Book marketing · How to write a book · self-publishing · The writing business

I’ve finished my manuscript! What now? 16 ultimate resources to make good decisions about your book

A friend has turned into a writer. Unbeknown to me, she’s been chipping away at a novel and her husband just sent this email.

Her novel is more or less finished!!! I may need to pick your brains about marketing! We also think we need to get it professionally proof-read. We tried doing it ourselves with Grammarly, but realise it’s way more complex than it seems …’

Ah bless. If you’re well seasoned in the author world, you’ll already be counting the many erroneous assumptions. Carts before horses. Running before walking.

But we all have to start somewhere. And even if you’re already wiser than my beginner friend here, you might know a writer who’s effervescing in a similar state of enthusiastic, ecstatic, multi-plinged euphoria. High on all those well-earned Es, they can’t possibly know what’s coming next.

So this post is a gentle reality check, a bit of tough love, a bit of hand-holding and a jolly, genuine thump between the shoulder blades to say: well done, welcome to the club.

Marketing? Proof reading?

Let me explain about those production processes.

This post is angled for self-publishers, but it explains all the work that a publisher typically does on a book. Including proofreading etc

And here’s another post about production processes

NB Do NOT rely on Grammarly! To proof-read a book, you need a knowledgeable human. Also, you need to develop good grammar skills etc yourself. This may seem unsympathetic, but if you’re not sensitive to grammar, spelling and language use, how will you learn the linguistic and lexical control to write well? Seriously, would you expect a person who is tone deaf to play a musical instrument to a listenable standard? Here’s where I rant about that

But even with all that natural prowess, you’ll still need copy editors and proof readers because they read in a highly specialised way. They look for the mistakes you never dreamed were possible.

Did you say ‘self-publish’?

Are you going to self-publish or try for a traditional deal? Is this the first time you’ve ever been asked to think about it? Here’s a post about self-publishing vs traditional publishing – the similarities and the differences. They’re no longer mutually exclusive either – there are many options in between. And as you might expect, you’ll need to spot the rip-off merchants who are eager for your £££s, so I’ve pointed to some tell-tale signs.

You’ve heard of crowdfunding? Here’s how my friend Victoria Dougherty is using crowdfunding to support a creative departure

Do people still send manuscripts off to publishers and literary agents? Yes they do. And you can. But before you send your manuscript anywhere, read on.

Before you can walk….

Now you know how a book is made. But first, is the book really ready? Have you rewritten it until your fingers are in tatters?

Here’s the behind-the-scenes work that went into my last release, Not Quite Lost

Here’s a post about beginning with a muddle and rewriting into glory (with a dose of disco)

When you decide to work with an editor (and I recommend you do at some point), here’s what they can do for you

How much should you budget for an editor? And how should you choose one?

If those costs make you boggle, here are some low-cost ways to boost your writing skills

Will your editor trample all over your style?  No, a good editor helps you to be yourself

Have you looked for feedback and ended up in a pickle? Here’s how to find your way again.

Will your editor laugh at your naïve efforts? Au contraire. Here’s why they admire you and appreciate what you’ve already achieved.


You asked about marketing. It’s not really my sphere of expertise, and each type of book and writer will require different approaches. But yes, you do have to make time for it. Here’s a post about finding a good balance

If you’re going to get on Twitter, for heaven’s sake use your author name. Here’s why

Wait, I’m overwhelmed! There are so many books already out there….

Yes there are. But the world still needs new voices. There’s never been a person like you, with your experiences, your perspective, your curiosities. You might have the unique outlook and insight that a reader needs to hear.

PS If you’re curious about what I’m working on at the moment, here’s the latest edition of my newsletter

PPS You should start a newsletter.

Inspirations Scrapbook · My Memories of a Future Life · The writing business

Everybody dance: we all go wrong before we get it right

Getting a novel right is trial and error, right? Do writers of shorter artforms have this trouble? Songwriters, for instance? I heard an interview this week with musician Nile Rodgers – which suggests his creative process has much in common with that of us long-distance literary creatives. Or my creative process does, anyway.

Finding the core truth

Rodgers talked about looking for the core truth of a song. In Chic, he said, ‘we had to define the deep hidden meaning, a song’s DNA, what it was about. We had to understand its core truth. Once we had that we could arrange it and change it to whatever we want.’

One of the first things I do when starting a novel is search for the core truth in my idea.

My inspiration is usually a character doing something bizarre, which beckons me to look deeper. I’m incubating a couple of these at the moment, searching for this core truth. Until I’m certain of that, I can’t get creative with the story and characters.

My Memories of a Future Life started with one idea – reversing the traditional reincarnation story. Not going to a past life, but a future one. What would happen, I thought? It could be a straightforward adventure, but that was too shallow – this idea bugged me at a profound level. So I quarried and worried and scrunched my hands through my hair, and eventually I hit this: when Carol chooses to fast-forward into a future incarnation, it’s because she can’t see any more life worth living now. That’s what this bizarre quest was – a search for life now. Once I had that core truth, I had a strong centre to build around.

Now freak

You know Le Freak, that joyful bid-biddly foot-itching disco anthem. You might know the story of how it was written. Rodgers and pals trudged through snow to a friend’s party at Studio 54 and the doorman told them to f—- off.

So they went home, picked up their instruments and started improvising. A cheeky guitar twiddle, some lyrics about schlepping across town in the freezing cold, all ending in a rousing cheer of ‘Ahhhh f— off’.

Rodgers’s partner Bernard Edwards said ‘we’ve really got something’. Rodgers said ‘you’re crazy, we can’t call it that’. They tried ‘Freak off’. No, it didn’t work at all. More head-scratching. Rodgers eventually said ‘what about “Freak Out” ’. Edwards said ‘hey my kids do this dance called…’

Okay, it’s no surprise that a song might be assembled with brainstorming. But pay attention to what Rodgers said next in the interview.

‘Do you think I’m smart enough to write “Freak out”? No way. I wrote “f— off” and we changed it. If I was smart enough to write a song about doing a dance I’d be a super-rich brilliant genius. No, I write some weird thing and then figure out what that means and then go back and rewrite. I’ve never been smart enough to get it right first thing. I’m a rewriter.’

First time? No

Writing is rewriting. Ideas don’t come complete. Inspiration is time and sweat and while we’re perspiring we feel we’re struggling and keeping up a facade of being smart. If – as seems inevitable in party season – someone puts this tune on, raise your hands for all of us who aren’t genius enough to get it right first time.

That idea that started weird and took a ton of figuring? It’s called Le Freak.

Thanks for the pic Thomas Faivre-Duboz

Have you got any favourite tales of ideas that needed a ton of figuring? Share in the comments!