10 Mistakes to Avoid as an Author


1.     Self-Doubt:  Have you ever had a great idea that got you really excited but as soon as you start this new endeavor your excitement turns to doubt or negativity and you say to yourself that this is too much work or too difficult which then has you giving up?  Always remember that Rome was not built in a day.  Achieving greatness is a lifelong pursuit.  Hard work and consistency are the anecdote to self-doubt.  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 easy 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 writers could write a book in one to three months.  After having written 8 books she is starting to see how that is possible.  Remember it takes time and everyone learns at different paces.

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 worst than getting most of your manuscript completed and then having to start all over again so don’t let it happen.

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 and those in their 20’s 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, gift cards even a simple thank you can go a long way in addressing your needs. 

4.     Not Having a Critique Group:  I have a 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 proper feedback of his manuscript, the editing, the flow, the cover, how he planned to market his book and distribute it.  A small critique group of close friends who you trust and who will give you their honest feedback without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings is vital for the making of a great book.  Sometimes this group is referred to as your beta readers.  They 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.

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. 

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. 

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 to 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.

8.     Write in Multiple Genres with the Same 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.  Let’s say you are a regency romance writer but also want and have the ability to write a cozy mystery.  It might be wise to use a pen name as you write in this different genre.  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.

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 leave 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 with the person complaining about how 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 for the genre Clean 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 authors is to have thick skin.  There will always be “Debby Downers” out there.  My counsel for those who want to give a bad review – Don’t.  Keep it to yourself.  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 you feel constructive to say such as finding a typo, plot hole, grammar issue let the author know politely so it can be corrected.

10.  I Found a Mistake in my Book and did a Book run of 5,000 books:  Traditional publishing is a dying breed.  Print on demand and eBooks are the present and future.  Let’s face it, who wants to pony up $10,000 or more to do a book run of 2,000 to 5,000 books only to find glaring mistakes that you now have to live with until you sell them all?  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.  He should have never printed his books in the first place unless it was print on demand where you get an author’s copy to look for mistakes.  He should have had a digital copy on an e-reader to proof.  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.

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