Do you know why everyone seems so impressed when you tell them that you’ve written a book? Like, an honest-to-God, full-length book? It’s because not many people have the fortitude and patience to do what you’ve already accomplished. So what’s the first thing you should do after typing “the end” on your opus? Celebrate. Get drunk on champagne, dance a little jig, throw a book completion party, eat a gallon of rocky road in front of the TV while binge-watching on Netflix (hey, we don’t judge) …do whatever it is you do to celebrate a huge achievement. Congrats! But now what?
Polish and polish—then polish some more
You typed “the end.” The hard part’s done, right?
Oh, if only…
After the book completion party, it’s time to get back to work, and you can start by polishing your novel. That’s right, you need to do some rewrites.
Now, don’t bang your head on your desk. Rewrites aren’t that bad. They don’t take anything away from your initial accomplishment. (Hey, even Stephen King doesn’t publish his first draft.) The fact of the matter is that every time you re-read your novel, you’ll find something in it that you can change. Make better. Flat-out fix. This is a good thing. Re-read your novel with an objective eye at least 3 more times. Make changes. Trust us. You’ll thank us later.
No matter how good you are at rewrites, you can always benefit from a fresh perspective. Beta-readers will give you feedback you’d never expect, providing you yet another opportunity to improve your novel before it's unleashed on the general public. And no, your mom and sister don’t count as beta-readers. A good beta-reader is someone who doesn’t love you. Someone who isn’t afraid to give you an honest opinion, no matter how brutal it may be. You need brutal honesty. Why, you ask? Because when you release your book, no one on Goodreads and Amazon will cut you any slack. (You’d be surprised about the level of quality people expect from a 99-cent book.) Better to get the feedback early and make changes before your book faces death-by-1-star-review online.
At the same time, be careful not to get overly distracted by conflicting external opinions. After all, this book is your baby. You spent months crafting every word and agonizing over dialogue, plot twists and character development. It’s okay to carefully consider suggestions but the final product should be true to your vision. When in doubt, go with your gut.
Even if correcting the grammar of others is your favorite hobby (if that’s true, stop it. it’s annoying), even if you won every spelling bee you ever competed in, proofreading your own work is a risky proposition. The fact of the matter is that you know what you meant to say, even if that’s not what showed up on the page. You’re more likely to read right over the top of offending errors as a result. Consider hiring a proofreader to go over your work before you try to publish your work or get an agent. Proofreading services can be found online at very reasonable rates. Just be careful and do your research (no Craig’s list proofreaders, OK?)
Choose your path
Traditional publishing, or self-publishing? Both are valid choices. In order to make a decision, you should consider your ultimate goals. Do you dream of seeing your book on the shelves in Barnes & Noble? Or do you simply dream of getting your book into as many readers’ hands as possible? If B&N is for you, your chances of getting there are greatly diminished if you choose the self-publishing route. But if you just want to get your baby out in the world? Self-publishing might be for you.
Check out part 2 of this series for more information about how to tackle the world of traditional publishing. Part 3 covers getting started in self-publishing.