As an aspiring writer, it can be quite confusing to know what it actually takes to get your writing on someone else’s bookshelf (besides your Mom’s).
If you want to see your MS become a book someday, your scribbles a website or your jumbled thoughts a zine, you have to give it a chance instead of just leaving it to chance.
What you need next
Giving your work a chance means going through all the necessary steps. But maybe you’re just not sure what your next step should be. This quick guide is meant to help you discover what you need next– beta reader, editor or agent– to help get your writing where you want it to go.
Find a beta reader when…
You’ve written something up. Abandoned it. Re-visited and re-vamped. Hemmed, hawed, edited and proofread. But not another set of eyes (besides maybe your mother’s) have seen what you’ve written. It’s time for some beta readers. Whether you ask for volunteers, offer some sort of incentive, or join a writing group, you’ll want some feedback even before your writing hits the editor’s desk.
Practical tips: Beta readers should be just the right mix of critical and encouraging, the people you can trust to be honest and objective. They should also be at least somewhat versed in the genre you’re writing in and excited about giving their input.
Hire an editor when…
You’ve gone through the beta-reader stage and done at least one revision on your own. Keep in mind, that not all editors are created equal. Some are well-versed in helping develop your novel, some may be better at combing through and improving it line-by-line. A good editor, says Ashley of Brooks Editorial, will help you figure out just what it is that you need.
Practical tips: Ask for referrals from the editor your querying, or maybe even a free/ discounted 5-page edit to see there skills at work. If you don’t feel like the editor is working with you, then move on. Improving your MS should be a team effort and a positive experience.
Attract an agent when…
Well, this one can be tricky. Even if you’ve been through the previous steps, you still might not be ready. When you’re looking for an agent, not only does your writing have to be edited, polished and attractive, but you need your ‘poop in a group.’
What is the ‘poop’ to which I refer? For starters, a query letter, synopsis of your story and probably a few example chapters ready to go. Make sure not to let this other stuff slip by without an editor’s eye as well!
Practical tips: Research agents to see what they look for to determine which agent might accept your MS. Know your MS. If it’s not mainstream, don’t go from the mainstream agents. Also, check out the fees. Most agents are paid on commission from your books sales (typically 15 percent) so upfront costs are usually a red flag.
Obviously, this is not all there is to it. If you’re published or about to be, what did it take you to get there? We would love to hear your thoughts!