How Do You Know When It’s Go Time?
Before you submit your manuscript to agents and publishers, you would be wise to make sure it is well crafted, polished and clean. This will greatly up your chances of finding what you seek. However, if you go indie, there is no gatekeeper other than yourself.
The biggest problem with self-publishing is that it’s potentially too fast and easy. You can write a book in a month, decide it’s good enough and with a few clicks of the mouse go live on Amazon, Smashwords, or half a dozen other places.
You can also dance naked down the street and call yourself Shakespeare, but it doesn’t make it so, any more than having 60,000 words of crap published in e-book form makes you an author in any meaningful sense of the word.
If you want to sell more copies than your friends and family will buy, then you must put on your extra big girl pants and be scrupulous about your process – because EVERY writer gets too close to his or her own work to see its worth.
This rule does not only apply to young writers, either. Have you ever noticed how sometimes the lions of literature start producing crap toward the end of their career? Have they lost their minds or their mojo? Possibly, but I think it’s more likely they have just gotten so powerful that they’ve stopped listening to their editors or have been deemed by their publishers not to need one.
Whether you are a new author publishing your first book, or an established author who has decided to go indie for your latest project, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions before releasing that book into the wild.
1. Do you read widely and voraciously, both in the genre or style in which you’re writing, and in a range of other styles? Writers learn from reading and analyzing other works, and by pure osmosis (so beware of reading crap lest you mis-educate yourself). Reading widely is also how we gauge whether our ideas are fresh… or as stale as last week’s muffins.
2. Have you had your manuscript critiqued by other writers whose work you consider excellent and who get what you’re trying to do, or by a professional story editor; and have you applied their revision suggestions (when appropriate)?
3. Have you had readers give general feedback? By reader I mean non-writing, non-editing types who read for the love of it. Choosing readers who can give the right kind of feedback is something of a skill in itself. More about that in a future article.
4. Have you waited out the honeymoon phase where you think this story is the best thing you’ve ever written and probably should win a Pulitzer, and gone back to revise with fresh eyes?
Don’t rush the process. If you have any doubts, put the manuscript away for a few months and get started on your next book. The extra time spent is well worth it to avoid releasing something half-baked.
5. Have you had your book professionally copy-edited, proofread and formatted?
6. Have you got a drop dead gorgeous cover and a catchy title that conveys the kind of writing inside? This telegraphing is especially important for authors without name recognition. The title and cover are your best selling tools.
If you can’t afford to hire people to do the editing, formatting and cover, see if there’s something you can trade, service for service, or find a talented student who has the skills and would be willing to work for the credit.
Once you have done all of these things and you feel the work is the best it can be, release it into the world with confidence, give yourself a pat on the back, and get busy on your next project.