After months, maybe years, of dedicated hard work, you are finally able to type “The End.” It’s the feeling that you always dreamed it would be. THIS is your masterpiece, THIS is your legacy, THIS is everything you hoped it would be!
Let me outline a few general steps that you still need to take before you hold that beautiful hard copy of your book in your hands.
1. Congratulations! Finishing your book, whether its your first or fifty-first, is an amazing accomplishment. Take a moment to revel in your achievement, but don’t get too carried away. Your hard work is far from over.
2. If this is the first draft of your book, keep in mind that you are probably nowhere near publishing it (yet). You need to give your book some distance. Right now, you are in the “infatuation” stage where your book can do no wrong. It might be beautiful, but everybody has their “quirks” and that includes your book. Give yourself at least a week (if not more) to let your giddiness die down (just a smidge). After you have allowed yourself this distance, read through your novel.
- What can you do during this time of distance? Keep your eyes open for my upcoming post about ways to spend your “Distance.”
3. As you are reading, take on the role of your target audience, someone with no background knowledge of what it took for you to write this book or where you are going. Read without looking at the grammar or spelling, read without allowing yourself to edit. Read ONLY for the sake of answering the BIG questions: Does my book have a completed story arc? Is the journey for my main protagonist clear? Are there any plot holes in my story? Are there any consistency issues? Once, you’ve done this, let’s move on to the next step: Revision.
4. Some call this revision, for me, it’s almost always a REWRITE, especially if I have only ever written the first draft. My stories usually go through five or more drafts before I start “editing.” Anyhow, in this revise/rewrite section, it’s time to address those big questions and make sure that your story flows naturally, has realistic conflicts (minor) that all lead to the major climax with plausible consequences that all lead into a resolution that has an impact on your characters and readers. Simple, right? (That was sarcasm in case you didn’t catch it.)
5. NOW you’ve truly got something to work with! Still, I recommend you don’t send your book out quite yet. Instead, send your finished manuscript to some trusted BETA-readers first. This allows you another set(s) of eyes to view your book for big picture questions before you bare your soul to that agent or publishing house. (Keep a look out for that upcoming post as well: Questions to Ask Your Beta Reader).
6. Once you are satisfied that your book is TRULY ready to send out, you need to ask yourself which route you are going to go. Traditional publishing (typically through an agent) or self-publishing. This article is going to follow the traditional publishing route.
7. Unfortunately, the days when you could query your book directly to major publishing houses is pretty much long gone, you’ll need an agent now to speak on your behalf. Although agents get a bad rap, they really are there to help the author. So, you’ll need to find an agent and here are few suggested places you can look:
- Publisher’s Marketplace & Query Tracker typically appear in most articles about finding an agent (although it does cost to get all of the benefits of these sites). Of the two, I have found Publisher’s Marketplace to be more user-friendly and filled with great information!
- Literary Rambles has some excellent interviews with agents, what they’re looking for, and how to submit! I love that I can “hear” from so many agents about what they are personally looking for.
8. Finding an agent that meshes well with your vision will take some time, but it will increase your chances at getting an acceptance instead of a rejection. Once you have found the agents you like (yes, agents, multiple), you will need to write the author bio, query letter, and synopsis for you and your book (multiple future blog posts coming up!)
9. When you send out your queries, PLEASE make sure to pay special attention to the particular directions each of your agents might have. If they are asking for something in particular and you ignore their request, why should they not ignore you? Respect goes both ways, so pay attention to what they are looking for!
10. Accept rejection. I’ll be honest. It’s going to happen. Not maybe, not possibly, but most definitely, and it doesn’t always mean there is something wrong with you or your book. It might mean that you need to adjust your query itself. Or it could be the wrong agent. I know it is unbelievably hard to get a “no,” or even worse that dreaded silence in which you don’t even feel worthy of a rejection, but hang in there. Go back to steps 7 & 8. Find new agents, review your query itself, and try again.
11. Don’t give up hope. It probably won’t happen on the first try, or the second, or the third, but it will never happen at all if you give up. Hang in there, I look forward to seeing YOUR book on my shelf!
Do you have any questions about this process post-manuscript completion? Let me know in the comments below!
Happy Writing Everyone!
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