In the life of a writer, there are few things more fulfilling than completion. When you put down your pen, or lean back from your keyboard, knowing that your novel is finally done.
So, great. What do you do with it now?
You could shield it from everyone’s eyes and let it gather dust on your hard drive. Or you could take it seriously and try to get it published.
1. Edit, revise, and edit again.
Your novel may be the next greatest thing, but I assure you that it needs revision. Set it aside (for at least a week) and don’t think about it. When you’re ready, read it. Try not to think of it as yours; pretend you’re a consumer. Is it interesting? What needs to be taken out or expanded upon? Read it out loud. If it sounds ridiculous to your ears, it’ll sound ridiculous to your future editor. The writing process isn’t just writing. You will edit this monstrosity several times before it hits bookstores.
2. Write a query letter.
You’re not going to ship your manuscript to the first editor you find on the Internet. No, please. Don’t. They don’t want your manuscript, at least not yet. You have to sell them your idea first, and you have to make it sound good. After all, if they don’t like your query letter, why would they like your novel? This page outlines query letters quite well, so I won’t rehash the topic. But basically, you need to sell your book. Make them want it. Of course, after you do that…
3. Find an agent.
You must go through an agent. Must. If you send your book directly to a publishing house, you will receive a form letter rejection (“Dear ____, thank you for your interest, but…”) and they’ll toss your manuscript in the trash. Check out the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, or their website (although currently that part of their site is down for maintenance). Agents often specialise in specific genres, so be sure to find someone relevant to your interests. When you find a few options, send them your query letter. If someone bites, then you can send your manuscript—if/when they request it.
4. Let your agent do the work!
It’s the agent’s job to find you a publisher. They know the industry, and they’ll do their best to find your book a home. And when they do, you’ll have yourself a publisher. And an editor. And you’ll be really, really excited.
5. Be patient.
Just because your book has been accepted doesn’t mean it will be on sale tomorrow. It could take up to two years for your release date to arrive. There’s a lot of work that goes into it: your editor has to read it and revise. And the copyeditor has to read and revise. And someone has to design it. And someone has to get the books printed. And sales people have to advertise it to booksellers. You don’t have to worry about all that; you just have to be patient.
Sound like a lot of work? It is. Writing is work, just like anything else. But imagine the joy you’ll feel when your book is in the store. And if people love it, your fans will want a sequel, and you’ll have readings and book signings and who knows what else. Don’t give up. You put the effort into writing the book, and it’s up to you to do something with it.