I entered into 2021 with a bold plan. I’d write and publish 6 novels this year.
As of last week — all six are written. Yes, I finished each book that I planned to write this year. There was a mixed, bittersweet feeling of sadness and elation at being finished.
I have, thus far, published the first book of my new Forgotten Fodder series. I am about to publish the third book of my Void Incursion series. Two down, four to go. Three more Forgotten Fodder books and one more Void Incursion novel in 2021.
Getting all that writing done is a big deal. Many people who have worked to be writers never manage to finish. If you count yourself among such people — don’t give up! Keep at it, keep working, and strive to finish.
Once you finish a work — that might be it. You’re done. You did it. Go you!
But if you’re like me — you intend to share that work.
That means there are steps to be taken up to, through, and after publishing. If you intend to share your work with the world — whether you will seek to self-publish or go the traditional route — there are steps along the way once you have finished your writing project.
These, in my opinion, are the next steps (more or less in order.)
Step 1: You finished your work — celebrate!
Congratulate yourself. Even with the current slate of finished works I have — there are a lot of unfinished writing projects in my collection.
Some will NEVER be finished. Others might be readdressed at another time. But that’s a later matter.
Right now, you finished your writing project. Celebrate yourself and your achievement. Treat yourself to something nice, have a celebratory meal, go to the spa, or indulge in the video game, movie, binge-worthy show, whatever. You finished a writing project — and that is a call for celebration.
Step 2: Decide if you will share your work
Self-explanatory, really. Is this a finished writing project you want to share with the world or keep to yourself? If you want to keep it to yourself, skip ahead to Step 10. Whether you intend to self-publish — or go the traditional route — read on.
Step 3: Edit and format your work
This step is NOT in lieu of hiring an editor. You need to go through your work and edit what you have done.
For me, this involves reading through it aloud. You would be surprised how many errors you find when you hear what you wrote being read. I do this with EVERYTHING I write, both fiction and nonfiction. Every blog article I write gets read-aloud for editing before I post it.
You may find a scene you thought you completed — but didn’t. Or that a point of character development isn’t what you thought it was. It’s super important to take this step — because often, in the moment of the writing, things get glossed over and skipped.
Then, you may want to do some formatting. I, for example, knowing that my books will be 6 x 9, put them into their final format and break down chapters as such.
Professional editors, in my experience, charge by the word — not by the page. Formatting also may show you where a chapter break you didn’t initially create should go.
The following is an optional step:
Step 3a: Send your work to beta readers
I don’t always use beta readers — but they are people who will give you feedback about your story. They might notice something you neglected, find inconsistencies, and also inform you if your plot works or not.
I’ve only used beta readers for specific impressions or to make sure a character or scene reads as I think it does. (In most cases, this was the perspective of a character that I can’t entirely grok. For example — I am a white, middle-aged, cis-gendered straight male — and the focal character of Infamy Ascending is a woman. So, I wanted to be sure how I wrote her worked.)
Beta readers are not editors but may provide some basic proofreading.
Step 4: Submit your work to an editor
Having a polished work is important. This applies to both self-publishing and traditional publishing.
Yes, traditional publishers are likely to edit your work. But in the interest of landing one — a polished, finished work is important. The same goes for getting an agent — it shows your seriousness and professionalism.
You can pay a LOT of money for an editor. You also get multiple editing options from simple proofreading to proofreading with correction of grammar and context to adding in content editing and thorough analysis and edit of your work.
In my experience, how much you pay for an editor is not a reflection of their skill. Ergo, an editor that charges $250 per 50,000 words may be just as good or better than an editor charging $1000 per 50,000 words. And yes, the range is THAT broad.
I recently hired a new editor. I found her on Fiverr.com. She is not the least expensive editor I could have chosen — but I found for the work I do she is the right editor for me. Our first collaboration was extremely satisfactory. I will be working with her to edit the rest of the books I am releasing this year.
Step 5: Go over your editor’s edits of your finished work
Editors are not infallible. They miss stuff. Also, sometimes, they edit things in a way that doesn’t work for you.
Perfect example — dialogue. When my characters speak, sometimes they defy proper grammar. So do real people when they speak. I had a previous editor frequently suggest correcting this. While from time to time this was a good thing — other times, it didn’t work for me, the context, or the character.
Also, I find when I go over my editor’s edits — sometimes they show me something I missed that I feel needs to be corrected. Poor choice of words, not-fully conveying emotions, and other matters.
If you are self-publishing, skip ahead to step 7.
Step 6: Submit your finished work to an agent or publisher
If you are going to go the traditional publishing route — now you submit that finished work to an agent or publisher. There are lots and lots of resources out there for finding agents. It’s important to make sure they are accepting submissions and that you follow their request for process to the letter. The same applies to publishers accepting new works directly.
You WILL most like be rejected. More than once. I tried to go this route myself for over 10 years unsuccessfully before I decided to self-publish.
The upside is you can skip most (but not all) of the following steps when you go the traditional route of publishing.
If you choose this way — be bold. Be brave. Keep pushing. Don’t be discouraged. Because it can be really discouraging to get rejected (often very impersonally) multiple times. Don’t take it personally — just because your work isn’t to Agent X’s taste doesn’t mean it’s not exactly what Agent Q is seeking.
Step 7: Get a cover made
If you are an artist — I do not doubt that there are tutorials out there for making your own cover. But as someone who tried to do my own covers — I highly recommend hiring a professional cover artist.
Like editing, this can range in price from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars. There is nothing that says the $2000 artist is ten times better than the $200 artist. Mostly, it’s going to be about how you work with them, assemble a cover to your liking, and the impact that makes.
Despite not judging a book by a cover — people totally judge books by their covers. Thus, make sure your cover is great.
I have been super fortunate to have found the cover artist I am using. She’s amazing, we communicate well, and the covers she’s produced for my works match my vision pretty damned closely.
Step 7: Formatting your finished work for Kindle/eReaders and paperback
One of the coolest things about Kindle is that they offer free, downloadable software via KDP for formatting your eBook.
This is a massive improvement from how I had to do the formatting for my initial few books. So much so that I recently reformatted my first two Source Chronicles fantasy novels.
For both eReader and paperback, this is where you add forward material, dedications, acknowledgments, glossaries, and so on.
For paperback, you get to consider page numbers and headers.
You’ve edited and had your finished work professionally edited, got a cover, did the formatting — which takes us to:
Step 8: Publish!
I have used Amazon’s KDP for all my self-publishing. But I have also used Apple books and Smashwords for a couple of works as eBooks.
There are other formats and options available for self-publishing. A good Google search for self-publishing options will help you with this.
One word of caution — do NOT spend money on this. Unless they offer marketing deals to go with it — you shouldn’t have to pay to publish and publish good work.
Now, let me offer this — I may be mistaken on this point. But given the tools for free options like KDP — paying for publishing makes me uncomfortable. Particularly if you do all the formatting and layout yourself. But since I have never tried another option — don’t take my word for it and feel free to investigate.
Step 8a: Pre-publish your finished work
Rather than just putting your work out there — there is something to be said for giving yourself time to do promotional work and advertising before the book publishes.
This can be a complicated choice — and I am still working on how to make the best of it. As of this writing, for example, I have a book trailer video running a week ahead of the publication of Strategic Crush — book 3 of the Voice Incursion series. I am running it as an ad on YouTube to work on increasing sales.
The choice to pre-publish is a matter of how you do your marketing. This brings us to the next step.
Step 9: Market your finished work
Marketing is a complex, complicated process. But there are lots and lots of tools available for it.
Marketing doesn’t start AFTER publishing — it tends to start before. Talk about your upcoming work on social media, share with friends, and then ask them to share, too.
To better market my writing I hired a company to help me. This is a slow-going process — and I am mostly paying for consulting rather than having them do the work for me.
But once you publish and share your finished works with the world — to sell them, you must market them. And you will probably need to take a lot of different steps and actions to do that.
Okay, done, right? Not quite. One last step.
Step 10: Write the next work
To be fair, for some people it’s a matter of one and done. You wrote the book, that’s all you had in you, done.
Nice, well done!
Even when I began publishing my writing more as a hobby than my overall employment — I had the next work underway.
Writing professionally, now, I am working on getting several works underway, Because writing — whether plotting or creating the work itself — is a daily practice for me. (Also, hey, it’s my vocation!)
As such, I need to write the fifth and final novel in the Void Incursion series. Unlike how I began, I will be planning this out. As I complete editing of The Source Chronicles book three — Harbinger — I need to go back to work on book four — Guardians.
I am also beginning plotting out more books for Forgotten Fodder and a new sci-fi series tentatively titled The Savagespace Saga.
While writing on all these projects is getting underway to one degree or another — none of these are intended for publication before 2022. I currently am considering publishing 6 books next year like I am this year. But who knows — that number might increase.
Did you finish your work? That’s super awesome. Congrats — now what? While the above 10 steps offer some insight into your options, they are not the only ones available. From my experience, however, they’re a good approach to take.
Write on. Happy writing!
Originally published at https://www.mjblehart.com on April 17, 2021.