By: Karen Rowe
It takes an average of about 400 hours to write a book. That’s a lot of time and effort. I’ve had many authors approach me who have poured blood, sweat and tears into a manuscript without the first clue how to get their book edited and published properly and out to the masses. Others have published their book without one ounce of marketing. And it has flopped. When I asked them about this, I find that they’ve been making assumptions based on myths they believe about the publishing industry.
Here are a few of the biggest mistakes writers make before they publish, and the lies they tell themselves:
LIE #1: “I can write about whatever I want”
I’m always interested to hear what people writing about. I’m often surprised to discover, though, that a lot of authors haven’t done any research or taken the time to familiarize themselves with what’s selling in their industry. You need to know who else is writing about your topic. Have you bought or read their books? What’s hot in your market, what’s selling and what isn’t?Reading other people’s work is important because you really want to know what’s being said about your topic, and how it’s being addressed. Not only that, these people will become an important part of your network.
LIE #2: “If I write a great book, it will sell itself”
I’ve had many clients who are unknowingly under the impression that if they write a really fabulous book, people will somehow intuitively and magically just “know” and their book will become a bestseller. That’s crazy! Two things make a successful book: strong, solid content and a great platform. You need to be your own biggest advocate, and you are going to be the greatest asset to getting the word out about your work. And if you’re terrible at it, then hire a professional to do it for you.
LIE #3: “I’m going to get famous”
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but chances are you’re not going to get famous. What a lot of people don’t realize with best-selling authors such as Charmaine Hammond – whose book is getting turned into a movie – and others, who have started with nothing and become success stories, is that fame is always preceded by hard work, and a lot of it. It’s wonderful to have a goal of ‘making it big’, but it’s not always realistic. Most authors who have attained great success didn’t just show up at the fame-party ready to sign autographs. They spent months working tirelessly to get the word out about their book and building a strong and solid platform, both before the book was released and for many months after. Could fame happen? Anything is possible. But first focus on the work.
LIE #4: “I’m going to get rich”
I’m always saying to keep the end in mind when writing, but trust me when I tell you that the money is not the end game. You can’t guarantee book sales. Ever. You can build a strong campaign, and enroll many launch partners. What you can’t do is predict how many copies of a book will sell. Create other goals or other milestones. Yes, we all want to sell books and with a strong platform, you can, and as my previous point, this is always preceded by a lot of hard work.
LIE #5: “I can market my book after I’m done writing it”
I often have clients approach me when they have completed their book and ask, ‘now what?’ They’re in trouble. Why? Because there were 300,000 books published in 2012, and the time to start marketing your book was about 3 months ago. If you want to break through you’ll need a minimum of 6 months to get a solid campaign up and running. And the time when traditional publishers did that for you is gone. Publishers are now looking to sign authors who make it easy for them. They want great reads from authors who already have a following and are willing to promote their own work.
LIE #6: “I don’t need a marketing plan”
Since publishers are looking are looking for authors who understand the game, you should have an idea of what you’re going to do to market your book. It doesn’t have to be formal, but some kind of guideline that gives a structure to your plans, your goals, and your marketing efforts is essential.
LIE #7: “My mom can edit my book”
Oh, please don’t do this. Writing a book is the fun part; editing is where the real work takes place. You need to hire a professional. Authors often overlook this extremely important step. It’s easy to find someone to edit a book, right? My mom/sister/cousin’s dog is good at English. Wrong. Editing is a pretty specialized skill set; someone who can find “typos” isn’t a good editor. You want someone to help you raise the bar on your work and create a final product that is something you can really be proud of. An editor will give you critical feedback (especially if you’ve hired a content editor, which I highly recommend), and often improve your work beyond what you might have been able to do on your own.
It’s good to remember that publishing isn’t just about finding the right place to print and publish your book. It’s about a lot more than that: publishing is a business; if you treat it as a business model you will always succeed.