- Have someone else read your book. Heck, have several someones. These are called beta readers. These are the people you should have read your book:
- Your momma. Really. Her opinion will be uninformed and extremely biased, but at least there will be someone who will tell you it’s a great story. Tuck that well-meaning compliment away, to bring out later on a rainy day. You’ll need it. Now, if your own mom tells you it’s a terrible book, either yo’ momma don’t love you none, or it really is a terrible, terrible book. If so, you should go write another one. (Oh heck, even if it’s the most brilliant thing in the world, go write another one anyway. It’s good for your soul.)
- A mate (aka buddy) who ain’t afraid to give you the straight dope. Let 'em know it’s okay if they tell you the parts that work and the parts that don’t. Remember, they aren’t dissing you, just the bad parts of your book. And the bad parts need dissin’.
- A fellow writer, preferably one with a better mastery of the craft than your good self. This is the person who’ll give you useful feedback. In fact, finding a good critique group is worth its weight. (A bad critique group ain’t gonna do you no good.)
- Put the book away. Let it sit and age for a while. This could be weeks, months, or even years. The publishing world isn’t going to disappear tomorrow. There will always be a market for books. Just let the sucker be and get on with another project. Later you can come back to your book with fresh eyes. You will see stuff your brain glossed over before. Then won’t you be glad you didn’t sent out such an unfinished book!
- Assume you don’t know everything about the craft. ‘Cause really, you don’t. None of us do. Okay, some of us know more than others. But it takes a very long time for us to leave our apprentice phase, our journeyman phase, and enter into true mastery of the craft. So get it into your head that you’re not the most brilliantest writer in the world. But You Could Be. Go study the craft. Go research stuff online. The neat thing about writers is that we’re not jealously hoarding our writing tools. We’re more than happy to share everything we know with every other writer out there. Collectively, we can become mighty.
- Work on that query letter. Write a concise synopsis. Draft a single log line. Test market it to your FB, your Twitter feed, your online writing workshop. Did anyone bite? If not, review, revise, rework.
- Research potential agents/publishers. Come up with a dreamlist of your top 100 preferred agents/publishers. Remember, the shorter the list, the shorter your chances of success. So make it long, but targeted. (No use sending that hard Sci-Fi novel to Janet Reid.)
- Write another novel and pitch that. Second novels are better than first novels.
P.S.: If you have no intention of writing a third book, you probably don’t belong in the publishing industry. Go do a small Lulu run of your one-and-only magum opus and impress your friends and family instead. It’s okay. We don't mind.