You’ve written your first draft!
Congratulations, by the way, writing a book isn’t something everyone succeeds at.
So, what’s next?
Let your manuscript languish while you decide on the way forward? Or get cracking with the next exciting milestone of your author journey?
I know you didn’t write your first draft just to hide it away forever, so let me help clarify what your next stages need to be when it comes to getting your book ready to publish.
Proofreading / Editing Your First Draft
Regardless of how high you rate your command of the English language, your expertise in spelling and grammar, or whether you’re thinking of self-publishing or securing a traditional or mainstream publisher, I’d always recommend you invest in proofreading and/or copy-editing services before you share your manuscript with the rest of the world.
What’s the difference between a proofreader and an editor?
I get asked this a lot, so let me tell you in a nutshell what the difference is. A proofreader and an editor are both responsible for ensuring your writing is accurately and professionally presented. However, there are substantial differences between the two. A proofreader will check your document for typos and spellings, as well as grammar and punctuation (as will an editor). But the editor will add an extra layer of digging, tweaking and upgrading.
Here are a few proofreading tips you can take care of yourself, to give your proofreader/editor a head start (and potentially reduce the overall cost). https://michelleemerson.co.uk/10-top-proofreading-tips-make-writing-sparkle/
An editor will look for words which are repeated and suggest alternatives, check for consistency of names and facts, and condense three sentences into one if the same message has been repeated. They may highlight points which could be elaborated on, and/or condensed. In short, the editor’s role is to maximise the power of your writing, make it sound better, punchier and snappier. But a good editor will always keep your voice too, so that you and your readers will always recognise your style and tone.
One of my authors, Cassie Farren, who has written and published three books told me, “I was so pleased with the editing you did for me because it still sounded like me… only an even better version. I love it!”
As an editor who takes care of non-fiction work as well as novels and short stories, I always use Microsoft Word’s tracked changes option for my authors. This way they can see what I’ve altered and retain control over whether to accept all the changes or reject the ones they don’t agree with. It’s important for you as an author to keep ultimate control over your work, after all, you don’t want an editor to work through it and return an unrecognisable copy to you.
If you’re a fiction writer you may also consider hiring a content editor who will comment and advise you on general editing and proofreading as well as structure, characterisation, the flow of your storyline and setting.
Decide on How You’re Going to Publish Your Book
Once you have the edited and/or proofread version of your manuscript ready (or while your editor is taking care of this for you) you will need to think about how you want to publish your book. You have the options of self-publishing, finding a traditional publisher or a hybrid publisher.
Self-Publish Your Book
I’d recommend self-publishing every time. Here are a few reasons why: https://michelleemerson.co.uk/thinking-publishing-kindle/
There is quite a task list to work through if you want to self-publish but once you learn how to do this (or you find someone who offers professional self-publishing services and takes care of it all for you – like me, for example) you’ll have a skill for your entire author life.
Formatting your book for Kindle and/or typesetting your book for print
There are differences between the two so please don’t assume that once you’ve formatted your book for Kindle that the print version will just be the same.
Decide on which publishing platform you want to use
There are a whole host of options here – I use Amazon KDP for my authors’ books (and my own) but you might like to research others such as Ingram Spark or Lulu (do a Google search to find out the vast amount of self-publishing or print-on-demand companies).
Design your jacket/book cover
If you want to keep things simple you could try making your own using www.canva.com and their e-book template (top tip: use a bought/royalty-free image and text only or simply purchase one of Canva’s book covers and make it into your own). If you know a graphic designer, ask them for help or hire a book cover designer online (be warned, however, costs vary significantly so do your research).
Write your blurb/Amazon description
A blurb is the writing which appears on the back cover of a paperback and once you’ve created this you can tweak it to use as your Amazon description too. It needs to be pithy and punchy, simple to read, and don’t give too much away (hooks are a great way to make people buy).
Do some research into keywords & categories & pricing
If you want your book to stand out (and not get swamped by the competition) invest time in researching the best keywords, categories and pricing bracket for your book. Which categories are the best-selling books in your niche sat in? What keywords do they use? How much are they selling their books for? Research time is time well spent if you want any kind of longevity (and sales).
An ISBN is an internationally-recognised number used by booksellers, libraries, publishers, internet retailers and other supply chain organisations for ordering, listing, sales records and stock control purposes. It identifies the owner/author as well as the book title, edition and format. Amazon KDP and CreateSpace will assign you a free ISBN number if you use their platforms to publish. If you use other print-on-demand companies, you will need to purchase your own ISBN number.
Create and set up Your Amazon KDP/other self-publishing accounts
As well as everything book-related you’ll also need your bank details, and tax information (UTR number if you’re in the UK) to hand during the set-up process.
Upload your book
Once everything is set up, you’ll have to upload your e-book or PDF to your chosen platform and go through the proofing/review process to make sure it looks well presented.
Traditional / Mainstream Publishing
If you want to go down the traditional/mainstream route and find a publishing house to pay for the publication of your book and give you royalties on each copy sold, here is what you’ll need to do.
Do your research
Spend some time researching potential publishing houses which specialise in your niche; this way you’ll have more chance than if you were contacting a general publishing company. The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook is a good resource to help here.
If you’re a children’s author, you’ll find The Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook this is a great resource too.
Write a synopsis – one side of A4 250-300 words
You’ll need to write a synopsis of your book – usually between 250-300 words – which offers sufficient information to hook the person reading it. If you’ve written fiction, you don’t need to share the entire story, just an overview of the plot (without spoiling the ending). If you’ve written a non-fiction book, offer an insight into what the book content is about and how it can improve/change/impact on lives etc.
Write your covering letter/submission letter
To accompany your synopsis, you will need to write a covering submission letter which should include your contact details, the title of your book, its genre and word count, and an insight into who your book is written for. Top tip: all publishers have different submission guidelines, so before you send of a generic pack/email make sure you’re only providing them with the information they require, otherwise your work won’t be given the chance it deserves.
Patience & literary agents
As well as requiring bucketloads of patience – you may have to wait weeks/months/years for a reply from a publishing house (no exaggeration here) – you may want to consider finding a literary agent to represent you. Again, this is a whole new ball game but it’s something you may have to consider if your chosen publishing house only accepts submissions from new authors via an agent.
Regardless of how you decide to publish your book, you will still have some responsibility for marketing. This isn’t something you can hand over to whoever publishes your book, unfortunately. So I’d suggest you start thinking about ways to market your book while you’re in the last stages of writing. Here are a couple of articles I’ve written which may give you some book promotion ideas.
Has that helped? Do you know what you’re going to do now?
Happy publishing journey!
Self-publishing Services for UK Independent Authors
PS: I can help you with every aspect of your publishing journey – from sending out your submissions and researching potential publishing houses to proofreading and editing your manuscript and turning your Word doc into an e-book and/or printed book/paperback. I’ve got different packages to suit different budgets, too, so feel free to have a look around and let me know if you’d like a chat.