You’ve Just Finished Your First Book!
You’ve written your manuscript, and now you’re a little unsure about the next steps. No matter if you’re wanting to submit the manuscript to a publisher, participate in something like #PitMad or #PitchWars on Twitter, or go the indie publishing route, you should spend the next few weeks going over and polishing your manuscript. But you should take it nice and slow. Baby steps.
The first thing that you need to do is take a moment and realize what an amazing thing you’ve done. You’ve finished a manuscript. That, in and of itself, is an accomplishment. On my hard drive, and faithfully backed up on Google drive, are the unfinished remains of a dozen manuscripts. Not a one of them is on my publication schedule for the next year. The ones that I have actually finished were the result of some hard core discipline and maybe even some self bullying.
Well that, and generous applications of chocolate, with some wine bribes thrown in.
So, go out to dinner with a great friend or your significant other, or all by yourself if you’re hesitant yet to spill the beans about the baby that you’ve labored over for the last months or years of your life. Buy a bottle of wine, or enjoy a rum and coke. You deserve it. Finishing that manuscript is an awesome thing. I’m proud of you! Also, if you’re having rum and coke, let me know so I can join you!
But now we’re on to more practical matters. Just because you’re finished with the manuscript doesn’t mean you’re done with the process. Whether you’re looking for an agent, submitting directly to publishers, or self publishing, you need to do some work on that baby of yours, to make sure that what you put out there to the world is a great product.
The first thing that you’ll want to do are some self revisions. I know that you think you’ve got a great piece of work on your hands, but I’m going to tell you, you need to run it through spell check, and that’s just the beginning. You need to plan to spend several hours (not all at once) with that manuscript, looking at it with a critical eye, making sure that it’s not just awesome, but amazing.
For me, I print the manuscript, and sit down with it and a cup of hot tea, and go over it with a red pen, just like our English teachers did in high school.
Some people prefer to keep it all on their computer. Do what works for you! I’m telling you, that you’ll find things you didn’t realize were there.
The next step that you want to take is to find a beta reader. If you’re writing a fiction novel, you shouldn’t have a problem finding beta readers. If you can’t find any, try the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group. I guarantee you’ll find a few willing sets of eyeballs there. A fiction writer shouldn’t have to pay for beta reading. Non-fiction writers may need to, especially if your book is highly technical or if you need someone highly experienced in a particular field.
A beta reader is mostly looking for continuity and plot holes. They will probably pick up on any typos you missed, too. A beta reader is reading purely from a reader’s standpoint, and they’re going to give you some honest feedback on what you’ve written. Really honest. They’re going to tell you what parts have hit that level of amazing that you were striving for, and they’re going to tell you what parts suck. It may make you feel defensive and even angry to hear criticism of something that you’ve worked so hard on, but if you hear it from beta readers before you hear it from an agent or a publishing house, you at least have the opportunity to fix the problems.
And that’s the point of having beta readers. They show you where there are problems, to, again, make sure that what you’re putting out there in the world is amazing. While it isn’t really necessary to go through the editing stage before you present to an agent or a publishing house, it’s a great idea to have 3 or 4 beta readers have at your baby first. It will make your book better, I promise.
The last thing that you’ll want to do at this stage is put together a blurb. A blurb is a description of your book. This blurb is what is going to get an agent or a publishing house to look at your manuscript as a whole, so it needs to really pop. You can pay someone to write a blurb for you, but, really, no one knows that book the way you do. Your blurb can go to your beta readers, too. Since they have read the book, they may be able to suggest changes or additions for improvement.
Once you’ve gone through these steps, it’s time to take a deep breath, and start looking for agents or publishing houses, or make your decision to self publish.