Question: I’ve finally completed my book manuscript! So, now what? Do I need to get it edited? Look for a publisher?


Many people have great ideas for a book, but few get to the finish.Answer:

Congratulations on completing your manuscript! You are in an elite group of writers and should be incredibly proud of your accomplishment, as many people have amazing book ideas but only a few get to the finish.

Before doing any editing or revisions, we first recommend stepping away from your project for at least a week or two. This will allow you to be more objective when you do sit down to revisit the content. Once you are ready to move forward, we recommend following these steps and reviewing the helpful ALC resources provided for each:

1. Identify your target readers and where your book fits in the marketplace:

Some books appeal to many types of readers, but most appeal to a select segment of readers based on the book’s topics, themes, or storyline. Your target segment of readers are those that will be most interested in your book’s content and the most likely to purchase it. Understanding these readers and their expectations will shape many decisions you make with your final manuscript and future marketing efforts.

Directly linked to your target readers is how your book will be categorized in the marketplace. At the top level, books are categorized as either Fiction or Nonfiction. Within these categories are many genres and subgenres determined by literary technique, tone, themes, and content. These groupings help agents, publishers, and retailers define and organize books, while helping readers more easily find the kind of books they love.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help identify your target readers and book genre:

– Is my book based on facts or true events, or is it a work of fiction?
– Does my book entertain, inform, inspire, or solve a problem?
– What makes my book different or unique and why will readers care?
– Are there books like mine in the market? Who is reading them?
– How are books similar to mine categorized? What genre do they fall under?
– Are there key elements in my book that are popular in a certain genre?
– What are the demographics (age, gender, race, education, etc.) of my ideal reader?
– What social media platforms do they frequent?
– Where do they shop for books?
– Do they belong to any organizations or groups?


I'm currently struggling with why I should write my book and why anyone other than family would want to read it.

Genre Basics - What is a Genre?

How Nonfiction Authors Can Use the “Four Ps” to Identify Their Target Audience

How Fiction Authors Can Go Beyond Genre to Identify Their Target Audience

2. Self-edit your manuscript to the best of your ability:

The manuscript revision process can be long, daunting, and frustrating, but is so important to the overall quality and success of a book. Self-editing is probably one of the most overlooked steps in the publishing process, resulting in thousands of books that are error-ridden or difficult to read. By taking the time to self-edit, you can ensure your book’s content is appropriate for your target audience and genre, while also saving you time and money in the long run. The more polished and error-free your manuscript, the less you will have to invest in professional editing or publishing updates.

Authors should self-edit to the best of their ability before having a manuscript professionally edited.HELPFUL ALC RESOURCES:

As an author, what are some things you should pay close attention to as you revise your manuscript?

How to Self-Edit Your Book Manuscript: Grammar, Format, and Clarity

Self-Editing: The Macro and Micro Things to Polish to Make Your Work Shine

3. Find beta readers that can provide honest feedback:

Once you’ve polished your manuscript to the best of your abilities (it still won’t be perfect, and that’s okay!), it’s time to let others take a look. While it can be intimidating to receive feedback on your writing, it’s a necessary step toward producing the best book possible. Having multiple sets of eyes on your work will highlight the things you overlook because you’re too close to the writing. Creating a group of “beta readers” from your network is a great way to get meaningful feedback, and can include fellow writers, avid readers, or even co-workers. Find readers who can be honest with you and who are knowledgeable about your genre. NOTE: your friends and family are likely NOT the best candidates at this stage.


First Chapter Feedback Forums

How to Choose Beta Readers and Why You Need Them

6 Key Questions to Ask Your Beta Readers

How to Handle and Process Feedback on Your Manuscript

4. Hire a professional editor:

Many writers believe self-editing their manuscript and then using a few beta readers is enough. It’s usually not. Professional book editors have an advantage because they understand editing standards, genre expectations, and industry trends. Consulting one prior to publication will greatly increase your chances of producing a polished book that will attract agents, publishers, and readers. There are four different levels of editing that professionals can offer: developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, and proofreading. It’s important to understand your specific needs so that you and your editor are on the same page. Here are a few online resources that might be helpful in finding the right editor for your work:

•  Editorial Freelancers Association
•  Fiverr
•  Reedsy
•  Upwork
•  Freelancer


Determining the Best Editing for You and Your Book

Make it Sing: The Why, When, and How of Working with an Editor

How can I get my book edited without shelling out a fortune?

Authors should copyright their work prior to publishing.5. Copyright your work:

Per the United States Copyright office, “Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” You are not required to register the copyright for your work, but there are benefits to registering, including an extra layer of protection for your work if you encounter any legal issues down the road.

Traditional publishers typically register the books they publish for their author clients. If you are self-publishing, you will want to be aware of the policies regarding copyright. Reputable assisted self-publishing companies are upfront about their copyright policies and often provide helpful information or assistance with registering a book. For U.S. authors, you can also visit the U.S. Copyright Office website for steps on how to register on your own.


The Benefits of Registering the Copyright for an Author’s Work

Copyright and Intellectual Property Basics for Writers

In writing and self-publishing a book, when should you apply for a copyright?

6. Research your publishing options and prepare for publishing:

There are more choices and opportunities than ever before to get a book into the hands of readers! Your chosen publishing path will dictate many things including time frame, upfront costs, book format options, available distribution channels, and more. There are four primary paths for publishing a book: do-it-yourself, general contractor, supported self-publishing, and traditional publishing.

It’s very important to understand your publishing goals before you decide on a path. For example, if your goal is to publish your book quickly and you are able to invest some money up front for quality editing, cover art and marketing, the supported self-publishing or general contractor paths may be right for you. If you have the skills, time, and knowledge to do everything yourself, the DIY path may be best. If you want to get traditionally published, you’ll likely need to query literary agents to find one interested in representing your work.

To make an informed decision, you will need to determine your desired level of creative control, your budget, and how much time and effort you can contribute to the process. The path you choose will ultimately determine which tasks you need to complete on your own or with the help of freelancers, and which tasks your publisher can assist with. These tasks will include obtaining an ISBN, interior formatting and design, cover copy and design, metadata collection, file preparation and uploading to various platforms, marketing copy, and more.


The Four Paths to Publishing

Self-Publishing Service Providers: Understanding Your Options

Query Like a Pro - Proven Strategies to Land an Agent or Publisher

7. Create a book launch event and marketing plan:

Once you’ve set your book’s release date, you’ll want to start creating a launch strategy well in advance …at least 6 – 8 weeks in advance if possible. Plan an event that coincides with your release date to acknowledge your achievement and create a buzz for your book. Book launch parties or online book blog tours are both great ways to celebrate with friends, family, fans, and the media.

Leading up to your book’s release, you’ll also want to create an integrated marketing plan that includes a combination of promotional efforts. This can include an author website, social media pages, a press release, an email newsletter, media appearances, reader reviews, speaking engagements, and more. A simple way to build a plan that will take some of the mystery out of the process is using the POEM Method of Book Marketing:

To be successful, authors need to plan and execute an integrated marketing plan.Publicity: Using traditional and online media to build awareness for your book.
Online: Using digital channels including social media and your website or blog to communicate.
Events: In-person interaction with potential readers and others in the industry such as signings and speaking.
Multimedia: Engaging readers through photos, videos, podcasts, and more.

The acronym, POEM, is an easy way to remember what you need to do and provides an effective strategy long-term.


What is essential for a book launch?

The POEM Method of Book Marketing

8 DIY Book Marketing Tips to Help Increase Your Sales

This is an exciting and meaningful time in your writing journey! You’ve put an incredible amount of time and effort into your manuscript and deserve to make the final product as successful as possible. Following the steps outlined above will greatly improve your book, the process, and your overall experience.

We also recommend reviewing, “What are all of the costs I should consider when writing and publishing a book?”, so that you can understand all of the potential costs associated with reaching your goals, and then budget accordingly.

And, if you are an ALC Member, we encourage you to set up your book project in your Author Space and use the Book Launch Tool to track all of the important tasks in the process.

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