My wife and I have been involved in the creation process of books for several years. My wife, an International best seller, has published more than 20 books. As she tells people about her author journey she and I have noticed 10 common mistakes new authors do so we thought we would highlight the most common ones.
Below are 10 common mistakes for Indie writers to avoid.
Mistake #1 - Self Doubt or Imposter Syndrome
All creators experience imposter syndrome, even those we feel have 'made it.' Have you ever had a great idea that got you really excited but as soon as you start working on it your excitement turns to doubt or negativity? Always remember that Rome was not built in a day. Achieving greatness is a lifelong pursuit. Hard work, consistency and small successes set realistic expectations and are the anecdote to self-doubt. You are not going to make a million dollars on your first book. Your first obstacle should be viewed as a learning opportunity and a foundation upon which to build your skills. Reach out to friends to get their perspectives or ideas. Do your homework. Find out how others may have solved a similar problem. Invest in yourself to learn this new skill. Pace yourself so that you do not get burned out. For some people writing comes very easily and for others they must work really hard at it. Remember that those things which are difficult at first can become a strength. My wife used to say how amazed she was that other authors could write a book in one to three months. After having written more than 20 books she is starting to see how that is possible. Remember it takes time and everyone learns at different paces.
"All authors experience imposter syndrome, block it out of your mind" – All will experience this.
Mistake #2 - My computer crashed and I lost all my work
What are some best business practices to ensure that you do not lose your manuscript? My wife has three back up plans. First, she keeps a copy of each chapter of her book in her computer. Second, once she has finished each chapter, she emails herself a copy of it so that it is in her email account on the web. Third, she prints out a hard copy of each chapter and stores it in a notebook. There are other things you can do too such as copy your work on to a thumbnail drive or an external hard drive. Writing your manuscript using Microsoft OneDrive or Google Docs also automatically backs up your files in case your computer crashes. There is nothing worse than getting most of your manuscript completed and then having to start all over again so don’t let it happen in the first place.
Mistake #3 - Trying to do it all yourself
Writing a book, editing, designing the cover, being a web designer, creating marketing content, updating social media, self-publishing, etc., are all skills that can take a lifetime to develop. You may have heard of the term specialization? You are not always going to be good at everything. Time is a precious commodity! You may not have the skill to create book covers or a website. Although technology is making these tasks easier to perform that does not mean you have to do it. It is amazing how teens, Gen Z and Millennials are very tech savvy. In fact, if you have kids, nieces, nephews, cousins, grand-children, brothers or sisters they can be a fountain of knowledge and may already have the skills to do what you cannot. You may even discover how creative they are. Gifts such as money, chocolate, gift cards even a simple thank you can go a long way in addressing your needs.
Mistake #4 - Not having a critique group
My Father-in-law that felt he was going to solve a great medieval mystery in his book. He wrote and published the book with very little, if any, outside feedback. He felt it was too risky to involve others because his book was going to reveal an earth-shattering revelation of a 400-year-old mystery. Needless to say, he should have collaborated with others and got helpful feedback of his manuscript, the editing, the flow, the cover, how he planned to market his book and distribute it. A small critique group is vital for the making of a great book. This group will tell you what they liked, disliked, point out plot holes, find spelling mistakes and even give suggestions on the characters or how the story should end. Multiple points of view are much better than just one. You do not have to take every single suggestion, but it is good practice to be able to defend your reasons to see if they hold up based on the feedback.
Mistake #5 - If I write a book they will come
So you have finally finished your manuscript, done a deep edit, re-read it (multiple times), had others read it, incorporated some of the feedback, created a book cover and now you plan to publish and release it. Telling your friends on Facebook and word of mouth will only take you so far. Advertising your book is vital to getting sales of more than a few hundred dollars. Sadly, this is the most important part of the book creation and publishing process. Do you have a website where you can send people? Do you have Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts where you can post and advertise your book? What “free” gifts can you give to entice your followers and new readers to take a risk and invest in your book? You need to have a multi-pronged strategy to advertising. There are many places to advertise such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and others. My wife has found that for her audience Facebook gives her the best return on her investment. Having a monthly newsletter and using tools such as Bookfunnel to help you grow your subscriber base is another great way to build a captive audience or following. Providing insightful information such as what you are working on, giving more in-depth perspectives on your characters, holding contests, doing live events or podcasts and handing out free gifts to those who participate in surveys will help you sell more books.
Mistake #6 - I don't have a website
I cannot tell you how surprising it is when I find that an author does not have a website. A website is such a quick and easy thing to do in order to have a web presence. A website should be one of the first things you do even before starting your book. There are so many web hosting providers with easy to create templates such as Wix, Godaddy, Wordpress, Weebly, Squarespace, Google Sites, etc., that there is really no excuse not to have one. The cost can be very minimal too. Google Domains (https://domains.google) is $12 a year to have your own domain name (www.yourwebsitename.com). All these web providers offer self-service templates you can leverage to create your own website with very little effort and no website programming skills required.
Mistake #7 - Don't have an author page
If you plan to publish a book you need to have Amazon as one of your distribution channels. I read that Amazon has 83% market share of the book business. There is no getting around Amazon. Their presence is too big to avoid. One way for customers learn more about you and your books is having an Amazon Author Page. Your Author Page shows essential information about you, such as your bibliography, biography, profile photos, and blog feeds. Create one by following the instructions on the Set Up an Account page. https://author.amazon.com/home Once the account is created, you can start adding information whenever you are ready. If you write under more than one name, an Author Page will be displayed for each pen name. Amazon Author Central allows you self-create up to three pen names within a single account. You should also have a Facebook author page so that you can do many of the same things on your Amazon Author Page but on Facebook. Facebook provides other ways to interact with your audience.
Mistake #8 - Write in multiple genres with the same author name
Did you know that J.K. Rowling writes other books under a different pen name and in a different genre? Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym or pen name of J.K. Rowling. After Harry Potter, the author chose crime fiction for her next books, a genre she has always loved as a reader. She wanted to write a contemporary whodunit and did not want to initially confuse her audience as she wrote her new book in the crime fiction genre. Pen names allow you the luxury to write books in other genres without confusing your audience. Do not confuse the algorithm. Audiences are different. Let’s say you are a regency romance writer but also want and have the ability to write cozy mysteries. It might be wise to use a pen name. Some may disagree with this approach as you are now having to promote two authors that are actually the same person, possibly creating double the work but the prevailing wisdom is to not confuse your audience. Plus, you do not want Amazon to be recommending other books such as a regency romance to people who are looking at your cozy mystery book.
Mistake #9 - I got a bad review
As my wife always says “some people don’t like puppies or chocolate.” Or as the song, Garden Party, by Rick Nelson goes “You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.” There are always going to be critiques who think it is their gift to the world to “slam” your book or highlight errors in a way that makes them feel superior. It is just the world we live in. Reviews can be a helpful way to see what others think about your book, highlight mistakes (no matter how many times you proof read your book and even if it is professionally edited there will always be a few mistakes), tell others what they liked, etc., but it all depends on how the message or review is delivered. One of my wife’s first reviews with her Regency Romance book was a 1-star * review. The reviewer complained that the first chapter revealed a secret which in his mind (notice it is a guy reading a Regency Romance) ruined the story because he felt the secret should have remained a mystery until the end. Oddly enough though this book was not a mystery. It was a romance written in the genre Clean and Wholesome Regency Romance emphasis on romance not mystery. His 1-star review only made him “feel” superior and accomplished nothing for other readers who may have wanted to gain new insight. My advice for reviewers - why be mean, for authors - have thick skin? There will always be “Debby Downers” out there. Reviewers please be aware that some writers may have fragile egos. There is no point in being mean. If you think you can do a better job, then write your own book and see how “easy” it is. If you do have something constructive to say such as finding a typo, plot hole, grammar issue, let the author know politely so it can be corrected. My wife has many 5 star ***** written reviews but reading a 1 star * review can derail her whole day.
Mistake #10 - I found a typo in my book
In Traditional publishing that typo will always be in your book until you do another book run with it fixed. My father-in-law did exactly this. He printed a few thousand books and his brother-in-law, a type setter, noticed some monumental mistakes which caused my father-in-law to scrap his first book run, correct the mistakes and do another book run. Here is the sad reality - you will always find mistakes. For this reason print on-demand and eBooks is the way to go. The beauty of this approach is twofold. First, if you see mistakes in your book, just upload the new, edited manuscript and those new updates are incorporated into the next purchased book. No costly print run re-dos and who wants to hold all that inventory of unsold books? Second, print on demand and eBooks address two different audiences – those who prefer to read eBooks on their electronic device and those that want an actual book they can touch and feel while reading. Another benefit of eBooks is their practicality. If you are the type who loves to read and must travel a lot, it is much easier to carry one device that can store 100’s if not 1000’s of books without having to carry printed books on your trip that take up a lot of space in your suitcase and can be heavy.
Have you heard about the new trend of selling direct?
In my next blog I will explain why are authors turning to direct selling.