Write it–Common Mistakes Independent Authors Make


(Archival Article from Bonjour Bellingham blog)

Before I begin this post on the common mistakes emerging and veteran authors make in the world of self-publishing, I want you to know, I’ve made some of these mistakes myself.  Truth be known, we learn best from our own mistakes rather than a creative writing professor giving us a cautionary list.

The upside of self-publishing is it’s deceptively quick, easy, and with a few keystrokes voila, you become a published author.  However, while that might have seemed hip a decade ago, it’s become a cliche these days.  I encountered one woman at a bus station trying to fob off her self-published book on passerby. I cringed with embarrassment for her.  Okay, that was a worst case scenario, but it seems that most people these days are avoiding self-published authors who sell their books on Create Space and other similar sites.  It’s not that we won’t find excellent self-published titles, only that enough of the books contained typos and other errors.

Common mistakes include publishing a book to bring a stream of income when a person is unemployed. Writing a book takes months even years so self-publishing is not a quick-fix economic solution unless you want to upload a book to the world with typos and other errors, a plot missing in action and undeveloped characters.  For example, when I first published my books on Create Space (no longer with CS) and Kindle, I had a 25+ year writing career.  While I wasn’t a published novelist, I was a published journalist, I had experience working with editors, handling copy editing, and I spent two years work shopping my novels on websites such as Authonomy (Harper Collins) where I asked other authors to critique my work and I listened to their suggestions.

Another common mistake is posting ineffective photographs for biographies, profiles and updates. The worst photographs are of an author events with one or two attendees with the author sitting behind a pile of their books staring into space.  On one hand, this proves that an author is out marketing his or her book and getting book event gigs, but without attendees in the photographs having their books signed or sitting in an audience, it doesn’t show the author in the best light.  And yes, I made this mistake with my novel “Agnes and Yves”.

Another common mistake authors make is to complain about their lack of success in online groups and forums or say scathing remarks about agents, publishers or the book industry.  Why would an agent or publisher want to work with a bitter author with a sharp tongue? I wouldn’t.  We all have our bad days, but the trick is not to post the bad day online for the entire world to view.  If you want success, act like you already have it.

It’s better to give helpful advice to other authors in the groups rather than spread more bitterness and hopelessness.  Writing and getting published are not for the feint of heart.  Rejection waits around every corner, people leave nasty comments, bookstores fail to promote your book event (that’s your job), and your friends might decline purchasing your book because it’s simply not their thing.

On the other hand, creative inspiration for novels and non-fiction books creates a buzz.  Feeling heightened imagination and speaking to characters while digging for a story, has its fun challenges. Working with words has advantages too especially when those words create images and sensational images in readers’ hearts and minds.  Getting published and finding a helpful agent who knows his or her way around the book publishing biz feels like winning the lottery. Meeting other authors, not the kind that ply their books on you at public places, has its kicks too.

If you can remember these three rules, then you have a better chance finding success as a self-published author:

1. Build a platform by knowing your target audience and their buying as well as, daily habits.

2. Don’t rush the writing of a book because you’ll regret this later.  All books start with a rough draft, followed by a second draft, and then a few more drafts with revisions.  It’s also a good idea to have writing colleagues beta read your book and give you helpful feedback and suggestions.  Take what is useful and leave the rest.

3. Hire a copy editor who also has story writing skills, a professional photographer for a head shot, and if you have the funds, hire a professional book cover designer and web designer for an interactive website.  Open at least three social media accounts that work with your communication style.  Twitter doesn’t work for everyone, including me who feels baffled about Twitter’s effectiveness.

Also pick a publishing date ahead of time and plan an actual book launch in a bookstore or rented space. Then start your promotion for that event, a month ahead of time by sending out press releases to local press, posting updates on your social network and working your e-mail contacts.  It helps to offer some kind of food or freebies at the event or have a contest ahead of time with the prize being a signed copy of your book.  You can post the contest on Good Reads, Twitter or Face Book.  And make sure that all your material looks professional even if you create the cover, website, business cards, etc yourself.

Feel free to leave your self-publishing experiences (what works and what doesn’t work) in the comment section below.  Our collective wisdom could transform the book industry.


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