I get many questions from aspiring authors about what to do once they’re through that first, long stretch of word crunching and hold the first complete version of their manuscript in their hands. This post covers my usual recommendation. (Spoiler: Don’t hit the Publish button just yet!)
1. Send it to beta readers
Send it to at least 3 – 5 readers, preferably more. The best beta reader you can get is a regular reader in your target audience, i.e. someone who you would want to buy the finalized novel when you eventually publish. Someone you don’t know, and who would recommend it to their friends (who you also do not know) if they liked it.
2. Listen carefully (and selectively)
Your beta readers are bound to find minor typos, but will also have opinions on your work. Now, don’t listen to everything they say, but if at least two readers point out the same thing, it might be worth rethinking it.
3. Repeat #1 & #2 until satisfied
If you’ve really narrowed down your target audience, this is when you no longer have several readers point out the same issue. (Mind you, it might of course be that they all get annoyed with the same thing, if that’s the effect you are seeking!)
4. Have it professionally edited
If you can afford it, having your manuscript professionally edited is definitely worth it. It will mean more rewrites, but it’s all for the better. Make sure to find an editor who knows your genre – there is no use in having an expert on non-fiction comment on your romance novel!
5. Get a good cover
In order for readers to pick up and begin to read your carefully crafted words, you need a good cover. Most important is that it doesn’t look like someone photoshopped it at home. It should look like whoever made it knew what they were doing, otherwise your potential readers will think the inside is just as unprofessional.
6. Publish (and market)
Now, you’ve made sure your story is the best it can be, and you’re ready to hit that Publish button. Keep in mind, though, that it’s not enough to just put it out there and wait. If you want to stand out through the noise of the more than a million titles that are published each year, you need to take on some clever marketing strategies. Let’s talk more about that in another post!
// Jonas, CEO of BetaReader.io
This post was first published as a Tweet storm on Jonas’s Twitter account. It’s been modified in order to fit the blog format.