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Looking for some insight in the publishing industry.

Is it even remotely plausible to get published in with an English-language publishing house (UK/US), when you're not a national nor a resident of either country?

The industry being so competitive I can see a publisher or agent outright rejecting my query on any of the following grounds:

  • Distrust: non-native speakers don't have a reputation of being great writers in English
  • Hassle: Setting up meetings, contracts etc. is more difficult.
  • Marketing: The author would not be able to do extensive marketing tours (events, signings, what-have-you) - save for relocation. More hassle.
  • Name: If they can't pronounce my name it's hardly recognizable/marketable (unless I go with a nom de plume)

Let's pretend for a while that I write an amazing, otherwise publishable novel. Do I stand a chance to get it out there? Do you know of any examples of authors who have managed to cross this barrier?

Context:

I've been planning and researching for a novel for about a year now, and I think this is the story I want to get out into the world.

In the past I've written in my native Finnish and the English language. I am equally comfortable in both, but I've never written with the goal of getting published. I've chosen the language based on which has suited the story better.

The publishing industry in Finland is one of the most vital in the world per capita, and while competitive, first-time authors have a reasonable chance to get published if they're good. But there is no Finnish-ness to my story: The events take place in the US and continental Europe, and the characters speak English.

In my mind this story needs to also be written in English, but I'm afraid of writing a book that can't get published because of the way the "system" works.

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As stated below, if your english is good enough there's no reason why a publisher wouldn't take you on board aside from any issues linked to paperwork (and even then). Your book will be addressing english speakers accross the world and not just an anglosaxon audience. Also, there is demand for variety (considered refreshing by some readers) so a difference in name or style would not be an obstacle. Lastly, I would take action now and only consider obstacles as they appear ;) –  James Poulson Aug 15 '11 at 18:50
    
@James: I am taking action now. I've written other things just to keep myself busy and let this idea mature. It's now ripe, but choosing the writing language was a decision I felt I needed to make before I started typing :) The input from you assuages my nerves and makes me feel I'm making the right decision. Thanks. –  fencliff Aug 16 '11 at 7:20
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If you have a publisher right now or published books in the past with a publisher, then maybe that publisher have contacts with some other publisher in UK/US and can help with that. –  Tobias Wärre Aug 16 '11 at 9:20
    
@Tobias - Not so, I'm afraid. I've been wearing out my practice wheels, this is the first one I'm writing with publication in mind. –  fencliff Aug 16 '11 at 10:36

1 Answer 1

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I am not a publisher, so perhaps someone will correct me, but if your book is good, they'll publish it. I can't for the life of me see any good reason why not.

On the subject of distrust, the content of the book demonstrates your English, not the fact you don't live in the UK or the US. I would seriously doubt that anyone would be put off by the fact that you're a non-native speaker if your book is good, and well-written.

In these days of internet connectivity and video phone calls, it's far less of a hassle to organise meetings and discussions.

Marketing tours and suchlike are not barriers to you being published; not all published books have these sorts of events. If the book is promising enough that they want to do these sorts of events, lucky you! Angry Robot (British-based publishers), for example, published Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, who lives in South Africa, and I believe she's recently flown to various countries to promote the book on the back of its success. She didn't have to relocate.

With regards to your name (don't know what it is, so can't comment), going with an alias is an option if you think it would help, but you just need to look at crime fiction to see it littered with names like Håkan Nesser, Jo Nesbø, Arnaldur Indridason etc. and realise that "foreign" names certainly haven't been a barrier for them.

Don't discount publishing in your own language first, however. I can think of a number of examples of books written in foreign languages that were then picked up and published in the English language on the back of their success in their native countries.

Lastly, it's very easy to think of many reasons why something may not work. My advice is to write your book, and try get it published. See what happens!

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I agree. I'm Canadian, and English is my native language, so that's not a concern, but I've had no problem with the other issues raised in terms of dealing with my US publishers. –  Kate Sherwood Aug 15 '11 at 15:23
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As someone who works for multiple publishers, I agree with Craig's answer. As long as your book is good, your location is the least of their concerns. –  Ralph Gallagher Aug 15 '11 at 22:44
    
Thanks for your advice, it is reassuring. The reason I focused so much on the marketing aspect is that I (cynically, perhaps) see the publishing industry veering more and more towards selecting for books that sell, not books of quality. The marketing tours and events are also pretty much par for the course in this neck of the wood, didn't know they aren't "mandatory" in the US. I would prefer to write this one in English, avoiding the impedance mismatch between the culture the story describes and the language it uses to describe it. –  fencliff Aug 16 '11 at 7:16
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Publishers aren't going to pay for a book tour unless you're a NYT Best Seller. It's simply not smart financially for them. They'll probably encourage you to do local book signings if you're in the US but they're not springing for cross-country tours. –  Ralph Gallagher Aug 16 '11 at 21:35
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Wow. This have been very insightful. I'm practically a High Schooler writing my first novel, and I live in Indonesia. I was hoping I was able to publish it internationally somehow, since the market for English books here isn't actually that high. –  Fikko3107 Sep 26 '13 at 10:23

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