For all writers, finishing a novel is a tremendous achievement. Most writers have a desk drawer full of outlines, half-finished drafts and scribbled notes, but the number of writers who have a completed novel under their belts is smaller than you might think. It takes discipline, time and effort to get through to the end of a first draft, let alone getting through the long drawn-out process of editing the novel until you are 100 percent pleased with it.
When that eureka moment hits you though, what happens next? That huge PDF file on your computer isn't going to leap out and sell itself. You have to know how to put it out to your audience and go through the steps you need to take to get it ready for consumption. Here are a few steps you should definitely take before approaching agents, publishers or self-publishing services:
Proofread Your Novel
The first step once you have reached "The End" is to proofread your novel to the point where you can almost speak it verbatim. It may seem like OCD or a little over the top, but it is incredibly easy to allow spelling and grammatical errors to creep in, and for you to spot sections of the novel that could easily be cut or altered to read better. The more you read the material, the more you will understand just how important it is to keep doing it. There is nothing worse than having somebody else point out a mistake or duff line, especially if they are the people who are going to be putting their weight behind the novel.
Get Feedback from People You Trust
Although you might trust your parents and love them unconditionally, this isn't exactly what this means by getting feedback from people you trust. If you have other writers in your family, that's great, but otherwise it isn't a great idea to get them to read it and give you feedback. Family members are far less likely to give constructive criticism and are far more likely to say something like "I really liked it," which is not very helpful. You are far more likely to get the type of feedback you are looking for by sending the work to fellow writers that you are in contact with, friends and colleagues who will be honest about the work, and any lecturers, teachers and industry professionals that you know and whose opinion you trust and value.
Give Your Manuscript a Post-Feedback Read-through
Once you have received feedback from your circle of trust, you can start to evaluate what they have said they liked and what they felt didn't work, and see if there are any patterns in the feedback. Did they all agree that one particular scene or character didn't quite work, or that a piece of the writing excelled more than the others? It can be difficult to get criticism and feedback, especially when you may have felt the novel was completed, but it is really important part of the process. Other writers can view the work in a way that you never can -- without emotion and ego -- and once you have their feedback it will be time to see if the manuscript will need further work as a result, and give the novel the post-feedback polish it may need before heading to publishers and agents.
Make a Recording
The meteoric rise of the podcast and audiobook has seen millions of popular titles turned into spoken word, and this is a format that all writers should consider. The recording of your novel could also be used in the editing process, as nothing highlights errors and substandard work than hearing the work read aloud. You should only consider recording the piece when you are completely finished with the editing process. Listening to the finished product in its entirety should be the last step before the final of all final edits, when you know that there is nothing else you can do to make the work any better. Once the novel is completed, it is worth considering having your work produced into a professional recording with a professional actor reading the work. Covering all bases -- recordings, eBooks and the printed word -- will increase the selling potential of your novel by making it available in various formats.
Start to Build Interest
The days of releasing a novel into the world and crossing fingers and toes in the hope that it explodes into the public consciousness are long gone. Writers have to become their own marketing division and build interest for their novel. If you can start to build momentum and the level of interest for your work, you can really sway the decision of agents and publishers who are going to invest in you and your work, and can get demand for your book at a solid level before it's even published.
Social media is extremely useful for building interest for your work, as is keeping a regularly updated blog on your website that details your writing journey, the process and allows you to grow a fan base and interact with potential readers of your work. If you have a list of subscribers to your websites blog you could use that as an email campaign to let them know about the release of your book. It will at least give you an idea of how many copies you are likely to sell from the start, before the larger scale marketing campaign begins.
Your website is important to giving you an outlet to showcase your work and let your audience know what you are all about. Although the written word is what you are all about, creating some video content for your site -- including a trailer for your novel and an interview with you, the author -- is a great way to give you a really professional profile and will show agents, publishers and readers that you are for real, and that you are embracing technology and new forms of marketing to reach a wider audience. It's no secret that publishers prefer it if writers do the majority of marketing themselves. It saves them time and money!
Public readings have become an essential part of building a writer profile. There are hundreds of opportunities in towns and cities to put together events and readings, including book launches (when the book is published). You can start to build a following in your local writing community by reading excerpts of your work to audiences. Pubs, cafes and halls are always looking for interesting events to put on -- if they're not doing it already -- so take advantage of these opportunities and start building momentum for the big release.