The busiest literary submission day of the year is Dec 1. Think about that. Lots of people finish a novel manuscript in a month (good job!) and then immediately throw it at a publisher. What a way to treat your book baby!
There is another path, my young Padawan. A path of kindness, light and critical feedback. This is the path you must walk to reach your true potential.
(Hey, be glad I'm not channeling Yoda.)
1. Find your people
A child is raised by a village. A movie takes a whole city. But even the humble novel can't be born alone. Find a group of beta-readers, an editor who gets you and a cover artist who shares your style.
2. Blurb power
For all the time, engery and awww moments we spend on covers, they aren't as important as you think. Best selling author Maria V. Snyder put it well. "Your cover's job is to go, 'Look at me, Pick me. Over here!' Once someone picks up your book the cover's job is done." Next the blurb need to set the readers expectations for what is inside. Please, please please, get this written and edited before starting marketing.
3. Editing and Cover
What? The cover happens at about the same time as the all-important editing? Yep. Editing takes a while. Weeks for professionals, Months for those of us with day jobs. You want your cover in hand while we are ironing out plot wrinkles so that you can start the next step...
At the very, very least get some reviews before you release. Even massive publishing powerhouses like Nora Roberts and John Clancy do this. Send out Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) to bloggers, reporters, other authors etc and start some buzz. There are some companies that you can hire to help you with this.
It's boring, but you need an ISBN or two, formatting, copyright--I am literally yawning just thinking about it. Submit your beautifully polished manuscript to the location of your choice.
Wow! You have a book. You should throw a party. Book release parties are fun, great publicity and fun. If you're not that fond of people you can always have cake.