The Mostly Complete Guide to Getting Your NaNoWriMo Novel Published

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

You’re halfway through National Novel Writing Month, which means you’re 35 percent finished with your novel. What better time than now to start thinking about getting it published? I’ve got all the tips you need right here:

Submit Early

The month after National Novel Writing Month — non-writers call it “December” — is the busiest submissions period of the year. You don’t want to get left in the dust, do you? DO YOU?!? You may have heard a few editors and literary agents complain about the volume of NaNoWriMo submissions–they’d like you to think they dread December the way peasants living in the shadow of Dracula’s castle fear sunset. These agents aren’t talking to YOU, my special little snowflake. Those OTHER manuscripts have two things in common: They’re junk, and they’re not YOUR manuscript. Like the dairy-fresh chocolate-chip-cookie-dough ice cream hiding behind the fourteen tubs of freezer-burned vanilla in my icebox, your brilliance will never stand out more than when it’s submitted next to these wannabes. Don’t wait around for an agent to ask for more, send ’em the whole damn thing. If they don’t reply, assume it’s because they dropped dead in awe of your work.

Edit Efficiently

When the dopamine rush of completing a novel fades away, many authors enter their dark night of the soul as they contemplate polishing the hot mess they just put to paper. Avoid all that heartache using an amazing new piece of technology called a spell checker ™. I just found out about these things, folks, and believe me, they’re something else! Editing a novel used to last months and cost me at least three friendships, but with a spell checker, you can fix all your novel’s problems in less than an hour! And if it can’t be fixed by spell checker, it’s not worth worrying about.

Like the dairy-fresh chocolate-chip-cookie-dough ice cream hiding behind the fourteen tubs of freezer-burned vanilla in my icebox, your brilliance will never stand out more than when it’s submitted next to these wannabes.

Write a Dynamite Query Letter

Your query letter is like the parachute that ensures your manuscript has a soft landing in the slush pile. All you have to do is sum up hundreds of pages and a lifetime’s worth of artistic vision into a single page. It’s not as daunting as it sounds–if you can write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days, a one-page query letter should take you about forty-five minutes.

Show Them the Money

A query letter isn’t just about plot and character. Whether you’re submitting to a publisher or an agent, one thing they both want to do is make a lot of money. Show them you can make them a lot of money by comparing your book to other famous works–and then noting how much better yours is. For example: “My book about a funeral home for pets will be bigger than Pet Sematary!” Or, “My book, which deals with sacrifice, the horrors of war, and the struggles of a family in turmoil, is sure to be the next The Bible.”

The Personal Touch

Agents and editors will be more receptive to submissions from writers they already know. You’ve got almost two weeks to kindle a relationship with your dream agent. See if you can meet them at a writers conference. Mail them some cookies a few weeks in advance of your submission. Send her a singing telegram on her birthday. The important thing is that they remember you. “Dear Agent: A few weeks ago you blocked me on Twitter after I sent you fourteen @-replies in an hour. I think you’re the perfect agent to represent my animal time-travel crime thriller.”

That pretty much covers it. The only step left, really is:

Cash Your Big, Fat Advance Check

I expect a thank-you in your novel’s acknowledgements section.

Let’s get to work on those submissions, people. Post your new, Bill-Ferris-inspired queries in the comments and I’ll give you some personalized feedback.


About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.


  1. says

    Haha! Funny post. I’m sure the acknowledgements will come rolling in. You may even have endeared yourself to the agents reading the blog. :-)

  2. says

    As nuts as this nutty business is. Was talking to my famous novelist friend who said he came close to giving up writing after his second novel was getting shot down by NY pubs when all of a sudden…and the rest is history.

  3. says

    Darn it, now I wish I’d written something for NaNoWriMo. Where were you two weeks ago? Maybe it’s not too late to churn something out – I’ve got a spell-checker! Besides, I could really use that big, fat advance check…

  4. says

    Bill, I question how you can make it sound so easy. This is my first experience with NaNoWriMo and I’m on target to finishing the 50k challenge, however, I can see places in the novel that need fleshing out to be really interesting and I’m sure that there are sentences that need polishing. When does all this occur, if after 30 days you’re approaching agents? You can’t be serious….can you? I’d just as soon get it right, satisfy my own inner voice and get buried in the dust of the dash in December. After all, there is always self-publishing…

  5. Denise Willson says

    Hahahahahahahaha. Seriously, dude, you are hilarious!

    Denise Willson
    Boring author of A Keeper’s Truth

  6. says

    You had me laughing the whole time, but seriously, I’ve heard of an agent who *is* requesting Nano novels in Dec. or something …

  7. says

    I’ve considered doing this for a couple years, but it never seems to be the right time. Either I’m in the middle of another project and I can’t break away or I have an idea, but I don’t want to restrict myself to writing it from start to finish in a month. Lots of great advice, though, and hopefully the time will come where I’ll be out to use it.

  8. says

    Thank you so much for this post, Bill! I was planning to publish my NaNo novel for December, so this is a huge help! :)

  9. says

    Funny! Who in the right mind will send a manuscript to an agent without editing it? It will go right into slush pile. We’re writing in a rush trying to meet the 50,000-word requirement and meeting the deadline. My story is great but needs editing, editing and more editing after I’m done. I don’t want to see my name in a badly written book.