As any author can tell you, writing a book is only half the job of what an author does. “Anyone can write a book,” many people think, and they are right. But not anyone can write a good book. And I daresay, no author writes a good book by themselves. But the author is solely responsible for how good their book is.
Let me say that again because I think it’s an often overlooked point. No author is fully successful on their own, but they are fully responsible for their own success.
I even bolded it so you get the point. (That’s a tweetable quote if there ever was one!)
Every author is the CEO of their story. But like any good CEO, you rely on a lot of other people who have skills beyond your own to finish it. You have to make sure you have the right people doing the right things. In the end, the Author CEO™ is responsible for the finished product.
Being the boss of your book means knowing what needs to be done and then taking charge to be sure it’s done right. Let’s look at a few tools every Author CEO™ needs to have at the ready.
Having a critique partner (or group) review pieces of your work is a great way to craft your skill. A good critique group will be honest, but also non-judgmental. Many authors find it difficult to receive even the smallest criticism of their writing and either get defensive or take the critiques personally. This is a mistake. To grow as writers we need to learn to hear the good with the bad. Be sure you trust your critique partners enough that you can hear both, even when you don’t want to.
After you finish your story, you may want to get a developmental editor involved. This person looks at the big-picture issues. They’ll help you ensure consistency throughout your story with the plot, character development, and what is or isn’t working. If your story moves too fast or too slow, they should be the ones to let you know, so you can pick up the pace or allow the reader to rest a bit. A good developmental editor will also help root out any weak verbs and passive voice in your manuscript.
Beta readers are basically doing the follow-up job of the developmental editor. It’s their job to make sure that you and the developmental editor caught and fixed everything. Most likely, something got missed. It always does, and that’s the nature of what happens when you’ve looked at something too much, you lose sight of the big picture. After you get beta reader feedback, if you make substantial edits, it’s a good idea to get a new set of beta readers to review it with a fresh set of eyes.
Always be sure to give your beta readers a list of questions to answer. This will help them to know specifics of they should be paying attention to and what kind of feedback to provide.
The job of the copy editor is to go through your novel and dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. They are looking for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, along with anything in the manuscript that doesn’t quite flow right. The goal of the copy editor is to make the manuscript print read and, as such, is one of the last things you should be doing. The story should be buttoned up entirely before giving your work to a copy editor.
Just like a developmental edit is followed with beta readers, a copy edit is followed with proofreaders. It’s is inevitable that a copy editor will miss a thing or two and your proofreaders are there to catch it.
Whether we like it or not, readers do judge a book by it’s cover. If you’re self-publishing and want to give your book the best chance for success, you need to have a cover that, well, doesn’t make your book look like it was self-published. That doesn’t mean expensive. A professional artist can design a great cover for under $100. Since the cover is often the first impression your book makes, you want to be sure to make a good first impression.
None of these things are cheap, but they do not have to be expensive either. Many Author CEOs™ try to save money by doing most or all of these things themselves. I’m just as frugal as the next guy, but I also know that anything worth doing is worth investing in.
Writing a successful novel is not just about investing our time putting the story to paper. It requires investing in the strategy and the people who will do the best job bringing your vision to life. But none of this will happen if you’re not taking charge and being the boss of your book. Author CEO™ your book to success!