Do I Need to Write My Whole Book Before Finding a Publisher?

Should you write the whole book first? Quick answer:

Fiction: Yes, a complete manuscript is required (assuming you’re a debut author)

Nonfiction: You typically need three solid chapters along with a book proposal. You don’t have to write the whole book.

Some notes based on my experience:

If you’re only sending 3 chapters, make sure that includes the FIRST chapter (or Introduction if you have one). You can then include some chapters from later in the book if you like.

If you’ve never written an entire book before, write as much as you can before seeking publication. And make sure you’ve created a solid outline to follow when you’re writing the rest of the book. You don’t want to get a book contract and then be unable to complete your book by the deadline.

If your book is a memoir, keep in mind that memoirs often take several drafts (of the whole thing) to find their way into being their best selves. So while an agent or publisher doesn’t require a completed book up front, you may want to take the time, do the work, write the whole thing multiple times if necessary, and allow your memoir to develop into something great.

You can find lots more info on all things writing and publishing here at my website!


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Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!