What to Do with Your Finished Novel

Aspiring writers gathered to listen to a distinguished panel of experts discuss the next steps authors should take once they’ve finished writing a novel. Lucienne Diver, Claire M. Eddy, John G. Hartness, Holly Sullivan McClure, and Anne Sowards shared a wealth of experience as they answered questions from the audience and moderator Venessa Giunta on Friday at 1PM in the Hyatt Embassy C-D.

First and foremost, Diver said, is to get an agent. Submit your manuscript, and make sure you follow the guidelines. Eddy agreed that an agent helps you with a business plan. While Tor still accepts unsolicited manuscripts, the first thing she’ll do if she pulls your novel from the slush pile is advise you to get an agent. But all agents are not created equal. McClure warned against agents who charge a reading fee. Do your research, and make sure the agent is legitimate.

The panelists also discussed traditional versus self-publishing. Sowards pointed out that it’s difficult to get discovered if you self-publish your first book. A traditional publisher will help you build your name and brand. Hartness mentioned how worthwhile it can be for an author to have a hybrid career, with some things traditionally published and others self-published. But don’t jump on trends, Diver warned, because by the time you finish the book, the craze could be over. It’s better to be the one who blazes a new trail.

All the panelists advised writers to be patient. It takes time for a book to be edited, for galleys to be made up, for cover quotes to be gathered. Eddy says the process takes around two years from start to finish. Too many writers rush to self-publish because they don’t want to wait that long, but once you self-publish your book, editors won’t want to touch it. Unless, of course, you’ve sold thousands of copies, which is rare but can happen. If you’ve already self-published a novel, write something else. Start a new series that you can send to a traditional publisher.

Hartness advised new writers to reach out for help. Writers are not competitive with each other and are usually willing to pay it forward by helping an aspiring writer. Research, use lists of reputable agents from organizations like Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and Romance Writers of America, and subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace to find out who is selling what. Remember, it’s not a zero-sum game. Avid readers are always eager for more books.

Author of the article

Debbie Yutko lives near Atlanta with her husband and two cats. When she isn’t gardening, rescuing homeless kittens, or cramming math formulas into teenagers’ brains, she can be found stringing words together at her computer and dreaming of adventures in far-off lands. She is a lifelong reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy and a veteran of Dragon Con, where she enjoys attending panels and working with the talented staff of the Daily Dragon.