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I'm from Brazil and I plan to write my first book. I'm thinking about writing it in English, because then it could be published worldwide (I know, dreams). The problem is that I don't know if it would ever be published this way.

How, as a foreign writer, can I proceed to publish my novel in the US market? How difficult is this? Is it a realistic dream, or should I write it in Portuguese and wait (pray) for it have some success here and be translated?

  • Are you near-native fluent in English? If not, write it in Portuguese and get it translated. If you are, then write it in whichever language you're most comfortable in then translate it. – Jon Story Jan 11 '16 at 14:37
  • Not an answer, but advise - get a good editor. IMHO every author needs an editor, but foreign author needs an editor 10 times more. – Alexander Mar 8 '17 at 19:10
  • Thank you very much guys. Those were very helpful tips. It's just that it is really hard to publish a book in Brazil and in the US, though all these difficulties, still a venture I believe to be worth. Since here vanity press rules the market. Again thank you so much. I will try all these options and see what fits better for me. Thanks. – user23932 Sep 8 '17 at 3:12
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It's hard for anyone to get published anywhere. I recommend writing your book in Brazilian Portuguese, so you have the full range of expression that every author gets from writing in their primary language. Assuming you're in Brazil, you'll also get more support and better feedback from your friends there than from a remote English-speaking audience. Focus on writing a great story. Until you've got that, don't worry about publishing. When you've finished the story, you can rewrite it in English and get a publisher.

There is a trend in the US toward publishing works by Latin-American and foreign authors. Our changing culture and educational curricula are driving this change. Typically, these works address universal themes in a local context. The choice of theme makes the story relevant to a global audience. The local context gives the global audience insights into the local culture and family relations.

That said, avoid placing too many demands on the reader having local knowledge. For example, if your one of your characters is a political activist who suffers from PTSD, you might need to provide some insight into Brazil's recent political history. It's a tricky balance, trying to write something relevant and universal.

In any case, becoming an established writer in Brazil should be an advantage. Boa sorte!

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It will make very little difference. The publishing industry is desperate for good stories. They don't much care where they come from. Anything interesting or exotic about the author's background can be exploited for marketing purposes, but really it is all about good stories.

I wish people would stop saying that it is hard to get published. It really isn't. It is hard -- very hard -- to write something worth publishing. But that is not the same thing at all. If you write something worth publishing, it will generally find a home. It is true that there are exceptions, work that caught the public's imagination that were rejected by a number of publishers before being accepted, but that is mostly about simply finding the right publisher.

The reason publishers have so many walls up to submissions is not because they are making it hard to get published but because they are inundated with a torrent of absolute drek. They have to develop strategies to separate the wheat from the chaff. Agents are the main mechanism they use. And agents are actively looking for new writers with good salable stories. They spend a lot of time reading and a lot of time on the road at writers conferences actively looking for writers with a story they can sell.

Getting published is not hard, if you have written a good story. You should not focus on barriers. They fall away if you write a good story. But writing a good story is hard. Many try, and most fail. Succeed at that, though, and the rest will come easily enough. You should focus your effort and your anxiety on creating the best story you can.

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If you self-publish, it shouldn't be any harder for you than for a U.S. native.

If you are trying to sell your book to a "traditional" publisher ... as @rolfedh says, it's hard for anyone who is not an established writer or already famous in some other field to get a publisher interested in his book. I don't know if it would be harder still for a foreigner per se, i.e. if a publisher would say, "Ohhhh, he's from Brazil, we don't want no grubby foreigners writing for us." :-)

A serious potential problem is if you are not fluent in English. For example, in your post, your English is pretty good, but I see two grammar errors: It should be "could be published worldwide", not "could be publish". And the sentence beginning "How, as a foreign writer ..." has no subject: it should be, "How, as a foreign writer, can I proceed ..." I don't know if this is a sign that your English is good but not fluent, or if you just typed the question hastily, etc. If you struggle with your English, this could really slow you down and interfere with concentrating on the story rather than language mechanics. In general, publishers are reluctant to publish books that don't have excellent grammar. There are exceptions and special cases, but it adds to the barriers that you have to overcome.

Another thing to consider is: What is the potential market in Brazil? Yes, there are many more people in the world who speak English than there are who speak Portuguese. But there are also many more books printed in English. I just found some stats that say there are 359 million people in the world who speak English and 260 million who speak Portuguese. I couldn't find stats on books published by language in a quick search, but I did find books published by country: US: 304,000, UK: 184,000, BR: 57,000, PT: 8,000. So there are maybe 359 million English speakers for 492,000 books, or 730 potential readers per book; and 260 million Portuguese speakers for 65,000 books, or 4,000 per book. The Portuguese market may be easier! (I have no idea how much Brazilians read versus how much U.S. folks read.)

Also, bear in mind that as a first-time author, the odds are that you will sell several hundred to a few thousand copies of your book. Yes, if your book is fabulous and you have good marketing and you are lucky you could sell millions of copies, but the odds are heavily against it.

I've published three books (in English) and I've only sold a handful of copies outside the U.S. (Including one in Brazil!)

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  • I'm pretty sure your estimate of 359 million English speakers in the world is a very low estimate. The US population is estimated at around 323 million as of 2016, and Canada has 35 million. Probably a decent chunk of both at least read English; even if only 80%, that's 286 million people. Add to this that a significant fraction of the EU population (at over 500 million) speak English; even if only 50% (which I suspect is a very low estimate), that alone just about doubles your audience, now numbering at over 500 million. And that's before even considering, say, India's 1.3 billion people. – user Sep 8 '17 at 20:41
  • Now, if you meant was that there would be 359 million people who speak English as their first language, that's a bit more plausible. But let's not forget the UK's population of 65 million -- I'm pretty sure a significant fraction of those speak English. – user Sep 8 '17 at 20:44
  • @MichaelKjörling Wikipedia estimates that the English language has 360-400m native speakers, 400m speak it as a second language, and 600-700m as a foreign language. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Sep 9 '17 at 1:16
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    @NeilFein Fair point. I haven't checked statistics, but I'd readily believe that there are a lot more people in the world who speak English as a second language than there are who speak Portuguese as a second language. – Jay Sep 9 '17 at 19:01
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Two suggestion: team authorship with a native English speaker who has decent Latin American language skills, or "exchange services" with the same. Key thought for either suggestion: it's better to hammer out the contract details first, even if it's fairly boilerplate language.

The team authoring can be useful if each person is doing an amount of work. Meanwhile they're translating your stuff into English. You're translating their story bits into your native language(s), and both are acting as fact checkers, editors, advance readers, etc. for each other. You can push each other to do better in one area so that the person working on the next area can push forward, go back and fix these things, etc.

Second example: I speak Japanese fluently enough, have an English story ready to go, if I found a "team author" who needed their Japanese story translated into English, our work on each other's books should balance out. I don't expect them to not acquire some rights to profit from the Japanese translation of my books, nor should I acquire too many rights to profit from the English translation, etc.

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