So, you’ve written a book. Now what?

Here are the steps, in order, you should take to make your book as good as it can possibly be before querying agents/self-publishing:

1. Self-edit and Revisions

  • The first thing you should do after finishing the first draft of your manuscript (after taking a well-deserved break, of course) is to edit and revise it a couple of times yourself.
  • You’ve probably heard a lot of people say that all first drafts are bad and that you don’t have to worry about everything being perfect in the first draft. This is why.
  • Your self-editing phase is where you polish your manuscript before you let others read it.
  • I would suggest various phases of self-editing, starting with the big, developmental edits. This means that you edit the plot as much as necessary before you start editing prose. Once your plot edits are sorted out, move on to editing specific sentences and making your prose sound pretty.
  • Reading through your manuscript in a different font/colour or even making notes on a printed-out version is a good way to spot things you want to change.
  • ProWritingAid is also an amazing online tool for self-editing. You can find out more in my post on Great Resources for Writers (I’d add a link, but tumblr’s being a little bitch about posts with links)

2. Critique Partner

  • A critique partner someone who reads your work and then offers criticism and suggests improvements from the perspective of a writer. Oftentimes, writers will use critique partners by exchanging their work and helping each other. However, some writers also offer critiques at a cost.
  • Your critique partner should be the first person to read your manuscript beside yourself.
  • This step is invaluable, since it offers another writer’s advice and is usually quite comprehensive.
  • Critiquing can also take place during the writing process, with partners exchanging chunks of their WIPs as they finish them.

3. Beta Readers

  • This is not the same as a critique partner. Beta readers need no special qualifications – they just need to be the type of reader who would have bought your book had it been on the shelves. Beta Readers are “trial” readers that help you optimise your novel for your target audience. Therefore, they offer the perspective of readers.
  • Typically, you’ll send your beta readers your manuscript in chunks, allowing them time to read it and then asking them specific questions about that part of the novel. Once they’ve read the entire manuscript, you’ll ask them more in-detail questions about their opinions on certain aspects of the novel as a whole.
  • The answers given by the majority of your beta readers should then be used to improve your manuscript. Yes, you have to edit again.
  • Once you’ve done this, it’s advisable to have another round of beta reading where you start the process all over again with different betas this time. Many authors do up to ¾ rounds of betas per novel, but it’s your call.

4. Professional edit

  • Yes, more editing! In this phase, you hire a professional editor to polish your manuscript.
  • There are various types of edits – developmental, copy, line etc., but most editors offer packages. Also, some editors will allow you to submit samples, which will allow them to advise you on which edits you need. You can also ask your critique partner/betas.
  • This is the one step I would advise you not to skip or skimp on. Spending money on a professional who can make your novel publication-ready will make your book stand out. Whether your next step is querying or self-publishing, the professional edit is a good idea.

5. Proofread

  • If you’re going the traditional route, this is the step you can skip – although, it is still a good idea.
  • Here, someone with good language and grammar skills read through your final draft to correct typos or tiny errors that have slipped through. This is all about the technical stuff. Your novel should already be in tip-top shape before the proofread. This step is just to ensure that your 2 AM spelling error isn’t in print forever.
  • This is a crucial step if you’re self-publishing, since this is the last check before you’ll move on to the publishing phase.

If you’re going to be publishing traditionally through an agent and publishing house, many of these steps will be repeated. Therefore, these steps aren’t technically all necessary. However, the more polished your manuscript, the better your chance of landing an agent.

If you have any more questions, you’re welcome to ask. Also, check out Jenna Moreci’s YouTube channel – she has a bunch of videos on each of these steps that are worth the watch.

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