Earlier this month, we talked about the importance of finishing your projects even if they won’t be published. Today, it seemed prudent to take on the other side of that coin. What should you do if you finish a book that you do want to publish? Given that we’re nearing the end of NaNoWriMo, I presume a few of you are wrasslin’ with this conundrum currently.
First things first, do not jump right into submitting. Publishers have horror stories of being flooded by unpolished, often truly unfinished, manuscripts after NaNo ends. Don’t be part of that crowd. Understand that there is still so much left to go before that thing is ready to be submitted.
My blog about the differences between being written and done highlights some of the general task still remaining, however today we get more granular. What should you do after finishing? Probably not touch it for a few weeks. Give yourself some distance, come back with fresh eyes, and you’ll be able to do a full sweep just catching low-hanging fruit of typos and scenes that can be easily tightened.
After that, or if you skipped it because you were too excited to lose momentum, it’s probably time for workshopping. If you are extremely sure that the manuscript holds together, then you can give this one a pass, but don’t do so without proper consideration. As much as some people dislike getting workshopped, you need to see the flaws in your story. Even if you somehow see no artistic merit in the process, there’s a fiscal one. Workshops, critique groups, these only ask that you pitch in and critique as well, no money should change hands. That means every round of workshopping is a little more polish you can add, and less time it will take the editor, who you will have to pay.
Once the project is as polished as you can get it, then it’s time to bring in the pros. Yes, you need an editor. More than one, probably, but that can come later down the line. I can’t tell you if any specific editor will be a good fit for you, that sort of thing has to be discovered by trying, however I can provide some general guidelines. An editor should always be capable of providing a quote for their services, assuming you can provide them a wordcount. Whether it be by the hour or the word, the price should be explicit, ideally in a contract. Anyone who won’t show you their rates or offer a quote, run. Additionally, understand that prices rise with experience, as in any profession. You can probably get a deal rolling the dice on someone looking to prove themselves, or you can spend more for an editor with a solid track record. There isn’t a wrong or a right option, just make sure you put in due diligence on research before working with them. Publishers, editors, artists, any freelancer you engage with should be checked, because even if they’re the one who makes a mistake, it’s your name on the book. The buck stops with you.
After edits, however many rounds are necessary, it’s time for a cover. Sidenote: Although I’m talking about this in order because that’s the nature of essay-style writing, you don’t actually have to wait until the edits are done to start this part. In fact, most of the time you’ll do cover at the same time as edits.
The procedure for cover artists is the same as editors: do your research and get numbers upfront, where possible. There’s a little more wiggle room here, depending on what you want. Custom art, for example, is going to have a much wider swing on pricings and practices, varying by respective artist. Unless you’re asking for something specific, you’ll probably be able to get a reasonable quote and time frame from most freelance cover artists. Don’t forget the print version of the cover while you’re at it. Might seem unnecessary at the time, but it’s much easier to have it all made in one go than to try and get a print version later, especially without an existing working relationship to the artist.
Up until now, this whole process has been very straightforward, in that few authors would disagree about these basic steps. Here, though, I’m probably going to break with some folks. Technically speaking, all that’s left is formatting and posting to the Kindle Direct Program (KDP), and I already wrote a how-to on the formatting stuff. That said, there is another step you can add.
ACX is Audible Creative Services, and it’s essentially the audiobook version of indie publishing. While it is true that as an unknown, you’ll have trouble attracting narrators, especially if you do Royalty Share, the sooner you start looking for one, the better your odds. Personally, I would get setup on there, posting requests for auditions if possible, otherwise getting that set to go up as soon as the book launches. Audio is booming, and so many authors don’t take the time for that audience. Start early, build that side of your catalog from jump.
So, if you have done all the steps, you have a manuscript that has been workshopped, professionally edited, formatted, has a professional cover, and ideally an audiobook cooking in the background. All that’s left now is to upload into KDP. By which I mean, next comes the real adventure. Writing the book is only the first step, there’s still marketing, sequels, budgets, and so much other stuff that comes with the gig. Hopefully this at least gives some of you an idea of what to do once November ends.