In the past month, several writers have contacted me with questions because they are almost finished writing the first draft of their manuscripts. If you fall into this category or think you might write—or still finish—a book, then this post is for you.

First, congratulations on pursuing the difficult task of writing a manuscript. Taking the first step is one small step for man (or woman), to paraphrase a quote. You might feel like you have reached the moon if you are committed to writing and have finished the first draft. Maybe you are still shooting for the stars and writing your best work.

Take time to sit and write out your thoughts before you reread your first draft because the answers will determine your next steps.

As you prepare to submit your manuscript for publication, consider a few questions. They seem simple unless you haven’t thought about the answers. Take time to sit and write out your thoughts before you reread your first draft because the answers will determine your next steps.

1. Value Proposition

Why will a reader buy your book instead of another? How is your story or information different? Most authors sell 250 books (of one title) per year, according to the Nonfiction Authors Association in October 2018 (the latest data available), with a total of 3,000 books sold over a lifetime. The more you can define your niche the better you can position your book.

2. Purpose

What do you hope to achieve by writing this book? Publication might not be your goal. Perhaps you want to self-publish your family history. Do you want to build credibility as an expert or earn residual income? Perhaps you believe your experience can help others overcome similar challenges. Did you also write a workbook or action plan? Maybe you want to boast you are a “published author.” If you are writing a book to become the next J.K. Rowling, your chances are as remote as hers were, but shoot for the stars!

3. Target

For whom are you writing this book? Imagine a specific individual as you write and edit your manuscript. If you look for “any job,” you will have difficulty finding a satisfying career. But if you look for a job as a chef, you can narrow your search. The same is true with writing for a target audience. Research who buys books similar to yours. Are those books hardback, paperback, or on a digital device?

4. Marketing

If you hope to be published by a traditional publisher, you need thousands of followers on social media and/or your brand’s email list. Not all of your followers will be in your target group, but marketing and branding should appeal to the person you imagined reading the book.

Whether you choose to pursue traditional, hybrid, or self-publishing (also called independent publishing), you need a following who will be interested in your book. Preorders can make a tremendous difference in your book sales.

5. Scope

What will you cover in this book? Are you sharing five tips, how you beat cancer (but leaving out other key points in your life), or writing a novel during a specific period in your characters’ lives? Remember to remain focused and stay within standard word count guidelines or those in submissions guidelines.

6. Sales

How do you plan to promote and sell your book?

7. Product

Which format will you or the publisher offer: digital, paperback, or hardback? Can you take advantage of Print-On-Demand (POD), to publish only a few books each time to save printing and storage expenses?

8. Publisher

How do you plan to publish your book? Research the risks and differences between publishing types: traditional, self or indie, hybrid, and vanity.

9. Return on Investment

How long and how much of your limited time and resources are you willing to spend on this book? Your answers to the questions about your purpose are relevant here.

After you have answered these questions, you can start to narrow your publishing options or begin reviewing your manuscript. You can begin to query before your book is finished, especially in fiction.

One Final Piece of Advice

Review any contract carefully. You never want to pay to be published or buy a required number of books for the publisher to proceed. I am not an expert in that area, but I know a few of the troubles novice writers can encounter.

Beth Crosby

Copy Editor / Writing Coach

Beth Crosby is a copy editor and writing coach with a background in newspaper journalism. She tells writers, “Never publish your first draft!”

Beth works with writers, authors, and publishers. Her goal is to empower writers to share their messages by bolstering and encouraging them through writing coaching and editing. She believes that published blogs, articles, and books should be clear, concise, correct and consistent. Contact her today at to see how she can help you.

“If you want your next project to be as polished as possible, I can ensure readers remember your manuscript, message, email, blog post, or other writing project for its quality and clarity, not its errors.”
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