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Publishing Ins and Outs: Advice on Writing for Publication and Getting Published

Publishing Ins and Outs: Advice on Writing for Publication and Getting Published

Author: Gabrielle Harbowy

January 9, 2016

Welcome back to another installment of “Publishing Ins and Outs.” Please keep the questions coming, at

As a gender fluid non binary person, I don’t want to make assumptions about the gender of the people reading my queries. What’s a good gender neutral option?

Thank you for your gender sensitivity! There’s nothing like starting off a query on the wrong foot to bias an editor against your submission.

I’m a fan of “Dear Editor/Dear Editors.” A first name is too informal if it’s someone you haven’t met, and some people feel that “to whom it may concern” implies that you don’t actually know who you’re trying to reach. Editor is a professional title; with “Dear Editor,” you’re safe from gender because you’re addressing the position instead of the person, while making it clear that you know where your query should be directed. Vary this to “submissions editor” or “acquisitions editor” if that sort of specific title is mentioned in the submissions guidelines.

I’m a debut author and my first book is coming out in the spring. While I was home over the holidays, my family asked me for updates and I told them…but then everyone had a different excuse for why my novel probably isn’t their thing. I get that, but can’t they be proud of me regardless? Please help me. What can I say to my family? They’re well-meaning and I love them, and I know they don’t mean to crush my feelings, they just don’t know how much it hurts to hear nothing but “I don’t care.”  

Oh, author, I am so sorry. That IS soul-crushing. I think the best way to respond to a family that means well and doesn’t realize the impact of their words, is to be straightforward with them. You can give them the words they’re missing, and in a gentle way so that they don’t feel called-out or criticized.

One suggestion: The next time a book milestone happens for you (cover image release, or Amazon preorder page comes up, or the first pre-publication review comes in), drop them a line to let them know. When you do, tell them that you know it’s not the kind of novel they’d normally read and that’s okay. It’s okay if they don’t want to read it, but you hope they’ll be excited for YOU, all the same. If you don’t care if they ever open it, you can tell them that, and add that you’re still looking forward to signing their copy.

Try guiding them to make it about you and your accomplishment, not about the content. If all else fails, you can always go for the unsubtle: “Congratulations! Your [insert type of relation here] is a published author! Book available at the following locations. They make great gifts!”

Gabrielle Harbowy photo

About: Gabrielle Harbowy

Gabrielle Harbowy copyedits professionally and is a submissions editor at the Hugo-nominated Apex Magazine. With Ed Greenwood, she co-edited the award-nominated When the Hero Comes Home anthology series; their latest anthology endeavor is Women in Practical Armor, from Evil Girlfriend Media. Her short fiction can be found in several anthologies, including Carbide Tipped Pens from Tor. She’s also the author of two novels: Hellmaw: Of the Essence (TEGG), and Gears of Faith (Paizo). For more information, visit her online at @gabrielle_h or

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