How to Avoid Classic Rookie Author Mistakes

Because Time Travel Hasn’t Been Invented Yet

4/29/2016

Hindsight is 20/20. As cliché as the saying is, it's true. If I could have sat my pre-published self down to have a conversation about best book publishing and launching practices, you bet my strategy would have been a whole lot different.

But since time travel hasn't been invented yet, and since my pre-publishing self is doomed to make the same mistakes until it is, we'll have to settle for you learning from me.

Don't Rush the Publishing Process

Writing a book is tough. Maybe not as tough as bicycling 100 miles in a weekend, but still not an easy feat. Once you write "The End," it's easy to make the mistake of skipping through the rest of the process just so you can hit "Publish."

Just like you won't be able to hop on your bike one weekend and survive an epic 100-mile journey, publishing isn't something you can tackle without planning and practice.

I rushed to get my first book out. Mistake? Absolutely. Given more time and research, I could have polished that book into something better, launched it with fewer typos, and been more strategic with my marketing.

The Editing Process

Revising and editing your book can feel like wading through hot, smoldering coals, so it's really not surprising that many authors tiptoe around it. Spend weeks or months (maybe even years?!) ripping apart what you poured all your energy and love into? Ouch.

I won't lie. Digging into the revisions on my book was painful. Not just because I had a lot to change, but because I hadn't yet developed the stomach for ripping apart my work in order to reassemble it into something better.

Rush through editing at your own peril. Book reviewers are sharp, and they're not afraid to point out your book's flaws. PSA: Your book's flaws aren't your own because you are not your book. (See below.)

Formatting the Book

Formatting can be a cinch, and it can be pull-your-hair-out frustrating. I wish I'd known that Scrivener can easily compile your manuscript into an ebook with a few clicks and a few more seconds. I can whip out a MOBI or EPUB file in less than a minute, and easily tweak my files for retailer-specific links.

Ebooks, I've learned, are relatively simple. They're about the content, not about design, so as long as the formatting doesn't interfere with the reading experience, it doesn't matter how fancy it is. While I'll probably teach myself how to code my ebooks eventually, it's not necessary.

But then there's the print book. The dreaded print book.

The lesson I learned when it comes to formatting print books? Don't wait until you need to format a book to learn how. It's an incredibly frustrating experience that can reduce a better person to tears. The good news? You're not alone; Google is a gateway to the answers you seek. And you can always hire a professional.

Hitting "Publish"

Also known as crossing your t's and dotting your i's. Uploading your book to be published is both easy and complicated. With all the information and files prepared and in place, it's relatively quick.

I, however, left too many pieces to chance until I was in the middle of getting my book on KDP. Talk about a recipe for disaster. Hitting "Publish" requires more than just uploading your files to whichever platform you're using to publish; it requires diligent research and effective copywriting skills.

Yeah. Research and copywriting. Here's why.

You'll be required to put your book into categories, or, as they're known in the print world, BISAC codes. Retailers use these categories to sort books, which can also aid consumers searching for books. Getting your book into the correct categories can go a long way toward having your book in front of the right people.

Do you know what those categories are? Research it. My mistake with my first book was not knowing which genre it best fit under. When I published, my debut likely wasn't under the best category, which affected how it came up in search results.

You also need effective copywriting skills to write an enticing product description (or back cover copy or synopsis, depending on the terminology you want to use). A great cover helps, but the next hurdle with readers is the book description. Does it sound interesting? If your description doesn't intrigue readers, they're going to take their money elsewhere.

I wish I'd known the importance of a well-written product description before I'd published. While I eventually rewrote mine (with the help of Gotta Read It by Libbie Hawker), the biggest push you have with your book is when you launch—and that's when your product description matters most.

Always Be Marketing

I thought the most important part of publishing was, you know, actually publishing. I figured marketing could come later, after all the stress of producing my book.

Wrong.

I'm not alone in this mistake, either. Many authors rush to get their books out into the world, forgetting that marketing (aka getting the word out) is what will drive people toward purchasing your book.

We can create all the excuses we want: Marketing is sleazy, marketing feels icky, marketing takes too much time, no one's listening anyway, I'm not good at self-promotion, there's no point in talking about a book that isn't out yet. . . . The list is virtually endless.

If you want your book to sell, you have to market it. If people don't know about it, they can't care about it, either. And yes, you have to start early. If you're not comfortable promoting a book that's not available yet, start by promoting yourself. If people care about you, they'll be more interested in your book by the time it's ready.

But you can also make time in the publishing process to prepare your marketing efforts. Every time your book is with someone else (e.g., an editor or formatter) or you're waiting on something (e.g., a cover design), you have the opportunity to either plan your marketing or share information about the book with your audience.

Just because the words aren't finalized (i.e., your book is with an editor) doesn't mean you can't talk about the setting or the characters. When you get your cover, you can host a grand reveal. You could ask people to vote on which product description is most enticing. All these options involve potential readers in your publishing process, which will get them excited about what's to come.

You Are Not Your Book

Writers get attached to their stories. It's inevitable—we wouldn't write them otherwise. Before publishing, you are your book. Or, at least, that's how it feels. You've poured massive amounts of time, energy, and passion into your book. It may seem like a reflection of you, but it's not.

I said it already, but it's worth repeating: You're not your book.

What does that even mean? Not being your book means that when (not if) people criticize it, they're not attacking you. The flaws of your book aren't a reflection of your self-worth. You have your book throughout the writing and editing stages. Once it's published, your readers will bring the book to life; while you retain the copyright, you may never truly "own" the book once it's published.

And that's okay.

Publishing

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Amanda Shofner

Amanda Shofner satisfies her desire for adventure with the written word and helps others do the same. Currently writing romantic suspense.

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