Ask SBT: I finished my novel. Now what?

Q: I work in the corporate world but my dream is to be a novelist. I recently finished my first novel and I’ve come to realize that I have NO idea what to do next. I’ve scoured blogs and message boards and I think I’m more confused than when I started! I wanted to know if you have any advice for someone at this stage in their writing career. ~ Ryan H.

A: Congratulations on finishing a novel! That’s fantastic. I began my first novel when I was stuck in a corporate pen as a data administrator for an HMO. ARGH!!

My first piece of advice is to find readers if you haven’t already. It’s important to know that you are reaching your audience. These readers should be intelligent and well-read people, who know what it is you are trying to do in your book. Or, you could join a novel writing workshop. Try to work with a teacher/author you admire. With any feedback, take only that which serves you. You are the author. Make sure your first chapters are the best they can be. This will be your calling card for agent submissions.

I finished my novel. Now what?

There are many ways to publish, but I’m only going to speak to traditional publishing. For the most part, you will need an agent to submit your book to a publishing house. Where to find an agent? Do your research to find a good fit. Look at novels similar to yours and see who the author’s agent is. Often, they thank them in the acknowledgements. Find out what you can about these agents–most importantly, if they are open to submissions and what their submission guidelines are. They receive a lot of queries, so make sure you give them exactly what they ask for. A few have blogs with helpful tips. You can google interviews. Follow them on twitter. (A couple times a year, some agents participate in #mswl. Manuscript wish list, in which they say what they’re looking for.) Usually, you send a query letter and the first 20 pages of your manuscript. Sometimes a 1-2 page summary as well.

In short, make sure your novel is the best it can be. Hire an editor or proofreader if you need one. Do your research on agents. Try not to waste your time or theirs. Stay strong. It only take one to get representation. 

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