Finally, you're done!
Where are you in the process?
Once you are sure that your manuscript is complete, the tough work continues. Writing is very hard work but usually enjoyable work because you're writing about a topic to which you are committed and content you have mastered. Preparing that same manuscript for publication is usually a frustrating step for writers since the ins-and-outs of writing is not your first love. Most writers find themselves saying, "Well I thought I was done until everyone else got a hold of my manuscript."
What's next? Editor, Publisher, Agent?
Once you have a completed first draft
Review the manuscript very carefully. Just because you have the ability to commit your research findings to paper does not mean that you are also a gifted communicator, have flawless writing skills, or have mastered the required citation format. Begin with the basics. Is it possible that there are grammatical errors, spelling errors, punctuation errors or word choice errors that you just don't have sufficient skill to correct? If you feel that there might be sentence level problems, find someone and ask that person if he or she will read your manuscript and mark it up. Explain that you want your manuscript to be free of basic writing mistakes before you move to the next steps. The best professionals to ask are retired teachers or librarians, but other professionals with good written English skills can also be very helpful. Ask if the person is willing to perform this task for a minimum fee such as a gift certificate to a restaurant or a book store. If you have no one willing or able to help you clear the manuscript of basic grammatical errors, consider hiring a writing consultant. You can jump directly to a professional editing service such as BookMakers, but it will add more rounds of edits to your overall costs.
When your manuscript has been marked up and returned to you, make all of the necessary changes.
Finding first readers
Find three readers that you can trust to give you honest feedback. Ask these people if they will read the manuscript and give you both positive and negative feedback about the presentation of your research. Find one person who understands the topic fully and find two others who are not as familiar with the topic - but people who are familiar with this type of scholarly writing, non-fiction writing or inspirational writing. If you are not communicating your ideas clearly and objectively, your readers will be able to point out these weak areas.
Questions are available on this site to help the readers provide you with meaningful feedback.
Putting your feedback to use
Review the information that your readers have provided and begin to address their concerns. If you can't figure out how to address their concerns, consider taking a research writing course. The first place to look for a solid and inexpensive course is your local community college. If you've already had those courses and you're just stuck for ideas in this instance, now would be a good time to consider hiring a writing consultant or writing coach for a few hours. Sometimes writers just need to talk an issue through; then, you can move forward again. Remember, if you go to an editor too soon, you will have to pay professional prices for work you might have been able to accomplish on your own. However, if you are truly stuck, hire a professional editing firm such as BookMakers.
It's time for a professional editor
Whether or not you are going with an indie publisher, a POD publisher, or a traditional publisher, your manuscript needs to be professionally edited before submission. Most of the publishers, whether indie, POD or traditional, have editing staffs. However, because of cut-backs, most editing staffs, even at traditional publishers, are small and rely upon "mechanical" or "electronic" editing, especially for first time authors. A software program is not going to help you work the kinks out of your book and will not help you locate fatal flaws. You need people for this - trained, experienced people. A professional editor will work with you on content edits first. During the first rounds of editing, the emphasis is upon the clarity, flow and objectivity of the content and its presentation.
Did you say "the first rounds of editing?"
Yes. Start rewriting and making the changes until it's perfect again!
Then send it back to the editor. When the presentation of content is ready, copy editing will begin followed by the final proofreading. The best editing companies will use two people at the final stage of proofing to catch anything the first editor has missed. Once your manuscript is all that you ever dreamed it could be, you're ready for publication.
Your manuscript is now the book that you always believed it could be.
Send it off to an agent or publisher and relax.