So, it’s been a week since the end of NaNoWriMo and participants have gotten a chance to step away from their writing and clear their minds. Many of them are now considering publication. But how will they achieve this goal? You can’t just go from NaNoWriMo to published without a few additional steps. That’s why I want to dedicate a post to a post-NaNoWriMo publishing checklist.
Odds are your NaNoWriMo draft is very rough (that’s the kindest term I use for my own first drafts). After all, NaNoWriMo is all about volume, not quality. That’s why, before you even try publishing your NaNoWriMo book, you first need to revise and rewrite your manuscript. Hopefully you’ve had some time to recover since the event ended, so you can come back to your manuscript with a fresh eye and see what is and is not working. If you can’t read it objectively or you want a second pair of eyes to look it over, seek out a beta reader.
Your initial batch of beta readers can be friends and family. However, the closer you get to a polished manuscript, you’ll want more impartial beta readers (i.e. people who don’t already have some sort of acquaintanceship/relationship with you). That’s where paid beta readers come in. It can be pricey but it’s worth it to have a publishable manuscript. For those on more of a budget, there are plenty of beta readers available on Fiverr and similar websites.
If you deal with a minority or other underrepresented group which you are not a part of, you may want to hire a sensitivity reader as well to make sure that your manuscript is plausible and factually sound. You should also find specialized beta readers for other topics you’re not an expert in, such as surgeries if you’re writing a medical drama, the legal system if you’re writing a crime thriller, etc.
This point sounds similar to rewriting but it is slightly different. Rewriting is getting your manuscript to the point that you feel you have a story people would read. Editing and proofreading ensure that the writing behind the story is polished. Rewriting involves closing plot holes and checking consistency; editing and proofreading strengthen the writing and eliminate spelling and grammatical errors.
As with rewriting, you’ll want to recruit friends and family to help with editing and proofreading at first but, as you get closer to your final copy, you will need to recruit outside help. Editors and proofreaders do not come any cheaper than beta readers but, as with beta readers, you can find plenty of affordable options on Fiverr.
3. Writing a Blurb
Whether you’re self-publishing or going down a more traditional route, you will want to write a short blurb describing your manuscript. Writing a blurb will help prepare you for pitching your book to publishers (you might even be able to use your blurb within the pitch), and you need a blurb for the back of your book if you’re self-publishing. As with the other items on this checklist, you can always hire someone from places like Fiverr to help you write this blurb and/or your pitch (beware of scammers). Keep in mind that no one knows your book better than you do, so it’s best to write your own blurb and/or pitch and then recruit someone to help you edit and proofread it before use.
4. Cover Design
For those who want to pursue tradition publication, you won’t need this step as the publisher will help handle this. However, if you are publishing your manuscript yourself, you will want to give this step special attention. We say don’t judge a book by its cover but let’s face it, everyone does. If a cover is unappealing or does not accurately represent the content, people won’t read your book. You could find someone you know who’s a good artist to create something for you. However, it’s always best to have a professional artist/graphic designer help you.
Again, it’s not going to be cheap but it’s crucial to a successful self-published book. You can hire someone from Fiverr, even going to Fiverr Pro if you don’t trust that the Fiverr sellers are professional (visit this page for more information on Fiverr Pro). For the best results, you’ll want to visit websites and online communities for writers and check out the cover designers that they recommend. People in these communities have already gone through the struggle of publishing; let them share their wisdom with you.
None of this is easy and it will take a lot of time to accomplish. It’s worth the time, effort, and money to create a professional, polished product. If you do the work ahead of time, it will save a lot of wasted time and effort from publishing before your manuscript is truly ready.
Have any tips for novice writers looking to be published? Any thoughts on self-publication or continuing after NaNoWriMo? Drop a line in the comments below or e-mail me at email@example.com and your wisdom might be featured in a future post.