Finally completing that story you have been working on really isn't as hard as it sounds. Whether you are just starting to write a book and need some direction or have completed one and are wondering what your next move is, I am here to guide you on how to finally finish that book and turn it into a published novel.
Book image from Shutterstock
First and foremost, you need to finally finish writing it. It's important to delegate some time to working on it, whether it be once a day or on the weekends. If it's a shorter story (known as a 'novella') then aiming for one chapter per week is a good starting point.
Once you finish a chapter it's important to stop and read over it and make the changes then and there while everything is still fresh in your mind. Make sure the narrative flows properly and fix as many spelling mistakes as possible while you can. (You will thank yourself for it once you come to the editing phase!)
If you decide to go through a publishing company they may offer to edit and proofread your story for you, but this is usually for an additional fee. If you can, get a family member or friend to read over your final draft and proof it for you. You never know what a fresh set of eyes can pick up on that you may have missed.
When you think you have finished writing your story I cannot stress enough how important it is to proof read, proof read, proof read! I lost count of the number of times I reread my story from beginning to end and I still found spelling mistakes and errors every time. There is nothing worse than finally getting your first copy into your hands only to find one silly spelling mistake that could have easily been picked up through thorough proof reading.
You will also need to come up with a title for your book and a blurb for the back cover summarising what it is about without giving too much away. Remember too that you own the rights to all of your works, so don't be too concerned about copyright.
You might also want to think about if you want to include a dedication page and if you are going to have titles for the chapters of your book. Getting these done now will help the publishing process go a lot quicker.
Once you think you have finally finished writing and editing your story it's time to think about a publisher. I personally went through a small, local publishing agency that helped me self-publish my novel. They were very hands-on and helpful throughout the whole process, which made everything so much easier and less stressful. There is an upfront fee that can range from an estimated $250 to $2000 (which would be for something along the lines of a large format textbook or recipe book.) These prices will vary depending on what company you decide to go through. Naturally, including illustrations or images will hike the price up significantly.
Your publisher will take a percentage of your earnings. Typically a traditional publisher pays 15% of the royalties to you. If you self-publish you could get up to 85% of the royalties for life, as I have. So it is very important to look around and do your research with as many publishing companies as possible to benefit you first and foremost.
Are you getting a cover designer or are you doing it yourself? It's a good idea to have all this in the works before you hand over your manuscript to your publisher. If you don't have anyone artistic in your family, it's easy to commission a cover via a freelance-friendly website such as DeviantArt and Fiverr.
When you have decided which package is offered to you by your chosen publisher it's time to hand over your manuscript whether it be through email or USB. Make sure you include any other relevant content (cover art, author photo, synopsis) and let them do the work! They may also ask for the calculated payment upfront before they can start putting it all together for you to cover all their costs.
Another important thing you will need is patience. It may take some time to get everything ready for print so don't be surprised if this process takes a little more time than you thought. Expect many back and forth emails from any good publisher you go through. You have to remember this is your novel and they will do everything they can to make sure you are 100 per cent happy with it. If they send you suggestions and you don't like them, tell them! You will be looking at this for the rest of your life so make sure it's exactly what you want.
The layout and the setup of the book were included in the package I went with so that was one less thing to worry about. Once your publisher receives the files they check to make sure everything is there and in order before they can begin production. They are also responsible for barcodes, ISBN's and National Library Categorisation. Basically, anything technical is their job to handle and sort it out for you.
Your publisher will collaborate with you to how you want the front and back cover of your novel to look. They will ask you:
- Do you want a matte or gloss cover?
- What colour do you want the spine and back cover to be?
- The positioning and any editing to the front cover image.
- What font for the text, size and colour?
- Do you want white or cream coloured pages for your novel?
I chose cream as it tied in with the supernatural/fantasy type theme of my novel rather than white which I associate more with non-fiction. They then do the layouts for your book for print and/or e-publishing and send you through a digital proof for you to look over. After you have told them all of the necessary changes they will send you a second digital proof for approval. When you are finally happy with this they will send out for a print proof which may take up to a couple of weeks to arrive.
Something to think about while waiting for this copy to arrive is to sort out bank and payment details for when the royalties start to come through. They might also ask you to write a bio and ask for a standard photo of you for their website to advertise you as a new author. Think about how much you want to sell your book for. For a hardcopy of up to 75,000 words, $20 is a good starting point. For online options such as iBook and Kindle, $3-$6 is a reasonable price.
Once your print proof arrives you need to take your time reading over everything very carefully to make sure you will be happy with distributing this worldwide. If anything needs changing the time to do it is now; this may be the only chance that you get to look over your novel in its entirety before it goes to print. You may be able to request changes later on but again, this will be an additional fee that you can avoid by taking your time during this step. Once you’re happy with everything they send your book live and you become a published author!
Your publisher will set up the selling of your book online for you included in the cost. This for me included having my novel available for purchase on such sites as Amazon, iBooks, smashwords and booktopia. Basically, it's available worldwide for download and purchase. It will get to the point where you can type your books title and your name into Google and it will come up with where it is available for purchase which is an amazing feeling in itself.
If your book starts to sell really well that is when book stores will decide to put it on their shelves for sale. You can choose the genre of your book for when it is advertised to purchase online or your publisher may offer to do this for you. They may offer to choose for you as when they set you up on the websites they are asked to choose from a set list of genres for that specific site.
As a self-published author you are responsible for promoting your own novel. Facebook is a great avenue to let your friends and family know about your amazing achievement. You can make a Facebook page for your novel and include links so everybody you know can purchase a copy. If you end up finding it hard to sell as many copies as you thought you would, you could always try setting up a competition where you get all of your Facebook friends to share a status you make promoting your novel and whoever does goes into the running to win a free copy. Each person who does this now has your book advertised on their page for their entire friends list to see.
You could also ask your friends and family to write reviews on your Facebook page or the site where they purchased the book. The more people see that others have taken a liking to it, the more likely they are to purchase it themselves. I personally made a bulk order through my publisher of 50 copies working out to be around $6 a copy for me to purchase. Selling these individually at a higher price is just another way you can make some extra money.
When will you see your first payments from the sales of your novel? This may take up to a few months, so be patient. You may also have to wait until a certain amount is made before you can see your first payment.
So now you have the ins and outs of how to publish your first novel. It doesn't sound as hard as you thought right? So what are you waiting for? Pick up that pen (or keyboard) and finish writing that novel you have been working on for so long and gain the amazing experience of becoming a first time author.