There are no words to describe the feeling a writer has when they write the words “The End”. Relief, joy, pride certainly, but also a tiny kernel of doubt and fear for what is still to come.
The best advice I took was to set my manuscript aside for a while. I was too close to it, and needed that separation in order to go back to it later with a clear mind and fresh perspective. While it sat, I researched. For a month, I spent hours each day reading every article, blog, and book I could find about revising, editing, and publishing. I kept my options open by researching traditional, indie, and self-publishing. To be traditionally published had always been my dream; I wanted to see Tranquility on bookshelves in every bookstore. But, I also knew how tough it is as a new author to break into the industry.
Finally, I revised . . . and revised, and revised. I read the MS over and over, focusing on one issue each time, deleting, cutting and pasting, adding words where necessary. During this process, I discovered that I love ripping words apart and putting them back together, like a giant word puzzle. It gives me a sense of satisfaction to make good words better.
When I could revise no more, I set the MS aside again to gain distance before the editing stage. Now, the possibility of publication loomed so near, I could almost let myself believe it might happen. For the next few weeks, I researched traditional publishing in depth. I attended nearby publishing workshops with well-known authors and literary agents, arming myself with their knowledge and experience.
During this time, I discovered query letters; a good one will hook an agent or publisher, and motivate them to ask for more. Again, research was key in learning all I could about writing an engaging query. I wrote, and rewrote my query, but still I struggled with it. Finally, I signed up for a query workshop with a literary agent who would spend the last hour of the class critiquing queries. Armed with a newfound confidence, and a query full of red ink, I went home and rewrote it.
Now that my query was honed and ready, I set to the task of editing and polishing my MS. Much like revising, each pass focused on an issue: one for dialogue, one for grammar, another for punctuation, etc. Five passes later, Tranquility was as polished as I could make it, and I was ready to submit.
Again, research is key when searching for agents and publishers. Not only do you want to be sure those you submit to are legit, but also that they are looking for what you are offering. Submitting your YA fantasy to an agent who does not accept YA is a waste of your time and theirs. The best way to ensure they are a good fit, and at the same time protect yourself, is to take your time and research each one carefully.
It is too easy, in the euphoria of finishing a novel, or any written work, to rush the process. I get it, you’re excited and proud, and you want everyone to read it. But when you rush into publishing, whether self or traditional, without knowing exactly what you are doing, mistakes will happen. I’ve seen too many writers who don’t understand how publishing works, get sucked in by vanity presses who tell you they love your work and make all kinds of promises. Thousands of dollars later, the writer finally learns the hard way what they should have known all along; you never pay to publish.
In the same way, writers often rush into self-publishing, so eager to put their work out into the world, that they skip important steps. If you can’t afford an editor, wait a few months and save for it. Even better, set aside money each month while you are writing so that, by the time you are ready to publish, you can afford professional editing. If you are not good at cover design, hire someone to do it. Do your research. Learn all you can about self-publishing and marketing. Publishing a book that is not ready to be published will only hurt you in the long run.
It took me eight months to find a publisher. Eight months of researching each agent and publisher I submitted to, of tailoring each query to fit the submission. For months, I waited. With each email response, my heart skipped a beat. With each rejection, it sank. My patience paid off. I received two offers and six months later, my dream of becoming a published author came true.
From the time I sat down to sketch out the plot, to the date of publication, the whole process took nearly three years. Writing a book requires hard work, dedication, and patience. Research and learn. Arm yourself with knowledge. Take the time to do it right. In the end, it will pay off.