10 Big Mistakes New Authors Make

by Truitt Collyns

hunt-and-peck-2

1. Limiting your marketing venues

With the rise of digital platforms most new authors know to take advantage of online social media marketing (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Breitbart), but most stop there. And in doing so, you prevent yourself from reaching so many key demographics: the elderly, Luddites, obese people with fingers too fat to type, the poor, convicts without access to electronics, people who never really considered owning a phone or computer, or even those who prefer spending time outdoors. But fortunately, there’s many other marketing avenues available even to the most inexperienced authors that will give your work the necessary exposure. Try, for example, taking a printed copy of your book to your local library and reading it loudly in a crowded area. If it’s a comedy, make sure to laugh boisterously at your own jokes, and if it’s horror, scream during the most intense sections. If time is not a factor for you, consider transcribing your first few chapters in chalk on the sidewalk, preferably in your town’s highest foot traffic areas. And if money is not a factor, skywriting is another option.

2. Writing for fun

Simply put, writing is a job, no different than being a doctor, plumber or general secretary of the United Nations. And just like those jobs, it’s a soul-crushing, mind-numbing endeavor that will make you question the purpose of your existence daily. And although if you have the talent and put in the hard work it’s likely to pay more than any of those jobs, it’s still not something anyone would consider fun. So if you’re going to quit your day job to write full time, make sure you’re doing it for the money and fame and not because you think it’ll be easier and more relaxing than teaching autistic children how to read.

3. Getting a professional book cover

You’ve all heard the maxim “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s one of the first things they teach you in school. That’s right: Even little children know that you’ve got to look inside a book to know if it’s worth reading. Yet new authors will pay hundreds of dollars to graphic artists to design a book cover, when that money could be spent on more important things, like food stamps, alimony or insulin.

4. Forgetting to cultivate your image

Just like musicians and actors, authors aren’t really selling their books – they’re selling themselves. Experts say that after the title and the first chapter, the most important part of your book is the author photo. Readers want to relate to the people telling them stories. Do you think Stephen King would be nearly as popular as he is if he didn’t inspire people by showing them that even hideously ugly people could attain fame and fortune? And what’s more likely: that people like Dan Brown for his sharp blazer/sweater combos, or for his writing? And JK Rowling showed millions around the world that you could be a successful author and a woman.

5. Disregarding the competition

Most new authors feel their work can succeed on its own merits. They tell themselves that so long as my story is well-written and people can relate to it, I’ll have done my job. But real authors know how cutthroat this industry is. To get ahead, you’ve got to be willing to go on the offense. Let’s say I’m a prospective buyer and I’m looking for a new sci-fi adventure story. Am I just going to pick a book at random? More likely, I’ll choose work by an author who doesn’t support ISIS, or whose writing doesn’t “suck a bag of dongs.” People forget Robert Ludlum rose to prominence after publicly decrying Tom Clancy’s use of “underage orphan ghost writers.”

6. Forgetting to tell your publisher to get an IBSN

7. Putting page numbers in the middle of pages instead of at the bottom

8. Not paying tribute to any of the myriad satanic secret societies to which so many agents and editors at New York publishing houses belong

9. Using the “hunt and peck” method of typing.

10. Forgetting that agents and publicists are open to bribes, blackmail and extortion. 

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