I was pointedly asked this question today and I felt it apt to speak about it in a blog post so that more people could read my thoughts.
I released my first NaNoWriMo winning novel, Maya’s New Husband, on Amazon Kindle in January 2015. Since then the journey has been fabulous. I feel I do have something of value to add to the question asked to me.
First and foremost, NaNoWriMo is more of a motivational community, or an organization if you might say that. It is a community of supercharged writers (well, not all of them, but most of them are) and they come together to write a novel of their own in the month of November.
The NaNoWriMo challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. If you manage to do that, then you are through. You get the certificate and you can flaunt it to all and sundry.
But, are you ready to release your book yet? No! Definitely not! That’s where it gets a big hazy.
There are people who have not yet published their NaNoWriMo winning drafts that they had written half a decade ago. There could be a host of reasons for that, but if you wish to be a published writer and want to use NaNoWriMo to get that all-important start, then these are the things that you should take care of.
Things to Do after Your NaNoWriMo Month
- First and foremost, remember that NaNoWriMo does not write your book. You write it. NaNoWriMo is not responsible for completing your book, much less getting a good book out of you. All those are your responsibilities. Treat NaNoWriMo only as a tool, an aid, to help you get that manuscript out of your head and on paper. If you win it, it plays no more role than that of a doctor helping a woman give birth to her child. That’s it. Nurturing the child is not the doctor’s responsibility.
- The second thing is that your novel may not be finished at 50,000 words. So you might need to go beyond the NaNoWriMo month and complete your first draft.
- If you win your NaNoWriMo certificate, then along with it, you will get a host of sponsored writing aids at low cost, mostly software, which could help you complete and organize your manuscript. You could make use of that. (I personally didn’t).
- When your draft is complete, go back and check it once again. Read it from the start. Weed out all typos and grammatical issues. Tighten up your story. In effect, self-edit your book.
- Once that is done, send it to someone you trust who could read it for you and give feedback on it. Do not be stingy about sharing your manuscript and definitely do not be paranoid about someone stealing it. We always value our stories a zillion times more than anyone else does it. These are your beta readers. Once their feedback comes in, use their inputs to make your story better. You need not accept all suggestions, and you definitely shouldn’t, but this gives you an idea about what’s working and what’s not in your story.
- Now, send the story to a professional editor. Remember, this is a vital step. You might have been a grammar teacher for thirty years, but editing is not all about grammar and language. It is about plot inconsistencies. It is about story development. It is about flow and readability. There are so many issues. A professional editor, especially who reads your genre, will help you improve your story manifold. Editors have a sort of magic eye. They see the mistakes that others cannot.
- If you are self-publishing, hire a professional cover designer. Heard that adage – Do not judge a book by its cover? Well, bury it. All readers, bar none, judge books by new authors by their covers. It is best if you can give a detailed concept to the artist so that they can make it better with their own inputs. Personally, I sit with my cover artist and brainstorm ideas. All authors must do that.
- I suppose you have locked in the title by now. If not, then this is perhaps your chance to come in with a great one. Your title should have some zing to it, some factor that makes anyone in the street think about it twice. I’ve been told my first book’s title has that appeal. Maya’s New Husband. Why new? What happened to the old one? That’s the hook right there. In fact, tell the title to a few friends and gauge their reaction, not their words. Are they intrigued? Or are they just putting you on? Be flexible about changing the title if the need arises.
- Now, when you get the first three chapters edited by your editor, you can start sending in the query forms to the literary agents. This is if you are looking for traditional publishing. You will also need a synopsis at this time. Make sure you have a wonderful one written. Look at the synopses of other books, great ones, to see how those authors have done it. You will usually get a list of literary agents on the Internet.
- You can even send query letters to traditional publishers directly. However, this is not a method that really works. Very few traditional publishers will respond to you without an agent. And if they do, check out their deals. A traditional publisher who is really convinced in your work will ask for the rest of the manuscript, and if that works out too, will offer you an advance on your royalty.
- A note here — if anyone asks you money to publish your book, run away from them as much as you can. Or rather push them away from you as much as you can. There are several sharks swimming in the wide ocean of our literary world. Be particularly wary of any vanity publishers who will ask you money to print and “distribute” your books. Print, they will do, distribute, fat chance. You could probably do a better job getting your book printed at a local printer’s outlet and selling it on the Internet via an online sellers’ platform.
- If you are self-publishing, great! You have all the control. And when I say self-publishing, I mean SELF-publishing. Not going to the vanity publishers. When you self-publish, you get the book out yourself. You can do that for both eBooks and paperbacks. For eBooks, you could use a service like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform, which has the widest reach by far. For paperback, you could go for any Print On Demand online publisher. And, one more thing — there is a growing demand for mobile publishing nowadays. Books that can be downloaded on apps on smartphones — that’s really growing. Check out these platforms too.
By the time you are done with all this, probably it’s the time for the next year’s NaNoWriMo, and onward for your next publication!
I hope that answers most of the doubts of the person who asked me the question, and of others too. If there are any specific queries, do feel free to contact me on the Comments section here, or on the following:-