 a month to spare, create an account with Publishers Marketplace. Pro tip? Go to your bookshelf or your local bookstore and find novels, short stories, or poems that are similar to yours. Who is the publisher? As you track publishers, you’ll notice which ones might be a good fit for your story and the audience you want to reach.

Now that you have a readership age, comparative titles, and publishers in mind, it’s time to talk about representation.

2. The Agent

You do not always need a literary agent. Some editors will accept unsolicited work—novels that aren’t represented by an agency. On your preferred publishers’ website, there will be a “Contact Us” or “Submissions” page that explains whether or not they will accept unsolicited manuscripts. You may decide that going directly to an editor is a better fit for you, but most larger, well-known publishing companies will only work with literary agents.

A literary agent markets your book to editors and publishers, and represents you and your work to the industry.

You can find an agent through a writer’s conference or a workshop, or you can query them directly. It can be overwhelming to know where to start looking for an agent, but you should start your search with the books themselves.

In the back of every one of those books you used in your publisher search is a section titled, “Acknowledgments”. This is a gold mine for information about agents. The author will typically thank their agent and editors by name. Start collecting these names and you may notice a pattern! Authors whose work you admire or whose books are in the same readership and genre as yours may be working with the same agency. As you research the agents and agencies, keep track of what types of books they represent, and what is on their genre wishlist. Once you’ve found an agent you’re interested in, and who would be interested in you, it’s time to write the query letter.

3. The Query Letter

The query letter does three things: it introduces you to the agent you want to work with, it summarizes the story you wish to publish, and it explains why you and your writing would be a good fit for that particular agent. 

Depending on who you are querying, there may be other requirements for your submission. You should be prepared to provide a detailed summary and the first three chapters of your story, although some agencies may ask for more or less depending on their preference. For examples, see Jane Friedman’s excellent overview, “The Complete Guide to Query Letters.”

4. Some Final Thoughts

If you’ve been around the NaNoWriMo block, you know you must exercise that writing muscle. Friends, it is the same with publishing. You wouldn’t expect your first draft to be the best thing you’ve ever written, so why would you expect your first query letter to be perfect? Practice submitting to smaller magazines, local newspapers, or online journals. Pitch your story to friends and family members or that guy on the bus. Practice, practice, practice.

Kayla Stansbury is an educator and writer based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Raised in Porto Velho, Brazil, she is fluent in Portuguese and has a perfectly healthy obsession with the Amazon rainforest. She is a P.h.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at Louisiana State University, and spends her time studying the how-to manuals and science textbooks of ancient civilizations. Kayla is a first time Camp NaNoWriMo Winner as of April 2019, and she claims this is her greatest achievement to date. Her debut poem, “Saudade”, appeared in Issue #1 of Dovecote Magazine in May 2019.

Top photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash.

Are you finding yourself caught up in transition time between being a hopeful writer and a published author? Today, author and NaNoWriMo participant M.A Hinkle offers 3 simple tips for those lucky writers on the brink of publication:

I’ve always prided myself on my ability to detach my feelings from the work of writing. Kind of a weird flex, I know, but it’s helped me accept comments and manage my expectations from my first experience swapping manuscripts in high school to my first rejections in college.

Then, two years ago, I found out my debut novel had been picked up. I was too overwhelmed with happiness to form words, so I texted my friends and significant other a picture of the acceptance email. As I signed the contract and got concrete details like my release date and the editing schedule, other feelings started to set in, ones I wasn’t so prepared for.

Mostly, I found myself wondering how the heck I was supposed to manage most of a year waiting for my book to actually come out. I had all the time in the world and no time at all. It felt like every other author I knew didn’t have any complicated feelings, so why did I?

That was nonsense, of course. Everyone struggles with complex emotions when they finally have the finish line of a big goal in sight. If you find yourself in the same boat, here are my tips to help you manage the time between contract and publication:  

1. Get away from writing as much as possible.

I know, every voice in your head is telling you the opposite. But writing isn’t simply putting your butt in the chair and typing, even if that’s the part we get paid for. It’s also people-watching. Playing games. Eating good food. Spending time with people who love you and who can tell you Twitter doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things. These are all grist for the mill, making sure you have something to draw on when you do sit down.

2. Actually talk to other authors. 

I promise you. It does not matter how cool the other author seems on social media (especially Instagram; Instagram is the devil’s playground). Every author is running around constantly quieting the same demons, trying their hardest to put forth a brave face. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re struggling. Odds are, they need just as much reassurance, and you’ll be able to help each other through it. And you’ll probably come out the other side with a new friend who understands what you’ve been through. That never hurts.

3. Find your hype person. 

Before writing my third book, I did not show WIPs to anyone. But my third book was such a slog. I needed to remember why I loved it enough to persist, and for once, I couldn’t give that to myself. So I roped in my significant other. I told him upfront that I was not looking for criticism; I wanted him to tell me if he liked it. And he loved it. Talking with him reminded me why I’d started the book in the first place and gave me the encouragement I required to write the last stretch. I think every author needs this. We’re needy people, and taking critique requires so much emotional management. Having at least one person who will love your work without question is an essential part of the process. 

M.A. Hinkle is the author of Death of a Bachelor and Diamond Heart, both from Ninestar Press. Her third book, Weight of Living, is due out spring 2020.

You can find more of her work at

Top photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.

If you’re looking to publish your novel, the options can feel overwhelming. From the Big 5 to self-publishing, where to start? Today, author Victoria Sheridan is here to share some experiences with small press publishing, which is somewhere in the middle:

Your novel is written, edited, polished, and ready for publishing. But how to go about that crucial last step? Some authors choose to go traditional by querying agents and hopefully signing with a major publishing house with lots of marketing opportunities, while others choose to self publish, preferring to have personal control of every step of the process. There is, however, a middle ground: small presses.

Small presses are what they sound like—a publisher that offers all or almost all of what a traditional publisher offers, including editing, cover design, and marketing, but on a much smaller scale. This can make them much more nimble and willing to take chances, and oftentimes they interact directly with the author, no agent needed. Many small presses have a specific special interest, which is great news for people who write genre fiction.

I chose a small press almost accidentally. I had a new manuscript, but no real idea what to do with it. It was very niche—a historical mystery with LGTBQ characters—which would be an unusual choice for a traditional publisher. But I didn’t want to self-publish—I simply did not have the background or the time to teach myself all the complex aspects. However, I knew about small presses, particularly small presses that focused on queer characters like NineStar Press and Harmony Ink. So I posted in PitMad (a Twitter pitch event) and waited.

To my delight, both a large press and a small press made inquiries, so I sent over manuscripts. The small press got back to me within three weeks with a personal email from the person to become my editor, followed shortly by congratulations and next steps from the director herself.

“My personal favorite thing about working with a small press is the community with fellow authors.”

It’s the personal and close moments like that that make working with a small press so delightful. Everyone is passionate about books, especially their books—they only put out a few, so they treat every book as lovingly as its author. Someone is there to edit with you, sort through the legal bits, and start you on your marketing journey. Have a question about your process or your rights? The answer is just an email away. Not thrilled with the cover design? They’ll work with you until everyone is happy. But my personal favorite thing about working with a small press is the community with fellow authors. Writers, in case you didn’t notice by now, flock together, and with a small press there are enough that we can all support one another, but not so many that it feels overwhelming.

Small presses might not be for everyone, but they can be a great place to find the support you need, both for morale and the publishing process itself. They’re in your corner helping you make your book the best it can be with all the care of a friend. And they’re as excited as you are to make your publishing dream a reality.

Victoria is a terribly boring office worker from New Jersey. She studied archaeology, anthropology, history, architecture, and public policy, but none of those panned out, so she decided to go back to an early lovewriting. She proudly publishes under Thea McAlistair with NineStar Press, a small press dedicated to LGTBQ+ works. The first draft of her debut novel No Good Men was a product of NaNoWriMo 2014 and comes out in May 2019.

Top photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash.

During the second month of our “Now What?” Months, we’re focusing more on publishing in all its myriad forms. Today, graphic designer Charlene Maguire shares some pro tips on how to choose a cover that really pops for your novel:

“Why is a book cover design so important?” you might ask. Well, we all judge a book by its cover. A book cover has a visual language all its own through the use of typography, imagery, color, and emotional impact.

Your book is a little package of experiences, put together for your reader to enjoy. This package needs a sign outside to tell people what is potentially inside for them… a mystery to solve? A romance to swoon over? A drama, biography, or travel adventure? A fantastic cover speaks to the fans of a genre and tells them something about what they’re going to get.

Your cover is your book’s first impression to your potential reader. In today’s crowded marketplace of limited attention spans, a person will decide if they are interested in your book in a matter of seconds.

1. Do your homework. 

You have to do some research. This is the key to understanding both what you might want for your cover as well as what appeals to readers. Go browse in a bookstore and scroll online. Choose some covers that inspire you.

Pro Tip: When browsing online, a cover has to be impactful both when you’re looking at it full size and as a small thumbnail. Online retailers will usually display your cover at varying image sizes, so know that it has to be clear and readable at different pixel resolutions.

2. Typefaces have personalities. 

Choosing typefaces is an art all its own. Pay attention to those covers that inspired you from browsing bookstores. What kind of feeling do you get from looking at the typefaces used for the title and author?

Pro Tip: Whatever is decided on for typefaces, it needs to be readable!

3. Color is important.

The dominant colors in a cover can influence mood and play a large role in creating the contrast necessary to draw attention to your book. For a thriller/crime novel, Dark colors like black/navy blue give a sense of suspense and seriousness. For a heartfelt memoir, pale or pastel colors will convey a softer, more delicate feel. Is there a strong hero in your story? Bright contrasting colors will create a powerful stance.

Pro Tip: Complementary colors are those found opposite one another on the color wheel, and create a strong energy when used together. Analogous colors are those found next to one another on the color wheel, and give a more harmonic feeling when used together.

4. Emotional impact.

We’ve talked about typefaces and color. When using imagery (photography or illustration) for a cover, you want it to speak simply and clearly. An image is a big part of your visual story.

Pro Tip: Characters, objects, and scenes in the book do not need to look *exactly* as they are described for a cover. Sometimes that can work, but most of the time a hint of something close that draws your eye in is best.

5. Your cover is not about you.

Your cover is for your readers. What is the driving message of your book? what do you want people to know that will pique their interest? Put yourself in your readers shoes. Start the visual story there.

Pro Tip: When choosing to work with a designer for your cover, all points mentioned here reflect questions that will be asked by a designer. Send us what your story is about, examples of covers, and other preferences and specifications. From there a designer will use their creative expertise to give your book the best cover possible.


Charlene Maguire is an award winning artist, designer, and author. When she’s not creating stunning graphics for others with her 20+ years experience in the business, she’s working on her own product creations. Her oracle card deck “The Language of Heart Alchemy” was self-published in 2016, and she is currently constructing two other card decks. The writing bug has bit her hard as well, and a first novel is being written as we speak. Find her online at

Top photo licensed under Creative Commons from David Marriott, Jr. on Flickr.

So you have your NaNo novel in hand, and you feel ready to publish. But before your book makes it to shelves, it has to change hands—from writer to agent to editor and publisher! Today, author and entrepreneur Jane Friedman shares her advice on how to track down the agent that’s best for your book:

If you want to be published by one of the big New York houses—such as Harpercollins or Penguin Random House—then you’ll quickly discover that they don’t accept material directly from writers. Instead, you have to find an agent to submit on your behalf.

Fortunately, finding an agent is more about doing research and pitching appropriately and not about having an inside connection. You need to answer three questions as you search: 

  1. Is this agent actively considering new work? 
  2. Do I think this agent is a good fit for my work? 
  3. What materials does the agent require for my work to be considered?

I recommend you take a methodical approach to the research and submissions process to ensure that you give your work the best possible chance. Here’s the big-picture overview:

  • Begin with online databases or print market guides that list hundreds of agents. Develop a broad hit list that includes every potential agency you might approach.
  • Next, dig deeper into each potential agent by doing online research. You’re looking for any information that might help you understand what submissions they want to see from writers.
  • Then start to categorize the agents according to fit: “my dream,” “good fit,” “maybe.”

You’ll be gathering lots of information, so use your favorite note-taking tool or software. I like Evernote. Other writers use Microsoft Excel. What’s important is that you log the information so that you can easily find it later. You can use this same document to track your submissions process.

Major Databases for Researching Agents

Some of the following resources are free. Others require you to pay a subscription fee. As you might expect, the fee-based services typically offer higher-quality information, and your research process would likely be incomplete without investing in one.

  • You can pay a monthly or annual fee to access its database, or look for the annual print edition at a library or bookstore.
  • I consider this the best place to research literary agents; many agents have member pages at this site with helpful submissions information. A paid subscription is required, $25/month.
  • Free site offering about a thousand agent listings and an excellent community for writers going through the query process.
  • The basic service is free.
  • A site that aggregates tweets from agents and editors about what they’re currently looking for. “MS” stands for “manuscript.”

Databases include information about what types of work are accepted; what submission materials to send and when; specific tips from the agents being listed; and more. Publishers Marketplace, though expensive, can be particularly insightful since it gives you access to book deals that have been made recently (as well as going back to 2000). For each book deal listed in its database, you’ll find the following information:

  • the author and title of the book, along with a one-sentence description
  • the agent who represented the book
  • the editor and publisher who bought the book

You can search the deals database based on your own book’s category or genre, and can narrow your search further by using keywords. While it’s far from a complete listing of publishing deals, Publishers Marketplace quickly gives you sharp insight into who’s buying what, and what agents are actively selling.

Once you’re armed with your list of agents or publishers, undertake a more in-depth investigation of each. 

First, visit their websites, where you’ll typically find the most up-to-date information, including whether they’re open for submissions. For literary agencies, read the descriptions of all member agents and determine which one is the best match. Some agents have active blogs or news and events pages, which can be useful to scan.

After studying the website, move on to social media. Twitter is popular in the publishing community, so you’ll likely find a presence there. Many agents use social media to have conversations with authors, potential authors, and other industry insiders. Studying these communications not only provides insights into the submissions process but helps you ascertain fit. Is this someone you want to do business with? Do you like their demeanor? What gets them enthusiastic?

Other Methods of Researching Agents and Publishers

One of the oldest recommended methods of finding an agent is to look in the acknowledgments section of a book you’ve read that’s similar to your own. Just about every author thanks both their agent and their editor.

Another tried-and-true method is to ask published friends—if you have any—for a referral to their agent. The danger is that your author friend might not believe your book is all that good! So it can be a delicate situation.

If you’re willing to work with a new and “hungry” agent, then keep a close eye on new market announcements. You can find them reported at Publishers Marketplace, which you can access if you’re a subscriber; Writer’s Digest’s Guide to Literary Agents blog, which posts about new agents; and online writing communities that have dedicated threads for such announcements. Also, every year, Writer’s Digest publishes a special agent issue in October, highlighting twenty or more agents who are seeking new clients.

Jane Friedman is a full-time entrepreneur and has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. She is the author of The Business of Being a Writerwhich received a starred review from Library Journal and is considered an essential reference for writers. Learn more at

Top photo by iam Se7en on Unsplash.


You wrote your 50,000 words (or got pretty close!). You’re a winner. You felt the high. Now what are you going to do with your precious manuscript? That’s where we, The Book Doctors, come in.

For those of you not familiar with Pitchapalooza, here’s the skinny: You get 250 words to pitch your book. Twenty pitches will be randomly selected from all submissions. We will then critique the pitches during a live webinar on March 16, 2019 at 12PM PST, so you get to see what makes a great pitch. At the end of the webinar, we will choose one winner from the group.

The winner will receive an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their manuscript.

Beginning February 1, 2019, you can email your pitch to PLEASE DO NOT ATTACH YOUR PITCH, JUST EMBED IT IN THE EMAIL. Include your title and your name at the top of your pitch. All pitches must be received by 11:59PM PST on February 28, 2019.

We will also crown a fan favorite who will receive a free one-hour consult with us (worth $250). On March 17, 2019, the 20 random pitches will be posted on our website, Anyone can vote for a fan favorite, so get your social media engine running as soon as the pitches go up! Connecting with your future readers is a vital part of being a successfully published author today. And this is a great way to get some practice. Voting closes at 11:59PM PST on April 1, 2019. The fan favorite will be announced on April 2, 2019.

If you purchase a copy of our book, The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published, by April 2, 2019, we’re offering an exclusive one-hour webinar where you’ll get the chance to pitch your book. Just attach a copy of your sales receipt to your email and we’ll send the link to the webinar dates.

It’s been a great year for past NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza winners: 

Gloria Chao’s novel, American Panda (Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster) released to multiple starred reviews. Read Gloria’s winning pitch.

Cari Noga’s novel, The Orphan Daughter (Lake Union Publishing) published in May. Read Cari’s winning pitch.

And May Cobb’s novel, Big Woods (Midnight Ink) came out in July. Read May’s winning pitch.

Are you feeling a little unsure about exactly how to craft your pitch? Here are 10 Tips for pitching your novel:

  1. A great pitch is like a poem.  Every word counts.
  2. Make us fall in love with your hero.  Whether you’re writing a novel or memoir, you have to make us root for your flawed but lovable hero.
  3. Make us hate your villain.  Show us someone unique and dastardly whom we can’t wait to hiss at.
  4. Just because your kids love to hear your story at bedtime doesn’t mean you’re automatically qualified to get a publishing deal. So make sure not to include this information in your pitch.
  5. If you have any particular expertise that relates to your novel, tell us. Establishing your credentials will help us trust you.
  6. Your pitch is your audition to show us what a brilliant writer you are, so it has to be the very best of your writing.
  7. Don’t make your pitch a book report.  Make it sing and soar and amaze.
  8. A pitch is like a movie trailer.  You start with an incredibly exciting/funny/sexy/romantic/etc. close-up with intense specificity, then you pull back to show the big picture and tell us the themes and broad strokes that build to a climax.
  9. Leave us with a cliffhanger.  The ideal reaction to a pitch is, “Oh my God, what happens next?”
  10. Show us what’s unique, exciting, valuable, awesome, unexpected, about your project, and why it’s comfortable, familiar and proven.

Learn more about Pitchapalooza.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry have appeared everywhere from NPR’s Morning Edition to The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal to USA Today. They have taught everywhere from Stanford University to the Miami Book Festival to the granddaddy of American bookstores, Strand Books in New York City.

Their book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, is the go-to book on the subject, and contains all the information you’ll ever need, taking you through the entire process of conceiving, writing, selling, marketing and promoting your book.