Finished Manuscript? Oh my, now what???

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There is a sense of euphoria the moment you place the last punctuation mark on the last sentence of your manuscript. You don’t know whether you should hysterically cry or laugh. Although, the hard work is now truly beginning, take a long moment to dwell in the fact that you have accomplished a great feat, one that not everyone reaches.

Writing is rewriting

The first thing for every writer to remember is that writing is rewriting. Once you’ve finished your first draft, it isn’t the time to start thinking about sending it out – it’s the time when the work really begins.

No published author submits a first draft and expects success, but rather they draft and redraft, write and rewrite until, as author Mary Malone says, ‘you’re so sick of your book that you never want to see it again!’ And believe me, I can tell you from experience, you will.

five commandments

So how do you know what to change as you redraft? Here are some tips:

Self editing

  • Read your work outloud, particularly the dialog, making sure that nothing jars. If it helps, record yourself reading and play it back, or use the text to speech function on a Kindle to play back passages. This is something I highly recommend to do. When your in “the zone” of writing, things sound differently in your head compared to when you actually speak them. You’ll be surprised how simple it can be in finding mistakes this way.
  • One of the problems with writing is that our brain thinks it knows the words that should be on the page, and can be blind to the words that are actually there. It is essential to print out your entire book and read it in hard copy as part of the editing process. Choose a different font from the one you normally work in and it will help you spot the problems. Don’t be afraid to use the dreaded “red pen” to scribble notes, cross out, or edit across the pages.
  • Ask another fellow writer who works in your genre to read your book and give you their comments. Even an enthusiastic reader will not understand the techniques required to make your story work – a writer will, and if there is too much backstory or not enough description in the right places, they will spot it. Another reason to go to a writing conference!! I found friends there, who as writer’s themselves, understood my language and were really able to help me.
  • If you can’t go to a conference, try joining a critique group or writers group to get feedback on your manuscript.
  • Use sites like NaNoWriMo, or to submit parts of your book (the opening chapter is a good place to start) to get feedback from other writers and to be in with a chance of an editor spotting your book.

The next step: length & genre

As you are redrafting, it’s time to check that your book is:

  • The right length (word count) for the market
  • If you are writing for children, your reader – and the age bracket you are writing for – has a direct impact on the age of your protagonist and the length of the book – make sure you have got this right.
  • If your book is fiction, does it fall within a recognized genre (crime, romance, women’s fiction, humour) or subgenre (historical crime or women’s fiction for instance)? Books that cross genre can be hard to place with publishers as it can be tricky to know how to market them/where to put them on the bookshop shelf. Understanding genre will help. That said, if your book is brilliantly written genre will not be an issue.
  • If your book is non-fiction you need to be aware of what the competition is in the marketplace – what makes your book different from what’s available already, and why are you the best person to write it?

These are vital things for you to know if you want an agent to take you seriously. You need to prove to them that you at least know the basics for them to invest any time in you.

Who to approach?

Matching your manuscript to the right type of publishing house or agent is essential to success – not every publisher publishes every type of book, and if you submit a children’s picture book to an academic publisher you are guaranteeing a rejection.

You can reduce your chances of rejection with a little detective work.

Go to your local bookshop or library and find books that are like yours – read the acknowledgments and find out who the author’s agent and editor are – use this information to start a list of who to approach.

And of course, the internet is a world of knowledge at the stroke of a key. You can find all you need there when it comes to finding the right agent, editor, or publisher. I recommend Query Tracker for starts. If your looking for a book try the 2015 Writer’s Market. It has TONS of info as well as lists of agents and publishers in a wide range of genres.

Your submission package

Every publishing house has slightly different requirements for authors submitting to them. It is essential that you read the guidelines and follow them to the letter. There is nothing more annoying for editors than maverick authors who have a better idea of how to submit. Make the editor’s job easier by following the guidelines.

Essentially you will be required to submit a covering letter, a synopsis of your book and the three opening chapters – some publishers want the first fifty pages, some want a query letter outlining your book before you even get to this stage. Their guidelines will be on their website – check them to see what they want. Just like an actor sticking to his script, it’s important to follow those custom agent guidelines. They’re less likely to consider taking you on as a client if you from the beginning can’t follow directions. Pay attention to what that individual agent wants!

Essentially your book needs to be in tip top condition before you send it anywhere – editors today just don’t have time to detect a glimmer of genius in a unpolished draft. You only have on chance to submit your book, so don’t send it anywhere until you are sure that you cannot do any more to it. You can get professional help on your manuscript before you send it from a range of services.

Understanding the business

If you are serious about becoming an author it is vital that you get to understand the business side of writing and how it works. You can do this by reading author’s publication stories and tips (we have masses of information on, attending workshops, book launches and festivals, or joining a writing course that includes a publishing element.

When you understand the options available to you, you can consider whether traditional publishing (with a publishing house) or self publishing is the best route to get your book to readers.

Think about your author profile and how you will sell your book

Publishers are naturally inclined to be interested in authors who understand a little bit about marketing, who have a blog or website established and who have a social media presence. Having lots of connections with people who will buy your book has to be a good thing. Think about starting a blog and getting onto Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Plus, etc.

If an editor likes your chapters there is a good chance that they will Google you to find out more about you. Google yourself and see what they will see! Having your own blog or website allows you to be in full control of the images and information that is available about you, and gives an editor a good idea of your personality.

If you hate social media and don’t want to blog, think about other ways of connecting with potential readers. Can you give library or schools talks? Not a public speaker? Now is the time to think about changing that. Your book, no matter how fantastic it might be, can not stand alone. You must put yourself out there if you want success. Your audience needs to relate to you beyond the words you have conveyed to the page if you want them to truly support you.

Publishers need writers

The most important thing to remember as you look for a publisher, is that the industry cannot operate without writers. Writers are the fuel that keeps the machine going. There is no question that there is a high level of rejection in this business, and that is something that writers must prepare themselves for early on, and often. But at the same time, there are more opportunities open to you with the growth of digital and print-on-demand/self publishing, than ever before. It’s a great time to be a writer!

Happy Writing Ya’ll!!


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