You can write and write and write, and until you take certain steps you still haven't created a book. Until a manuscript becomes a book, it's just a bunch of words. And in the main, there are only two different routes you can take in order to turn a manuscript into a book.
The Beaten Path: Traditional Publishing
There's a common misconception among authors that traditional publishing is less work than self-publishing. It's not true. When you traditionally publish, unless you're already well-established as an author, you have to complete lots and lots of steps.
- Write the book. First you have to create a book, but not just any book. If you want to traditionally publish, you need a book that has wide mass appeal - a book that will make money. So be unique, but not too unique. Present an amazing story that isn't too offensive or too "out there," and cross your fingers. You've only just begun.
- Edit it to heck. Edit that book for story, for grammar and for punctuation. Make every single detail perfect, because if it isn't you won't progress much further down the list of steps.
- Write the letters. Now it's time to write letters, and the more the better. Get some agent and publisher email addresses together, come up with an amazing pitch, and wait.
- Send the samples. If your pitch and concept are any good, the agents will write back and ask you for samples. Make sure your submission is perfect. Now wait again.
- Edit it again. Now if you land the agent and you do all your waiting, you will get a deal with a publisher. You should look over your contract carefully and make sure you understand everything before you sign. This is important, because you may not want to give away your movie rights and other rights just yet. Once the deal is inked, a year or so will pass. Eventually you will receive pages to proofread -- your book, in novel format. Make sure it's perfect.
- Keep waiting. You will receive a cover to approve (though it may not matter if you don't). You will write a blurb, an "about the author" and you will be asked to submit a photo. It must be a professional photo, nothing too silly or sexy. Eventually you may receive a copy of your book in the mail. You will be responsible for almost all promotion, and that includes arranging your own book signings. Now your manuscript is a novel, and now you have to really start working in order to sell it.
Self-Publishing: No Longer the Road Less Taken
Of course, you can always self-publish and dispense with all that waiting instead. Er, well most of the waiting anyway.
- Write the book. Create the book that you want to create. Strange? Off-genre? Totally unusual? Good! In self-publishing, almost anything goes.
- Edit it all over. Yeah, you still have to edit when you self-publish...especially when you self-publish. Make it letter-perfect or your reviewers will eat you for lunch.
- Get the cover. Either make your own cover, if you're artistic, or hire someone to create it for you. If you don't like the cover, get a new one. It's your cover and your concept, so make sure it's just what you want. But remember the cover should look good on an e-reader and look highly compelling, because there are lots of books out there.
- Start promoting. Make a trailer, get on social media and start promoting your book as soon as possible -- even before you finish it. You can't do too much marketing.
- Format. You may have a Word file, but it's not an ebook until it's formatted. Make sure the completed file looks beautiful on all types of readers.
- Publish. What are you waiting for? Once you've got your blurb, your cover and your completed ebook, publish! Put your book out there in as many places as possible, and never stop promoting.
A manuscript can't become a book overnight, and no matter which path you choose it takes a lot of work. Many authors never progress past the manuscript phase, in fact. But if you don't, you'll never know what might have happened. So don't wait. Complete the steps, and become a published author...one way or another.