This is the big questions, isn’t it? I’ve written a science fiction or fantasy novel—now what? I get asked that all the time by people who are just starting out. They have no publication credits, no contacts in the publishing business, and more than one has convinced himself that this old myth is true:

You can’t get published without an agent but you can’t get an agent unless you’ve been published.

The Guide to Writing fantasy & Science Fiction

How could that actually be true? If it’s literally impossible for new authors to break in, how soon before all the authors who somehow magically got published, maybe before this Catch-22 was established, die off and there are no novelist at all anymore?

Everybody starts somewhere. Every working author had a first publication credit. Sure, there are people who were sort of born into it—sons and daughters of established authors, or reality TV stars gifted with book contracts in some kind of media conglomerate cross-category Frankenstein thing . . .

But that’s actually the exception. Those cases are the weird outliers. Most of the time, authors are “discovered” by writing a really good book, and being persistent and smart about who they send it to, and how they send it.

Peter Archer used to be my boss at Wizards of the Coast. Like we all eventually do, he moved on, and ended up at Adams Media, which is part of F+W Publications, which also operates Writers Digest. It was Peter who suggested I write a “how to” book on writing SF/fantasy, and  The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction was born.

Fast forward to a year after its initial publication and we’re back to that media conglomerate cross-category thing.

Peter hooked me up with the fine people at Writers Digest University, and after a few months of tossing emails back and forth, I agreed to run a webinar:


Writers Digest University Webinars presents: “How to Sell Your Fantasy & Science Fiction to Agents and Editors” by The New York Times best-selling author, editor, and creative consultant Philip Athans, Thursday, July 21, 2011 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM EDT.


I’ve done this sort of thing before, at conventions, but this’ll be my first-ever “webinar.” Thankfully, I have a training session set up on Wednesday so when the time comes I should actually know what to do. And there will be an angel on my shoulder courtesy of WDU to make sure all the technical stuff works—people can actually hear me, see the Power Point, get the handouts, and so on.

Handouts, you ask? Part of your registration fee buys you a handful of PDF files that get into detail on how to write a query letter—not just what elements to include or not include (and what you don’t do in this case tends to be more important than what you do) but why. The same for bios and the vital but difficult to craft one-page synopsis.

What I’m looking forward to most are the questions. I’m not a huge fan of listening to speeches, much less making them, so I really depend on the participation of the people attending the event. I have some good advice, but what’s the point of getting me “live,” if you can’t ask a specific question? What’s the point of me showing up in a particular place at a particular time (even “virtually”) if not for that?

So I invite you all to join me this Thursday at 1:00 pm Eastern time, where you better dang well have your questions ready.

And I’d also like to say a quick thank you to everyone who helped me spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, the blogosphere, GoodReads, and LinkedIn. I did have to resort to some fairly cheesy methods because I had so little time to make sure as many people knew about this as possible. If you helped get the word out, thank you, and if you suffered through a little spam, thank you, too.


—Philip Athans


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
This entry was posted in Books, E-Books, Publishing Business, Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels, SF and Fantasy Authors, Writing, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Eric Swett says:

    Too bad I missed the webinar. But I love this post just the same. Keep it up!

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