Monday, September 27, 2010

The 5 Mistakes Most First-Time Authors Make

Anyone can write a book and just about everybody wants to. According to a New York Times article reporting on the findings of a survey, 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them and plan to write it. That's about 200 million people. Talk about competition!

The truth is, however, that only 10 percent of aspiring authors will be successful, if even that many. So how do you get to the head of the class? Well, not making these five mistakes first-time authors typically make will help.

  • The first mistake first-time authors make is they don't identify their market. They don't ask before they get started, "Who will buy my book?" Or worse, they think, "Everyone will want to buy my book." You must identify and write to a specific audience to have a marketable product. Probably the number one thing many new authors do incorrectly is start to write about something they're very passionate about without first finding out if there are enough people with the same interest who would buy the book.

  • The second mistake first-time authors frequently make is not being aware of the costs involved and then over- or underspending. You might ask, "How can I underspend?" Well, you can underspend by thinking you can do it all yourself and not having a budget for an editor, cover designer or marketing assistance. You can overspend by not knowing the typical fees for these services in the marketplace and paying too much. If you spend too much on production or marketing, you may not be able to recoup your money with the sale of the book. So, it's important to know what you will need and how much you should be spending on those services before you begin the process.

  • The third mistake first-time authors make is not knowing how to determine whether to traditional-publish or self-publish. Not knowing the pros and cons of both avenues and choosing the wrong method wastes your time and money. For example, nonfiction authors who want to establish their credibility in the marketplace and position themselves as experts want to get the book on the market as soon as possible. They can't afford to spend the time it can take going the traditional route, which could be up to four years to find an agent, publisher and wait out the publishing process. However, if you are writing literary fiction and getting reviews and acclaim from literary reviewers or perhaps being on the New York Times bestseller list is your goal, you may be best served to try the traditional route.

  • The fourth mistake first-time authors make is they don't have a marketing plan. Most people know not having a marketing plan when self-publishing is just dooming the book to failure. However, even if you have a publisher, you are expected to market yourself. Not many aspiring authors know this is important and they think the publisher is going to take care of marketing, so they don't include that information with their submission proposals. But you can show you do know the "ins and outs" of publishing and how important marketing is by including a marketing plan with your proposal or novel submission. If you do, you're going to set yourself apart and get closer to the head of the class.

  • The fifth mistake first-time authors make is giving up too early, or giving up at any stage of the process. What blocks success in publishing (or any field) more than anything else is having the "I can't" attitude. The whining: "I can't speak in front of people." "I can't travel to seminars and conferences." "I can't find the time." "I can't start learning about how to market on the Internet." You've heard those excuses. Hopefully you haven't said them. But I'm sure you've heard them if you've gone to a writers group or a conference. Replace that attitude of resistance with an attitude of persistence. Successful authors find ways to say, "I can" and "I will."

Many of these five mistakes are made as a result of misconceptions or myths that are typically held about the publishing business.

But, the truth is that EVERY mistake first-time authors make is a result of ONE big error. That error is attempting to write and publish a book without first learning about the process.   Writing is a passion. But publishing is a business. Successful authors learn the difference. Once educated, it's easy to skip past the mistakes and misconceptions and start to cash in on the miracles. Miracles happen every day in the current publishing market, and the next one could be yours, if you decide to invest in your publishing success.

This article was excerpted from the Publishing Made Easy & Profitable curriculum,  Lesson 1, "The Mistakes, Myths and Miracles of Book Publishing." If you're ready to jump over the mistakes and myths and experience the miracles of publishing, get the education you need. Publishing Made Easy & Profitable is a 10-week home study course that can catapult you to the head of the class. Review the entire curriculum here>>


  1. Great post Shelley! I agree these are five mistakes that new authors make. One of the biggest is the marketing piece. Most of the writers out there don't want to or don't know how to market their book. It's a shame that so many good books go unnoticed out in the marketplace.
    I'd also add in that many self-publishing individuals do everything on their own and don't seek out any help or support. It's a lonely world doing everything as a one-man show!

  2. Thanks, Andrea. You're right that trying to do everything on your own as a self-published author can be lonely. It can also be costly if the author is not prepared to make informed decisions about how to proceed with publishing and marketing. The good news is that help is available either via self-education or working with industry professionals who offer guidance.