The Many Faces of Publishing

I’m often asked questions about the writing business, so I thought I’d walk through my experience (so far). It’s not easy! I’m sure you know someone who had instant success and wedged their foot in the publishing world with little effort – that’s not me. I’ve often felt like a squashed ant on the sidewalk, making it hard to avoid negative self-talk. (My inner voice: Maybe you should just stick to medicine!) But if something brings great joy – shouldn’t you give it all you’ve got?  


Before diving into the daunting publishing process, ask yourself why you’re doing it. If it’s to make money…(insert maniacal laughter here), that’s unlikely to happen. Most authors I know have a side job in addition to writing. 


In my case, I can’t imagine a world without writing. Writing allows me to escape into beautiful, imaginative worlds to experience adventure alongside my characters.




 Stories zip through my brain like a speeding train. As the train flies by, it drops pieces of the plot. After days of fitting the plot’s pieces together while I walk, shower, or stare at the ceiling, a story develops. The writing begins. 

Once an author reaches “the end” of a manuscript, the story is far from over. REVISIONS! (Revisions, revisions, revisions…echoing into eternity.) Even when you think it’s done, it’s probably not. But at some point, you must close the laptop and say, “It’s time.”

What’s Next After Completing a Manuscript?

There are many publishing paths. I self-published my middle-grade Grymballia Trilogy about seven years ago and revised it again years later. I’m happy with the story and have no regrets, but I want to do things differently next time. I want a girl or boy from California to happen upon my book as they cruise the bookstore. That’s unlikely to happen with a self-published book. 

When a novel is self-published, it’s hard to reach readers far and wide. The author is the developer, artist, and marketing team, and the story rarely sees a bookstore shelf. There are many fabulous and wonderful self-published books!! But anyone can self-publish. There are no gatekeepers, meaning there are also many not-so-good self-published books. Self-publishing is gaining respect in the literary world, but traditional publishing tends to be the “gold standard” and most respected. 

Vanity publishers will always take your money. If you google the words “publishing” or “author” the bots in your computer will instantly push you toward a vanity publisher. They will contact you and tell you that your story is the ‘best ever written’… and then ask for thousands of your dollars to make it into a book. Does it get published? Yes. Can it get into a bookstore? Maybe – but at the expense of the author. The vanity publishers typically have no interest in your book’s quality and will not market your book. An author should never have to pay someone to get published. Period.


Write-for-hire work allows you to write and publish books, but it’s not your original material. For example, I’ve been fortunate to work with Mighty Media to get two series of books published through the Mayo Clinic Press. Helping Paws Academy and Edge of Medicine (coming 2025.) They gave me the desired topics and must approve the outlines and final work. Authors are not paid royalties on sales but are paid a flat fee for the project. It’s great work, and I love every minute! But it’s not MY story.

To get “traditionally published,” an author must submit their manuscript to publishers. Most publishers will not allow authors to send their manuscripts without a literary agent. Some small publishing houses will take direct submissions from authors, but not many. With some exceptions, an agent is a necessary middle person between you and the bookshelf. An agent also works on your behalf to negotiate deals, get foreign rights, and help your story reach a bigger audience.

But finding an agent is not easy.

How Do I Get an Agent?

If I can say one thing, get used to rejection. You cannot send your manuscript and expect an agent to read it. There’s a process. You must write a query letter summarizing your book’s entire plot in 2-3 paragraphs. A catchy “pitch” helps to catch the agent’s eye. You’d read the pitch on the back of a book’s jacket cover. Something like, “13-year-old Daphne travels on her first vacation when her life changes forever. Before seeing the ocean for the first time, she falls ill with a strange rash and fever and is faced with the fact she may never walk again.” 

When you send a query letter to an agent, they will ask for only about 5-10 pages of the manuscript to read. They receive hundreds of query letters EVERY DAY. If they like your concept and pitch, they might read the pages. If they like the submitted pages, they might ask for more. An agent’s inbox is typically overwhelmed with brilliant writing, so if they’re not interested, you often get a form letter rejection or no response at all. 

The first major WIN in the agent hunt is when an agent requests a “full submission.” The query letter and pitch have intrigued the agent enough to read more. After sending the entire manuscript, the author waits for the response. Celebrate each of these wins! It’s a huge accomplishment. 

In addition to evaluating your writing, concept, and style, an agent has to decide if it’s a book they can sell. What’s the market like? Are there already too many vampire romance novels? It’s possible for an author to fall into a pit of despair and think, “Why did I think I could write novels?” (Theoretically, of course.)

The Agent Call

If everything falls into place, your manuscript finds a home with an agent. If an agent sets up “a call,” they might offer you a contract. Does this mean your book is getting published? Nope

An agent usually wants more revisions until your manuscript is ready to send out. Once it’s ready, agents write their own query letters to publishers. They dive into the trenches on the author’s behalf. In an ideal world, a publisher wants to read it and invest in your manuscript. In traditional publishing, they believe in your story and want to see it in the world. 

An agent doesn’t make any money unless they sell your book. An author hopes to find an agent passionate enough about their manuscript to put in the work it needs to publish it. 

In the last 7-8 years, with many projects and submissions, I’ve received hundreds of rejection letters from agents. I’ve sent out multiple novels, picture books, and other projects.  I’m not giving up, and I’m not afraid to put in the hard work. It only takes one agent to reach out, willing to take a chance on a debut author. 

Someday soon, when I’m fortunate to be paired with an enthusiastic agent, I can expand on the steps in this journey! Stay tuned…it will happen.

I’m ready!

Thanks for visiting Pat’s Chat!

Stay tuned for updates on my journey. If you’d like to be notified when a new blog post is published, please subscribe to my email list.  


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