Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

How not to sell your book

by Rob - December 7th, 2009.
Filed under: Publishing, RJS Books.

This showed up in my inbox this evening, in my role as editor of Robert J. Sawyer Books, the science-fiction imprint for Canadian publisher Fitzhenry & Whiteside. It violates two of the cardinal rules for trying to sell a book to a commercial publisher. The first is: don’t query until you’re ready to submit; she queried me years ago, and had nothing to submit after I expressed interest. What possible point is there in querying a publisher if you don’t intend to immediately follow up with a manuscript submission if you get the go-ahead to send on in?

The second rule I address in my response.

Hello Robert,

A few years ago I sent you an email to see if you were interested in publishing my first novel. You were interested but I did not follow up because I was still working on it. Finally it is complete, and I will soon have it posted on

If you would be interested in reviewing this work for me I would be extremely grateful. If you would be interested in publishing it, I would be even more grateful.

My response:

No commercial publisher is going to be interested in picking up a self-published book unless you can show massive sales in the self-published format. So, sorry, but no; no way I can even consider it for my line now that you’ve published it yourself. Other publishers will feel the same way, I’m afraid.

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