NaNoWriMo is officially in the rear-view mirror, and it’s now time to look ahead toward the next steps in your writing journey: editing and publishing!
Preparing your novel for publishing – and finding a publisher – can be tricky. But it isn’t impossible! We’ve compiled advice from experts on the process of editing, agenting, and publishing, all of which will help you get started.
Before we get to step one – editing – we want to remind you of a very important step: back-up your work! If you haven’t already, be sure to save your manuscript in several different safe locations. Consider local options – multiple computers, external hard drives, USB drives – as well as cloud-based options, such as Dropbox and Google Drive. You can never be too safe! We’ve heard too many horror stories of a person losing their laptop or having a hard drive crash, only to lose months or years of work because they didn’t have a back-up. Don’t be that person!
Editing your first draft
Even the most seasoned authors spend weeks and months editing their manuscript. Many remove and rewrite massive chunks of the story in the process. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t 100% satisfied with your draft on the first read-through: no one really is, and you’ll fix that in editing!
Here’s a round-up of some of our favorite tips:
- Don’t delete anything! Save parts of the novel you decide to cut or re-write for potential use later, or even just to look back on in the future. Even Christopher Paolini saves his manuscript scraps, later releasing several deleted scenes in deluxe editions of his books.
- Start big! many authors agree that overhauling larger parts of the story – key plot points, boring characters, or glaring flaws – is the best way to start your editing process. Once these issues are smoothed over, focusing on the finer details and issues will be much simpler.
- Try editing by hand. It’s simple to get lost in technology. Computers, laptops, and phones make it easier than ever to write and revise, but there’s a special magic to pen and paper. The ancient tools enable you to see your story from a different perspective. Print your manuscript, grab a red pen, and make marks, notes, and revisions between sentences and in the page margins. You’ll find this approach may reveal problems and changes you hadn’t yet found.
- Read your book out loud! One of your final steps should be to read your book aloud to yourself or to a friend. This method helps your brain process your writing in a new way, finding trouble areas you may have missed in the early stages of editing.
- Ask a friend for help. Do you have a friend with a particular fondness for writing? Maybe an acquaintance who really loves the genre you’re writing in? Ask them to be a beta reader! Whether they’re able to offer help with grammar and composition or overall story and plot advice, you’ll find that all outside perspectives are helpful in their own ways. Flip to the acknowledgement section of your favorite book and you’ll very likely see a “thank you” to that author’s beta reader(s).
Finding an agent
Most publishing houses don’t accept queries and manuscript submissions directly from authors. Instead, you’ll need to find an agent to represent your work as you search for a home for your story.
- First and foremost, make sure your manuscript is as polished as possible! Only leave editing once you’re confident in the quality of your story. You should feel as though it’s ready for publication. It’s very likely that you’ll end up making further revisions with the help of your future agent and editing house, but the draft you query with should be the one you’d feel confident readers having access to.
- Prepare a query letter that sells your book. Avoid stereotypes and overconfidence. You’ll use this query for most of your submissions. It’s your first impression with a prospective agent, and getting it right is key to being noticed and remembered.
- Be sure to follow an agent’s submission guide step-by-step. Few things turn prospective agents off more than an author who can’t be bothered to properly submit their materials. Show your attention for detail, passion for your project, and desire to work alongside this agent by putting time and effort into your submission.
- Pay attention to what each agent specializes in. Many agents focus on certain age groups (middle grade, young adult, etc) and specific genres. Submitting your query to an agent who isn’t searching for your specific type of content wastes your time and theirs.
- Be mindful about how many agents you submit your work to. Narrow your choices down to less than ten agents. If an agent asks for you to specify whether or not you’ve queried other agents, be honest – they won’t be insulted. (Don’t junk your list of agents outside of your first ten. If you don’t have luck with your first batch, you’ll immediately be ready to begin submitting again utilizing that list.)
- Learn from your responses. If an agent is kind enough to provide advice and reasoning with a denial, consider their advice and work it into your future queries.
Where do you start finding agents to query? Many websites offer databases and listings of potential agents, including PublishersMarketplace.com, AgentQuery.com, QueryTracker.net, and WritersMarket.com.
The Paolini family shared an article on how to find an agent on their website.
Publishing your novel – publishing houses
Most publishing houses ask authors not to self-submit manuscripts and queries. Instead, they require authors to have already signed an agent, who will act on their behalf to shop their book to interested publishers. When selecting an agent, research their past success pairing authors and publishers. This will give you a good indication of your potential agent’s ability to find a home for your novel.
Finding a good fit for your book can be tricky and will take time. Perseverance and persistence are key! When the right publishing house comes along, you’ll know it. Work with your agent, keep communication open, and you’ll find success!
Publishing your novel – self-publishing
Not ready to seek out an agent and publishing house? The surge in popularity that e-books have enjoyed over the past decade bodes well for those looking to self-publish! Companies and services such as Amazon Kindle allow authors to publish their work on their platforms for little to no cost, and profit sharing on the back-end enables self-published authors to earn a profit from their book sales.
Get started with independent publishing on Amazon’s Kindle platform here!
We want to hear from you! Did you finish a NaNoWriMo novel? What’re you currently working on? Let us know in the comments!