How do you know when your manuscript is ready for (self)-publishing?


That is a good question, because as a self-published author, you don’t have a measuring stick like a traditionally published author has. If his work is accepted, he knows it’s pretty ready. As an indie writer, you need to decide that on your own. How do you know if the manuscript is good enough to be set in print, or if it’s still hovering near the bottom of your learning curve?

If you just started to write a year ago and now got the complete first draft done, think of it as a lump of clay that needs shaping. Rewrite, read the manuscript aloud, make corrections, let others read it, implement the changes you approve of. After all that, it might still only be fit to sit in your desk drawer. Forever.

I have four complete manuscripts in a filing cabinet. That time was not wasted. These are my practice novels that taught me how not to write a novel. I can recycle the characters and any scenes I wish to use in a future novel. Start over. Implement everything you learned so far about writing, character development, story arc, dialogue, show, don’t tell and so forth in a new book.

I am sure you don’t like to hear what I just said. But these are the steps even a traditionally published author has to go through before he can think about querying agents. If you have the patience, put the manuscript aside for awhile, read everything you can about bettering your craft, join a writers’ group, learn from others, and months or years later, look at that manuscript again. I can almost guarantee you will be relieved to call it your practice novel, instead of acting prematurely, turning away readers and ruining your name with a book that was nowhere near ready for print.

One day you will know in your heart that you’re working on a novel that will put you on the map, just like I felt about Immortal Link. After all the above mentioned steps, hire and pay a professional editor to put the final polishes on it. Query a couple agents just to be fair (ړײ), then go ahead and self-publish. Hit the submit button and never look back.

Self-publishing is a trend that was once used mainly by poets, memoir and short-story writers, but has now leveled the playing field for any serious writer. Agents and publishers can be slow in spotting and adapting trends. Well, e-publishing and indie publishing has made the decision for them. So long, Borders, right? And Barnes and Nobles is turning into a toy and game store. But there are still many beginning writers who go ahead and publish their very first work or everything they write without so much as proof reading, thereby giving self-publishing a bad name. Luckily for the diligent of us, cream rises to the top.

So, how do you know your manuscript is ready? You’ll never know for sure, or maybe years after it’s been printed. Or if it won a contest. Or if your readers tell you the manuscript is better than some of the traditionally published books they have read.

In the end, it’s a gut feeling.