You've Written a Novel - Now What?
Congratulations on finishing your novel! All that time spent nit-picking, perfecting and obsessing over your story has all been worth it as you type that final sentence.
Now it’s time for the exciting part, the part that allows you to imagine a future where your name is on the front cover of a book – a book you worked so hard to bring to life.
To make your dream a reality, of course, you first need to be published. One way to do this is to find yourself a literary agent or a publishing house that accepts unsolicited manuscripts (meaning manuscripts that have not been requested by anyone at the publishing house).
Trust me when I say, there’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when someone in the industry contacts you and tells you that they want to sign your book! You officially have someone in your corner, someone believing that the story you created is worth their time, effort and money to put out there into the world.
Literary agents are extremely helpful as they arrange everything for you, from finding the ideal publisher, to going over contracts and ensuring everything is equal and fair. There are also plenty of publishers out there that accept unsolicited manuscripts. The benefits of these publishers are that the author tends to be very involved in the entire process, from editing to advertising – they feel a part of it all.
As with any competitive industry, the work you send out to agents must be to the best standard it could be - giving your book its best chance.
A good tip is to take your time and do plenty of research, a lot of people can inadvertently spoil their chances by being overly keen and sending to every agent and publishers they can find. This, of course, means that you haven’t catered your submission to their specific requests. If you look on each website, you’ll see that most of them have different submission requirements – many varying in word count or the number of chapters they wish to view.
Another thing you’ll begin to see requested is a synopsis – this is normally around 500 words and must be a complete breakdown of your entire story from beginning to end, including any spoilers and twists in the tale. It may seem very unnatural to write out every exciting twist but the general idea is this: if they read the first 3 chapters and like what they see, they can look at the synopsis and find out where the story is going before requesting the rest of your book. Trust me when I say that breaking down a 70,000+ novel into 500 words isn’t easy, but work hard on this and perfect it as best you can. This is how to really sell just how special your book is. It’s what can separate you from the herd.
Something else you’ll see on a lot of submission guidelines is a cover letter, this can either be written in the bulk of the email or sent as an attachment (again, read each companies specific requirements before doing either). Cover letters are your opportunity to really sell who you are as a person, to show them everything that you have to offer. It’s the perfect chance to brag about any previous publishing achievements you have, any qualifications you’ve gained and anything else you think might make you stand out from the crowd and leave them wanting to know more. When I was going through this process, I found that a lot of websites were actively looking for submissions from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, LGBTQ+ and other under-represented writers. This is a fantastic step in the right direction and can help many people use their diversity to their advantage!
When sending the first 3 chapters (or first 10,000 words or whatever each request) make sure that it’s as well written as you can make it. After all, this is your chance to show them exactly what you’re capable of.
Book publishing is an incredibly competitive market and every author will hear “no” many, many times before they finally hear a “yes!” Even J. K. Rowling found herself rejected time and time again when sending out the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and now, you’d struggle to find anyone who hasn’t heard of the famous boy wizard!
Just remember that anything is possible and what you want can be achieved. Envision yourself at book signings, proudly signing autographs for avid fans and allow yourself to dream of, what one day, could become a reality.
It’s all out there for you to take. All you have to do is work hard, follow the guidelines available to you and never give up on your dreams. You’ve gotten this far! Be proud of what you’ve achieved and keep pushing forward!