Writing has a lot of steps. People who don’t write don’t understand that. Sometimes people who do write still don’t understand that. So I thought maybe I’d break it down a bit.
That’s a simplification. In truth most of these stages loop.
You write, and you get your critique group to read your writing. Then you rewrite and get it critiqued again. You keep doing this until you feel like you’ve got something worth showing your beta readers.
Note the difference between critique partners and beta readers. Your CPs are going to be other writers and people who know about things like grammar and punctuation. Your betas are going to be people who just like to read. They may know when something is misspelled, but that’s not their chief function. Their job is to tell you whether your story is confusing at some point, if they notice a major plot hole, if a character is annoying—all the things you talk about if YOU read a book and have issues with it. That’s what they’re going to do to YOUR book. And it’s as fun as it sounds but also really necessary.
After your betas have ripped your baby to bits, you get to fix all the problems. Then you can do another round of critiquing and beta reading. Then, when you’ve finally crawled back from your beta round with minimal pain, it’s time to hire a professional editor. You may also at this point begin exploring cover artists if you don’t already have one.
Your editor may find more issues (a good editor almost always will). After you’ve edited and polished your manuscript yet again, and once you’re relatively sure it’s as good as it can possibly be, you can start looking for ARC readers and advance reviewers. These people are NOT meant to give you feedback so that you can fix the book. They’re meant to tell other people whether or not the book is any good. If they say it’s not, then something in the previous steps went horribly wrong. Or you’ve tapped the wrong audience to read your ARCs. That’s actually also possible.
Finally, you can release your book into the wild. Yes, let it go. Try not to hover. Don’t pin all your hopes on this one title, no matter how much time and effort you’ve put into it. You should be getting on with your next book at this point. Looking forward not back.
“What about marketing?” I hear you asking. And of course that is important, but that’s another post for another time.