How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published?

Knocking on doors of traditional publishers

Flickr / arteolite

Note: I wrote the following article for Writer’s Digest magazine last year (July/August 2011) about how to get published; I’ve lightly updated it for distribution here. If you’re interested in more advice about how to get traditionally published, read my comprehensive post on the topic.

Don’t you wish someone could tell you how close you are to getting traditionally published? Don’t you wish someone could say, “If you just keep at it for three more years, you’re certain to make it!”

Or, even if it would be heartbreaking, wouldn’t it be nice to be told that you’re wasting your time, so that you can move on, try another tack (like self-publishing), or perhaps even change course entirely to produce some other creative work?

I’ve counseled thousands of writers over the years, and even if it’s not possible for me to read their work, I can usually say something definitive about what their next steps should be. I often see when they’re wasting their time. No matter where you are in your own publishing path, you should periodically take stock of where you’re headed, and revise as necessary.

Recognizing Steps That Don’t Help You Get Published

Let’s start with four common time-wasting behaviors. You may be guilty of one or more. Most writers have been guilty of the first.

1. Submitting manuscripts that aren’t your best work

Let’s be honest. We all secretly hope that some editor or agent will read our work, drop everything, and call us to say: This is a work of genius! YOU are a genius!

Few writers give up on this dream entirely, but to increase the chances of this happening, you have to give each manuscript everything you’ve got, with nothing held back. Too many writers save their best effort for some future work, as if they were going to run out of good material.

You can’t operate like that.

Every single piece of greatness must go into your current project. Be confident that your well is going to be refilled. Make your book better than you ever thought possible—that’s what it needs to compete. It can’t be good.

“Good” gets rejected. Your work has to be the best. How do you know when it’s ready, when it’s your best? I like how Writer’s Digest editor and author Chuck Sambuchino answers this question at writing conferences: “If you think the story has a problem, it does—and any story with a problem is not ready.”

It’s common for a new writer who doesn’t know any better to send off his manuscript without realizing how much work is left to do. But experienced writers are usually most guilty of sending out work that is not ready. Stop wasting your time.

2. Self-publishing when no one is listening

There are many reasons writers choose to self-publish, but the most common one is the inability to land an agent or a traditional publisher.

Fortunately, it’s more viable than ever for a writer to be successful without a traditional publisher or agent. However, when writers chase self-publishing as an alternative to traditional publishing, they often have a nasty surprise in store:

No one is listening. They don’t have an audience.

Bowker reports that in 2011, more than 148,000 new print books were self-published, and more than 87,000 e-books were self-published. (See more about the report here.) Since Bowker only counts books that have ISBNs, that means thousands more titles go uncounted, since Amazon doesn’t require an ISBN for authors to publish through the Kindle Direct Publishing program.

If your goal is to bring your work successfully to the marketplace, it’s a waste of time to self-publish that work, regardless of format, if you haven’t yet cultivated an audience for it, or can’t market and promote it effectively through your network. Doing so will not likely harm your career in the long run, but it won’t move it forward, either.

3. Looking for major publication of regional or niche work

The cookbook memoir that your local church ladies produced this year is probably not appropriate for one of the major New York publishers.

That may seem obvious when stated, but every year agents receive thousands of submissions for work that does not have national appeal, and does not deserve shelf space at every chain bookstore in the country. (And that’s typically why you get an agent: to sell your work to the big publishers, who specialize in national bookstore distribution and mass-media marketing.)

Now, if those church ladies were notorious for producing the award-winning Betty Crocker recipe 20 years in a row, we’d be onto something with a national market. But few regional works have that kind of broader angle.

As a writer, one of the most difficult tasks you face is having sufficient distance from your work to understand how a publishing professional would view the market for it, or to determine if there’s a commercial angle to be exploited. You have to view your work not as something precious to you, but as a product to be positioned and sold. That means pitching your work only to the most appropriate publishing houses, even if they’re in your own backyard rather than New York City.

4. Focusing on publishing when you should be writing

Some new writers are far too concerned with queries, agents, marketing or conference-going, instead of first producing the best work possible.

Don’t get me wrong—for some types of nonfiction, it’s essential to have a platform in place before you write the book. The fact that nonfiction authors don’t typically write the full manuscript until after acceptance of their proposal (with the exception of memoir and creative nonfiction) is indicative of how much platform means to their publication.

But for everyone else—those of us who are not selling a book based solely on the proposal—don’t get consumed with finding an agent until you’re a writer ready for publication. While I’m not advocating reclusive behavior—writers need to socialize and start developing relationships with other writers and authors—I see too many writers developing anxiety about the publishing process before they’ve even demonstrated to themselves that they can commit to writing and revising thousands and thousands of words—before they put in the amount of work that creates a publication-ready manuscript.

And now we come to that tricky matter again. How do you know when you’ve written and revised enough? How do you know when the work is ready?

Evaluating Your Place on the Publication Path

Whenever I sit down for a critique session with a writer, I ask three questions early on:

  1. How long have you been working on this manuscript, and who has seen it?
  2. Is this the first manuscript you’ve ever completed?
  3. How long have you been actively writing?

These questions help me evaluate where the writer might be on the publication path. Here are a few generalizations I can often make.

  • Many first manuscript attempts are not publishable, even after revision, yet they are necessary and vital for a writer’s growth. A writer who’s just finished her first manuscript probably doesn’t realize this, and will likely take the rejection process very hard. Some writers can’t move past this rejection. You’ve probably heard experts advise that you should always start working on the next manuscript, rather than waiting to publish the first. That’s because you need to move on, and not get stuck on publishing your first attempt.
  • A writer who has been working on the same manuscript for years and years—and has written nothing else—might be tragically stuck. There isn’t usually much valuable learning going on when someone tinkers with the same pages over a decade.
  • Writers who have been actively writing for many years, have produced multiple full-length manuscripts, have one or two trusted critique partners (or mentors), and have attended a couple major writing conferences are often well positioned for publication. They probably know their strengths and weaknesses, and have a structured revision process. Many such people require only luck to meet preparedness.
  • Writers who have extensive experience in one medium, then attempt to tackle another (e.g., journalists tackling the novel) may overestimate their abilities to produce a publishable manuscript on the first try. That doesn’t mean their effort won’t be good, but it might not be good enough. Fortunately, any writer with professional experience will probably approach the process with more of a business mindset, a good network of contacts to help him understand next steps, and a range of tools to overcome the challenges.

Notice I have not mentioned talent. I have not mentioned creative writing classes or degrees. I have not mentioned online presence. These factors are usually less relevant in determining how close you are to publishing a book-length work.

The two things that are relevant:

  1. How much time you’ve put into writing. I agree with Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule in Outliers: The key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.
  2. Whether you’re reading enough to understand where you lie on the spectrum of quality. In his series on storytelling (available on YouTube), Ira Glass says:

The first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambitions, but it’s not that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. Your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. You can tell that it’s still sort of crappy. A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people at that point quit. … Most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste [and] they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be.

If you can’t perceive the gap—or if you haven’t gone through the “phase”—you probably aren’t reading enough. How do you develop good taste? You read. How do you understand what quality work is? You read. What’s the best way to improve your skills aside from writing more? You read. You write, and you read, and you begin to close the gap between the quality you want to achieve, and the quality you can achieve. In short: You’ve got to produce a lot of crap before you can produce something publishable by traditional Big Six standards.

Signs You’re Getting Closer to Publication

  • You start receiving personalized, “encouraging” rejections.
  • Agents or editors reject the manuscript you submitted, but ask you to send your next work. (They can see that you’re on the verge of producing something great.)
  • Your mentor (or published author friend) tells you to contact his agent, without you asking for a referral.
  • An agent or editor proactively contacts you because she spotted your quality writing somewhere online or in print.
  • Looking back, you understand why your work was rejected, and see that it deserved rejection. You probably even feel embarrassed by earlier work.

Knowing When It’s Time to Change Course

I used to believe that great work would eventually get noticed—you know, that old theory that quality bubbles to the top?

I don’t believe that any more.

Great work is overlooked every day, for a million reasons. Business concerns outweigh artistic concerns. Some people are just perpetually unlucky.

To avoid beating your head against the wall, here are some questions that can help you understand when and how to change course.

1. Is your work commercially viable?

Indicators will eventually surface if your work isn’t suited for commercial publication. You’ll hear things like: “Your work is too quirky or eccentric.” “It has narrow appeal.” “It’s experimental.” “It doesn’t fit the model.” Possibly: “It’s too intellectual, too demanding.” These are signs that you may need to consider self-publishing—which will also require you to find the niche audience you appeal to.

2. Are readers responding to something you didn’t expect?

I see this happen all the time: A writer is working on a manuscript that no one seems interested in, but has fabulous success on some side project. Perhaps you really want to push your memoir, but it’s a humorous tip series on your blog that everyone loves. Sometimes it’s better to pursue what’s working, and what people express interest in, especially if you take enjoyment in it. Use it as a steppingstone to other things if necessary.

3. Are you getting bitter?

You can’t play poor, victimized writer and expect to get published. As it is in romantic relationships, pursuing an agent or editor with an air of desperation, or with an Eeyore complex, will not endear you to them. Embittered writers carry a huge sign with them that screams, “I’m unhappy, and I’m going to make you unhappy, too.”

If you find yourself demonizing people in the publishing industry, taking rejections very personally, feeling as if you’re owed something, and/or complaining whenever you get together with other writers, it’s time to find the refresh button. Return to what made you feel joy and excitement about writing in the first place. Perhaps you’ve been focusing too much on getting published, and you’ve forgotten to cherish the other aspects. Which brings me to the overall theory of how you should, at various stages of your career, revisit and revise your publication strategy.

Revising Your Publishing Plan

No matter how the publishing world changes, consider these three timeless factors as you make decisions about your next steps forward:

1. What makes you happy

This is the reason you got into writing in the first place. Even if you put this on the back burner in order to advance other aspects of your writing and publishing career, don’t leave it out of the equation for very long. Otherwise your efforts can come off as mechanistic or uninspired, and you’ll eventually burn out.

2. What earns you money

Not everyone cares about earning money from writing—and I believe that anyone in it for the coin should find some other field—but as you gain experience, the choices you make in this regard become more important. The more professional you become, the more you have to pay attention to what brings the most return on your investment of time and energy. As you succeed, you don’t have time to pursue every opportunity. You have to STOP doing some things.

3. What reaches readers or grows your audience

Growing readership is just as valuable as earning money. It’s like putting a bit of money in the bank and making an investment that pays off as time passes. Sometimes you’ll want to make trade-offs that involve earning less money in order to grow readership, because it invests in your future. (E.g., for a time you might focus on building a blog or a site, rather than writing for print publication, to grow a more direct line to your fans.)

It is rare that every piece of writing you do, or every opportunity presented, can involve all three elements at once. Commonly you can get two of the three. Sometimes you’ll pursue certain projects with only one of these factors in play. You get to decide based on your priorities at any given point in time.

At the very beginning of this post, I suggested that it might be nice if someone could tell us if we’re wasting our time trying to get traditionally published.

Here’s a little piece of hope: If your immediate thought was, I couldn’t stop writing even if someone told me to give up, then you’re much closer to publication than someone who is easily discouraged. The battle is far more psychological than you might think. Those who can’t be dissuaded are more likely to reach their goals, regardless of the path they ultimately choose.



Posted in Getting Published.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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[…] Do you wonder how close you are to getting published by a traditional house? Use this guide to assess where you are on your journey to get published, plus how or when to change course.  […]

This article I liked vmuch especially the bit about demonising certain publishers, o how true, o what have I become!

Victoria Noe

Thanks for this, Jane. This certainly described me six months ago. I’d written and networked and conferenced and blogged and built my platform for over two years. I’d pitched agents in person and via email. A few thought I should broaden the (nonfiction) topic, but I knew that would dilute what I was trying to do. Every single one of the two dozen plus agents I pitched (there were more but I mean those who actually responded to my queries) said the same thing: “I don’t know how to market this.” While I appreciated their honesty, I was confused. I… Read more »

Malena Lott

Thanks, Jane – for this and another great year of advice! Double dittos on the Malcolm “Outliers” reference and the race to publication so many new writers have. It’s often the first question people ask me before they have even finished a first draft. Always makes me cringe. I’m sharing this over on my Buzz Books page. And I love this line, “Sometimes it’s better to pursue what’s working, and what people express interest in, especially if you take enjoyment in it. Use it as a steppingstone to other things if necessary.” Even though fiction is my first love, I’m… Read more »

This is a wonderful, thoughtful post on many different levels. Writing proficiency–in one or several different areas of writing–can make it even harder to gauge where you are and becomes an additional factors on the road to publication. Everyone has different strengths. Being a good writer doesn’t necessarily translate to being a good storyteller. Agents can show interest in the writing, or in the story, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire package is ready for publication yet.

Anthony Caplan

Excellent piece. Lots of sage advice. Thanks.

Debbie LaCroix

Thank you so much for this great advice! I am a published author, who took a step back to study the market the last 2 years and work on my writing more and network. I found a lot of things in here that are motivating I’m on the right track, and a few things I may need to focus more on. 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to write this.

Diana Stevan

How timely! I’m sitting at my computer wondering about my next step. From what you’ve said in this article, I believe I am close to publication. I am carrying on with my next novel ( an excerpt from which has already been published), but at the same time trying to figure out how to navigate the new publishing sphere. There are more choices out there,so that’s encouraging. Still, self-publishing is not an easy one, given the demands on one’s creative time to market and market some more. Thanks again for your perspective. And happy new year, Jane.

Shirley Hershey Showalter

As usual, Jane, your advice is so clear, compassionate, and wise. I feel fortunate that I found a publisher who is a good fit for my book (memoir) and that I was able to use a book proposal and write to contracted deadlines. It kept me going through my 10,000 hours, which started when I first wrote and published personal essays in the 1990’s. This approach is just a variation on the theme and might not be possible for those whose sights are set on mainstream publishing.

Amy @ Ten Penny Dreams

Really helpful article! I’ve been working on my novel for quite a while; after two lots of feedback for literary agencies and being short listed for an award, I decided to e-publish and set up a blog to chronicle my journey. I know my manuscript needs changes for it to be really good, but I’ve been stalling. So thanks, this has definitely increased my motivation!

Caroline Starr Rose

Took me twelve years, four novels, and six picture books to get my first contract. Glad I kept at it.

Alonna Shaw

Excellent and inspiring summary for new to the biz authors even if we’ve been writing for “years.”

Jane, 50 years after I wrote in my diary (December 28, 1962) that I got my first college A for a course (in psychology), you stated in the concluding paragraph of your post, “The [publication] battle is far more psychological than you might think.” Thank you for this. I remain encouraged. Best wishes for a productive 2013.

A.J. Frey

I could tell I was getting bitter, so I took a two year break. I now feel refreshed and ready to re-tackle the novel with fresh eyes. This is a great article. Thank you.

Becky Doughty

Jane, Thank you for this insightful and realistic gauge by which to measure our work. It is so important to be able to get a broader picture of the road map – sometimes I get so focused on where I am in one particular moment, that I can’t see how far I’ve come or even far enough ahead to take the next step.

Blessings – Happy New Year!

Joanne Yeck

Thanks, Jane. Clear and helpful, as always. It’s good to remember that like any craft, writers must pass through an apprenticeship, graduate to the status of journeyman, and, hopefully, achieve mastery. The time it takes to get there varies considerably. Here’s to a productive 2013!

[…] Re: Twitter stuff Hope this works…. I found this interesting…get-published/ […]

[…] I read a blog by Jane Friedman titled HOW LONG SHOULD YOU KEEP TRYING TO GET PUBLISHED and it provided me with some insight on my journey. With my last manuscript, I constantly asked […]

[…] How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published? | Jane Friedman […]

Inion N. Mathair

This was an excellent post Ms. Friedman. Very honest with loads of helpful tips & direction for us while on our journey. While reading it, we guaged where we are while standing on the plank. Thank you for this, and we look forward to reading more of your blog, as well as taking one of your classes very soon.

[…] Amazing article on writing and publishing… As Lou Anders says, "Beginning and wanna-be writers stop what you are doing and immediately READ THIS!" Article:…get-published/ […]

Exploding Mary

Thank you for an excellent post, which I have shared with my critique group, a local writer’s Meetup.

Aty S B

This was very helpful, thank you so much 🙂

Hallie Ephron

This is SO smart… tough but true.

[…] you want to get published, you must do the work, says Jane Friedman, who offers a checklist of signs you’re close to snagging a publishing […]

Vicky Lorencen

Jane, Thank you for your frank insights. I appreciate your practical perspective. Wishing you all good things (like time to ponder, a contract or two, and a brilliant new idea for a novel) in the coming year!

[…] Link to the rest at Jane Friedman […]

Liana Mir

If your goal is to bring your work successfully to the marketplace, it’s
a waste of time to self-publish that work, regardless of format, if you
haven’t yet cultivated an audience for it, or can’t market and promote
it effectively through your network. Doing so will not likely harm your
career in the long run, but it won’t move it forward, either.

Wow. I don’t think you updated your article enough. Times have changed and Amanda Hocking isn’t the only indie out there who discovered readers ARE listening—if your story is any good.

Liana Mir

Work becomes visible at 10 books. I have done not a smidge of promotion for my pen names and they sell better than this one. And I’m not the only one. The key is keep writing and publishing. While I’ll gladly say there are those who want to go trad pub, there is no guaranteed non-results from self-publishing without marketing. In fact, if you keep doing it, it’s thus far created the most working writers, many unheard of but still making a living. I stand by my statement: You seriously did not update this article enough. It’s a year old… Read more »

Liana Mir

I’ll take this in pieces. 1. I will not list my bestselling pen names because they are pen names for a reason. My open pen name is Pearl Wise. I am not earning a living wage yet because I have at most 14 titles under a single pen name and they’re all shorts. At 10 titles, my works started selling more than coffee money. At 12 months, I started seeing momentum when my sales doubled. At about 2 years (now), I sold more in the last two quarters than the rest of how long I’d been published. I have published… Read more »

Liana Mir

2. Most of the living wage writers I know comment at places like Dean Wesley Smith’s blog and The Passive Voice. Annie Bellet is one of the only one’s whose work I love. Camille Leguire does well, but I don’t know if she’s making a living wage yet. I’ve seen quite a handful mention that they are doing fine as full-time writers in the definitively midlist category, but they don’t write the kind of stuff I read, so can’t name better than browse those forums for a while. These people’s idea of promotion is have a website and post a… Read more »

Liana Mir

3. KDP’s announcements are nice and all but hardly representative. More than 50% of my sales are not from Amazon and most indies are wisely putting their eggs in every basket they can get in. Print editions through Createspace, Lightning Source, etc. also add up. These aren’t in your numbers and therefore render your math useless.

Liana Mir

Don’t know. Don’t care. I write, they find one story and eventually move on to another. I find the stories I read so many different ways that I don’t see any reason to try to guess which way my readers find mine. The people who find my Liana Mir work clearly prefer free reads. Not surprising. I do myself and I’m firmly steeped in the fandom world where that’s common enough. The people who find my other pen name seem to do so only after it’s sat there for a while and I’m really not sure how. I do know… Read more »

MP McDonald

I’m sure the more you have, the better, but it’s quite possible to do well even with less 10. I had three books through most of 2012, not adding the fourth until mid-October. I averaged about $2500/month and I am nobody. (some months were great, others only okay, but that was the average). As far as platform goes, I don’t really have too much of one–nobody has heard of me. Even most of the people I work with on my day job don’t know about my books. I have a blog with a few hundred followers and a FB page… Read more »

Helen Hollick

Very interesting and useful article – thank you. I went “indie” when my backlist was dropped in the UK. It is a decision I have not regretted, but I do occasionally find it difficult to “go it alone” especially where marketing is concerned. I write good books – but how do you get that across to potential readers when there are hundreds (thousands) or other authors writing good books? Creating buzz about your books without boring the pants off people is not easy, and what little you can do is time consuming. Worth it though!

Jla De La Garza

I’ve decided to self-publish my first book. While the marketing process will be especially challenging for me – considering I’m such an introvert – I believe strongly in my writing and will make it work. I think most book agents and publishers really don’t have the writer’s best interests in mind. Self-publishing puts power back into the hands of the people who deserve it: the writers.

RD Meyer

I think your advice on self publishing is woefully out of date. Yes, you won’t build an audience if you simply put something up on Kindle Select and hope that the masses discover your genius, but there is success for those willing to put in the marketing and business work required to make such an enterprise a success.
Unfortunately, too many writers tell me, “I went into writing to write, not to worry about that nasty business stuff. That’s why I want an agent or a traditional publisher.” Such an attitude is why most of them fail.

Marc Cabot

Hmm. I can listen to you, who makes her living telling writers how they should write, but has no significant commercial success actually writing, or I can listen to people like Robert Heinlein, Dean Wesley Smith, and Kris Rusch, who have had major and sustained commercial success and whose principles have sustained writers for generations.

Decisions, decisions.

Marc Cabot

Refreshingly direct and honest. Ironic, but direct and honest.

Karen Fisher-Alaniz

This is so absolutely amazing! You have a way of telling it like it is, without hammering too hard at people. In my new-ish experience as a published author, I’m amazed by the number of people who really, genuinely want to write a really great book. But when you ask them a few clarifying questions, they really haven’t taken even the most basic of steps. The steps you outlined and experiences you shared are parallel to my own experience. This post is so, so true! Thanks!

Sheila Brodhead

Jane — this is a fabulous blog post. Thanks.

[…] How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published? […]

Stephen R. Welch

The admonition about writers “working on the same manuscript for years and years” made me wince. I’ve been working on a manuscript for, well, a while … it’s not my first, and not the only thing I’ve written or published during the time, but it’s been agonizingly slow. Revision, which has taken up about 80% of the time, has been deliberate and steady, and I’m at last reaching the point where the returns in improved quality for the time spent on the MS are truly diminishing. One needs to produce as polished and perfect a manuscript as possible, yet one… Read more »

Marc Cabot

1) You must write.
2) You must finish what you write.
3) You must not rewrite except to editorial order.
4) You must keep what you write in front of people who can buy it until it is sold.

Claude Nougat

Thanks Jane, for excellent advice. Contrary to some commenters here, I think it’s very timely and up-to-date. Too much hype around self-publishing and it can lure newbies into making the wrong decisions. Just because the likes of Amanda Hocking made it doesn’t mean that this performance can be easily replicated. It can’t. And no matter what anyone tells you, it requires LOTS of marketing. I checked on Pearl Wise: no author page on Amazon, just a few short stories and even in one case at least, she used a title (The Alchemist) that is the exact same title as one… Read more »

Marc Cabot

I think that the statement that using a title that someone else has already used comprising the definite article and a common noun is “an obvious marketing ploy” is so ludicrous that I have a very hard time taking anything in your comment seriously.

Marc Cabot

Incidentally, if you do your little Nancy Drew number on me, you may see that B&N has conflated my book “The Reunion” with one by Meg Cabot which has a very similar tiitle. Before you get all gotcha-y, PubIt did that, I have been screaming at them for weeks to fix it, and if it WAS a marketing ploy, it would be a really bad one, as the book has not sold well on B&N anyway. I THINK it’s fixed now.

Melissa Maygrove

Wow. Excellent article!

[…] on the Ether and digital editor at Virginia Quarterly Review, updated her article over the weekend, How Long Should You Keep Trying To Get Published?, excerpts of her fine post were vehemently attacked by self-publishing people who spoke of churning […]

[…] publication. But how will you know if your work is ready? This article by Jane Friedman explores just how to answer that question. In it, she explains those steps that hinder publication, how to recognize where you are on the […]


Wonderful article. It’s a shame that so many people have found a taste of honesty so bitter, but such is life, I suppose. I think more people are benefiting from this article than the comment numbers are reflecting, pride is just a funny, funny thing. Thanks for taking the time to do this. It was very refreshing.


[…] Jane Friedman’s blog covers a lot of issues. […]

Stephanie Sun

“If your goal is to bring your work successfully to the marketplace, it’s a waste of time to self-publish that work, regardless of format, if you haven’t yet cultivated an audience for it, or can’t market and promote it effectively through your network. Doing so will not likely harm your career in the long run, but it won’t move it forward, either.” I think that I’m the target market for this advice, a well-meaning counter to Amazon’s bullish homepage promotions of KDP. I was getting “personalized, ‘encouraging’ rejections” from top (Pulitzer-winner-repping) agents, for example, when I decided to self-publish. What… Read more »


Wow, some of these people are heinously mean. Thanks, Jane, for the sound advice. I followed Pat Rothfuss’ link over here. Honestly, I trust his opinion quite a bit, and if he’s directing traffic over here, I believe you have something worthwhile to say. Moreover, I then read the post, and it makes both dollars and cents to me. Thanks for putting it out there for those of us with ears, rather than just a mouth. Also: I bet none of these sarcastic-y commenters would say half of what they wrote in person. Just saying…the pointy-heads talk tough, then quickly… Read more »

[…] “Many first manuscript attempts are not publishable, even after revision, yet they are necessary and vital for a writer’s growth.” That’s my favorite line in Jane Friedman’s “How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published?” […]

Julia Munroe Martin

This is one of the most helpful blog posts I’ve ever read. It contains so much useful information — but perhaps even more importantly, offers the best advice I’ve seen for self assessment. Thank you for helping me start the new year out right.

[…] of interest this week: 78 new magazines hit the stands in December (Mr Magazine)… How long should you keep trying to get published (Jane Friedman)… 10 things every journalist should know in 2013 (… […]

Zach Williams

Thanks for writing this, it is very helpful to see things from a perspective other than those dreams frolicking around in my head. One thing that I took from this was also something not even said. More or less, you never know if you don’t try. I’ve been writing seriously for about ten years now and I haven’t even attempted to get anything published. Maybe it’s time I crawl out from under my rock. Thanks again.

[…] Friedman has a somewhat topical post up entitled "How Long Should You Keep Trying To Get Published?" (which in turn is a reprint of an article in Writer's Digest from 2011) which seems rather […]

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