You finished your book manuscript – congratulations! That’s a huge achievement!
Now, it’s time to polish it to get it ready for publication – and for your readers.
If your book is the best it can be before you publish it, it will convey a positive impression on your potential buyers, and get the best possible reaction from your readers.
Here’s how to get it in tip-top shape:
Write, and then rewrite; publish your best work, not a draft.
Successful books go through a number of drafts. Your manuscript may seeem perfect to you. But, you’ve likely been working with it for a long time, and can’t see it quite objectively. So, at this point it’s important step back a bit, and get more sets of eyes on it.
You’ve written the book for others to read. Getting a sneak preview of how others will perceive it is very important. With a little feedback–from casual readers and professional editors alike–your manuscript can become the best it can be.
So, how do you do that?
Send your book to beta readers.
A beta reader is simply someone who will read your manuscript and give you honest feedback on it. If you’ve written historical fiction, you’ll want to a find a few people who are avid historical fiction readers. Ask them what worked for them, and what didn’t. Ask what suggestions they have for you. Reader feedback can be invaluable.
Beta readers aren’t professional editors; they are simply people who like to read. The purpose of a beta reader is not to catch all the issues that an editor would that an editor would, and that’s not their purpose anyway. They are there to alert you to big picture issues which you may wish to address in later drafts.
A typical manuscript will go through a number of drafts as it is refined. Here’s the next step.
Hire an editor.
One you have an almost-final draft, you’ll want hire an editor.
Yes – I know you probably don’t want to spend the money. But typos, blatant grammatical errors, awkward sentences and other errors can prevent readers from buying your book, and will also likely result in poor reviews which will further hamper your sales. It doesn’t have to be that way–affordable professional editors do exist.
Some authors worry that an editor will rewrite the book, change their voice, and turn the book into something unrecognizable. This isn’t so! Here’s how it works.
There are several types of editors.
A substantive editor will take a deep look at your work in order gain an understanding not only of your goals but your style, the story, and your goals. She won’t rewrite your work (unless you have hired her to do that). But she will make suggestions as to how to make your work stronger–not unrecognizable. Suggestions might have to do with the story’s structure, characterizations, inconsistencies, holes in the plot, pace, and other big-picture considerations.
Getting this sort of feedback allows you to see your work in a new light, so that you can strengthen it before publishing it.
Some editors dooffer rewriting services. If this is a service you are interested in, rest assured that all professional editors use the “Track Changes” feature in Microsoft Word. This feature allows you to see every single change they’ve made. And, you can readily reverse any of those changes if you like. Nothing is ever hidden or irreversible.
A copyeditor looks for nuts and bolts type of issues. Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization errors are corrected. Inconsistencies are rooted out. (For instance, a character may have blue eyes in one scene, and brown in another. Or perhaps “theater” is sometimes spelled “theatre.” A copyeditor will also catch troublesome grammatical errors.
Copyeditors also use Word’s “Track Changes” feature.
The sort of issues that copyeditors find are the same ones that trip up your readers–the ones that make them go back and try to figure out what was meant, or which draw their attention, taking them out of the story and into your writing process. And, that’s certainly not where you want them to be! For this reason, a good copyeditor is an extremely valuable ally to your and your manuscript.
A proofreader isn’t really an editor at all. After changes and/or corrections resulting from the editorial process have been made, proofreading is usually the final step before the manuscript is sent to the printer. It’s a final check that everything is right. Proofreaders look only for the technical stuff, such as spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar. Again, the tracking feature of Word is used.
[A note on reviewers: Some first-time authors believe that reviewers will let them know about any problems with their book. This is a huge mistake! By the time your book is published, it will be too late to fix the errors. And, those poor reviews of your “published first draft” will be online forever.]
2. Similarly, have someone who knows what they’re doing format your book for the printer, and/or as an e-book.
3. Hire a good cover designer.
Make sure the cover conveys the message of your book, and will appeal to your target audience.
4. Write the blurb for the back cover carefully.
Your description should describe what’s inside, and intrigue the reader to open the book and learn more. Some online retailers will also use it on their website. So, make it good!
The best advice I’ve found on writing excellent book synopses is here.
5. Price it wisely.
Keep in mind that even the best books sell poorly if they’re priced too high. And, if you’re not a well-known author, it may take a little encouragement via pricing to entice readers new to you to take a chance on your work.
Which books sell?
Before I was a web designer, I was a bookseller, both online and in brick-and-mortar bookstores. I’ve also been a small-press publisher of literary magazines, poetry chapbooks and broadsides. Through these experiences, I’ve found that small-press and self-published books only really sell well if 4 conditions are met:
1. The work must be of high quality. (See above.)
2. The price must be low and the book must be nicely produced. (See above)
3. If selling online, excerpts must be provided, so the potential buyer can make a decision. Many selling sites don’t offer the opportunity to do this, so providing excerpts on your own website can be a great help.
4. The author works actively at self-promotion (online & off), interacting with others, telling themselves about their work and their website, and letting them know where the books can be purchased. Even if the first 3 conditions are met, if the author doesn’t work at marketing the work, it probably will sell few copies.
The mother ship!
Once your book is in order, it’s time to market it.
And, if you don’t yet have one, it’s time to get a website to help you market it.
Your website will be the “mother ship” from which to launch and amplify your marketing efforts. And not just any website will do – you need one which is designed effectively to help you promote your book.
Want to know more? Drop me a line. I’ll answer any questions you may have!