Please welcome to IRWYW guest blogger Savannah Cordova. She has written extensively for Reedsy, Writers Helping Writers, DIY MFA, IndieReaders and other publishing industry websites. Today she is sharing with us ways to know if your book is ready to publish.
If you’re a writer and would like to share your insights about the world of publishing in a guest post, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it probably means you’ve finished (or are close to finishing) your manuscript and are starting to think about its next steps. Writing a book is a huge achievement and you should feel incredibly proud of what you’ve done!
Publishing your work is a whole different ball game, however, and deciding whether or not to pursue this path can be one of the most difficult things you’ll face as a writer. Of course, seeing your book published could also be one of the most rewarding and exciting things you’ll ever experience; it’s a high-risk, high-reward situation, which means you’ll need to tread carefully.
Whether you’ve already decided you want to publish your book or you’re still totally unsure, working through the five questions below will help you put you and your book in the best position to thrive.
1. How do you want to publish?
When most people think about publishing a book, it’s often the traditional route of getting a book deal that comes to mind. There are many upsides to traditional publishing: your book will likely be stocked in bookstores, your publishers will do a great deal of the work, and you won’t have to pay for anything. However, securing a publishing deal can be extremely difficult — and even if you’re successful, the process can take years with no guarantee of success.
If the traditional route doesn’t sound like it’s for you, you might want to look into self-publishing. I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t know how to self-publish a book!” I won’t lie to you, it will take a lot of hard work, but there are plenty of resources and experts out there to help. You’ll need to be able to foot the costs upfront; however, in return you’ll maintain creative control over your work, go through the process at your own pace, and receive a much greater share of the royalties.
In weighing up the pros and cons, it helps to understand why you want to publish your book. Are you looking to make a career out of writing, or will you be satisfied by simply being able to hold a hard copy of a book you’ve written and published yourself? Don’t worry — you don’t need to make this decision as soon as you finish your first draft. But having an early sense of how you want to publish will help as you proceed through the next few steps.
2. Is your manuscript ready?
Even if you’re not an experienced editor or creative writing class alum, there’s still plenty you can do to polish up your manuscript. As you proofread your book, there are certain things you can check to get an idea of how close you are to being publication-ready — and to help your editors down the line.
First of all, review your outline and ensure you have a strong grasp of your storyline so that when you’re reading, you can spot any inconsistencies or gaps; this is particularly important if you’ve written a novel or a biography. It’s difficult to read objectively and pick out plot holes in your own work, but if you can eliminate as many as possible before professional editors step in, they’ll be able to use their valuable time to focus on the finer details.
Another pro tip: if you’ve used any unusual character or place names — or if you have a particular grammatical Achilles heel — then it’s worth doing a quick search of your document to make sure you’ve used the same, correct spelling throughout. I know I can also fall into the trap of mixing up my their, there, and they’re or even to, too, and two; these are all things to look out for as you’re re-reading!
3. Do you have an audience?
This question has two meanings. Firstly, do you know who your target audience is? If you’re pitching to bigger publishing houses, this is crucial; they can’t be sure that your book will sell if you don’t know to whom you’re selling. If you’re writing for a fairly niche subgenre — which could be anything from steampunk fantasy to forensic mystery — and you want to find out firsthand who your readers are, you might find that self-publishing is the better option.
Secondly, do you already have followers who are interested in your book? This could be through social media, a YouTube channel, a blog, or perhaps from previously published writing. Having some hype around your work and author brand before pitching to publishers will reassure them that it will sell — though on the other hand, if you’re self-publishing, having an existing fanbase will be priceless when it comes to marketing your book. Basically, having an existing audience with clear demographics will make it much easier to publish your book, regardless of route.
4. Has anyone else read your book?
Handing your work over to someone else to read is terrifying, especially if you’ve never done it before. However, as an author, you’ll have no choice but to get used to the idea of strangers reading your book — so it’s best to rip off that Band-Aid early on!
Friends and family are a great place to start. They’re unlikely to give you harsh feedback that will completely crush your spirits, but they will offer a new, more objective perspective. You could also look to hire beta readers, or join creative writing groups and offer to read someone else’s book in return for them reading yours. Establishing your target audience is once again helpful here, as you can make sure to ask people who understand the genre!
5. Are you prepared to do the work?
As I mentioned earlier, there are upfront costs with self-publishing that you should know before you begin. Similarly, traditional publishers often won’t give overly generous advice for your first book. This all comes back down to the question of why you want to publish, how much work you’re willing to take on, and whether or not you can take a potential financial hit if your sales don’t immediately skyrocket.
Whichever route you decide to take, publishing your book will be a rollercoaster ride for sure. But the adrenaline you’ll feel when you get to the end and see your very own words in professional print will no doubt be one of the most exciting and proud moments of your career!
Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. She’s very passionate about indie publishing and hopes to help as many authors as possible achieve their dreams! In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.