10 ways to tell if your book is ready for publishing

by Sarah Juckes, @CompletelyNovelCompletelyNovel-Logo-2Lines-unique

Any writer nearing the end of the writing or editing process may be all-too familiar with the worrying prospect of sending their newly-fledged work out into the big, wide world. With questions like: ‘what if it flops?’ ringing in your ears, it’s easy enough to sink into what I like to call ‘publishing-procrastination’ – where you keep tinkering with your manuscript and changing the odd word, only to then change it back again. Sound familiar? Here are ten things you can do to prove to yourself that your manuscript is 100% finished. Do these, and your book is officially ready to fly.

  1. Check for chronological inconsistencies

It’s so easy to get dates mixed up – especially if you’re writing fiction with flashbacks or a memoir. Try plotting your events on a timeline and match the dates up with the dates you have written in the book. There are some great online timeline tools that can help, such as Office Timeline. Although it’s made for presentations, it’s pretty easy to use and will help you get a clear view of how your book works in real-time.

  1. Do a ‘find and replace’ for character names or references

Do you reference a name with an unusual spelling, or did you change a character’s name between drafts? Doing a ‘find and replace’ in Word is a really easy way to pick out those slip-ups without having to re-read your book – again. Just press ‘ctrl+’F’ (on Windows) or cmd+’F’ (on Mac) to search and correct.

  1. Give your book to someone else to read

Whether you’re planning to send your book to an agent or traditional publisher, or self-publish your book as an eBook or in print, you should always give it to someone else to read first. As writers, we are way too close to our work to be able to see those gaping holes. Give it to those you trust – family, friends, or a writing circle – and see what they think. Or, if you are self-publishing, send your book to a professional editor for a developmental or copy edit.

  1. Add in some basic typesetting

Make it easy for your preliminary readers to engage with your book by separating chapters with page breaks and using a clear font. There’s more information on how to do this in Microsoft Word on CompletelyNovel, here.

  1. Speak to your target reader

Who are you writing for? This question should always be at the front of your mind throughout the writing, publishing and marketing process. Finding out what they think of your title, your concept, your voice and even your thoughts on cover design, can be a really useful way of ensuring that your book is going to appeal to your target market and sell once it’s published.

  1. Know that you can’t please everyone

Books are subjective. Your mum might hate it, but your dad will love it. You might find that you get really great comments about your title from most people you speak to, but one person won’t like it at all. It’s impossible to please everyone and no author should try. As long as your book makes sense and your target readers give you mainly positive feedback, you’re on to a winner.

  1. Know what your publishing aim is

What do you want to get out of publishing your book? Do you want to sell many to lots of readers, or are you happy being well-received by a few? Are you looking to build a career around your book, or do you want to focus on writing your next one? Answering these questions are important to realising what publishing path is the right one for you. If you’d like to earn money or build a career from your book, then you might want to think about self-publishing as an option.

  1. Think about where your book fits into the current book market

“My book is Wild meets Elizabeth is Missing.

“My book appeals to readers of Girl on a Train.”

Comparing your book to current bestsellers is a great way to help agents understand how they might go about selling your book, or how can talk about your book with readers. Publishing is a business and knowing how your book fits into this is a really helpful exercise, whether you are looking to be a bestseller, or are targeting a niche market.

  1. Pitch your book to a total stranger

Think your family and friends are being nice when they tell you that your book is awesome? Try pitching it to someone you don’t know. What questions do they ask? Use this feedback to nail your elevator pitch.

  1. Be prepared to work hard

However you’re publishing, sending your book out into the wide world isn’t the end. In fact, writing is only the beginning of a life-long relationship that you’ll have with your book through book creation, publishing and marketing. Be ready to put as much into this next stage as you have with your writing and trust me, you’ll do fine.

Now, it’s time to stop tinkering let fly!RLS_1990

Sarah Juckes is the Communications Manager for CompletelyNovel.com. Sarah helps hundreds of authors take the plunge into self-publishing, using simple online tools to create and publish high-quality print books.

For more advice on any aspect of publishing, check out the expert advice at http://completelynovel.com/. Connect  @CompletelyNovel

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16 thoughts on “10 ways to tell if your book is ready for publishing

  1. Hi Elizabeth and Sarah – what a great check list and helpful links … and we need to be especially careful with our first book … being as professional as possible in the first instance, will hold us all in good stead in the months and years ahead …

    Cheers Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary – thanks for reading, and I’m so pleased you found it useful. You’re completely right in that being professionalism from an early stage will hold you in good stead, and that’s true for however you’re publishing.

      All best wishes,
      Sarah

  2. Pitch your book to a stranger – unique idea.
    I like the search and destroy feature. Use it all the time.
    And I must drive my test readers and critique partners nuts since I don’t break the story into chapters until the very last thing.

  3. SAD – Search & Destroy. I actually use this term when I have my students clean out their desks/binders :) Love it in editing too – great advice! :)

  4. Elizabeth – Thanks for hosting Sarah.

    Sarah – It really is so important to think of one’s book not just as a piece of work, but also as a service/product one is selling. You’re right that it’s important to consider all of those things before sending it out for publication, or publishing it oneself. Thanks for this neatly structured way of thinking about it.

    1. Hi Margot,

      Thank you for this comment. Writing as a business might not be the most romantic way of looking at your work, but you’re right that it is one of the most important. Thanks for reading, best of luck.
      Sarah

  5. All very good advice, Sarah. I always have to pay the most attention to that timeline because I have multiple character POVs and my characters are in different parts of the country. Once I have a first draft, I get out a notebook and pen and start plotting who is where and when and making sure it all fits together.

    1. Thanks Patricia – great to hear about where in the writing process you use the timeline tip – after the first draft makes perfect sense.

  6. Lots of concrete thoughts. I like this one the best: “Know that you can’t please everyone.” Even our most famous authors can attest to that one.

  7. Hi Sarah–
    Your ten-point checklist is certainly useful, but I would caution writers to be careful regarding #3: give your story to someone else to read. That someone else can potentially do more harm than good, especially in the light of #6: know that you can’t please everyone. If you know other writers or readers you can trust to provide an informed opinion, fine. But in the end, I still think paying for a professional editor to read and comment on a manuscript is the most reliable action a writer can take. But finding the “right” editor–ah, there’s the rub.

    1. Thanks for these comments Barry – you’re completely right that all comments should be taken with a pinch of salt. An editor or literary agent will have more concrete thoughts about a book as they are familiar with current market trends etc. – but even this is subjective. An early reader can help you discover big plot holes, but they shouldn’t ever discourage you from keeping on with it.
      Thanks for reading!
      Sarah

  8. Finding a reader to read your manuscript does give a writer insight on how well the manuscript is written, particularly to evaluate clarity of the plot, appropriate love/hate of the characters, emotional impact. A writer/reader did evaluate my manuscript a year ago. I respected her talent as a writer and willingness to be painfully honest with her critique. What I discovered is that she wanted me to use different terminology as if she was writing the scene, making it her creation. I didn’t think that was appropriate and haven’t had anyone read my manuscript since. Perhaps there needs to be an understanding at the beginning of that relationship, establishing exactly what I was needing from her. Is that something you’ve found?

    1. Thanks for commenting, Feather! I’ve spoken to a few people who’ve had this experience in the past. Having someone read your book can be really useful for plotting issues, but you’re right that you do need to stay true to what you feel is the voice of your work. You can’t please everyone! I’m sorry to hear that no one has read your MS since though – maybe try a professional editor to see what they have to say? Someone who enjoys similar books to yours.
      Best
      Sarah

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