I am working on my first novel which is a collaboration with a friend. We both have no experience and no contacts within the industry, so we are realistic about the prospects for the first novel and dont expect to make a great deal of money from it. We do however want to get as many reviews and as much feedback as we can so that we know what we need to keep, change and improve for the next book. We are looking for cheap ways (preferably free) that we can get the novel out there. We know we are going to have to pay for a good editor so this is going swallow up most of the capital we can afford to put into it. What are the cheapest routes available for publishing and can anybody recommend the avenues to get reviews.
Once you publish something, it's out beyond your grasp. I strongly recommend against publishing a piece that you feel still has work to be done on.
Self-publishing a novel that still needs editing is not a wise stepping stone to feedback and constructive criticism.
- First of all, as an unpolished book, it's unlikely to receive much attention; good critics don't go hunting the web for utterly unknown fiction to analyse.
- Secondly, the criticism you do get is likely to be unhelpful - open a random page on Amazon or Goodreads for a book you've never heard of, and you'll see that the vast majority of comments basically boil down to "I liked this" or "I didn't like this"; detailed opinions on minor books are rare, whereas distilling useful advice from scads of snarky, snippety readers is a dangerous tactic.
- Beyond all this, if you publish under your own name, a published book will remain associated with you and your career forever. It (and its sales ranks) will be the first thing publishers will look at on future projects. You don't want to mess that up with anything less than your best effort.
So I suggest a three-phase plan.
1. Make it as good as you can on your own. That means writing a first draft, revising until it's as good as you can make it, solving the problems that bother you, getting the manuscript into friendly format, making sure it's presentable and spellchecked and grammar-checked and anything else you can do pretty much on your own or with a little bit of help.
Now you're ready for 2. Get feedback from writers' workshops. Now that you've polished the story as much as you can on your own, it's ready for it's first exposure. Writers' workshops, both physical and online, give you lots of opportunity to see how readers respond to your work. Understanding this feedback is an art unto itself; in a nutshell, try to find reviewers who are actually in your target audience, have a thick skin (because people will rip your work apart), and don't take any one criticism too seriously unless you're hearing it from more than one person. Here's our pages on popular online workshops, and on absorbing harsh critiques.
The great thing about writers' workshops is, you can iterate. Post in one place; get feedback; consider; revise - then, repost, in the same place or somewhere else. Once you start getting good reactions, you know that you're on the right track.
Now is when you can 3. Find a great editor. Editors cost a lot of money, so you only want to bring them in once you've done everything you can with all your other avenues. But a good one is more than worthwhile.
To find an editor, you've got to do your research. You want someone that you trust professionally, and you want somebody appropriate for your particular type of work. You'll look for recommendations (dig around well if you don't know them personally...), and you can also simply look for existing professionals who have done work you enjoy and respect. Once you find those people, they'll name their price. Don't try to skimp here, because someone who isn't a good match - someone you're not sure of, or someone not good for your particular book - may be cheaper, but are much more likely to disappoint you entirely.
Finally, you'll want to assess the final product, and decide whether it's up to snuff and worth publishing. If not, there's no shame in that - you'll have learned an immense amount by completing a novel, and your next effort will be better yet.
It's a hard long slog. But it's an incredible one. And we need good critics to be our guides, telling us how far we've come so far.
I think the cheapest way is to publish your book via Amazon Direct Publishing. It cost literally zero (well, unless you hire someone to do the cover. In my case, I designed the cover myself). If people like your book (or end up hating it) you'll get some reviews.
If you want detailed and quality reviews, I suggest Scribophile (a community for writers to receive critique and feedback).