It’s no secret that the self-publishing industry is at an all-time high. With the exclusivity of traditional publishing houses, many excellent manuscripts are turned away or worse, never seen because they’ve fallen prey to the dreaded slush pile. If you aren’t familiar with the slush pile, it’s a stack of manuscripts that are automatically trashed because the literary agent has received too many submissions for that week.

Aspiring authors have had enough and are taking advantage of self-publishing sites like Kindle Direct Publishing and Apple’s iTunes Connect and independent publishers. Regardless of your publishing pathway, it’s important to make sure your manuscript is top notch if you want to succeed in this industry. You might be wondering – how do I do that? How do I know when my manuscript is ready to publish

Accept that your manuscript will never be perfect.

The pursuit of perfection will provide you with nothing but wrinkles and years of unfinished work. Don’t even attempt to write the perfect manuscript. Settle for good writing and an imaginative story. Yes, I said settle. That doesn’t mean just write any old thing. It simply means don’t get caught up trying to reinvent the wheel. Craft a unique story that is either entertaining or moving. If you’re really good, your story will be both. And spend time making sure your writing is clear and free from errors. More on this later.

Write your manuscript in 1-3 months.

According to one of the most successful writers of all time, Stephen King, you shouldn’t spend more than 3 months writing a novel. I couldn’t agree more. Why? Because you start to forget things. The story loses its excitement even if you haven’t written the exciting parts yet. I personally like to stick to a 1.5-month timeline. I write 2,500 to 5,000 words a day 5 days per week. This works for me. It may not work for you. Regardless, you’ll need to determine a timeline for finishing your novel and set writing goals that will allow you to finish your manuscript within that timeframe.

Invest in a manuscript critique.

You are your own worst critic. So, don’t criticize your own work. Hire a professional to evaluate your manuscript. I used Chanticleer Book Reviews for my Manuscript Overview and they did not disappoint. I was provided with 10 pages of analysis and suggestions for improving my weak areas. While you do have to be patient as you wait for your critique to come in, compared to the time I would’ve spent critiquing my own work and making myself discouraged in the process, this is a time-saver and excellent investment. Plus, you can use the remarks as an editorial review.

Revise your work based on your manuscript critique and then send the new version to beta readers.

Though my manuscript critique suggested a simple copyedit after making the suggested changes, I decided to send my revised manuscript to four beta readers before dubbing my manuscript done. Why? Because even though your manuscript critique is done by a professional, it represents only one professional’s point of view. In a room of five people, each person will have a different opinion. So, I recommend seeking out the opinions of multiple other readers, preferably readers in your genre, before considering your manuscript finished. Wait until you’ve got all your beta reader feedback back and then complete your final revisions. Based on the feedback you receive; you may need to go through this process one more time. Because, if you receive remarks to make several major changes, then you may want to have additional beta readers read your manuscript to ensure your changes are adequately made. But, if your beta reader’s remarks are minimal and the changes simple to make, then one round of beta reading should suffice. At this point, even people like me who suffer with self-doubt should have confidence that their work is ready to publish if it’s gone through the critique and beta reader process and received relatively positive feedback all around.

Next, send your manuscript to a copyeditor.

There are several types of editors, but copyediting is the most common type fiction manuscripts need. Do not skip this step and do not attempt to do it on your own. While self-editing is great practice and one I recommend, professional editing is the greatest investment you can make for your book aside from a professional cover. Arguably, it is easier to create a cover on your own than it is to edit your own manuscript. So, if money is tight, I’d suggest splurging on the copyediting over the cover design. Just note, once you send your manuscript to your copyeditor, you should consider your manuscript done. The story should not change. So, don’t employ a copyeditor until you are satisfied with your story and ready to share your baby with the world. Okay, maybe that analogy added unnecessary pressure. But, truly, all of your revisions should be complete before you send your manuscript to your copyeditor.

Approve or reject your copyeditor’s changes and have your manuscript professionally proofread.

It’s possible to do your own proofreading if you have a software like Pro Writing Aid. After the copyediting phase, there shouldn’t be that many errors left to address, but that doesn’t mean skip this step. I myself had my manuscript edited professionally and my proofreader still found an error, mostly punctuation, on nearly every page. While copyeditors address the more major issues with the text like clarity, your punctuation will directly affect your reader’s experience. So, again, don’t skip this step, even if you do it on your own. And, if you do do it on your own, make sure the edits you make are consistent. Follow the same set of style rules as your copyeditor.

As you can see, the amount of time you spend revising and editing your manuscript can amount to more than the time it takes you to actually draft your manuscript. But this is important time. The four steps of manuscript critique, beta readers, professional copyediting, and proofreading are an investment worth every penny and every second of time it takes to complete them.

Money Saving Tips:

  • If you’re unable to spend the roughly $550 for the Manuscript Overview, then plan to do two rounds of beta reading. Try to get four beta readers for each round and make sure the readers are different for each round. While some people do charge for their beta reading services, you can find people willing to read and review your manuscript for free. I found my beta readers through two writing groups I am a member of – Hope Writers and Write Publish Sell. You can find both on Facebook.
  • I do not suggest doing your own editing; however, you can save money on proofreading by using a software like Pro Writing Aid. Get the lifetime membership. You’ll use it!

Author: Emily A. Myers
Website: www.emilyamyers.com
Facebook & IG: @emilymyersauthor
Upcoming Book: The Truth About Unspeakable Things – Women’s Fiction

{Emily Pierite doing business as Emily A. Myers reserves the rights for this guest post.}
Emily Pierite doing business as Emily A. Myers Copyright 2020

Fool Proof Process for Preparing a Manuscript

2 thoughts on “Fool Proof Process for Preparing a Manuscript

  • December 17, 2020 at 11:53 am

    These are excellent tips, Emily! I totally agree that you can obsess over a manuscript until you edit all the life out of it. My late husband painted with oils and many times, he’d get so frustrated when he’d ruin an entire scene by trying to cover one tiny flaw. I think that’s a pretty good comparison. Thank you for sharing these words of wisdom, and thank you, Diane, for sharing!


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