NaNoWriMo is almost over. For those keeping score, by the end of today, those participating in National Novel Writing Month are hoping to have almost 42,000 words done by the end of today. When the month is over, those who have been successful in their goal will have 50,000 words completed….depending on whether this is a novella or a novel or if the project was started before the month long challenge, you may or may not have completed a book. However, regardless of whether THE END is just days away or a month or two off – CONGRATS! You’ve written a book. That’s an awesome accomplishment. Every year I hear people around me talk about sitting down to write a book. Very few ever accomplish that goal. So regardless of when THE END comes – celebrate! You’ve earned it.
So, you’ve written a book. Now what?
Well, without knowing what you want out of your writing career, I can only offer suggestions as to what not to do.
1) Do not - Immediately start querying agents with the book you just completed.
Why? Well, in the first place, all writers need to reread and edit their work. It doesn’t matter how great you are at your craft, there will be plotlines to tighten, character arcs to round out and sometimes whole scenes to scrap. Never submit something you haven’t taken the time to polish.
Second, industry professionals get thousands of submissions during the months of December and January from NaNoWriMo writers who are so excited to finish writing that they start querying before they’ve taken the time to polish their work. Because of this, most agents are going to assume that a great number of the queries they receive aren’t for manuscripts that have been carefully revised, but instead are from authors still celebrating their THE END accomplishment.
Revise and then wait until February until you submit so you don’t get lumped in with other writers who didn’t take the time to polish. (You also don’t want to get grouped with the writers who make a resolution to finally submit that novel…which is why I suggest you wait until a month into the New Year.)
2) Do not - Assume that your book is going to sell for big money and change your life.
Trust me—most authors never quit their day job. A lot of genre fiction reaps advances of between $3,000-$10,000 a book. Not exactly retirement money. Make sure your goals are not set so high that you will fail even if you succeed.
3) Do not - Immediately self-publish your book.
I think self-publishing is a wonderful option for a great number of writers. It provides a platform for backlist books as well as for novelists who have chosen for a variety of reasons to not traditionally publish. (ie: book is too unusual, couldn’t find the right agent, the market is trending away from the topic so publishers aren’t interested, etc…etc…etc…) However, while self-publishing is a great avenue for authors, it is also a seductively dangerous one. All you have to do is format and upload to the publishing platforms and voila – you are published! Immediate gratification after all those days of typing away in front of your computer screen.
However, while the rush you feel running around the house in your bunny slippers screaming “I’m published” is exhilarating, the after effects of the decision to upload your book will resonate long after that celebratory cheer has ended. If you price your book correctly and market it well, people will buy it. They’ll read it. They’ll judge you—the writer—based on what they read. Take care in making sure the product is the best one you can produce. Edit. Proofread. Have someone else edit and proofread. Design a kick-butt cover – don’t just slap anything on in order to make the process fast. Don’t cut corners. Trust me. You and your book deserve better.
4) Do not - Wait for this book to sell before beginning your next project.
So many authors wait for that first book to find a home before coming up with another novel idea. They work so hard to query and polish and revise and resubmit that they never write the next story. Trust me when I say my first book wasn’t good. NO ONE should ever read that book. But writing it wasn’t a waste of time because it taught me two important lessons. 1) That I liked to write. 2) That I could get to THE END. Those were quite possibly the two most important lessons I learned in my professional writing career. So, if this is the first book you’ve written, YAY! Revise, submit and move on. You’re next book will be better. The next one better still. Whether it is NaNoWriMo or whether it is the month of July, writers write. End of story.
Congratulations. You’ve written a book. Now go write another one!