This post is part of the blog stream on how to self-publish. It asks the threshold question: should you publish at all?

So, you’ve finished a novel. You like it. Maybe you’ve even had editing help. You think it’s in good shape. What do you do with it? I’m going to assume for this post that you’re considering self-publishing instead of legacy publishing. (More on that decision in my third blog stream.)

It’s fair to say, I think, that most fiction writers want to be read. That’s what happened to me for The Case for Killing, at least once I’d completed the book. As many have commented before, we are born storytellers. But just writing out a story for yourself is unsatisfying. Writers need a few readers.

But there is a big difference between a few people reading your novel and self-publishing it to the world. If you’re going to publish, you want to believe you’re ready. Your credibility is on the line. And the process of self-publishing is time-consuming with significant costs for things like editing and cover design.

So how do you decide if you’re ready to self-publish? Here’s a process to consider.

First, take a weekend and read your novel out loud to yourself. It’s possible to do this and forget you’re the writer. Abandon all desire to re-arrange chapters and edit. Your goal at the end is to answer this question: did it capture your interest as a reader?

Then ask a family member or close friend to read your novel. Plead with them to be objective. Ask them to assess the writing, flow and pace; what parts and characters worked and didn’t; and, importantly, whether they enjoyed it.

Finally, find a few people outside your circle of family and friends (friends of friends, say) and ask their input. People can be surprisingly giving that way and you’ll likely get your most useful information there.

If you get thumbs up all around, then maybe you’re ready for next steps. What I got was thumbs up but with probing questions. I felt I was heading in the right direction, even if there still was a lot of work to do.

Copyright © 2014 Peter Fritze

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