I don't have an English or Writing-related degree in any way. As of right now, I have no degree, but what I mean is that I'm not even pursuing a degree in writing.

How does this hurt my chances? Do publishers tend to ignore writers without related degrees? What can I do to increase my chances if I don't get a degree? Should I be worried?

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    Oh shoot, I'm sorry! Fixing that up. Thanks a lot, Lynn. I just had a fight on another Stack Exchange site where my question was closed. I had walked away from the computer, came out to find it closed. No one asked me to clarify or elaborate. I appreciate that this site didn't jump to close the question, and instead helped me to refine it. You rock!
    – bdrelling
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 23:15
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    Just consider all the crap written by people who do have degrees. You are gonna be fine. Commented Jun 25, 2011 at 4:18
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    It's equal to the chances of someone with an English or Writing degree. Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 19:39
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    From my experience, and in my opinion, the best SF/F novelists have STEM backgrounds, with the remaining ones being in social sciences. Not an answer, just my two coppers.
    – Nero gris
    Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 21:33
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    Just so we are clear on this, the chances of successfully publishing a novel are extremely low. Whether or not you have an English degree does not change them. They are just extremely low no matter what kind of degree you do or don't have.
    – user16226
    Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 11:22

8 Answers 8


Write something amazing. Make sure an editor looks over it for mistakes. If it's really good, nobody will care if you're a second-grade dropout or have a Ph.D. in teaching underwater basket-weaving to aardvarks.

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    Second the notion of getting an editor. That way, someone with an English degree will still get paid and you are closer to being published.
    – Joel Shea
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 19:07
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    How much money would it cost to find an editor? I thought a publisher assigns an editor to my book? I'm very crappy with the process... any links on help with this? I know I could google resources, but I'm sure someone here has an awesome resource themselves?
    – bdrelling
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 23:18
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    A publisher will have an in-house editor look over your ms, but you will have a better chance of an agent getting your ms to a publisher if an editor has looked over it first. We have freelance editors here on the board, but I don't know how much we're allowed to advertise ourselves. Commented Jun 25, 2011 at 2:27
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    You know, I can tell you from bitter experience, a degree in teaching underwater basket weaving to aardvarks is not as useful as it might appear. That's three years of my life I'm never getting back.
    – One Monkey
    Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 8:57
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    You can find people willing to edit your work on places like Craigslist. Like anything on places like Craigslist, makes sure you are careful, ask lots of questions upfront, don't pay for services before they are rendered, and get tested for Hepatitis.
    – Joel Shea
    Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 12:09

Do you like to read books? When was the last time you said "Oh My God! This writer is totally cool, but you know what, Im going to put him back on the self, coz, you know, he doesnt have a degree in English?"

Exactly, never.

Just like having a degree in physical education is not required for winning the Olympics, having a degree in English is not required for writing a successful book.

Writing, like sports, is a very practical thing. Sure, you may go for coaching, ask for help on how to improve your weaknesses, but at the end of the day its not your bookish knowledge, but your practical experience that saves the day. So practice a lot.

Finally, looking at this survey:

By far, the two most popular choices were conventions and writers groups, both of which were reported by more than half of our novelists. The least popular choice? The graduate degree in English/Writing.

  • Interesting about the survey! That's very cool to see. I saw that link earlier but missed that part, so thank you. Also, my question wasn't, "Will readers still read my books?", but "Will publishers hesitate to publish my work based on my resume?" kind of thing. Thank you for your help though! It fit regardless. :)
    – bdrelling
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 23:17

No, nobody in the publishing business cares if you have a degree. In fact, in the eyes of some agents and editors, having a degree in a writing-related field might actually be a drawback. It's hard to convince some people that their writing needs work when it has already been validated by a college degree.

Now, I wouldn't say this is a widely-held belief or anything, and in any case, life experience tends to knock any sense of entitlement out of college graduates eventually, but certainly there are plenty of successful writers who do not have any formal training in writing.

Readers tend to buy books without regard for whether the author has an English or journalism degree. This makes publishers tend to care little as well. In the end, your book will be judged by publishers primarily based on whether they think they can sell it and/or whether it is good.

  • I've heard lately that an MFA in writing is the new gateway for getting published in literary magazines. Is that not true?
    – justkt
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 18:39
  • I realized I asked the question, but I would like to input... It might be true for literary magazines, but it seems that kindall was talking about it through novels, from my original question.
    – bdrelling
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 23:19
  • Yes, I was assuming you were interested in mainstream commercial publishing, rather than small or literary publishers. Getting an MFA would probably guarantee publication in a journal affiliated with your alma mater.
    – kindall
    Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 4:38
  • Oh, I am more interested in mainstream commercial publishing. I was just clarifying for justkt.
    – bdrelling
    Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 16:36
  • Certainly, me too, and for posterity. :-)
    – kindall
    Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 17:21

Whether you have a degree in writing / journalism or not makes no difference.

Alistair McLean was in the navy(or army) before he started writing thrillers(many of which were made into movies).

J.K. Rowling was living on welfare before Harry Potter

Ian Fleming was in MI6 before James Bond

Amish Tripathi was in the Financial services before he wrote the Shiva Trilogy

Hugh Howey, the successful self-published and self made author did not have any degree in writing.

Chetan Bhagat is an Engineering Degree holder from one of the most prestigious Engineering institutions in India.

And so on ......


As others have said, there is no direct correlation between having a degree and getting published. But...

I'd like to suggest that an education in writing provides people with the basic principles of good storytelling, gives experience with soliciting and receiving criticism, and helps them form friendships with other writers. These things don't directly get you published, but they can help you be a (better) writer. And programs that require a finished manuscript as a thesis provide a pretty high level of motivation to finish the thing.

(I don't have a writing degree, but I've gotten all those things from other sources.)


Depends on how you define success. If you want to monetarily recoup your efforts, you'd be better off investing in a high risk investment vehicle such as bitcoin or IBM. If you are truly talented at writing, you still need a lot of luck and skill to rise above the enormous amount of noise.

For commercial success, you need to determine who is your marketable audience and write to them. The style and subject matter must be compelling. Why would a stranger read your novel? It really helps to be famous, beautiful or have an amazing backstory.


keep trying and it will work out! write your best. I don't have an english degree and I am in the process of working with a publisher.


As in anything,if you truly have a passion for story telling or creative truth, this is the main ingredient for "going for it" because even if you aren't able to make a living,your doing what makes you happy and that in itself is enjoying the journey! And that is never a failure!!

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