Your first novel isn’t necessarily going to be the first novel you publish. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be. You’re still learning how to write fiction; there’s a lot to learn!
My first published novel was the third novel I’d written. Henrietta The Dragon Slayer took five years to write, edit, rewrite/edit, and polish for publication in February, 2011. I share this with you not because I recommend you taking this long (or short — depending on your perspective). In fact, writing your first novel or your first publishable novel will simply take the time it takes.
I published Henrietta The Dragon Slayer myself after pitching it to agents and editors over a period of at least 5 years. As the publishing industry changed I realized I didn’t need to wait anymore to hear back from agents and editors. Many of them never got back to me. Why should I wait anymore?
But I had to ask the hard question: how could I know my novel was ready to actually publish when I no longer had the gate keepers giving me their stamp of approval?
The pre-publishing checklist for new authors
Once the giddy, empowered feeling subsided after I decided to self-publish my novel, I had to assess the manuscript. Essentially I went through this checklist in an organic, feeling manner over a period of about six weeks, making sure I got a YES (or similar, like a kinesthetic thumbs-up):
- Was the manuscript ready to publish according to my critique group and beta readers? (This is very important, absent the traditional gatekeepers. I worked hard to get a YES from the majority of my peeps.)
- Could I take care of the mechanical aspects of releasing a book, specifically formatting, proofreading, cover creation, uploading to the bookstore vendors and the print-on-demand company? (I’d done two nonfiction books already, plus three or four more for clients, so I knew I had this covered.)
- Was I prepared to put time into getting the word out about my book (marketing)? (Here is where I realized that while I understand services marketing, I had to gain experience marketing fiction. What better way to do this than dive into my own, starting with running my own blog tour! So I did, and ran three blog tours throughout 2011.)
- Was I willing to support the success of this book long-term, since I knew that releasing a YA fantasy series wasn’t going to be necessarily an overnight success? (Yes, hence lots of blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, etc.)
Can you answer YES to the four questions above with your current novel in mind? If so, you too may be ready to self-publish your book. Congratulations, and good luck!
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