Getting Published

James Patterson

Lesson time 11:13 min

Author of 76 best-sellers and holder of the Guinness World Record for the first person to sell over 1 million eBooks, James knows a thing or two about getting published. In this lesson he shares what he's learned.

James Patterson
Teaches Writing
James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.
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I've been through the pain of trying to get an agent, trying to get a publisher, trying to get a good editor, so I know what you're going through, and the best thing I can tell you is one word, which is "persistence." And just be prepared and don't take it personally. My first book turned down by 31 publishers. You're going to get a lot of rejection here, and a lot of it may have nothing to do with your book. [CELLO SOLO] The first novel that I wrote was The Thomas Berryman Number, and I sent it out to a few agents and publishers myself. I got back some rejections, form notices, half-page whatever. A couple of publishers, one publisher, William Morris actually, held it for quite awhile. And I'm like, oh my god, oh my god, William Morris is going to publish it. Then they rejected it. And at that point I just happened to read a little piece in The New York Times Book Review about an agent who was taking on young writers. So I sent it over to that agent and like two days later I get a phone call, and I'm like, I can't believe this agent's turned it down that quickly and the agent actually said, no, no. I want to handle you. And this may happen to you. The agent said, "This is a terrific book. We're going to sell it. You've done a great job. But there are some changes that should be made." And he said, "I have an editor who I work with sometimes who's really good at working with young writers, Jay Acton, and let me send it over to Jay and see if Jay wants to work with you." OK, so I go over and meet Jay Acton. A nice guy, a smart guy. He has some thoughts. I go back and rewrite for a month or so. We submit it back to Jay. Jay rejects it. I'm heartbroken. The agent says, "Don't worry. This book is in great shape now. We're going to sell it." They got like four offers within the week for The Thomas Berryman Number. Then I went in and this actually was so much fun. Little, Brown wanted it the most. In those days Little, Brown was still in Boston, and I went up on Beacon Hill and went to their offices. And I'm sitting in this room filled with all the books they've published in there's Catcher in the Rye, and there's Herman Wouk, Youngblood Hawke, and all this stuff. And the fire's burning in a fireplace. It's real old-time stuff. And it was the best. I mean I'll never forget being in that office and thinking, oh my god, they're going to publish my damn book. [CELLO SOLO] You need to reach out. You need to reach out to mentors. Just trying to get some contacts. Contacts are really important. Introductions are important. If you can get introduced to an editor or publishing executive or an agent somehow, or any kind of an introduction, it helps. A former professor, a writing teacher, writer friends with published books, media executives, lawyers in the space. Those are all useful in terms of you're j...

Set out to write a best-selling book

James Patterson, the author of 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, reveals his tricks of the trade. In his first online writing class, he guides you from the start to the finish of your book.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

James Patterson is an amazing teacher! This class is great for writers at any level. There is something for any Author.

Since that I've never enrolled in an online class before, I feel overwhelmed at the amount of knowledge and information that i came out with. Definitely will genuinely think about enrolling again in another class!

Sometimes it is difficult to keep going. But, my goal of being published, NUDGES me forward. This goal is not only for me, but my family, too.

This is a very good way to start the course. James speaks clearly, and speaks to me, not at me, or down to me.


Rapha R.

Hi everyone! I’d like your opinion on self-publish (ebook) while searching for agent / publisher. Should I do it? Do publishers dislike a book that has already been digitally release?


Tears! This class is SO good and this has to be my favorite lesson so far...James Patterson is freaking awesome.


Have a high school classmate, Green Bret Steve Yedniak "HARD TO FORGET." Has published his own books.

Dee D.

I have learned a great deal so far from Mr. Patterson. Just wanted to know if anyone here have any thoughts on self publishing whether it be on Amazon, Book Baby or with any other self publishing company. Have anyone here have done it and what's your success. Thanks.

Shayne O.

Hello, I have written a 1 page letter to Mr John Publisher introducing him to my book. Basically a very short tag line, a condensed raw idea, my target audience, other books with a similar name or in a similar genre, a blurb on my book and how it closely relates to a current well known book now movie with a similar theme, thank yous and salutations. I have included a separately titled half page biography that would need to be fine tuned drastically for a book bio. I have looked up the publishing houses for other books in a similar genre. I have also started an online course to assist me with setting up a website and understanding how to generate traffic and business on one`s own web page. I did enjoy this lesson very much. Thank you James.

Margot B.

Fourteen years ago a flood of ideas came forth from my mind. The ideas came so fast and furiously and, at odd hours, that I abandoned the keyboard and took to recording them. After two months, the deluge stopped and I set out to transcribe the recordings. I ended up with over 300 pages of repetitive soapbox sermons, inspired insights on human potential and criticism of the reductionistic ideas that so many colleagues swear by. It took me twelve years to figure out how to put it all together and finally I was ready to seek a publisher. I went on Amazon.com and compiled a list of the publishers who published books in my genre--spiritual approaches to psychology. Every submission took an entire day's work. My publisher of preference never responded to my query. Another publisher sent me a one-line email with not even so much as a greeting, "You realize you'll have to do all your own marketing." I received an apologetic email from the third publisher ten days after sending in my query. "We apologize for taking so long to respond to your query. We will be presenting your query at our upcoming monthly meeting next Monday and will reply shortly." Well, that was promising, but I didn't hold my breath. The following Monday, I received a contract! The publisher didn't even ask to read a sample chapter! For the next three days, I was in a state of euphoria. I was, as James described, floating above the ground. This was the most exciting news of my life so far. The book came out a year later and is still selling quite well. Please read my response to Dennis Fleming on book marketing below. We work hard, we owe it to ourselves to persevere with our writing, publishing and, marketing our work.

Rolla D.

Persistence - - don't take rejections personally - go to conferences on how to publish. All good, sound pieces of advice. Then in the more bleak moments of despair, I listen to these talks, read the comments - all meaningful . Periodically at the library I must admit I go to the shelf and find 'where my book would be.' Then I go back and rewrite.

Miles T.

I think the best solution today is hybrid publishing. First, you self-publish your work online, and if your book becomes popular, you contact a publishing house to make your book sell further. Maybe they might find your book online and ask you to let them publish it.

Jeremy A.

I know the "six inches off the sidewalk" feeling. When somebody who was neither family nor friend bought one of my novels, it made my day.

Yazz B.

Some great tips, not only from James but also from lots of you writers out there. Thank you so much for all your insights. Now i realize that hard work and persistence does not stop at writing the novel.