So you took the NANOWRIMO “write a book in 30 days” challenge. Well done! Whether you won, lost, completed the story or just scraped out 50K words full of nonsense, you did something few people ever accomplish. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back, or at least, catch up on the sleep you missed last month.
Ok, enough of that! Now it’s December and you have a shiny new book baby and you’re ready for what comes next.
But what, exactly, comes next?
Well, let me start by saying there’s a reason most agents and publishers take a submission break for the month of December. The urge (especially for new authors) is to immediately take that lovely new project and start sending it out in hopes of landing a publishing deal. Let me be clear, this is NOT what you should be doing.
There is almost nothing worse than sending out a manuscript before it’s ready. It’s a very competitive business and you don’t want to waste your time (or anyone else’s) submitting something that’s not really, really polished. That means more than just a quick spellcheck or even a Grammarly sweep. Here’s what you should be doing:
- Take December off. It’s the holiday season and after neglecting everyone and everything for November, spend a little time refocusing on your and your family’s needs. Plus, you want to put a few weeks worth of distance between you and the manuscript so that the next time you look at it, you can do it with fresh eyes. If you just can’t let it sit, send it to one or two trusted readers. Preferably people who read a LOT in the genre you are writing. I don’t mean send it to your mom and favorite aunt, send it to people who can give you critical feedback. How is the pacing, the plot? Did the characters feel relateable, was there anything you need to address to make the story better? Give them the month to read it and give you some honest, outside feedback.
- If you plan on sending to agents and/or publishers, now is a great time to do some research. Publisher’s Marketplace keeps list of industry movers and shakers, who is making deals right now, as well as what kinds of titles are being signed. Other resources such as https://www.agentquery.com/ and http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/ are great for finding agents and editors, what they are looking for, and how to reach them. Keep in mind that every contact will have specific guidelines of how to contact them and what to send, so do your homework on each one. And don’t be afraid to look up current clients and contact them directly, ask them about their experience and if they recommend the author or publisher. Sometimes they can’t talk publicly about issues, but will almost always offer a ‘beware’ if it’s warranted.
- Once you have your submission list–DO NOT SUBMIT. A good rule of thumb is to do at least two strong edit passes and a thorough proofread before you submit anything. Don’t rush this part, it’s vital that you are putting out your best work. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression.
I strongly suggest waiting until mid-January (at the earliest) before submitting anything. In the mean time, consider beginning the scaffolding for your author brand. It doesn’t have to be a fancy website or business cards just yet, but a FB author page is a good place to begin. Google your author name and see what comes up, work to control your brand–to begin presenting yourself as a professional writer. Once you do begin submitting, most agents and editors will search for you to see what kind of digital footprint you have.
With all that in mind, good luck! It’s a tough business, but so rewarding. Don’t get discouraged, keep your chin up, and no matter what, keep writing!