This is a little late for a NaNoWriMo wrap-up, and it’s a wrap-up by proxy, since I didn’t actually participate. But I drafted this material to give at a NaNo wrap-up session, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, and since I’m frightfully short on time this week and didn’t write anything else, I thought I’d post the material here. It does answer some general writerly questions, and will hopefully be of use to people.
NaNoWriMo – What’s next?
- Decide what you want. Some NaNoWriMo participants just wanted a chance to do something they always wanted to. Some would like to share their project with just a few people, or to self-publish to a small audience. Some would like to see their book get as wide a publishing field as possible. These are all fine, but your next step depends on what you decide. If you’re looking at publishing…
- Finish your book! Most trade fiction is 80,000 – 100,000 words. While self-publishing opens the door to shorter lengths, readers may be less satisfied by a book half as long as they’re used to, and if you want a publisher you definitely need more than 50,000 words.
- Edit your book. NaNoWriMo is about breaking through any reluctance you might have had to put words on the page, but it’s not about making those words the best they can be. Remember you’re in competition for readers – and for publishers if you go the traditional route – so give them your best possible product.
Make sure to proofread your book to find spelling and grammar errors, inconsistencies (changing a character’s eye color), and anything that reads awkwardly. Try reading out loud, or putting the book away for a while so you get a fresher approach. Google “self editing” for more tips – but remember that these are often individual preferences (no adverbs, for example), not definite rules.
If you have never had a professional editing experience, I highly recommend it, especially if you intend to self-publish. Check these directories of freelance editors:
- Publishing. There are three general options for publishing. I suggest starting at the top and working down – unless your book fills a very narrow niche, there’s no reason not to.
- Traditional publishing: “The Big Five” and their imprints, New York publishing companies with the widest distribution and the greatest chance of making a book a success. They usually offer advances (money up front) and pay for editing, cover design, and other costs themselves. They have to be confident they’ll make that money back, though, so they accept only the most marketable projects. Some only accept submissions from agents, so for those you’ll need to get an agent first. Others will accept unagented submissions – make sure to read the submission guidelines.
- Small presses: print and online-only. They aren’t owned by multinational corporations, so they can accept less profitable projects and may consider books that the Big Five have passed on. This also means they have fewer resources. They usually offer editing, cover art, and other production, but pay no money up front and have limited distribution, which means your book will sell fewer copies. Research them carefully, since there are many scams (see below). Some offer little more than what you can do yourself, and some don’t even have good cover art.
- Self-publishing. The cheapest option is self-publishing an ebook through Amazon or Smashwords, which can be done for free. You keep a higher percentage of the sales, though few self-published books sell more than 100 copies. You are responsible for all editing, cover art, formatting, advertising, etc. Many companies sell self-publishing services, which may be useful (if you’re not a graphic artist or have little editing experience) or may be a waste of money (if you know how to format a Word document yourself).
- Watch out for scams. There are many disreputable “publishing” companies that overcharge or sell you things you don’t need, fake writing contests that charge upfront fees, and others who want to take your money. Here are good sources for researching scams:
Preditors & Editors
Reporting on publishers and agents, with warnings and recommendations.
Absolute Write Water Cooler
Writers post their experiences with publishers, agents, and others, good and bad.