So, you have finished your manuscript. That is excellent news and I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. Unless you are being published by a traditional publishing company, you probably have to do your own proofing, cover art, and marketing. That is way harder than writing the darn thing. The following list is an encouragement to get your book the TLC it deserves.
1. Your Book Deserves Professional Criticism I don't suppose you think of yourself as the next hit sensation and every word that comes from your typewriter is gold. If you did, then you deserve a wake up call. No, you probably can't even fathom how many mistakes are in your manuscript and how many of your sentences need good surgery. It's a dreadful thing to pour so much love into a book and have a "book surgeon" chop it up. What a blow to the old self-esteem. But, take it from me... my book would be an embarrassment if I was the one in charge of editing. Sentences that I swore made sense were proven to be contradictory. I would be using the wrong words to explain emotions. My capitalization was disgusting. I didn't know this until someone took the time to chop it up. My editor charged me $900 for grammar, spelling, and plot consultation. You might think that is a huge blow to the checkbook, but the peace of mind of not having to worry about some hidden blotch in my prose is worth it. If you have a friend that is a professional editor and they love you enough to edit your book pro bono then you need to latch onto that person forever. The rest of us need to do some serious value shopping on the internet. It's pricey, but definitely worth it.
BTW: Your Aunt Sheryl who has a "good eye" for these things does not count as a professional editor. You need someone with a proven track record of pumping out published books.
2. Your Book Deserves a Professional Graphic Designer I have to admit that when a friend posts on social media a picture of their cover art that they are working on, 9 out of 10 times I think "I wouldn't spend my money on your book based on that cover." That is a harsh truth, but the fact is that professional books with professional covers have spoiled me to expect a higher standard. Imagine if J.K. Rowling was in charge of designing and publishing her own book cover instead of the publishers who hire graphic designers. You probably wouldn't spend a nickel on her book (unless she is a closet graphic designer with an eye for presentation). When I see an amateur make their own book cover, my brain can't help but go to this thought "Is your writing as unprofessional as your cover?" If your Photoshop game is weak and it looks like a Nigerian Prince made it then you are crippling yourself. If you can't draw a human figure correctly and your models look like Gumby after Chernobyl, then you are giving your book a major disservice. Your job is to paint beautiful word pictures with your style. The graphic designer is in charge of tricking people into giving a darn about your book. Let them do their job. All the shading, coloring, tweaking, realism, pasting, and sketching. I don't care if you have a friend who dabbles in art, you need a Graphic Design Lord and not a Graphic Design Serf. Find someone with good reviews on Fiverr. Tell them exactly what you want. Be prepared to have them throw in their input (they are good at making a book not suck). A book cover can be a beautiful dress over someone with a great personality. Do not dress your person in a paper bag.
3. Your Book Deserves Good SEM and SEO Let me guess, your big plan for publishing is to post a Facebook post every day. Your loving friends and family will flock to the book and share it with all their friends. Soon it will be a snowball of notoriety and fame. Here's a simple and humbling rule for advertising. No one gives a damn about your book as nearly as you do. Your mom will buy it. Your best friends will give it a try. Your cousins might even take a chance. That pool of success ends quickly. You might think that someone just needs a reminder that your book exists. You will send out posts, emails, videos, fan art, panhandling. Uh-oh, your friends might stop following you on Twitter if you do that enough. I have witnessed a lot of amateur writers fighting for their space in the spotlight. They get suckered into posting their book on "free" publicity pages. It's annoying when a writer has to constantly bring up their own book in public places in hope of scoring a few sales. Wake up. Your book needs a professional strategy. Understand the social media market. Take workshops on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram advertising. Keywords and Google rankings are like gold in this age. Here's the hard part. It will be trial and error. An Amazon ad might yield some good results, while a Facebook ad might give you jack. You are going to throw a lot of good money at bad ideas. It sucks! But remember, the professionals use the power of award winning sales strategies to sell their book. You have to rely on the power of internet wisdom. It never happens overnight and it there is no sure formula. There's a lot of information on social media advertising on the internet. Some strategies are free, while others will cost you some cash. There's also a lot of cheap deals to "help your book reach the top" that are absolute garbage. No one likes this part and it can make you feel like writing is not worth the effort. Don't give up. Be vigilant and creative.
4. Giving Your Book The Old College Try
I've seen this so many times. A writer who doesn't have a lot of money/time/expertise trying to work on their own editing/book cover/advertising. It's an insult to your hard work. Imagine if a bride had to cook her own food at the reception. Imagine if the President of the USA had to code the whitehouse.gov website. Your book doesn't deserve your old college try. You might think "Gosh, I am pretty astute at finding errors in writing. I will edit my book." "People say I draw pretty good and I am learning how to use Photoshop." "I have enough loyal friends online to make my book a success." Cease and desist.
I was once that delusional. I wrote a book in 2006, Spirit Box. I couldn't be bothered to get professional editing. Plus, the seven times I read the book assured me that the book was error free. I' was sure the 100,000 words were all in good standing. Wrong! Spelling errors and insane word choices made that book a splotch on my writing record. I do not even want to give you a link to that book. This was before the ease of Amazon Kindle Publishing so rewriting the book is not an option.
My Current book, The Boy and His Curse, almost had a cover made by me. I was so proud of my fancy artwork (it's actually the wall paper of this section). Luckily, I gave a pro editor a shot at my cover and it blew my dinky try out of the water. My art looked like a macaroni and floss necklace next to the sterling silver and pearl necklace the designer presented.
The point is that your story is the meat and gold of your creation. It is a part of your soul. No one just writes a book because it seems like a neat idea. We write because we want to fill the world with something amazing. That is why we must give our writing over to people who understand the industry. They will polish our masterpiece so that others will get sucked into the passion we had when we first wrote it. The best weddings are the not the ones that the bride and groom set up by themselves. They might have the vision and the ideas, but they rely on professionals to get it done right.
Do your book a favor. Find people who are professionals.