I am not an expert. Not even close. In fact, I am a novice. But it that very fact that gives me the perspective I have. I am roughly a month from the publication of my first book and here are some things I learned along the way:
1)Book covers are important. Do your homework. Look at other covers, pay attention to colors, style, content. Then jot down some ideas of what you want. Try to have multiple ideas. Find pictures that represent the style of art you are looking for so that when you talk to your cover artist, you have examples of what you like, and multiple ideas to work from. If you are working with a publisher, look at the covers of the books they have designed. It will give you a good idea of what they are capable of.
If you are self publishing and have no artistic talent, find a GREAT tattoo artist. They can do amazing work, design to your specifications and are reasonably priced. Make sure having a digital version of the work is something you ask for. You will end up with something unique and beautiful and normally you can get something within a month.
2)Don’t sweat the small stuff. Every publisher formats things differently, so don’t stress out over formatting while you are writing. Also, every editor will proofread for grammar and punctuation – so don’t freak out about that either, let them do that.
3)Have a reader group! When you have finished your manuscript, (I know, it’s NEVER really finished) give it to people you trust to read. Have at least 3 people read it. Choose them wisely. Don’t pick three grammar Nazis (refer back to #2), one is enough. Have people with varying professions, backgrounds, educational levels, interests, strengths, etc. You need them to tell you where you went wrong.
Is your protagonist boring? Does the story fall apart in chapter four? Do you have inaccuracies? You need them to tell you this. Ask your readers to tell you what they love, what they hate, what they feel like they needed more of, what they don’t understand. Soak in their feedback, value it, savor it, bathe in it. It will be hard, but it will make your book better.
4)Wait. This may be the hardest bit of my advice, something I was told and ignored completely. Don’t make my mistake! Let the manuscript simmer. Get your reader feedback, make adjustments, repeat, and then, let it rest. You seriously need time away from it, time to let it get stale in your own mind. I know you have read it a bazillion times, but trust me, letting it dry out will change how you see it.
Letting it simmer gives you perspective. You read it fresh. Ideas and improvements will grow in your mind. You will see ways to polish the writing. Wait, at minimum, a month. Then, read the whole thing again, making improvements as you do. You could do this several times – if you can get yourself to be that patient.
5)Eventually, you will hate it. You will be quite sure that it is the worst thing that has ever been written in the history of man. You will want to burn it, bury it. This is the moment that you become a writer. Hating it and doubting yourself, is normal. Embrace it. Don’t burn your manuscript, because we both know that it is your soul poured out on paper. You have something to share with the world, so when you doubt yourself, when you doubt the value of what you have written, know that that is normal. You are normal and your manuscript is something to be treasured.