SFWRITER.COM > How to Write > The Book's Written, What Now?
The Book's Written, What Now?
by Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 2002 and 2008 by
Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved
Finish the book. No one will buy a partial manuscript from a
first-timer; you have to prove that you can complete a book, and
the only way to prove that is by actually doing so.
Read widely in the field, and spend many hours in bookstores.
Your goal is to know which publishers issue what kinds of books.
Find the ones that issue work similar to your own, then rank
those potential markets in order of rates of pay / prestige (very
roughly, Tor and Bantam are the top of the market, Baen and DAW
the bottom; everyone else falls in between).
(Pointed aside: Often people will say to me, "I've never read
any of your work, but I was wondering if you could tell me how to
get my science-fiction novel published." And I always reply:
know the field and know the markets.
If you've never read any of
my work, you haven't read all the Hugo and Nebula Award winners,
which should be the basic bookshelf of any informed SF reader (my
The Terminal Experiment won the Nebula Award for Best Novel of
1995, and my Hominids
won the Hugo Award for 2003); indeed, you also clearly haven't been reading the recent
Hugo nominees (I've had novels on the 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999,
2001, 2003, and 2004 Hugo ballots [respectively,
The Terminal Experiment,
In other words, without being self-serving, it's pretty easy for me
to say, if you haven't read any of my work, you're not ready to try
to market your own work.)
If you say that your book is unique, or crosses genres, or defies
categorization, then set it aside and write another book to be
your "first" novel. An editor has to be able to classify your
book for the sales force, who will never read the manuscript.
Pick your first-choice publisher, and identify a specific editor
at that publisher who publishes work like yours. (All Tor books
credit the editor on the copyright page; many authors mention
their editors in the acknowledgments.)
Go to that publisher's web site, and read the writers'
guidelines, if there are any. If not, write a query letter to the
specific editor you've identified, stressing why you chose him
or her ("You edit XXXXX and YYYYY, who are two of my favorite
authors; I'm trying to do work that might measure up to theirs").
Tell the editor what type of novel you've written ("present-day
first-contact," "far-future space opera," "military SF,"
"alternate history," etc.). Also state how long the book is,
make clear that it is finished, emphasize that you're working on
another book (publishers almost always lose money on first
novels; editors are looking to acquire careers, not one-off
books), and ask for permission to submit your novel (or the first
three chapters and a synopsis of the rest, if that's what the
Submit to one publisher at a time. Be patient. Use proper
manuscript format. Enclose return postage. If and when you get
an offer from a publisher, contact one of the agents
listed on my web site about representation.
Rob's upcoming writing workshops and
More Good Reading
Letter to Beginning Writers
Rob's "On Writing" advice columns
Rob's upcoming appearances
Rob's essay on getting good press
Rob's thoughts on the process of being interviewed
Media backgrounder about Rob
Rob's own print advertisement for his novel Calculating God (Adobe Acrobat file, 392K)
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