Manuscript Finally Polished And Ready?

Manuscript Finally Polished And Ready?

by | Jul 20, 2017 | Writing | 0 comments

Next Steps For Your Manuscript

So now that you have a manuscript in your hands that has been de-stinkified, polished, revised, and edited, what do you do with it? Well, there’s always the option of putting it in your desk drawer, going back to work at your day job, and wondering you your writing is good enough to be read. All authors struggle with self-doubt and the problem of whether your manuscript is any good. There are really two paths you can go down at this point unless you’ve reached the bottom of that bottle of rum or whiskey.

Find an Agent for your Manuscript

Ah, the agent route. Hey, you spent 3 months to a year writing this thing and spent another month or two making sure it was as good as you could make it. You took my advice and kicked down the money to have a professional editor take a look at it. You’ve incorporated all their ideas, grabbed the newest copy of Writer’s Market, or hit Agent Query and look for someone to handle your manuscript. Remember my previous blog entry where I talked about the horrors of the slush pile? Just wait until you write a query letter. And what’s worse, the best agents require exclusive queries. That means you can submit your query letter and synopsis, then wait to hear back before submitting anywhere else.

The Manuscript Query Waiting Game

You used your toolbox. Your manuscript is great. You send it off to an agent and then, nothing. One to three months later you get a contract! Hey, that’s awesome. You’re a real author. Now, back to reality. Chances are, you’ll get a rejection. A year later, you and Stephen King have a nail on your wall where you are hanging rejections from your polished manuscript from every submission. Query letters are hard, and without previous publishing credits, you are a huge gamble for the agent. But that’s not the worst part. Just because you score an agent, doesn’t mean your book is published. They have to shop it around to editors and contacts to see if anyone wants to buy it. If you’re lucky enough to get it through this process and accepted, you get your contract and $5,000 royalty check. The agent gets 15% of that, and the government takes 30% of it. That $5,000 advance just became $2,750. But, hey, you are not published and legitimate. You go out to dinner and celebrate.

The Other Shoe

Here’s a quick rundown of the process that I’ll put in a list for you.

  • You have to earn back that entire advance (not just what you pocketed) before you get your royalty checks.
  • As a first time author, expect a 3% return on your sale.
  • If your book doesn’t sell, the publisher adds that cost to what you have to earn back.
  • The publisher sets your release date. Expect to wait six months to two years before your book hits the shelves.
  • The publisher designs your cover art.
  • The publisher determines what rights you receive in your contract. You could be excluded from movie deals and other residual income from your book.
  • You may never see more than that initial advance from your book

But My Manuscript Was Polished!

Your manuscript was a divine gift from the heavens and deserved to be published thanks to your careful use of the toolbox, your talent as a writer, and your wise decision to use an editor. It’s streaming rainbows and smells Downy fresh. So, what happened? Anyone remember a book series written by a particular woman about vampires and teenage girls? Spot one moment of polish, talent, or excellent writing in the entire series. Just one. Please, prove me wrong. I desperately need to be mistaken about it because every time I think about the success associated with that series, I discover that I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT PEOPLE WILL BUY! The bad news is that you can write the next A Farewell to Arms and it may not sell more than a dozen copies. But, fear not! This is the old model where the power is in the hands of the elite who pick and choose based on what they can sell, regardless of the quality. There was an absolute glut of Supernatural YA novels and knock-offs in the wake of Twilight. I don’t begrudge Stephanie Meyer her success. People loved her books, and it’s not up to the author to decide who buys your book. Actually, that’s a lie.

Last Time it was Abuse, This Time it’s Lies

Yep, I’m lying to you. You want to write a book? You have two choices while you’re plotting, planning, pantsing, or story mapping. You can “write to market,” or you can “write the story that needs to be told.” The two things are entirely different. Anyone notice that there were lots of zombie books after Max Brook’s World War Z? Erotica as a genre has shot through the roof after 50 Shades of Gray. The romance genre has ALWAYS been the top selling genre in the United States. All of this was written to a particular market because it would sell. It was snapped up due to formulaic design, tried and true tropes, or it was risqué enough that it could be sold in mainstream bookstores without a plastic wrapper. So, what are you going to do?

Integrity, Art, and the Market

You want to sell a lot of books? Copy someone else’s success and capitalize on it. You better be a fast writer and be able to push out a series quickly. This next part may stick in a few craws, but I’m okay with that. You’ve not created art. It’s no easier to create a manuscript to market than it is to create a lively and engaging novel with real character arcs, plots, settings, and pure heart. That’s the story that is hiding in you, and it should be the story you write. Writing to market will make you money. That is an undeniable fact. But if you’re writing for readers, and not writing for yourself, not actually being true to your own self, it will show on the page. I know because I’ve done it. After I had finished my first “to market” novel, I put away the keyboard for five years. That book still haunts me. It was bad. It was so bad I don’t even have a word in English to describe it. Something akin to an opossum screaming at its own ass while covered in raw sewage bad (Thanks, Donna and Steven for that image). So, get rich, or die trying. Those are your choices.

The Synthesis

Buck up kiddo! All is not lost. You can pick a market, and write to it without committing literary prostitution. All it takes is putting one bad word after another down on a page until you have a finished manuscript. Then you polish it. You use every tool in your toolbox. I’ll repeat it, your first few books are going to reek, no matter how many Febreze apps you have on your computer. It takes time, talent, and persistence to get it right. So, write that bad prose down, edit the hell out of it, then give it to someone who will tear it apart for you. TAKE THEIR ADVICE. You paid to receive it. If they see a problem, chances are, it’s a real issue. Incorporate their changes. Rewrite sections, change your plotline. Do whatever it takes to make that work shine. Then, in my next blog post, I’ll let you know what to do with those first three to six novels you’re going to write. You’re not going to give up. The stories are hammering against the inside of your skull, dying to get onto the page. You have a tale to tell, and you don’t need an agent or a publisher to do it. The path I’ll describe is at once much easier, and at least as much work as writing the book itself was. Get ready, things get heavy next time. Until then, print out a little sign that says “Write the next word” and hang it above your monitor. Don’t’ ever stop.

Chris Burk is an independent author struggling to find the time to tell all the stories in his head before his inevitable death. His writing stinks.

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