5 Things to Do Before Publishing Your Book

How to Put Your Best Foot Forward

Publishing is easier now than ever before. With only a few clicks of your mouse, you can put your manuscript out into the world for all to see. But, as with anything, taking the easy road doesn’t always create the best end product. Before you self-publish, query an agent, or seek a traditional publisher, follow these five steps to set your book up for success.


1. Edit

I know I say this over and over again, but I’ll say it once more. A book that has not been edited by a third party is not your best book. Hiring a professional editor—a developmental editor, a copyeditor, or a proofreader—is always a smart move for your manuscript. Yes, there is a price tag attached, but getting another opinion will undoubtedly lead you to a better product.

If you don’t have money in the budget for an editor, join a free critique group online or through your local library. You can connect with thousands of other writers, and even find folks in your genre who are willing to read your work and provide notes. A critique partner can provide invaluable feedback and catch those pesky typos that you’ve overlooked.


2. Write the pitch

Even if you aren’t querying an agent or an editor, you will need to write a pitch for your book. (In the case of self-publishing, the pitch will become your back cover copy or online description.) Your pitch should follow these basic guidelines:

  • The hook: One or two sentences that explain the importance or uniqueness of your book. Think of it as the tagline for a movie—you need to draw readers in with high stakes, interesting comparisons, or brand-new information.
  • The story: One or two paragraphs that highlight key elements of your book without giving away the ending.
  • The author: Two or three sentences about who you are. If you are writing nonfiction, you must also establish why you are the expert in your subject.


3. Create an online home

You may not need to have a Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, blog, website, Tumblr, and a Wattpad account, but you should probably have one or two of those. When you write a compelling book, readers will want to know more about you and your work. Give them a place to find you online!

The Internet is also a great place to interact with book lovers. Being engaged with the reading and writing community opens you to new opportunities, potential readers, and literary supporters who can spread the word about your book. Check out the sidebar for great articles about building a website or social media platform.


4. Research your market

I always recommend writing the book of your heart, but it’s doubly nice when the book of your heart is read by other people. Before you send your manuscript into the great unknown, learn more about your target audience. Is there a demographic your story will reach? Are you writing on a topic that is trending in the marketplace? Understanding who your reader is will make it that much easier to reach them.

If you have the budget, working with a marketing expert can be incredibly helpful, and you can find individuals in your area or work with a publishing services firm to get assistance. If you’re looking for a cheaper route, go to your bookstore or library and find books that are similar to yours in content. Learn everything you can from those books: who provided endorsements, who wrote reviews on Goodreads, how many stars the book got online, what formats are available, etc. Every little detail can help you build a strategy for your own story.


5. Make the time

No book (that I can think of) became a bestseller without time and effort from the author and/or publisher. If you want your book to be a hit, simply posting it on Amazon won’t do the trick. Be prepared to promote your book, seek readers, and connect with local literary spots (e.g. a bookstore or library). Look for creative ways to share your content, whether that’s by blogging, doing interviews, or making shareable videos and memes.

If you are seeking a traditional publishing route through an agent or publishing house, time will also be required. There will be waiting time as you anticipate a response. If you’re lucky, there will be revision time. If you’re less lucky, there will be research time toward a different agent or publishing house.

Plan ahead and make the time for your book. If you’re entering a busy stretch in your life, consider waiting to move forward with your manuscript until life slows down. The more time you can dedicate to improving your book and sharing it with others, the more likely you are to find success.

Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She loves reading and writing but not arithmetic. Follow her on Twitter at @LillianJaine or on her blog at www.editorsays.com.