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Finishing your first draft is a major milestone, and here are your next six steps in your quest to publish a novel.

You’ve finished writing the first draft of your novel, but there’s still quite a distance to travel between having a finished manuscript and a published book.

What you decide to do with your manuscript from here on out will have a huge impact on both the size of your readership and your book’s reception.

So, how do you publish a novel? What DO you do with the finished draft?

1. Ask yourself if you’re really finished

Reread your novel all the way through as if someone else wrote the book. Make notes. Circulate your manuscript among trusted writers, teachers, mentors, or online forums (the NaNoWriMo forums, Skypen, World Literary Cafe, You Write On, Authonomy, etc.) and solicit feedback. Revise accordingly. Then…

2. Hire a professional editor

The best writers in the world still work with editors. It’s an essential part of the publishing process, no matter how good your manuscript. Whether you’re in need of developmental editing, copy editing, or just proofreading — you want to use a professional.

Check out “What kind of book editing do I need for my manuscript?” to figure out exactly what your book requires at this point. If you don’t have an existing relationship with an editor, visit

3. Start doing your publication prep-work

You’ll need to prepare a few things before you go ahead and publish a book, including:

You might also want to consider printing galleys and sending them out to services such as Kirkus Indie for early review. It always helps to have some quotes from book reviewers to feature on the back of your book, as well as on your website and press materials.

The last preparatory step before publication is to make sure your manuscript documents are formatted properly for printing and eBook conversion.

4. Start marketing

You need to think about marketing well in advance of your publication date. In fact, many of these steps can be taken while you’re still writing and editing your book:

  • Set up a professional author website
  • Finalize your author bio
  • Take a great author photo
  • Create a press page on your website that has hi-res images of your book cover, your author photo, bio, press release, etc.
  • Shoot a book trailer
  • Write content for your website or for other blogs that boosts your online presence and establishes your credibility and voice

Also, consider running a Goodreads giveaway before your book release in order to build anticipation and increase your chances for additional reader-generated reviews.

5. Publish it!

Time to get your book out there! Print your book and distribute the first 100 copies before your launch date. Publish your book as an eBook (available at iBooks, Kobo, Kindle, Nook, etc).

6: Promote your book

Your book is available for purchase. Now it’s time to let people know where and WHY they should buy it. Here are a few ideas:

If you’ve checked all these items off your list, way to go! Now it’s time to host a book launch party to celebrate your accomplishments and thank your readers, family, and friends for their support.

Images via

Printed Book Design 101


Chris Robley

About Chris Robley

Chris Robley has written 502 posts in this blog.

is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."

8 thoughts on “From first draft to book launch: how to publish a novel

  1. Ronald Morgan says:

    What a great summary! Lots of useful information. I feel a bit more optimistic now. 🙂

  2. Sylvia Vargas says:

    Thank you so much. What an informative article. This is by far the best advise with step by step instructions to follow. I should have been so lucky to have had this information available to me before I self published my first two books. I will definitely consider everything you mention here. Thank you again. Not everyone is as generous as you are. God bless you!

  3. Jo Carter says:

    I really like how this is written for self publishing, but it also provides good advice for traditional published authors too!

  4. Jo Carter says:

    By the way, something I think of every time I read your articles: I’d love to Pin a lot of your articles on Pinterest, but I prefer to use pictures that have text on them to really grab the readers attention straight away.

    1. BookBaby BookBaby says:

      Thanks for the feedback! We will be sharing some infographics in the near future which you might find interesting. We tend to avoid using photos with text because Facebook prevents businesses from using them in promoted posts.

  5. This is a useful check list and applies to nonfiction as well as novels.

    However, it ignores the vital first step that should occur before you start writing: a critical and realistic assessment of the market for your book, and its competitors.

    Who is likely to read your book? How will you reach them? Can you afford to reach them? What makes your book better than its competitors? Does the world really need another post-apocalyptic novel, barbecue cookbook or JFK biography?

  6. Melita Joy says:

    I’m currently looking for a reasonably priced editor. I notice you recommend First Editing. Have you used them before? I can only find negative reviews and would like a little reassurance before going ahead with them. So far they have been prompt and attentive with their communication.

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