7 Deadly Mistakes Authors Make — And How to Avoid Them!
by Tanya Hall, CEO of Greenleaf Book Group
Perhaps you have thought of writing a book, or you have the beginning shape of your book outlined in a notebook, or you just know it’s something you want to tackle one day. Writing is a book is challenging, and publishing it is even more so. Most every author I meet looks back upon the process and tells me about something they wish they had known up front.
You can save yourself a few headaches by approaching the process like a writing veteran. Here are seven common mistakes authors make when writing and publishing a book (and how to avoid them):
- Writing Without an Audience in Mind The most successful books build an audience over time through word of mouth recommendations. For your book to reach that status, don’t skip the prep work of defining the specific readers you want to reach. It helps to construct reader profiles with demographic and lifestyle details filled in so you always remember who you’re writing for and remain focused on serving that audience.
- Freaking Out About Grammar, Syntax, etc While Writing
Worrying about where to put that comma or when to use “who” or “whom” will pull you out of a writing mood in no time flat. When writing, your job is to get ideas onto paper with a focus on content over execution. There are plenty of editors who will clean up those commas for you so that you stay focused on your best, highest use: delivering your message to your readers. Just get the words down to get started!
- Working in a Vacuum
Writing a manuscript is a huge commitment of time and energy. Many authors refuse to share their writing until it is “done-done,” and when they inevitably get constructive feedback on their work after that point, they are frustrated at the notion of picking the pencil back up and reworking sections. It’s more productive to share your work with a qualified editor or book development coach as you go. Doing so will help you avoid the double-work of rewriting sections that lack clarity, flow, or purpose down the road.
- Not Hiring Professionals
Many authors will try to save time or money by leaning on friends and family for editorial and design support. Unfortunately, despite their good intentions, people not trained in the specific art of editing and designing books are not the best people to edit and design your book. You’ll probably end up paying to redo it once a publisher or distributor gives feedback on the end product– so invest in quality work the first time to save yourself the headache of redoing any part of your book.
- Shotgun Publishing
Writing a book well takes time, and launching it to a retail market requires a fair amount of strategy and collaboration. Sometimes authors rush their books to market without regard for retail buying cycles or publicity lead-time requirements. For multiple reasons, it’s much better to launch correctly the first time than to rush it, make some mistakes, and try to re-launch later. Interview a few publicists, publishing professionals, and/or book distribution experts to better understand the timelines they need to boost your chance of success.
- Underestimating the Importance of Author Brand and Platform
It’s hard to over-emphasize the competitive landscape authors face when promoting their books. Today’s authors are competing with other book launches as well as a fire hose of media including blogs, podcasts, tv, film, and all of the other content trying to find an audience on any given day. Marketing and publicity support are critical to for a successful book launch, and that often requires heavy involvement from the author. Plan your schedule in such a way that you have enough time and energy to properly promote your book around the time of its release – but also commit to building your audience early and intentionally through your own platform development efforts.
- Flawed Expectations
It takes a certain amount of confidence to publish a book; writing your ideas out for the world to critique is an admirable act of vulnerability. But don’t let your confidence get in the way of rational thinking. Some authors expect to sell millions of copies in year one without having done any research on the book market, or worse, without having done anything to build their own author platform from which to promote. Realistic expectations will help you maintain your energy during the launch phase and stay focused on why you wrote the book to begin with. Consult with a publisher or distributor to better understand what “success” might mean by retail standards for your genre. (But it’s fine to have a stretch goal, of course!)
Writing a book certainly involves creativity and artistry, but for it to succeed in retail, the book needs to be treated as a product and developed with the same care, feedback loops, and subject-area partners as any other product being brought to a national market. Invest some time on the front end to ensure that you don’t find yourself trying to unravel one of these common mistakes.
As CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, Tanya Hall drives the company’s growth efforts and fosters a culture built around serving authors. Prior to her current role, Hall worked directly with Greenleaf’s authors to develop publishing strategies (including multiple New York Times bestsellers); spearheaded growth strategies including Greenleaf’s eBook program and the River Grove Books digital-first imprint; and built Greenleaf’s distribution organization, working directly with retailers and wholesalers to develop one of the fastest growing distribution businesses in the industry. She is a columnist for Inc.com and regularly speaks at business and publishing conferences. Before joining the publishing industry, Tanya worked in digital media and as a television producer. Learn more about Greenleaf Book Group at www.greenleafbookgroup.com and connect on Twitter (@GreenleafBookGr & @TanyaHall) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Greenleaf-Book-Group/).