Wednesday, July 13, 2011

From The Outside Looking In...

"It's impossible to get an agent or a contract with a US publisher if you don't live in the United States."

Believe it or not, I've been hearing this comment a lot lately. I'm here to tell you that this is absolutely not true.
I live in Bermuda, which is its own country, a tiny island situated approximately 700 miles off the coast of North Carolina. I'm not American.
I have an American agent and I am published through an American publisher.
So, it is possible.

With today's technology, if an agent tells you they're not interested in working with foreign clients, I'd like to know why. Unless of course the only language you can speak and write in is Swahili...
All of us on this blog live in foreign lands. (I hate calling Canada a foreign land, eh, but you know, you're pretty far up there...). All of us are either published or pursuing publication.
It's no secret that the biggest publishing market happens to be in the United States.

How do you get a foot in the door if you live outside the country?

Well, I won't say it's easy, because it's not, but I do believe that somebody in Australia stands just as much chance of getting a contract with a US publisher as somebody living in New York does.

So where to start?
Start building your library and making contacts.
Get yourself the most recent copy of The Writer's Market. If you are writing Christian Fiction or targeting the Christian market, you should buy a copy of the Christian Writer's Market Guide, by Sally Stuart.

Most if not all agents and publishers that don't require you to have an agent to query them, will now accept electronic submissions. This is awesome news for you! Years and years ago, when I first started querying, it was definitely a struggle to live outside the US and try to start off my publishing career. Pre-internet, all publishers and agents required a SASE - some of you may not even know what that is! Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope. Now how in the world was I supposed to do that, living in Bermuda?! Well, I did. I had anyone going to the US pick me up a book of stamps. I probably still have a few kicking around here someplace - do stamps expire?

The biggest thing you can do while you're researching all those agents and editors, (and working on your writing as well), is join a writer's group. I know there are a ton out there to choose from and I am sure most will gladly accept overseas members. I belong to two writing groups - American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. Both of these large organizations have separate groups within the main group for overseas members to connect.
Once you find a writing organization that suits your needs, you will have a wealth of knowledge and advice at your fingertips! Ask questions, even if you think they sound silly, you'll be surprised how many answers you get. You will make friends and make connections that may be extremely helpful to your eventual publication someday. Once I discovered this wonderful tool called Networking, doors began to open for me that previously I couldn't have imagined walking through. And I had a bunch of new friends to encourage me in my writing journey!

Go to conferences!! I know, you live in Timbuktu and have you seen the airfare outta here lately?!
Yes. However, any of us that have invested the cash and time to travel beyond our borders to attend a writer's conference will tell you it is well worth it!! Not only will you be exposed to great teaching, you'll also get to meet editors and agents, have the chance to make appointments with them if you wish, and get to know all those new friends you've been making. From a writer who's always felt just a tad isolated here on my tiny island, I can tell you, attended the ACFW conference in September is the highlight of my year!!

Have a positive attitude! They say attitude is everything. It really is. Yes, trying to make it as a published author is hard. Trust me, once you're published, it doesn't get any easier. Pre-publication, you're swimming in a big ocean with a lot of other fish all going the same direction. Once you're contracted, you're dumped in a lake jam-packed with a ton of other fish just like you, all trying to get to swim around in a tinier space. No matter where you are in the journey, you've got to keep up with the game. If you believe that living in a foreign country is a strike against you, ask yourself if that's just an excuse so you don't have to try so hard...really.

If you are really serious about becoming a published author, it can happen. Where you live is irrelevant. You can ask any of us! We're happy to answer questions and share our journey with you anytime.

So get busy, get writing, get connected...and don't forget to stay connected to the One who makes i all possible!


  1. Cathy, great post! Thanks for sharing your inspiring and encouraging writing journey with us :)

  2. Good post! And it's not true for me either. I'm an Australian living in Laos and I have an American agent who's working on placing my second book right now.

  3. Good post Catherine. On stamps you can buy international reply coupons which the can be exchanged at at the post office in another country to cover postage. You can ask the post office how many you need. Normally one for a small envelope two for a bigger one.

  4. Re stamps -- you can buy them on line from the U.S. post office as well. All you need is a credit card and a mailing address.

  5. Yes, Cathy, Canada IS rather far out there. But we Canucks love it that way!

    I'm a Canadian with an American agent and a contract with an American house. Attending two ACFW conferences made a HUGE difference in that regard.

    Granted, it is a lot cheaper for me than those who live across the pond. My nearest large airport is in the USA but conference is still a sizable annual investment :)

  6. Excellent article, Cathy. I think with the net today it is easier to be in contact with agents and editors. And you are so right, belonging to various networks helps, such as ACFW. It's money well spent. The conferences are awesome, but even me in Canada, find it a bit difficult to find the money for the trip. But I try every year.

  7. Ah, what a world this electronic age is. I'm an American with an English publisher--arranged by an English born agent living in America. It's all about getting the right publisher for the right book--in my case, one who really understood what I was trying to do with my Monastery Murders. Let me encourage everyone to keep at it. For me it took 10 years, but the end result was well worth it.