Guest Post: Elite Authors
When Writing “The End” Is Only the Beginning: Going from First Draft to Finished Product
Finishing a manuscript is a major accomplishment. Whether you’ve written a sixty-page guidebook or a seventy-chapter science fiction novel, your manuscript represents a significant investment of time, mental energy, and creativity. Or maybe writing it took up the entire month of November, and you’re looking at a 50,000-word NaNoWriMo novel. However your manuscript came into being, it is a noteworthy achievement—one well worth celebrating.
But a host of new tasks lands on your to-do list the minute you type “The End.” While you’re writing your book, your job is to be focused—to pull your book out of your mind and get it down on the page. Once you’re finished writing, you need to look up from the keyboard and take stock of the many roads before you, and that can be a little daunting.
So here’s our handy guide to what to do and where to go next, now that you have a completed draft in hand.
1. Take a break
Really. You both deserve and need a breather. Your creative batteries need to recharge, and your friends and loved ones miss your company. A bottle of prosecco would not be out of order. In addition, even a few days away from your book will give you the distance you need in order to make good decisions about how to move forward.
2. Review your manuscript like a reader
Putting your manuscript on an e-book reader (a reasonably straightforward process, especially with Kindle) or even printing it out will allow you to experience it in an entirely new light. You’ll be able to see small errors (like misspellings or grammatical flubs), as well as plot inconsistencies or holes in your argument. You’ll know whether your first chapter really hooks readers or if you have a first line worthy of inclusion in this list of memorable openers. As you read, make notes about what you might want to change, but don’t be tempted to return to the manuscript itself. There’s plenty of time for that after you’ve finished reading it.
3. Tackle your front matter
Frontmatter describes the pages of a book that precede chapter 1. Typically, the front matter includes (at a minimum) a title page, a copyright page (including an ISBN), and the table of contents. Frontmatter can also include a half-title page, a frontispiece, an epigraph, a preface, an introduction, a list of illustrations, and so on. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that you’re going to include just the basics. First of all, do you have a killer title for your book? Titles can’t be copyrighted, so don’t worry if there’s another book out there with your title, although do try to craft a title that is specific to your work and that will entice readers.
4. Find an editor
Writers and editors have different talents and skills, like actors and directors, or players and coaches. Using an editor simply makes sense because it allows you to more fully invest in your role as author instead of trying to wear two hats. And editors can do so much more than just fix your typos! By engaging a professional editor, you honor your project and your investment of time and energy by allowing your book to fulfill its promise! Editors are practiced at seeing and implementing the sorts of changes that can transform a draft from rough to ready.
5. Write a one-line elevator pitch and a synopsis
All the work you’ve done crafting a final draft will now be put to the test because it’s time to write your one-line pitch and a great synopsis. These two elements are tools you will use throughout the life of your book. A one-line pitch (also known as an elevator pitch) encapsulates your premise, your main character, the central conflict, and your hook. If that sounds like a lot to pack into one sentence, you’re right, but it’s possible.
When a terrible cyclone carries her from Kansas to a magical world, Dorothy must find a great wizard and defeat an equally great evil if she is to have any hope of getting back to her beloved aunt and uncle.
They’re quite fun to write, and you can practice writing ones for books you love before you have to tackle your own. Even better, when you’re finished, you will forever have an answer to the question, “What’s your book about?”
Once that’s done, you need to write your synopsis. Unlike a pitch, the synopsis should not leave your readers hanging. It’s typically a one-page summary that hits all the same points (that is, premise, protagonist, conflict) but also explains how the story resolves. This document will be a useful part of your press package, and it can help libraries and bookstores know how to categorize your book.
6. Write your author bio
Another element that needs to go into your book’s marketing toolbox is your author bio. This can be as tricky as the one-line elevator pitch because what you’re having to sum up this time is yourself, and you’re more complex than any novel. It helps, therefore, to see your author bio not as a biography but rather as the story of you, the author. It’s one facet of yourself—an important facet, to be sure, but you don’t need to include the entirety of your life’s journey. Just focus on those bits that are most relevant to your book (if it’s nonfiction) or to you as a writer (if it’s fiction).
7. Format your book
As an independent author, it falls to you to prepare your book for printing and for presentation on e-readers. You can DIY this process, but be wary! There are pitfalls that can affect the final look. Happily, book formatting services are something you can easily outsource to the professionals, who can ensure that your book will look as fabulous on Nook as it does on Kindle as it does on an iPad as it does in print. They can also suggest whether you want a serif or sans serif font and whether those drop capitals (the extra-large letters at the beginning of a chapter) are worth the extra trouble.
8. Design a cover
A great book deserves a great cover. What’s more, covers draw in readers. While your book will definitely find some fans online (perhaps when you share tidbits of your book on your blog), your book’s cover is your single strongest marketing tool, and it needs to look fabulous, both on screen and off. In addition, there are genre conventions that signal to fans that yours is a book they want to read. You’ll also need back-cover copy (which might be as easy as adapting your synopsis to end with a suspenseful hook).
9. Get busy marketing
As an independent author, most of the responsibility for getting your book noticed will fall on your shoulders. That’s okay! If you’ve been following this guide, you already have a pitch, a synopsis, an author bio, and a beautiful cover. You don’t need much more than that on your author website (which you do need), and you will use these elements again and again as you get out the word about your book. If you’re really at a loss, we offer book marketing consultations that can be very helpful.
10. Publish your book
And that’s it! You’re ready to hit the “Publish” button and see your book appear in online bookstores, Goodreads, reviewers’ blogs, your local library shelves, and readers’ hands. Remember to keep up the marketing push…and get going on your next book because before too long, readers are going to be clamoring for more.
Elite Authors is a collaboration of the best minds in the industry, a cooperative and creative team of publishing kingmakers, bestselling writers, expert editors, experienced designers, and marketing wizards. We want to help you tell your story, and now Elite Authors can take you from once upon a time to happily ever after.