AM I READY TO PUBLISH? By Terry Ambrose
A new author recently asked me what steps she should take to publish the book she’d just finished writing. My first reaction was to wonder what draft number she’d completed. How much editing had she done? Then, how many independent readers had she found?
It was more than 25 years ago when I wrote my first book. I thought it was really good…my wife thought it was good…at least, that’s what she said…and, yes, we are still married. Then, I joined my first critique group, a small band of seasoned writers who’d been writing and traditionally publishing mysteries for many years. Did they dislike it? No, they hated it. Adverbs, adjectives, too much exposition, not enough action…I thought the list would never end. Undaunted, I went back and rewrote again and again because there were no other options. At one point, I became desperate to better understand their critiques and used three colored highlighters to mark my draft. Blue was for exposition, yellow for dialog, and pink for action. Imagine my surprise when my page turned into a sea of blue with smatterings of yellow and pink. It was time to rewrite—again.
Over the years the need for those highlighters gradually faded, however, my need for solid critiques from tough readers hasn’t lessened. One of the best things writers can do is to join a critique group. But, assuming you’ve already done that, how do you get that completed manuscript read and edited?
Pay for an editor
There are thousands of “editors” out there who will tailor their services to what you’re looking for. A good editor is worth every penny; a bad one, a waste of money. One option for checking out a prospective editor is Preditors and Editors (pred-ed.com). Another option is to just ask other writers, get a name, then call or email the editor and conduct an interview. After all, this is a job and you’re the boss. If the editor tells you that she worked with someone on a particular book, go find a copy and look for an acknowledgement.
If you don’t have the money for a professional editor, or if you want others’ opinions before you start spending money, think about a manuscript swap. The easiest way to find people who would be willing to swap manuscripts is to go where they hang out. Today, that can be as simple as joining a writing organization such as Sisters in Crime or Romance Writers of America. Recognize, however, that a swap is a swap. It means you’ll be doing a lot of editing of other people’s work, which is good because seeing other people’s mistakes makes it easier to spot our own.
Find beta readers
The most difficult challenge of all will be to build a network of people who will read your work and critique it before it goes to publication. This network doesn’t include your mom; she’s going to love what you wrote. It doesn’t include your best friend because only one of two things can happen: you’ll lose a friend or you’ll just get a “nice job” for feedback. I’m not sure there is a best way to find beta readers. It seems to be one part pure luck and one part perseverance. However, I recently discovered a friend who has read both of my books and considers herself an excellent proofreader and critic of crime fiction. Guess what? She’s getting the next manuscript to review before publication and a signed copy of the book afterwards as a thank you for helping me out.
One of my favorite questions lately to ask writers is, how do you want readers to remember you? Do you want to be remembered as a writer who put out lots of mediocre books or a few good ones? I’d rather be in the latter group. In the end, I think the extra time is worth it.
How do you feel about the quality of books being published? Is it going down? Do you have tips about how to get a manuscript reviewed that I haven’t covered here?
About Terry Ambrose
Terry started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark when “negotiations” failed.
In Terry’s new release, License to Lie, a criminologist and a con artist learn that with $5 million and their lives on the line, you can never trust a soul…even your own. T. Jefferson Parker, author of The Jaguar and The Border Lords said, “License to Lie is fast and well written, almost sure to satisfy discerning readers of thrillers.”
Learn more about Terry on his website at terryambrose.com or on his Facebook author page at facebook.com/suspense.writer.