Finished a New Book? The 10-Step Process from "Done" to "Published"

This past week I finished my new book, Shredded:

A prostitute, a new pastor, and a dying church...the collision will change them all.

I'm really excited about this book and would love to have it out there tomorrow! (I'm sure you know the feeling.) However, that moment when you finish writing a book is just the beginning. There is a lot of other work that has to be done to get that book to the world.
Shredded, the manuscript
If you self-publish, it will get out sooner, and I've gone that route and really enjoyed it. (See my Stolen Series trailer on the right side of this page, or my post about how to use Createspace.) If you want your book traditionally published, it will be a longer road.

I have books self-published and traditionally published, and I want Shredded published by a mainstream publisher. So...since I'm thinking through all this anyway, might as well share the timeline with you, right?

Here's a rough list through what happens after a book is finished:

1. Celebrate. You accomplished something big!

2. Edit. Very, very important. Find those words that bog the manuscript down. My worst ones are "just" "really" and "very." I go to the FIND button on Word and look up every single time I use either of those words, and see if I can change them or delete them. "That" is another one that is usually unnecessary (like in this sentence!).

3. Have a trusted group of initial readers. I have a group of readers who notice details better than I do. I send my manuscript to them and they find my typos, errors, and point out things that might have been unclear. It has been a huge benefit to me and my writing, because you get a sneak peek at how readers will respond to your book. On one of my books, Stolen Future, I had so many of them mention a scene they had been hoping for at the end, I wrote that extra scene and it made the final product so much better.

4. Create a book proposal. This is like an interview on paper. If you don't know how, see Getting Your Work to an Agent or Publisher-What to Do and How. Most writers find book proposals intimidating, because you have to put the message of your big, wonderful book into a tiny space. However, it's worth taking time on. No matter how great your book is, if they never read it because your book proposal was weak, you lost your opportunity.

5. Send the proposal to your agent if you have one. If you don't, either get one, or start sending your proposal to publishers. I'd highly recommend sending a query letter first and seeing if they are interested. But before you do that, check the publisher's website for their guidelines. You don't want them to remember you as the writer who sent 3 attachments when they put in BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS NOT TO SEND MORE THAN ONE!

6. Your agent, or you, sends the book proposal to publishers. If you're doing this on your own, I highly recommend sending it to multiple publishers at once. Ten is a good number. This way, when you get three "no thank you's" the following week, you're aren't devastated, because you know there are still publishers out there who haven't said no yet. Also, it doesn't have you waiting months to hear from a publisher that never gets around to saying yes or no.

7. Then you wait and pray. And wait some more. This is the hardest part for me. I want to make something happen, but the truth is, you just have to get in line. If a publisher has 100 slush pile manuscripts, several hundred query letters, and ten book proposals to consider, it's not an insult that he won't get to yours the moment it crosses his desk. (Though we all secretly hope he will!)

8. Sometime, hopefully, you'll get a response that a publisher wants to see your entire manuscript, or that they are considering your book. You get super excited, go celebrate again (because you've passed a mega hurdle that's hard to do), then settle down to...

9. Wait again. The last book contract I got came months down the road. As horrible as it may sound, give it six months, then you can be pleasantly surprised if it's sooner, but you won't be biting your nails to the quick expecting something a week down the road. If you do that, your nails are going to be in seriously bad shape after three or four months!

10. You finally hear something. Hopefully, it's a yes! If that happens, run around the house screaming that you got offered a book contract. =) Now you get to wait some more, until you get edits to work on, then marketing to do, etc., etc., etc. until day...a box shows up at your door and you hold that book in your hands. That is a wonderful moment. Congratulations.

If you got stopped by a no before number ten happened, don't despair. This is an opportunity for you to learn more, improve, and have at it again. I got two major rejections by agents that turned out to be gifts. Their one common comment let me know what I needed to work on in my writing, what I was weak at. I did and became a better writer for it. So turn the situation into a free learning experience, and get back to writing!

So what number are you on? Or did you think of one I missed? (No, you aren't allowed to make a whole number out of eating chocolate while you wait! ha ha)

Related Posts: Getting Your Work to an Agent or Publisher-What to do and How

How to Use Createspace, Amazon's Self-Publishing Option

How to Write a Query Letter, and How NOT To!


  1. After the publisher says yes, then you have another 2 years or so to wait. During that time, the acquisitions editor does a full editorial read, and will, if you're lucky, suggest further structural changes.

    Then the book will go out for a copy-edit.

    After that, they'll make ARCs, and send it out to your publicity list for blurbs, and to the long-lead journals that create advance sales, such as PW, LJ, and Kirkus.

    They'll also start work on the text design and the cover design.

    Then, when the compositor/text designer is through, they'll proofread the laid out version, and any ebook conversions that they've done, to verify that no new errors are inserted, among other things.

    Then the national accounts reps'll collect advance orders, and they'll send RFQs out to the printers.

    They'll also do the little stuff, like bar codes, ISBN assignments, registering with the copyright office, and LOC CIP, BISAC codes, and the rest of the detail work.

    Oh, and they'll do the ONIX metadata file.

    And they'll do their pre-launch publicity, including coaching you.

    Then they'll print, and launch.

    If self-pubbers aren't doing an e-only publication (especially if they're writing non-fiction), they're well advised to follow those same steps.

    Even with an e-only launch, much of that stuff will help your sales.

    And, let us not forget that a print edition will increase your ebook sales.

  2. Thanks for the informative post. I'm going to bookmark it so I can direct people here when they ask about the process.

  3. Thanks, Kimberly!
    Really appreciate knowing this information. I, too, will bookmark it.

  4. Also while you are doing all this waiting, get stuck in on the next book. Thanks for sharing, Kimberly.

  5. Thanks, everybody, for the encouragement and added insights! I'm hoping to someday have a revolving system so the waiting doesn't feel so much like...waiting. =)

  6. Great post - thank you for sharing!

  7. Speaking as an editor, #3 should be read your own book using a PDF converter to create a read-only file. You should do this after you have let your edited version sit for about a week so you're looking at it with fresh eyes. Make notes of any pacing issues, characterization problems, and if you find more repeated words. Don't try to make the changes right then, just jot a page number and a note, but otherwise read as though you are a reader. THEN go back and address the issues you found. And only then is your book ready for others to read/critique. This is your baby and you need it to be the best it can be but YOU should be the one polishing the rough draft.

    1. Definitely. I just finished that rough draft polish the other night!

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