When an author completes their first book, there are salient questions they should ask themselves, with regard to what to do next: does my world revolve around seeking publication of this particular book, or is there a bigger picture? Do I simply want to get this book out in the world and rest on my laurels, or do I want to plot a long range career? If it is a long range career one wants, then an author has to be practical. Most of us begin as complete unknowns, so there is the imperative need for a peculiar mix of patience, perseverance and humility. The road to Rome wasn’t paved in one day, and all of that. Everything is a build.
It is a huge accomplishment to finish a novel. Huge. Once this is completed, pat yourself on the back, then honor your work by getting your manuscript in its best shape possible, whether this means finding a reputable editor, acquiring beta readers, or going over your manuscript fifteen times yourself. Next decide how you want to get your book out in the world. If you’re not interested in self-publishing, consider your book’s genre, check the market, see who is publishing your kind of book, then figure out how to approach them. Do you need an agent? Are there publishing houses that will accept your manuscript without an agent? What is the best way to go?
I say do both. Get ready to introduce yourself and your manuscript to both an agency and a publishing house by writing the best synopsis and query letter you can. Do your homework with regard to agents and agencies. The questions to ask are: who are their clients; where have they placed their authors? If you plan to go directly to a publishing house, the same questions apply.
I want to now point out the good news for first time authors: in this day and age, there are many small, independent presses that all operate like “The Little Engine that Could.” They have an ethos as a business that is applicable to a healthy mind frame for first time authors, meaning they believe in themselves and have a long range plan based on the fortitude it takes to build something of value. They need you as much as you need them.
Once a first time author places their book, the real work begins. This is where the crash course tutorial commences regarding what is expected from authors. The entire game comes into focus once you’re in the arena, much of which comes down to marketing and promotion. The idea is to work your book to the point that you find your readership. Once you’ve mastered this, you’re ready to begin again with another book, and this time you know what to do, having been put through the paces.
It is my impression that once an author aligns with a publishing house, their career will take on its own momentum, much of which is self-directed. But it helps to have a long-range vision going into it and commitment to staying the course.