I’ve written a book, what next?

This is a question we at the Indie Author Community hear a lot, so over the next few days and weeks, we’re going to try to answer it, step by step. Starting here:

1. First and foremost by ‘written’ do you mean first draft, or final edited and polished draft? If it’s not edited, it’s not finished. Editing is the step many writers skip, either under the mistaken notion that a publisher will help them polish it – not any longer – or that they don’t need it.

a)      Find beta readers, volunteers among your friends who like your genre of writing. Ask them to be honest and accept their suggestions with grace (unless of course they’re rewriting your novel for you.) Once they’ve read it and you’ve made the corrections, you’re ready for the next step.

b)      There are a number of lists (Including our own, Editing 101) to help you eliminate the most common mistakes from your manuscript. Purchase a book called The Elements of Style, that will help, too.

c)        Hire an editor – if money is tight, try finding an English teacher who would like to make a little extra money or ask at the local community college to see if one of the English classes would consider editing it for extra credit. Once your book is properly edited, you’re ready to consider the next step, which is;

2.  Which path do you want to follow – Traditional publishing or Self-publishing (e-book or print)? The two are no longer mutually exclusive, many editors/publishers are looking to self-publishers for new material, at least partly for their work ethic. Each path has its pluses and minuses.

  1.  Traditional Publishing – Agent or Publisher (many publishers don’t accept unagented submissions)

    1. Pros
      1. Security – established company
      2. Guaranteed fan base
      3. Advance
      4. Cover art, editing, document preparation
      5. Some marketing – requesting reviews, listing on website
    2. Cons
      1. Submission process
      2. Long period of prep – six months to two years before you’re paid
      3. Most novels don’t make back their advance
      4. Minimal input on cover art, editing, document preparation
     Self Publishing

    1. Pros
      1. Total control of process
      2. No submissions process
      3. Payment a month to three months after uploading
      4. Cons
        1. Total control means you have to arrange cover art, editing and doc prep
        2. First payments will be pocket change
        3. All marketing done by author

3)      Determine your genre. Genre helps readers/agents/publishers find and define your books.

a)      Action and Adventure,b)      Chick Lit,c)      Children’s,d)     Commercial Fiction,e)      Crime,

f)       Erotica,

g)      Family Saga,

h)      Fantasy

i)        Epic

j)        Historical

k)      Swords and Sorcery

l)        Urban

m)    Steampunk

n)      Gay and Lesbian

o)      General Fiction,

p)      Graphic Novels,

q)      Historical Fiction

r)       Horror,

s)       Humor, 

t)       Literary Fiction,

u)      Military and Espionage,

v)      Multicultural,

w)    Mystery,

x)      Religious and Inspirational,

y)      Romance

z)      Contemporary

aa)   Suspense

bb)  Paranormal

cc)   Historical

dd) Science Fiction

ee)   Thrillers and Suspense,

ff)    Western,

gg)  Women’s Fiction,

hh)  Young Adult.

4)      If you follow the traditional path, the next step is to write a query letter. There are lots of sites on-line about how to write a query letter, but before you go to ANY of them, check out http://queryshark.blogspot.com/ for how not to write a query letter.

a)      Research agents/publishers to find the right ones to query.

b)      Check their requirements on submissions. If they ask you not to submit to other agents, don’t.

c)      It will typically take 3-6 months for them to respond, but it can take longer.

d)     Wait for response.

i)        Rejection – take the comments made to heart, but don’t take them personally. If their points are valid, then make the appropriate changes. However, you cannot resubmit to them, go on to the next.

ii)      Request for a partial or full. Don’t cheat. Don’t cherry pick which chapters you think are better. They want to know if you can capture the reader from the get-go. Send them exactly what they’ve requested.

iii)    Revise and resubmit. If they request this, they are interested, but it’s not a guarantee. Make the required changes and return as soon as possible. If the changes are agreeable to you. There won’t be any do-overs. You can’t change it once you have an editor.

iv)    Acceptance/contract – Hurray… officially, you are an author, not just a writer. Now the real work begins. (But that’s another topic – our next subject, Marketing.)

5)      If you’re following the Self-publishing/Indie publishing path, you need to either create your cover art, or hire someone to do that. There are instructions on the IAC boards to help you create your own and many places to find cover art. Try the Indie Author Group, there are some good artists there. Sample their work.

6)      With cover art and manuscript in place, now you can upload your work. Formatting for e-books is relatively simple and can be handled in Word. I do recommend becoming a member of Smashwords ( www.smashwords.com ) and downloading the very excellent formatting instruction manual there – including the copyright language. Using the instructions, upload to Smashwords.

a)      Delete the word Smashwords from the copyright text. Go to Kindle Direct Publishing (https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin ) and upload there. Use the preview to format to fit. (Keep the manuscript open, make changes on the fly and save each adjusted version. Reload document until it looks good.) Ditto with www.pubit.com for Barnes and Noble.

b)      Smashwords, KDP and B&N will all ask for payment information. Set up an account with PayPal, you can use it for all three.

c)      Smashwords pays quarterly, KDP and B&N monthly.

d)     You are now a self-published author. Hurray.

7)      Now the real work begins on both paths.

8)      As a traditional author the editing process will begin – even though you believe you’ve already edited it. Now you need to edit it to the publisher’s specifications. When you see the first marked up copy with all the red ink, don’t cry. It’s not as bad as it looks. Inevitably you’ll have missed some ‘that’, ‘and’, etc. Even with prior editing, there will still be some changes the publisher requires, their own particular preferences. They will expect you to remove paragraphs or change character names. Pick your battles carefully.

9)      You’re work is published, out for the world to see.

Next Post: Marketing, Social Networking and Reviews…

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