How Hard Is It To Get A Novel Published? Overcoming Challenges With Publishing

by CJ McDaniel // May 2  

Writing a novel is a long process that requires you to put in a lot of work. But you’ll be wrong if you think that it’s all over when you write, “the end.” Even at this point, your novel still requires some work. These include revision, proofreading, editing, and the peak of it all, publishing.

Publishing is where the biggest challenge is for authors. Your novel may sound great to a publisher. But to another, it might be crappy. J.K Rowling’s ordeal is a good example. She sent the same Harry Porter to publishing houses, but it was rejected several times. Finally, she got her big break.

So, if you’re a budding author, read to understand the nitty-gritty in publishing a novel.

How Hard Is It To Get A Novel Published?

Publishing a novel can be very hard or easy for an author. It’s so because the difficulty in publishing depends on the type of publishing option you decide to use.

It also depends on your experience, marketing platforms, and audience base (fans). It takes time to build an audience. So, if you don’t have an audience yet, you’ll need more time and patience to build one. 

If it’s your first novel, you’ll have difficulties publishing your work due to little or no experience. But over time, it’ll get easy for you.

Also, if you’re self-publishing your novel, you’ll be able to make all the decisions for the process. However, if you are using traditional publishing, you’ll go through a series of processes and channels to publish your novel.

Continue reading for in-depth information on this topic.

How To Get A Novel Published

To publish your novel, you can either self-publish or go through a traditional publisher.


It’s a low-cost way to publish your novel. You’re in charge of all the processes of publishing the work, including marketing and sales. It also allows you to decide when you want to do this and what form it becomes.

However, you should get the services of professionals to proofread and edit it. You can also pay one to design the cover. Don’t publish low quality, but invest in ways to improve your novel to increase market sales.

When you self-publish, you have to make the book available through making e-books, audiobooks, self-printing, or using print on demand.

  • E-books: You don’t need paper to publish your novel through this medium. It will enable you to do this and sell your piece on online platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon). Convert your file to the best format like ‘epub, or pdf.’ Then, input the title, description, and genre of your novel.

So, doing these will help you publish the e-book of your novel and get it ready for marketing and sales.

  • Audiobooks: It’s published mainly to reach the audience that prefers to listen to their novels. You can pay a professional narrator or just self-narrate. Also, you can sell in digital format on platforms like Amazon, iTunes, and Audible.
  • Self-print: Even though people buy audiobooks, many still prefer print novels. It involves you printing lots of copies hoping to sell out or to reach an audience. It’s often called vanity publishing.

Therefore, you can pay a professional printer to print them. After which you’ll do the marketing and sales of the novels.

  • Use print on demand: Using this method can be beneficial, especially when you don’t know how large your audience is. It helps you prevent waste, so you print the book when there’s demand for it. Also, you can enlist platforms such as Amazon for print-on-demand novels.

Traditional publishing:

When you sign a deal with a traditional publisher, they’ll have the right to publish and market your novel as they see fit. However, to get such a publisher is not an easy process, especially when you’re about to publish your first novel.

So, follow these steps to get your novel published.

Research your genre:

You should know the kinds of genres that readers buy. Don’t just follow trends; find out the genres with a large audience that is always into it. Also, find out the genres that publishers accept. It’s so because they don’t publish every type of novel.

Avoid writing overused story lines, as it’ll reduce your chances of getting a publisher. As much as you’ve got to find the right genre, know the difference between finding it and finding a story line. Let your work be unique in the genre you choose.

Get feedback on your manuscript and edit:

Note that your manuscript should be complete before you start looking for publishers. No matter how interesting your work seems, you’ll never get a chance to pitch it when you’re yet to complete it. So, get rid of the excitement of rushing to secure a publisher.

Furthermore, take your time to make your piece the best it can be. Proofread and edit it thoroughly, and ask your friends to go through it. Also, let your critique group give you feedback on your work.

Find suitable literary agents:

Do thorough research to find the right agents. Having an agent doesn’t guarantee that a publisher will accept your work, but it helps your work get to a publisher. To get one, find out the genres that interest him and make sure it’s the same with your novel.

Although some small presses can accept manuscripts that agents didn’t submit, agents know how to sell them to publishers. Also, they’ll advise you on your manuscript, which is a sure thing as they have lots of experience in the industry. They also have some connections that can work for you.

Submit queries and other materials:

Every agent and publisher have materials they require you to submit. It enables them to know if it’s their area of interest. The materials include a query letter, synopsis, and proposal.

A query letter is a pitch that describes your work briefly. It’s usually a one-page letter. Also, it’s what convinces the agent or editor to request your proposal and manuscript. A synopsis is a summary of your novel. It’s usually one to two pages.

Furthermore, a proposal is a combination of your query letter, synopsis, and a chapter (usually the first chapter) of your novel. So, prepare a query letter and send it to the agent. You’ll likely get a request for a proposal or manuscript (partial or complete).

However, if you get no request, then something may be wrong with it. But if the publisher rejects your proposal, then you’ll need to keep trying or improve your manuscript.

Work with a good agent to find a publisher:

Work with your agent to improve your manuscript. Sometimes, when he sees potential in your novel, he does his best to edit and develop it. After all, he’ll only gain if a publisher accepts your manuscript.

Also, discuss with your agent how to make your novel marketable. Listen to his suggestions for your work. Once your manuscript is ready, he’ll pitch your work and also negotiate with publishers.

Challenges Of Publishing A Novel

Regardless of the publishing model you’re using, you will always have challenges to overcome.


There used to be a belief that self-published books lack quality, but the successes of some self-published books have changed it. However, some of such novels contain typos and poor book cover designs because it’s expensive to pay professionals to edit and design your work.

Furthermore, self-publishing gives room for you to write in a genre that has a limited audience. So the chance of selling such novels becomes low. You might end up with no profits or even run at a loss. Also, the success of your work in the market is not guaranteed even when it’s the right genre.

Your novel will need the right professionals to improve it; so that it has more chance of success in the market. Also, if your work is successful, you’ll own all the profit from it and the rights to it.

Traditional publishing:

It’s usually hard to get a traditional publisher to go through a manuscript. Most times, an editor may skim through your novel before deciding if he’ll accept it or not. So, make sure your novel makes a great first impression. However, they can take a long time to get back to you and even more time to publish your work.

Also, it’s much harder to be published if it’s your first novel because they won’t want to run any risk. Publishers prefer known or renowned authors who already have platforms and fans that’ll make selling their novels easy and fast. So, publishers only go for value as well as profitable options.

Furthermore, if you eventually get a deal, the publishers will have part or all rights to the novel. So, they’ll control the decisions of how it comes out to the market. However, you’ll get an advance and 8% to 15% royalties on your novel. And there’s a high chance of it becoming a best seller.


When it comes to publishing, you have to stand your ground to withstand any difficulties. You may experience it when you self-publish. Also, it may be by several rejections from publishers. But don’t give up, instead use the elements of the genre you’re writing to make your piece better.

Remember that if you have a good manuscript and put in work, you should publish your novel easily. So choose a method you want to use and work towards your journey to success.

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!