Talk to any author who has self-published a book and she'll have a few war stories to share. New authors can and should learn from the mistakes of their more experienced peers, but the process of publishing a book is full of pitfalls and aspiring indie authors often don’t know how much they don’t know—so the same mistakes are made again and again.
The following three mistakes happen because many authors fail to grasp the degree to which publishing success hinges on their efforts, attitudes, and decisions. But a simple shift in how authors think about their books -- along with willingness to invest in publicity and start early -- is a game-changer that will provide the best chance for success.
Mistake #1: Treating Books Like Babies
Evidence that authors relate to their books as their babies is everywhere. Writers talk about being pregnant with an idea, incubating their work, giving birth to a book, laboring through their writing process. But treating a book like a baby and hoping others will love it has consequences. Authors who do this set themselves up for greater disappointment because they don't have enough emotional distance from their books.
When books come out, authors need to strategize rather than nurture. A book and its message can be different things to different audiences, and the key to success lies in exposure and getting the word out. It’s easier for authors to do this when they think about books products, not babies.
Mistake #2: Waiting for Success Instead of Creating Success
Many authors have the dream of writing a book, having the world fall in love with it, and then sitting back and watching the spoils of their labor roll in. It’s a fantasy, but a common one. I meet aspiring authors all the time who just don’t want to do the hard work of marketing and publicity, even though it’s a prerequisite for success.
Authors who publish their books without a publicity plan and then try to rush to do something about it post-publication have a lost cause on their hands. Don't delay: Authors should hire a team -- or at least a publicist -- four to six months before to their publication dates. They won't be sorry they did.
Mistake #3: Not Creating a Publishing Strategy
For so many writers, the writing is the reward. Publishing can be a bucket-list kind of endeavor, something to do that's not tied to lofty long-term goals. I’ve worked with many writers who tell me it’s not about making money for them, they just want to see their book in print. And yet when pressed a bit about whether they want their book to be successful, the answer is, of course, always yes. And yet, a book cannot be successful without a publishing strategy.
A lot of authors are scared to put a plan into place. They don’t know what to do or whom to hire, and the investment can feel daunting. Most authors I know who didn't put a plan into place regretted it later, and found themselves scrambling once their books were printed and available on Amazon. At that point, it’s too late to come up with an effective plan.
Authors should identify any fears or resistance they have about letting their books become truly successful. And, authors should start putting away money for publicity while still writing. They should ask for referrals for publicists, editors, and designers and start interviewing early. If authors are going to put forth the effort to publish books, they must give themselves a chance to shine.
Brooke Warner is publisher of She Writes Press and SparkPress, president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of Green-light Your Book (June 2016) and What's Your Book?. This is the second installment to a new monthly column she is writing.