The 4 Mistakes New Authors Make
What They Should Do Before Putting Fingers to Keyboard
Books are windows into people’s souls. Let’s face it, when someone writes a book, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, they are imparting knowledge laced with ideologies, experience and values near and dear to their heart. And when someone reads a book, they become the main character and experience the journey. Books are a mental vacation and adventure anyone can take, anywhere and anytime.
So it takes a special kind of person to take the time, go through the meticulously slow and painful process of doing their research, weaving a story and putting it on paper. The process is SO arduous that many believe it’s the hardest and most important part of the entire authoring process; everything else will fall into place once it’s done. They think, “After all, my story is SO good, SO profound, SO life changing, SO (fill in the blank) that EVERYONE will WANT to read it!” Right?
Then reality sets in. The book is completed. You are giving more of them away than you’re selling. When you tell someone you’re an author, they smile and say, “That’s nice,” and your inventory becomes Christmas gifts and door stops. WHAT HAPPENED? Your dream of selling your book in droves and living off the written word is going nowhere fast! Well, assuming you have a good book, it’s most likely you did one or more of the four mistakes new authors make.
So let’s look at those mistakes and learn how you can avoid them on your next book; or if you happen to be reading this while you’re writing your first one, you can correct the ship for smoother sailing.
Mistake #1: They believe writing the book is the hardest part.
Now I know many of my fellow authors would argue this point. “Of course it’s the hardest part! It takes a LONG time to make sure you get it right!” I don’t argue it’s hard, but as you will learn (if you haven’t been there already), promoting the book is the hardest part. After all, it doesn’t matter what you wrote if no one reads it.
So from the moment you think of writing a book, you need to find out what it will cost you to promote it and create a game plan. It’s like the Bible says, the fool starts building a house without counting the cost to ensure he or she can finish it. The reason many authors overlook this part in the beginning, is because they make mistake #2.
Mistake #2: They believe a PUBlisher is a PUBlicist and will market the book for them.
The only thing the words “publisher” and “publicist” have in common is the root PUB (and if you’re British, it makes you want a pint). Therefore, the author assumes that if he or she finds a publisher, the publisher will handle promoting the book. After all, they printed it and would want to print many more; hence they have a vested interest in making sure it sells, right? Wrong. Unless you’re Brad Thor, Susanne Collins or James Patterson and the publisher gave you a sizeable advance to write it, they will do no more than add your book to their catalogue and hope the bookstores will order some. To add insult to injury, they pay you a tiny royalty for the privilege of having their publishing-house brand on your cover.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are pros to having a well-known and established publishing house backing your book (as well as cons), but it doesn’t change the fact you are responsible for promotion. Which makes a good argument for self-publishing, since they are now well-known and accepted. But that’s a topic for another article.
So the author starts to promote his or her book through social media and other venues, but find they are not having much success, because they made mistake #3.
Mistake #3: They design their own book cover or trust the self-publishing company to do it for them.
Packaging is everything. No matter what you’re selling, whether a book, product or service, it all comes down to the user experience. Steve Jobs was the master of this and understood that how a product (or book) is perceived will increase the expectation and make one desire it.
Your book cover is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of the book! While in reality the story is, if your book cover doesn’t pass what I affectionately call “the smell test,” it doesn’t matter if you have a New York Times’ Bestseller between the covers. So if this is the first major obstacle to a successful book, why would anyone settle for a mediocre cover? And to trust a self-publishing company, who’s all about creating an affordable package for authors in order to drum up business, and think they would hire real talent to design a cover for you is naïve.
If you believe you have a good book that will sell well if given the opportunity, how much do you intend to earn from it? Wouldn’t it make sense to find a book-cover designer that will make your book SO attractive, people would want to buy it just to put it on their shelf as decoration? And finally, since they assumed the publisher would promote the book and they could design a cover that would sell, they make mistake #4.
Mistake #4: They wait until the book is completed before putting together a marketing plan and infrastructure.
A very important part of promoting a book is public relations. Many people do not understand PR and assume it’s just marketing. It’s not. While it belongs to the marketing sciences and arts, it’s totally different. Moreover, since people are leery and avoid advertising as much as possible, it determines how fast (if at all) your advertising is accepted. Since this article is not about PR, read The Misunderstood PR and truly understand it; it will decide whether you succeed or not.
What you DO need to understand is that there are three major book-reading (and selling) seasons. You have Spring Break, summer-reading season and the holiday season (the biggest of all). Moreover, in excess of 1.5 million books are authored per year, with about half-a-million actually published. If 10% of those who published have their game plan together, that’s 100K authors vying for print space, and radio and TV minutes. Well, there’s only so much air time and print space to go around. Plus, if you want to go after the big-boy season—October through Christmas—Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year decrease inventory, making time and space less accessible. You see hosts like to take time off, so they schedule pre-recorded shows or have guest hosts.
While newspapers can run with something with a week’s notice, magazines take months. And while TV and radio is dynamic, depending on news and trends, again, there’s only so much air time; therefore, you have to be engaged in the process to make sure you can react quickly to take advantage of events in the news pertaining to your topic.
So all this to say, as an author, when you decide to write a book, you must count the cost:
- How long will it take you to write the book?
- Who will design my cover and how much will it cost?
- How long will it take him or her to do so, so I know when to start the process and have it ready when I go to print?
- How long will it take to create a good website (read What Makes a Good Website Part 1 and Part 2) and what will it cost? So if it takes 45 days, then you want to start the process 60 days prior to going to print.
- What PR Company should I use and what will it cost? Start approaching those 6 months out, giving you enough time to do your homework and not make a hasty decision.
- Who will manage my social-media marketing campaign?
You take these points, choose your due date on a calendar, and work backwards. If you want your book ready for sale by October 1st, in order to make the holiday season:
- Start looking for PR in April or May, and start the campaign one month before your launch date.
- Start designing your website in July or August.
- Find your social media strategist (it may be your PR Company) in August. You don’t want to start social media when you go to print; you want to have a minimum of two months to build a foundation of followers that will be there to learn you have a new book and push it forward.
- Look for your book-cover designer six months out, and start your book-cover design process three months out.
- Add up the cost and work it into your budget, so it’s coming out over the period of the project and not all at once; unless you have seed money set aside already.
I have created a useful spreadsheet that will help you:
- Organize your project timetables.
- Organize your service providers and contact information.
- Organize your social-media profiles for your campaign.
This is the process of planning a successful book launch. It takes planning, thinking, resources and time. You cannot expect to do these things well if you are forced to do them all within a 30- to 60-day window. Remember, poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on your PR Company’s, website designer’s, ET. AL.’s part.
Create your plan, map it out, allot the resources, and then sit back and enjoy being creative. After all, when you become an author, you join an elite club. It’s not everyone that wants to or can write a book. So take a bow and congratulations!