Publishing in an English-Speaking Country When You Don’t Live There
I sent out a call last week for writing questions, and I thought I’d answer 2 today. (Thank you to everyone who sent questions!!)
…the problem is, I actually live in another country, and I’d be trying to get published in an English speaking country. Can this happen? Have you ever heard of it? Will agents only accept manuscripts that come from people who speak english as their first language?
Awesome question, and one I’m sure many of you are wondering about.
Short answer: Yes, you can most definitely do this! 🙂
Long answer: You can publish in an English-speaking country, no matter where you’re from/live. While it can make things difficult when it comes time to promote a book, having an author live in a different country is NOT a deal-breaker for agents or publishers.
Consider that I lived in Germany when I sold my trilogy! I also have a close friend who lives in Australia, but her agent is American and her first book sold initially in the US (and later on, it also sold in Australia). I have another close friend who got her agent while living in Japan, and another friend who was living in Romania when her books released.
As for your next question, agents will definitely accept manuscripts from non-native English speakers (as long as your English is very, very strong). And yes, I have heard of this happening. 🙂 I knew a German girl who sold her book in the UK, and her first language was German.
THAT SAID, I’m not sure you should mention in a query letter that English isn’t your native language. It might end up biasing an agent against you simply because–despite an impeccably written letter–the agent may assume your English isn’t strong.
Let your letter and sample pages stand strong, and then–if you want–you can tell an agent/editor AFTER signing/selling that English isn’t your first language.
I hope that helps, and feel free to ask more questions in the comments or in the forum!
August 18, 2014 @ 5:31 pm
First off, welcome back! Hope you had a fantastic time in Europe! Second, thank you for this! It’s very optimistic answer, especially to those of us who don’t live in countries with a strong publishing industry and might be trying to make it in America/elsewhere. That’s unfortunate about possibly getting judged because English isn’t your first language. Actually, rather than sad, it can also come off as a bit offensive? (at least, that’s how I’d see it if someone told me they’re not confident in my English skills just because it’s my second language. Lots of people are competent bilinguals!)
August 18, 2014 @ 7:43 pm
I think what Sooz is hitting on is that, even if an you believe yourself to be a progressive open-minded individual who knows people with excellent English who learned it as a second (or third, fourth, etc.) language if someone mentions English isn’t their first language, sub-conciously you’re immediately going to be questioning his or her ability to speak/write English.
If instead you let your query letter and work speak for itself and then casually mention later that you originally spoke x language, well then after seeing definitive proof of your work your agent/editor/etc. can be all “Well who’s the next Joseph *$^&ing Conrad now”.
August 18, 2014 @ 8:19 pm
That’s exactly what I’m trying to say, Caitlin (thanks!). My husband is trilingual, a native French and German speaker with English as a second language. He still doesn’t mention his various languages (in a career setting), though, unless someone else brings it up. It’s exactly as Caitlin said that–no matter who we are or how well we know people who are multilingual–someone *still* might subconsciously question a person’s ability, so it’s best to let the language SHOW your stills to start. Then you can TELL them your background after. 😉
August 19, 2014 @ 4:35 am
Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound hypercritical! It’s just that I was in an international academic environment until recently and a lot of people used their second language to communicate, so the thought of having someone do that (even subconsciously) was kind of a new thing for me 🙂
August 21, 2014 @ 1:18 pm
I totally understand! And I hate that people *might* subconsciously assume something…but let’s face it: it’s human nature. 😛 Is English your first language? Because I’ve assumed all these years it is, and if not…well, wow! You’ve shown me your language skills are flawless. 😉
May 28, 2022 @ 9:02 pm
Hello, my name is Kate and i’ m from Ukraine.now it is war there and with my three children i am living in Austria…in Ukraine I wrote 3 books, worked as an English teacher and did a lot of other activities.now my life has changed dramatically.recently i had a dream to write about my way from Ukraine, my adventures, trials and happy moments, kind people on the way and a lot of insights during my journey. I wanted to share with the world and publish such a book.it sounds so unbelievable but I write every day…who knows maybe i will do it. Thank you for this article, it gave a sparkle of hope, a light in dark…my way was very tough, death, pain..but ii always find kindness and God,’s gifts on the way.maybe you can advise me something…
February 10, 2023 @ 5:36 pm
Wow! You should go for it. I have been wanting to know what was going on in the minds of people as they left Ukraine and your book will give me the opportunity. Please do so. Cheers and Good Luck writing! Your ever faithful supporter. Hope you receive this reply.
August 6, 2015 @ 10:36 am
You said you had a friend from Romania who published some books? Who is he or she, I’m familiar with the romanians authors since I also live in Romania and I am interested in how I can publish a book somewhere else cause book publishing industry here is pretty bad.
October 12, 2021 @ 5:16 am
The question might sound silly but it is one of my biggest insecurities. The question is- Is it possible that you sitting in a different country talks to publisher of another country and they ask for your manuscript and when you send it and they stole it and ask one of their popular writers to publish it by their name because you didn’t have a copyright or any goodwill at the time you sent it. Is it possible?
January 13, 2022 @ 6:24 pm
I have never, ever, ever heard of this happening if you are publishing with a reputable publisher. No true publisher would ever do this, and no true agent would ever let it happen to their client. And if that did happen (which it never would with a real publisher), then you can always sue. The book is copyrighted to you the instant you write it; if you have evidence you wrote it first on your hard drive, then the copyright belongs to you.
Definitely do not worry about this. As long as you know the publisher you are working with is a legitimate publisher (check Writer’s Beware if you’re worried!), then you are okay.
Adam Musah Boribi
May 22, 2022 @ 6:22 pm
I am done with my fantasy novel. I am curious about where to publish reliably. Thus whether within or outside my country. Please tell me something more. I doubt my country’s commitment to reading fantasy and related manuscripts.
November 4, 2022 @ 10:28 am
Great article! I’m puzzled about one aspect though:
`THAT SAID, I’m not sure you should mention in a query letter that English isn’t your native language. It might end up biasing an agent against you simply because–despite an impeccably written letter–the agent may assume your English isn’t strong.`
You say that I should not mention that English is not my native language. But my foreign name (I’m Romanian btw) will appear in the email and will give me away nonetheless. Any advice? Thanks!
February 10, 2023 @ 5:39 pm
You can be named Romanian but still have English as your first language. This is logical thinking, though sadly, most people might assume otherwise and not think about other possibilities.