business / writing

Navigating the Publishing Process

I’m excited to welcome to WordDreams blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist, and acclaimed author of You Beneath My Skin and The Blue Bar, Damyanti Biswas. She is a spectacular writer whose words drop you right in the middle of the power and corruption that is New Delhi life and leave you wondering how the good guys can survive. Her work has been published in many literary publications in the US, UK, and Australia and her debut literary crime novel You Beneath My Skin was an Amazon bestseller and optioned for the screen by Endemol Shine.

Damyanti has worked with a number of traditional agents and publishers so I asked her to share her experiences with readers. Here’s her advice:

Traditional Publication: Navigating the Publishing Process

There was a time when, for many writers, traditional publication was the ultimate goal. Thirty years ago, there was no other way to publish a book. Now, with the rise of self-publishing, the traditional publication process has been challenged like never before.

Despite the difficulties of facing gatekeeping, often low advances, and insufficient marketing, traditional publication still has certain advantages for writers who pursue it.

It offers the opportunity for wider distribution, professional editing, and perhaps less usefully, bragging rights. Most published traditional fiction has an assured level of quality. Now that it is possible to produce quality publication with self-publishing, the biggest advantages of traditional publication, as far as I’m concerned, is that it needs no initial investment, provides advance payments, and can make the book more easily accessible in shops and libraries.

However, the process of getting a book published traditionally can be a long and complex journey. I’ll try and break down the steps involved, from querying to book launch. If you have questions, I’d be very happy to respond to them in the comments.

Step 1: Querying: The first step in getting a book published traditionally is to query literary agents: otherwise known as the ‘query trenches.’ Literary agents act as a liaison between the author and the publishing house, helping to sell the book to publishers and negotiate contracts. These days, it takes a while to land an agent, so it’s important to research agents who represent the sort of book you’ve written, and follow their submission guidelines carefully.

Subscription to Query Tracker and Publisher’s Marketplace help with this. A strong query letter that hooks the agent’s interest is essential at this stage, along with a synopsis of the novel, and the first 3-4 chapters polished to high shine.

Step 2: Getting a Literary Agent: When an agent is interested in representing your book, they will request the full manuscript and may offer representation. At this point, you nudge any other agents who are reading your manuscript and wait for offers to trickle in. In the meanwhile you speak to an agent’s existing clients and look out for red flags.

Jane Friedman’s excellent site has a ton of information on steps 1 and 2. This stage can take a while, because there are thousands of authors, hundreds of agents, but significantly less number of publishing houses.

Step 3: Editing with the Help of the Agent: If your agent is editorial, they will provide feedback on the manuscript and help with revisions. It’s important to work closely with your agent to ensure that the book is polished and ready for submission to publishers.

Step 4: Going on Submissions to Publishers Once the book is edited and polished, the agent will prepare a submission package and send it out to publishers. The submission process or the ‘sub trenches’ can be a waiting game, as publishers take quite a while to review submissions and make decisions. When not biting their nails to the quick, most authors use his time to work on other projects or in building a platform.

Step 5: Publisher Picking up the Book If a publisher is interested in your book, they will make an offer. If it is the book of the moment, more than one publisher might express an interest, and then it moves towards either a pre-empt (where an interested publisher offers enough so the author takes the book off the table), or an auction. Rights sold will depend on your agent’s ability to negotiate, and each contract is different—this is a major part of the agent’s role.

Step 6: Editorial process: The next step in the publishing process is editing. Editing can involve multiple rounds of structural edits, copyedits, proofreads and cold reads, to ensure that the book is in its best shape.

Structural Editing: The structural edit is the first stage of the editing process, and it ensures that the book’s structure and content are well developed. Structural editing focuses on the big picture elements of the manuscript, such as plot, character development, pacing, tone, and overall story arc. The editor may suggest significant changes to the manuscript, such as reorganizing chapters, adding or deleting scenes, or changing the ending. The editor will work closely with the writer to ensure that the changes align with the writer’s vision for the book.

Copyediting: The second stage of the editing process is copyediting, which ensures that grammar, punctuation, and spelling are correct. Copyediting is a detailed and meticulous process that involves checking every word and sentence for accuracy. The copyeditor will check for consistency in style and tone, and will also ensure that the manuscript adheres to the publisher’s style guide.

Proofreading/Cold Reads: The final stage of the editing process is proofreading/cold reads. This stage ensures that there are no errors in the final manuscript. The proofreader will check for typographical errors, punctuation errors, and any other small mistakes that may have been missed during the copyediting stage. A cold read is done by someone who has not seen the manuscript before, and it ensures that the manuscript is ready for publication.

Step 7: Marketing Meetings with Publisher While the book is being edited, the publisher will also work on marketing plans for the book. This can include getting blurbs for the book, reviews in trade journals/ magazines, as well as setting up book signings, author events, and media appearances.

Step 8: Leveraging Social Media/ Blog In addition to the publisher’s marketing efforts, the author can also leverage their own social media presence and blog to promote the book. It’s important to build a strong platform and engage with readers and influencers to create a buzz around the story you’ve created over months and years.

Step 9: Requesting ARC Reads/ Reviews/ Library Requests As the book nears publication, the author can request advance review copies (ARCs) from the publisher to send to reviewers and influencers. This differs from one publishing house to another—and in many cases, the publisher does the bulk of soliciting reviews via sites like Netgalley and Edelweiss. These reviews and ratings can help generate interest in the book and boost its visibility for booksellers and librarians.

Step 10: Speaking to Bookshops to Host Pre-order Campaigns and Book Launch Events

With support from their publicists, authors can also speak to bookshops to set up pre-order campaigns and book launch events. These events can help generate excitement around the book and provide an opportunity for the author to connect with readers. Many publishers and authors take a collaborative approach to organizing guest posts/ blog tours/ online panels/ podcasts, all of which builds towards the publicity campaign for a book.

Publisher involvement in publicity, and also in marketing activities like sales and offers depend on the investment they’ve made on a particular title. If your book received a significant advance, your book is usually considered a ‘lead title,’ and you’re likely to receive more support in terms of publicity and marketing.


This is a basic account of the traditional publishing: the entire publishing process broken down into its significant parts. The time taken to find an agent, to prepare the manuscript, and go on submission might be anything from a few months to more than a year.

Querying proves particularly tricky, depending on what genre is hot in a given season. When you have an agent, a book might sell within weeks of going out, and it might sell after several submission rounds. In traditional publishing, it is crucial to get the right book in front of the right person at the right time, so it is as much about good fortune as it is about a good book.

Traditional publishing is not for you if you like a whole lot of control over the publishing process, but I went in for it because I’m a relatively slow writer, writing very complex books that tend not to do too well in self-publishing. So far, my agent, Lucienne Diver, from the Knight Agency has done a stellar job, and my publisher Thomas & Mercer has been very supportive during the 2-book deal of The Blue Mumbai series.

My literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, was published on January 1 this year and went on to be an Amazon bestseller. The sequel, The Blue Monsoon, will be out in October 2023. It has been a long and gruelling process, but the excellent marketing and editorial support I’ve received so far has made the journey worthwhile.


Damyanti is an Indian author currently based in Singapore. Her short fiction has been published at Smokelong, Ambit, Litro, Puerto del Sol, among others, and she’s the coeditor of The Forge literary magazine.

Her last crime novel, The Blue Bar was published by Thomas & Mercer USA and was one of 2023’s Most Anticipated Mysteries & Thrillers on Goodreads. Publisher’s Weekly called The Blue Bar a searing, unforgettable portrait of marginalized people struggling for survival.

Copyright ©2023 – All rights reserved.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Savage Land Winter 2024.


108 thoughts on “Navigating the Publishing Process

  1. Very interesting to read about the traditional publishing process and what’s involved, though I have heard from other authors they’ve had to do most of the marketing themselves. I guess it depends on the publishing house.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read the Blue Bar and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I didn’t realise it was traditionally published. I can’t normally afford ebooks so perhaps there was a special price at launch?
    Anyway, congratulations on the success of your work, and while I’m too much of a control freak to go down the path, I did find your description of the process highly informative.
    Best of luck with your next book!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think I have the patience for traditional publishing or the editing process they use, though I can see the necessity. Thank you for this insightful look into the market and how it works, Damyanti, and congrats on your success!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So much to learn here, choices to make.. Interest from two of the Five was encouraging, even with no book deal.
    Sorry Damyanti has had to face racism – something I’ve never understood, and have both half Indian and half Nigerian cousins.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Esther. Wonderful that you’ve had interest from the Big Five!

      Racism is something I take in my stride now. Just yesterday there was someone on Author’s Guild labeling a call for submissions from bipoc authors as “illegal discrimination on the basis of race.”

      It is so deeply ingrained in publishing, and it is always astonishing how much hatred there is for the bipoc, merely for existing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I recently read a stat somewhere (sorry, I can’t verify the source) that stated only 1 in something like 4,000 authors who seek to get traditionally published achieve that goal. Those are some steep odds. I was familiar with the process, but Damyanti explains it so well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Pete. Yes, trad pub is getting harder by the day as readership shrinks, and the system isn’t pivoting and changing fast enough because it is bestseller-driven, not niche-oriented.

      I think the triumph of self publishing is in locating a niche of readers and then targeting and catering to them, where as trad-pub seems to want books that will resonate a with a huge cross-section. That makes it very dependent on timing, and not all books turn out to be bestsellers.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s so nice to read about Damyanti’s success here, Jacqui. She deserves it! And this overview was on the ball as well.

    Querying is a long and grueling process and I’m glad she managed to hook an agent and a publishing house! I queried 180 agents – and 25 publishers – for over a year, unsuccessfully, before I decided to self-publish my travel memoir. I think it’s still a dream of many authors to find a publishing deal, but it is a very hard thing to achieve.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I think it is so fascinating to read Damyanti’s perspectives on the traditional publishing process, thanks for sharing. Damyanti had some incredible credentials–keep up the good work! I continue to admire you, Jacqui, and many others who navigate the self-publishing process.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I never considered traditional publishing for my book, the Leonberger book, one reason being it’s a rare breed, a bit of an odd book, and another that it was my first attempt at writing a book. However, this post was certainly interesting and well presented information that I think is useful to everyone who is trying to publish. Thank you so much Damyanti and Jacqui.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jacquie, thank you for this lovely introduction to Damyanti and her work. Damyanti, heartfelt thanks for your superlative explanation of traditional publishing and sharing your experience of it. Congratulations on your books and wow, it must feel amazing to have a book optioned for screen. Would you have an input into the screenplay at that stage?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the kind words, Annika, and I’m so thankful to Jacqui for giving me the opportunity to interact with her wonderful audience.

      My first has been optioned for screen, and no, I won’t have much input on the screenplay, unless they shoot a second season based on the book’s characters. Each option contract is different and has different clauses baked into it.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi Jacqui and Damyanti – it sounds a lot (a lot!) of work … but I’m sure if you want to publish – it’s the route you take, and learn as you go. Both of you have excellent books out there – so different – yet great reads. Bloggers are so supportive and we learn so much from our blogging friends. Congratulations. Cheers – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. This is good information, Damyanti. As someone who’s traditionally published, I chucked at Klausbernd’s comment. For me, each book is an uphill battle with more challenging deadlines and expectations. Thank you for sharing with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jill, and thanks for your comment–I’m glad it resonates with you a trad-pubbed author.

      I think trad pub is like a game of snakes and ladders. A lot of it is talent and hard work, but the same amount, if not more, is down to luck. The roll of the dice. You could be in a bad place one day and suddenly be handed a ladder. You could also be wending your way up, and find yourself gobbled down by a snake and back again to the bottom.

      I try and treat it all as a test of my meditation practice, the ability to stay in a space of equanimity despite the circumstances.

      Liked by 2 people

    • BRB–checking on Klausbernd’s comment.

      OK–Interesting take and probably for him. His books are so darn eclectic, my 30-yo brain would love the exercise. But I think Damyanti’s second book was just as hard as the first! Which was your experience also. The good news: for both of you, it worked!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a wealth of great information and presented in a way that is easily understood. What a great asset to any writer. I wonder how this process may differ for books of poetry over literary works. Thanks for sharing, Jacqui, and thank you, Damyanti for your exceptional advice!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your kind feedback, Brad.

      For poetry, the process is both simpler and more difficult.

      Since most poetry collections tend not to make a whole lot of money, agents usually steer clear of them, unless the author has already won a few awards.

      The process for poetry is to submit to journals, build a portfolio, publish a chapbook or two with a smaller publisher, submit to anthologies wherever possible. This part is harder in some ways because you receive no support from an agent.

      Then, when you have a big enough portfolio, is the time to publish a collection. Most poetry collections are published by smaller presses: University presses and reputable indies.

      Liked by 3 people

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