Getting published– even if you’re a “nobody.”

23 Mar

by Mandy Hubbard


There’s a big misconception in publishing that a writer has to “know somebody” or have substantial writing credits in order to get an agent, and thus, get published.

So here’s the truth– keep in mind I’m talking about fiction here– Non-Fiction has a lot to do with platform so things are different in that field.

MYTH: You need to spend months or years trying to amass writing credits.

TRUTH: Most agents gloss right over that stuff. Just because you wrote an article for a magazine doesn’t mean you can write a whole book. Sure, they can be nice. Go ahead and freelance if you like it or want to try and earn $$. But don’t think it’s the only path to publishing novels. It’s not.

MYTH: You need to get a referral or some kind of “in” in order to get noticed.

TRUTH: The stats can be scary– most agents request 5-10% of the queries they read and only offer rep to a scant few. But guess what? There are some pretty awesome stats out there proving that SLUSH WORKS.

I conducted a poll on twitter– I simply asked agented writers to respond and tell me if they snagged their agent via a cold-query (no connections) or if they had some kind of a referral, publishing credits, etc. And guess what? 58 people had NO credits or connections whatsoever. Only 6 people got their agent via a referral from a client or impressive credentials. Yes, you read that right– MORE than 90% of those writers snagged an agent with the tried-and-true query letter.

MYTH: Your work doesn’t fit the trends, so no one is going to want it.

TRUTH: To be honest? Books that are totally outside the trends often stand out the most, because when I’m reading slush it’s like FANTASY FANTASY FANTASY REALISTIC FANTASY FANTASY. (And by fantasy I am lumping in paranormal, UF, etc).

MYTH: You need to hire an editor before submitting your work.

TRUTH: I actually don’t know any one who paid a freelance editor before beginning submissions/being published. Find critique partners at the same place in their career and swap manuscripts. I learned as much from critiquing as I did from receiving critiques, and I made lifelong writer friends. (This is not to say freelance eds aren’t awesome in their own right. But don’t despair over the $$ needed if you don’t have it.)

MYTH: You need to spend a lot of $$ going to conferences because that’s where most agents find their clients.

TRUTH: Again, the slush works. If you can’t afford conferences, skip ’em! They can be fun for socializing and you can learn a lot, but it really and truly does not cost a dime to be published (with the exception being postage if an agent wants material snail-mailed.)

So, I hope this helps dispel the myths that you need to know someone, or pay a lot of money, in order to be noticed. I know dozens and dozens of debut authors– some who sold in major deals (over $500K) who had pretty unassuming day jobs and knew NO ONE in publishing before snagging an agent and a book deal.

The writing is the only thing that matters. Write a damn good book, and it’ll rise above.


Agent, D4EO Lit

Author, Prada & Prejudice (2009) You Wish (2010) But I Love him (May 2011) and RIPPLE (July 2011).

9 Responses to “Getting published– even if you’re a “nobody.””

  1. Rowenna March 23, 2011 at 8:54 AM #

    Mandy–great post! It can be overwhelming to think about querying and way too easy to create hurdles for myself (but I don’t have writing creds, but I don’t have an “in”) and this is really encouraging! Thanks!

  2. L. Eleana March 23, 2011 at 10:07 AM #

    I’m so happy I came across this post on twitter! These are the myths that discourage unpublished would be writers like myself.

  3. J. Koyanagi March 23, 2011 at 11:10 AM #

    I love posts like these. They’re a great reminder that the bottom line really is the writing/storytelling. Thank you for sharing, Mandy.

  4. savannahjfoley March 23, 2011 at 12:28 PM #

    Great post, Mandy, and thanks for the stats!

  5. brandimziegler March 23, 2011 at 12:40 PM #

    Yay! Loved the post, Mandy. Since I’m stuck in the querying trenches right now this is exactly what I needed to hear!

  6. Ashley March 23, 2011 at 6:05 PM #

    This is so reassuring, thanks Mandy! 🙂

  7. Chantal March 23, 2011 at 6:13 PM #

    Great post Mandy! Always good to be reassured that strong writing is really what counts 🙂

  8. Glen March 23, 2011 at 9:15 PM #

    Reassuring to know the system still works – especially for writers who are not good at networking/social media.

  9. lbdiamond March 24, 2011 at 2:51 PM #

    Great info here! Thanks, Mandy! 😀

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