Writing even a decent story takes time, especially when writing is the thing you do because you love it, the thing you do when you have finished doing all the tasks required of you for the job that pays the bills. Even when you put the final period to a manuscript over which you may have slaved for definitely months and, more often, years, your work is far from done. I would argue it is at that moment that the really hard work for your writing actually begins.
It is difficult to be one’s own editor, but the best of writers do just that. Being a good editor means first giving yourself time between finished first draft and beginning revisions. You need to be able to hold your finished work at arm’s length to view it, not still be in the stage where you are cuddling your words to your breast like a new-born child.
Once you have given your work a good three- or four-time-critical eye, it’s a good idea to have some test readers before you unleash your latest jewel on the unsuspecting public. These test readers are ideally not your grandmother, who loves everything you do, or even your best friend. The best test readers are people just like the ones you wrote your book for in the first place. If you can manage it, a quick critique form to go along with your test book might offer you some very valuable information about just what your book needs to take it to that next level.
But still, your job is just beginning. While others are perusing your work, you should be writing up the cover material for your work, the synopsis that will give the readers an idea of what your book is going to be about and that will make them want to read it. What is the gist of your story? What is the main thing readers will get out of reading your book? Does your main benefit actually appeal to your target audience?
Next, you get to become a marketing expert as well as a writer. You need to design cover art that will appeal to people flipping through ebook lists or scanning shelves at a physical bookstore. Are the images you are using legal for you to use? Again, does the art work convey a message that meshes with what happens between the covers? Will it appeal to your audience? How many possible great reads have you passed up because the cover did nothing to compel you to read more about it?
Besides the visual appeal of the cover, the actual title of your novel needs to be catching. It is your hello to potential readers. A dull title gets you ignored every time. Titles are a bit easier to test than other aspects of your book. People in your church, a survey of your friends on Facebook, even a few phone calls, can give you a pretty good idea if your title makes people interested, confused, or bored.
Of course, all this action has to proceed as you also strive to live your life. You still have to earn a paycheck, wash the clothes, feed your family, clean your house, work on your blog and other outreach vehicles, keep up on paying your bills. And, probably, you’re also already beginning the next, great project–for who among us doesn’t always have at least two or three ideas rumbling around in our heads that we want to finish some day?
As you might have guessed, I am finally reaching the point where I am closer to publishing my second novel, The Texas Stray. The picture above is my second cover. I’m not sure it will be the cover. I still need to write up a decent sales pitch, and I am just beginning my third serious edit. So, now is the time for me to practice patience. I want to offer fiction that is worth reading and that gives a positive message about living a Christian life, even as it looks at the challenges every Christian faces. Just because it is easy to self-publish these days does not mean that I should jump so quickly into publishing that I actually offer an inferior product.
So, here’s to all of us trying to grow an audience of readers who enjoy what we do, wearing all the hats in the publishing spectrum while we do so. Thanks to all of you who support this blog by reading it each week. I hope that your experiences are enhanced by what you find here. I know my writing and life journey have been greatly blessed through the gift of having the opportunity to do this–on my own terms and in my own time.