With permission, I’m reprinting a terrific article by book marketing expert, Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. Many may recognize the name from the columns she put in the Florida Writer magazine and some of you have worked with her team directly. I couldn’t agree more – or say this any better – so I hope you’ll read these tips and find them useful for your writing career! Keep reading and writing! Nancy Q.
Feature Article: Top 10 Mistakes Every Author Should Avoid
As any author discovers, there’s plenty of free advice out there for what they should – and shouldn’t do – when publishing a book. If I had to create a Top 10 list of mistakes authors should avoid at all costs, I’d focus on the following topics, because these omissions can really set you and your book back:
1. Not Understanding the Publishing Industry: Writing a book does not guarantee you readers. Before you publish, do some research – who are your competitors? What do they publish? How is your genre faring in the industry right now? Knowing your market is vital to finding and connecting with readers, receiving book reviews, and getting book sales.
2. Not Realizing Book Covers are Key: Readers and book buyers spend only seconds looking at book covers, and many of them now view thumbnail-size images online. Investing in a professionally designed cover by someone who understands book design and the publishing industry is a smart move. If you can’t capture people’s attention with a strong cover, you’ve likely lost a prospective reader and buyer. You’ve put a lot of work into writing your book; apply the same philosophy to your book cover.
3. Not Knowing That Editing is Your Best Marketing Tool: There are at least 300,000 books published each year, according to Bowker. With all that competition, you want your book to be the best you can make it. A poorly edited book will not gain you readers, reviewers, or fans. If your book is your resume, what kind of message are you sending if your book is full of errors? This is the most common complaint about self-published books: lack of quality control, aka, editing.
4. Not Getting Good Advice: Sure, your mom and your friends support what you do wholeheartedly – but what do they know about publishing and promoting a book? There are so many reputable, free resources available to authors for every phase of their publishing journey – from blogs to social media groups to online forums and more. Take advantage of these resources, ask questions, learn from others, and share your insights.
5. Not Working Your Market: One great thing about social media is it really does let you find people who read books in your genre. And you can cultivate these readers in a number of ways beyond buying, reading, and reviewing your book. Why not seek beta readers from your market before you publish? Many authors have successfully built a stable of pre-publication beta readers who offer their insights. Beta readers are not editors – while they may find a grammatical error or typo, what they really do is help an author understand if the story works, if it’s authentic.
6. Forgetting That It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint: If you’re going to publish a book, you have to be in it for the long haul. Those “overnight” success stories are never true. By the time you’ve heard of the author they’ve already put in years working on their writing, getting published, and building a following. Approach your marketing with the long-term in mind.
7. Not Knowing That Timing Matters: This is where a writing, publishing, and marketing plan comes in handy. If you want reviews, you need to build that into your publication schedule because if you seek major review sites or publications, they’ll want a copy of your book at least two to three months before it’s published. If you want a distributor for your book, it’s going to take some time for them to get your book placed. Work out these dates in a flexible plan (to cover for anything that will go awry, this does happen) for publishing your book.
8. Overlooking the Importance of Your Website: Your website is your 24/7 sales hub, and unless you know how to convert web visitors into buyers, you should find a professional to design your site. DIY websites rarely sell books, nor do they help an author’s ranking in Google search. These things matter, and that’s why having your friend’s teenage son design your site is probably not a good idea – unless he knows all about web conversion and SEO.
9. Not Building Relationships: Are you getting book reviews, interviews, or other coverage? If so, be sure to thank them for taking the time to review your book or interview you. These not-so-little things do matter in the long haul. These are people you can approach for your second, third, and subsequent books – and your requests will be successful if you’ve taken the time to build relationships. I can’t believe how rarely authors take the time to say thank you, when that little step can go a long way toward developing a following.
10. Not Trusting Your Team: If you’re hiring people to help you publish and/or market your book, trust their advice. You chose them for a reason (I hope), so take advantage of their expertise. Look for someone with a good track record in the industry who understands the market. Then let them do what you’ve hired them to do – otherwise, what’s the point?
Publishing and promoting a book is a huge challenge, and authors often feel overwhelmed by a myriad of choices. But focusing on a few key areas can be the difference between a book that finds traction versus one that gets lost in the crowd. In the end, it’s worth the time to invest in your book, your team, and your promotion.