So, you’ve just completed your first novel. You’ve got 300+ pages of pure magic. In your heart you just know you’re holding a copy of the next New York Times bestseller. It’s time to submit to publications . . . or is it?
Many new authors make the mistake of submitting their work prematurely; therefore, ensuring their novel will be rejected by agents (in the case of traditional publishing) or criticized by customers (in the case of e-publishing). Whether you are publishing traditionally or non-traditionally, here are 5 things to do BEFORE you submit your writing to publication:
1: Edit, edit, and edit some more!
I know most of you are thinking “duh” but apparently a lot of writers have overlooked this important step in the writing process. Just read some of the customer reviews on amazon.com. Most of the customer complaints are about poor grammar, punctuation errors, typos, etc. It’s errors like this that have given self-publishing a bad reputation. Errors are distracting for readers and detract from the overall quality of your writing. Would you get a haircut from a hairdresser who does sloppy work? Or buy an outfit with unsewn hems? I thought not, so why would you expect readers to suffer errors?
Editing is an important, but time-consuming step. Don’t rush it! Make several passes through your novel. First, edit for content and big picture issues (clear theme, developmental plot, etc.). Once those are resolved, look at readability (flow, syntax, logic). Punctuation and grammar should come last. This ensures a thorough edit. Trust me, it works.
Now for those of you who are not grammar savvy, such as myself, I strongly encourage you to seek the help of an editor (or two). Personally, I have three; two who edit for content and one who edits for grammar. I know, I know, hiring an editor can be expensive. Some editors charge anywhere from $30 a page to $50 an hour. But, trust me, it’s worth it. And there are editors out there who will do it for less. You just have to know where to find them. Twitter and WordPress are good places to start since editors use social media to promote their services. Personally, I know a few great editors who I’d be more than happy to recommend.
2: Build your platform.
For those of you who have not yet created a platform of sorts online, do it now! Don’t wait until the novel is complete. It won’t do you much good. Building a strong platform takes time and effort. It’s never too early, but it can be too late. Literary agents are looking for writers with a large following. It makes their job easier. How can a publisher turn down a work when the author already has 1000 people who would purchase their book?
If you haven’t started yet, don’t panic. Create a blog and a Twitter account, and then connect the two. Trust me, Twitter helps promote your blog. I’ve noticed an increase in traffic since I linked my blog to my Twitter account. Google+ and Facebook are also good social media sites. I don’t have an account on Instagram, but I know a lot of authors who do. Whatever site you choose, keep it current, post frequently, and have fun connecting with others on the interweb!
3: Do your research.
Have you ever purchased a vehicle without researching the make or model, only to find out later it is notorious for bad fuel pumps? Unfortunately, I have, and I will NEVER make that mistake again. When it comes to publishing, take the time to research the market before you dive into it. Learn about marketing, social media, and advertising. Research literary agents and publishing companies before submitting your work, and be sure to reflect it in your inquiry. Show the agent that you’ve researched their agency; they will be more likely to consider you if you’ve taken the time to consider them. Regardless of how you plan on publishing, know what you’re getting into. Knowledge is power!
You have a strong platform and a completed novel, albeit it’s not out on the market yet. That’s okay, start advertising anyway. If you are certain you’re going to be publishing soon, go ahead and start teasing your novel to potential readers. On your blog or website, post information about your upcoming works, including title, genre, and a brief synopsis. Consider posting a chapter or two (not the whole thing) in order to hook readers early on. Post a cover reveal on your Twitter account, or how about a character reveal? Book trailers are becoming increasingly more popular. Some of the ones I’ve seen are really cool. Don’t know how to create your own? Check out Fiverr to have one created for you. Have fun and get creative.
5. Take a deep breath.
I know, I know, this last one is not practical advice, but it’s important to pause between steps to celebrate your success and prepare for the next step. Creating a novel is only the beginning of the writing journey and each step brings new challenges. Take time to mentally prepare. Make sure you are ready to publish. Seriously, there’s no shame in waiting until you and your novel are ready. On the flipside, don’t hesitate for fear’s sake, dive in!
I hope you found this advice helpful. Please feel free to add to the list. Comments are always welcome.