You did it! First you wrote a novel, then you put in the hard work to edit it. That is one hell of an achievement! You should be proud of yourself and you should celebrate. If you didn't celebrate with some personal reward when you finished your first draft, you should definitely do that now. Your reward can be anything that signifies to you, "I did it and I earned this reward." It might be a long soak in a bubble bath with a glass of your favorite beverage, the purchase of a new journal (to start plotting your next book), a night on the town, or a week-end get-away. It should be something that is within your means and which will be your incentive for the next part of the process (Querying? Beta readers? Self-Publication?) or get you moving on the next story. Whatever it is, go do it!
G O C E L E B R A T E!!
When You're Done Celebrating...
After you have had a moment to celebrate, you will want to get back on track with completing your journey. If your plan was "just to see if I could write a book," then you may be able to consider your job done. But if you want to take the next steps, you have a little more work to do. Whether you choose to publish independently, or try to find an agent to publish traditionally, you will want to do at least two things: 1) Write a blurb. 2) Find some beta readers.
Remember Your Original Blurb from Day 2?
The blurb we wrote on Day 2 was done in order to get focus on the essence of our story. It was not meant to be used at a later date as the book jacket or back cover blurb, nor as the query you would use to submit your book to an agent. It was a good exercise to start with because it helped us focus on the big picture rather than all those words and details which can feel overwhelming when we suddenly realize we've written a novel (YOU REALLY DID IT!). It got us in motion and put us in a mind-set of "I'm now editing." It took the edge off, so to speak.
If you plan to self-publish, you will want to write a blurb for you back cover. If you are not quite sure how to write it, do an internet search for "back cover blurb." It might also be worthwhile to include your genre when you do the search. What you'll soon discover is that there is no perfect formula. You may find some guidelines, but no specific formula. I like the post by Author Unlimited (https://authorunlimited.com/blog/back-cover-blurb) which breaks down the elements you should consider including, elements like:
Reedsy has a good post as well (https://blog.reedsy.com/write-blurb-novel/). In the Reedsy post, you will find information about using keywords and examples from some pretty famous authors like Diana Gabaldon, Lee Childs, and Paula Hawkins.
Find Beta Readers and/or Critique Partners
Beta readers are people who will read your book and, hopefully, give you some critical feedback about your story. They are usually not your first readers. Your first readers are what I like to call cheerleaders. Your cheerleaders are going to be those people you trust with your words, who aren't ultra-critical, and who cheer you on. They are your family or friends who want to read your book because they want to cheer you on. They want to see you succeed. If you don't have those people in your life, for whatever reason, then you might skip on to beta readers.
Beta readers don't have to be professionals, but you should look for someone who has a critical eye for reading. There are beta exchange resources where you can give a critique to receive a critique, and there are also sites where you can put out a request by providing your genre, the title of your book, and a blurb.
The Write Life has a post listing 40 places to find a critique partner and I strongly recommend reviewing it (https://thewritelife.com/find-a-critique-partner/). Most of the sites listed are free. It's important to keep in mind that many of them are expecting critiques in return. Since you may find yourself on the other side and needing to provide a critique, you might want to review Victory Crain's post, How to Critique Fiction, which has some general guidelines (like, "Critique as you would want to be critiqued.") and a series of questions you can work through to provide good feedback to an author. C.S. Lakin has a nice checklist as well (https://www.critiquemymanuscript.com/checklist-for-critiquing-a-novel/).
Professional Editing Services
After you get feedback on your story, you may discover that you need to use a professional editing service. Before you settle on an editor, make sure you understand the different types of editing services. See the post on PenUltimate Editorial Services for a breakdown on the many types of editing (http://penultimateword.com/editing/types-of-editing-defined/). One type of editing that I'm noticing is not on a lot of the sites is a sensitivity read, but maybe this is because it's not truly a form of editing. A sensitivity reader is someone with extensive personal experience or a member of a niche community that is represented in your story. The reader will provide feedback regarding any potential bias, stereotypes, misrepresentation, or racism.
Once you've figured out what type of editing you need to have done, review The Write Life's post about how to pick an editor (https://thewritelife.com/how-to-find-an-editor-crucial-questions/). That post could save you time, money, and frustration that could arise from taking a misstep.
Self-Publishing? Format Your Book
If you have weighed the options between publishing independently or traditionally, and have come to the conclusion that self-publishing is the best fit for you, you will want to spend a little time researching on which platform you'd like to publish. The Smashword's founder, Mark Coker has published a guide on the Smashword's publishing platform (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52) that will guide you through the process of manually formatting your manuscript and I've found that the guide works across all the platforms, including Amazon.
If you have written in Word, Amazon has a tool for formatting your book with styles with a few clicks of the mouse. I wrote a review of the tool on my blog when the tool first came out. Check it out! (https://authorrichellerenae.weebly.com/random-musings/kindle-create-made-an-add-in-for-word-documents)
The other option is to pay for a formatter. See what Creative Penn has to say about formatting on her site. (https://www.thecreativepenn.com/formatting/)
Publishing Traditionally? Find an Agent
If you want to publish traditionally, you will want to write a query to send to agents. If you have already spoken to an agent who is eager to read your work, you will still want to provide a well-written query. If you have no idea how to find an agent, your first steps might be talking to other writers or researching lists that are available online.
QueryTracker (https://querytracker.net/) and Publisher's Marketplace (https://querytracker.net/) are two popular websites that maintain lists of agents, agencies, and publishers. Both sites offer easy search features that allow you to filter for agents within specific genres and maintain stats on agent success. For a small annual fee, you can track all the queries you send and the responses you receive on QueryTracker.
It's important that you visit the agent's website or find their manuscript wish list so you are submitting to an agent who is hoping to discover a book like yours. Agents also close their Inboxes to submissions for a variety of reasons, so you want to be sure you are querying to agents who are open to queries when you are ready to send yours. You will also want to pay close attention to what each agent wants in a query. Sometimes they want pages and other times they only want a query. Sending them items they do not specifically request is a great way to have your request immediately tossed in the trash.
Write a Query
Once you find some prospective agents, you will want to spend some time writing a query. In some respects, writing a query is even harder than writing a blurb because you are trying to write something that appeals to someone whom you know about next to nothing. The good thing is, agents are typically looking for some fairly tried and true information that is rather formulaic. While you are certainly not required to write to the formula, if you've never written a query before, research and understand the formula and then write what you think works best for your novel.
Read NY Book Editors' post for a good formula for writing an effective query with examples (https://nybookeditors.com/2015/12/how-to-write-a-darn-good-query-letter/). Another great site to check out is QueryShark (https://queryshark.blogspot.com/). QueryShark is run by literary agent Janet Reid. She receives submissions for query reviews and then posts her remarks. It's incredibly informative to read through all (yes ALL!) of the posts and see how she's criticized or complimented the authors' submissions. Once you've read the posts and taken a shot at writing your own, you can even submit it to see how you did OR how you can make it better.
Exercise: Next Steps Lists
Your exercise for Day 30 is research, research, research. Research the next steps you want to take and make your plan of attack. I've put several lists together into one page in Microsoft OneNote, but you might want to create individual pages for each item.
Back Cover Blurb - text
Query - text
Cheerleaders - checklist
Critique Sites - checklist
Beta Readers/Critique Partners - table columns: Name | Email | Notes
Agents - table columns: Name | Website | Email | Requirements
DOWNLOAD: Character Attributes Worksheet
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