Do foreign writers stand a chance of being published by famous American publishing companies?

This post is in reply to a question asked on the Writers and Authors Facebook page

The most correct answer is: it depends. 

If you create a manuscript that is a master piece with obvious sales potential your origin shouldn't factor too much in the decision of whether or not to offer you a publishing deal. You will of course have to get your foot in the door and get your manuscript read by the right people in order for this to happen but if you find a good agent* to represent your work you shouldn't be at a disadvantage over native writers submitting their work. 

*Yes you will need to be represented by a literary agent. All of the 'Big' American publishing houses only accept manuscripts via established agencies and don't consider individual submissions direct from the authors.

When people refer to the 'Big Six' they are commenting on the biggest publishing houses:
  1. Hachette Book Group
  2. Harper Collins
  3. Macmillan
  4. Penguin group
  5. Random House
  6. Simon & Schuster

Let's take a look at the for and against to better understand if your manuscript could get a yes or no:


Harper Collins is one of the world's largest publishing houses. Originating in the United Kingdom it now has it's headquarters in New York City in the US. Harper Collins has publishing groups in various countries including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and India. It also publishes several different imprints. With such an expansive collection of countries being part of the company and being represented either under the Harper Collins title or by one of it's imprints it's clear that they are more than open to taking on foreign writers. This is just an example to highlight the fact that some 'Big' publishing houses are international and that they don't limit themselves to just American authors.


Obvious problems arrive when the writer is not Mother-Tongue English as in most cases taking on a manuscript would mean intensive editing, costing the company more time and money than they would predict having to invest on the work of a native. This is just one example of why American publishers often steer clear of foreign writers. More points are covered in this article from Publishing Perspectives about why it's so hard for foreign writers to get publishing deals with American Publishers

There have been numerous Filipino writers that have made it into the history books. Carlos Bulosan for example was even commissioned by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to write the essay 'Freedom from want' and his book 'America is in the Heart' had a huge impact on Filipino-American literature. To give you a more recent example, Philippine author Ninotchka Rosca won the American Book Award in 1993 for her novel 'Twice Blessed'. 

As you can see it's not a question with a cut and dry answer. The chance is there but you'll find you're likely to have the odds against you. 

Are you a foreign writer published with one of the big American Publishers? 
Do you think foreign writers stand a chance of being published by a famous American Publisher? What are your thoughts?


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