You did it! You have finished writing your novel... at least the first draft. Take a moment, a day, or a week to enjoy this great accomplishment. It's worthy of appreciation.
Do not waste the time though. This break from the manuscript is important and only you'll know how much time is sufficient, but having this time does two things to help your story. The first is that when you return to edit, you'll be seeing the words, the sentence structure, and the story with fresh eyes. A fresh perspective will allow you to catch typographical errors, grammar mistakes, and see if the story is flowing the way you want.
As posted in Part One of the Road to Publication series, the second benefit of this break from your novel is it gives you an opportunity to form a strategy for your work once it is complete.
Getting to work on the business side of being an author may feel overwhelming, but take it in stride. This is a preliminary introduction to help you start plotting out your path. Start your research online with the major bookseller's websites. There is a wealth of information focused on trends in book buying and selling. Whether you are planning on following the traditional publishing route of querying agents or you want to self-publish, you should start thinking about the following questions during this phase of research. Your answers will help guide you in the process of forming your marketing plan.
1. Where do you plan to sell your book or are you going to query agents to publish with a traditional or indie publishing house?
2. Who is your target audience?
3. What category/genre is your book?
4. Do you have someone who you trust to pre-read your book and give you honest feedback? If not, start looking for someone or several people. Writer's groups are great for this whether meeting in person or joining an organized group or site online. Make sure the critique group is reputable and trustworthy before sharing your story.
Self-Publishing authors should also consider these questions:
5. How will you price your novel? You don't have to be specific yet. Pick a range. Being aware of pricing trends are important to understanding how to calculate your expenses and putting together a plan to help recoup your investment.
6. Do you have a basic idea for cover art and who will create your cover?
7. Do you have an editor lined up or do you need to find one? Always get references and check them as well as review examples of their work before paying someone to edit your book.
A lot of the prep work for your novel works for both querying agents and self-publishing. In your query letter you will need to list word count, genre, who you think will want to read your book, and effectively describe your story in a concise way. Agents I've spoken with appreciate comparative works. It makes it easier for them to figure out how they will represent your book and sell it to publishers. Knowing the answers to the above questions will get you thinking in the right direction for when you are ready to write your query letters.
If you have chosen to self-publish, get a jump start on the business of selling your book to the public by answering all seven questions. This list will help you understand what you need to get started once you finish your second draft.
When you are ready to work on your story again, it's time to start your first round of edits which will result in the second draft of your manuscript. This is your opportunity to correct basic punctuation and grammar errors, as well as, study your story for flow. Does the story make sense in the order it is written? Do you need to add symbols to represent a scene break or connect scenes with transitional phrasing? Consider every word and sentence in the manuscript. Is it necessary? Does it drive the story forward or hinder it? Is the phrasing mind-twisting or too obvious, cliché?
If you are happy with the story, send it to your pre-readers. I value this step because they give new insight and a readers' perspective. The story is completely fresh to them and they are coming into it unbiased. Pre-readers can comment in the document as they read or may give you a synopsis of their thoughts. Whichever way you and your team work best, go with that.
Remember that a pre-reader's suggestions are just that -- a suggestion. You know your story best. They are there as a guide and to provide helpful information to catch those mistakes early before a reviewer does.
After you have made the corrections and/or taken your pre-readers recommendations, it is time to read through your manuscript as a whole once again. Whether preparing your manuscript to send to agents or to self-publish, the process is the same to this point. If you get an interested agent, you want to have a polished manuscript to send when they request it.
If you are self-publishing, then this will prepare your story for an editor, which will let them focus their energy on finding those pesky mistakes we as humans often overlook in our first round of edits.
Try not to rush Part Two of the process. Probably like most authors, you will feel excited and anxious to share your work with the world, but no one wants to publish a book that is riddled with mistakes. Mistakes will most likely happen, but keeping them to an absolute minimum will make you proud to have your name on the cover.
Part Three of The Road to Publication will go over pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. Oh, and congratulations on finishing that first draft.