Okay, be honest – did you experience a pang of anxiety when you read the headline above?
Don’t worry, nobody’s perfect, and we all make mistakes. (Trust me, I’ve made plenty of them in the course of my writing career…) But some mistakes can prove more costly than others, and you can easily end up sabotaging your book sales without even realizing it.
I’d like to take a moment today to look at 7 common but costly mistakes that I see many authors making, in the hope that you won’t fall into the same trap.
Here they are:
1. You Wait Until After Your Book Is Published To Start Promoting It
It’s of pivotal importance that you start promoting your book well before launch day, especially for a traditional printed book that’s going to be sold in book stores, because they give a book about 30 days to make its mark and if it doesn’t sell, it is then pulled, usually never to see the light of day again.
Ebook promotion is more flexible and while it pays to start the promotional process from the day you start writing you book, it is still possible to start promoting on or after launch day. But it’s not what I recommend, because you’ll miss out on a substantial head start.
You need to ‘fill your theater’ before you can ‘strut and fret your hour upon the stage’.
This is easier if you have an existing fan base built up from earlier books, of course. So I sympathize with aspiring authors who might be thinking:
“My book isn’t published yet, so how on earth do I promote it before readers can read it?”
To answer this question, let’s consider the case of Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks, who faced this very same issue. Her book is non-fiction, but make no mistake, the principle very much applies to fiction books too.
Rebecca’s solution was to begin building interest in her book by contacting media sites and bloggers over an eight year period before she launched her bestseller. I’m not suggesting of course that you spend eight years doing pre-release promotion, but obviously, the further in advance you begin the more sales you will make at an earlier stage.
She traveled the country, talking about the contentious social politics involved in the story, the family in the book, her inspiration for writing it, and how important it was to her – sharing the entire world around her story. The extraordinary result was that she formed a vast number of connections with influential people who would later help her spread the word. On the day she launched the book, it gained so much attention from ‘pre-primed’ media sites and bloggers that it rocketed to bestseller status – right out of the gate.
I’ve written a brief post about Rebecca’s remarkable book, and the lessons we can learn from how she went about promoting it, which you can read here: The Best Book Trailer I’ve Ever Seen, And Why It Works
Take 2 minutes to watch her book trailer, and you’ll see that, just like the rest of us, she’s a regular person. She’s not a big star with a huge existing following to rely on. Instead, she simply believed in her project with great passion, and started her promotional activities well in advance of publication.
2. Your Book Cover Is So Dismal That Buyers Ignore It
We’re all told to ‘never judge a book by its cover’. But in the case of readers searching for books online, they all most certainly do.
Your book cover is the ‘billboard’ for your book, and a great design will play a big part in attracting the attention of book buyers, even on the Amazon Kindle at thumbnail size.
Conversely, if your book cover looks dull or amateurish, it will totally put readers off, and your book will be completely ignored.
In an earlier post, I covered how to design an attractive book cover that will do the best job possible for promoting your books to the world. Read it here: The ‘Billboard’ That Can Make Or Break Your Book’s Success.
3. You Only Ever Plan To Write One Book
Some writers won’t want to hear this, but writing more than one book really is essential if you want to succeed as an author. If you only ever plan to write one book, then you really are putting all your eggs in one literary basket, with a much lower chance of success.
As the late Ray Bradbury said:
“Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”
Ray Bradbury. Author of Fahrenheit 451
The more you write, the better your writing will become. And the more books you write, the greater the chance that one of them really ‘clicks’ with the public, and becomes a bestseller.
Of course an even better idea than writing a sequence of ‘one-off’ books is to write a series. There are all sorts of commercial benefits to writing a series of fiction books, as I explain in this post: The Hottest Tip No Fiction Writer Can Afford To Ignore
4. You Chase A Trend Or A Craze
It’s a mistake to chase a trend or pick a sub-genre because you think there’s money in it, instead of writing to your interests and your fascinations. If you do this, you’ll risk drowning in an ocean of other copycats.
It pays to be wary when you analyse your true feelings about any sub-genre that is currently very popular. Have you always been genuinely interested and passionate about it, or have you just been swept away by another writer’s ‘trendy’ success?
Of course, it’s not always the case that a sub-genre with huge momentum is just a temporary craze. For example, there may still be life left in Vampire fiction, provided you have a unique take on it. (In fact, the Vampire sub-genre is not a ‘one-off craze’, but actually runs in cycles – appearing and disappearing every few years in fiction and movies.)
Here’s another post I wrote about about the compelling reasons for writing fiction that’s based on your real interests and deepest fascinations: The Secret Every Author Can Learn From ‘The Hobbit’ Movie
5. You Fail To Grow Relationships With Book Bloggers Before Asking Them For A Review
Becoming familiar to an influential book blogger long before actually asking them for a review can make a HUGE difference to whether they say yes or not, and to how positive their review may be.
They’re far more likely to review a book by an acquaintance – someone they’ve grown to know and respect, and with whom they have an existing relationship – over any of the increasingly large pile of books thrown at them by complete strangers.
I’ve set out in more detail how to go about approaching book bloggers in this post: How To Get Massive Publicity For Your Book Without Spending A Cent
6. You Try To Be Everywhere On Social Media
Your author career can rapidly disintegrate if you try to master every single social media channel available, and use all of them right from the beginning.
Not only will you find it overwhelming and disheartening, your writing may suffer too.
The solution is to focus on becoming an expert in only one or two social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, plus your author blog. You’ll see far better results if you become truly adept and effective at just a couple of channels to begin with.
Read this post where I explain the best way to tackle social media: The Social Media ‘Train Wreck’ That All Authors Must Avoid
7. You’re Not Taking It Seriously
The real question to ask yourself is this: “Am I wholeheartedly committed to writing and promoting my books, or is it just something I do on a Sunday afternoon?”
I’m not talking about the actual time you have available. Many people have to fit in their writing and book promotion around other commitments – caring for young children, daytime jobs etc. What I am referring to is whether or not you see writing as your vocation (from the Latin ‘vocātiō’ – a calling).
Even if you have to fit your writing and promotion around the other demands of life, you need to see it as more than just a hobby if you want to be successful. Commit to the idea that you are an author, and that this is your true calling.
Your words are a gift, so don’t let them slip through your fingers.
Are you guilty of making any of these 7 mistakes? Do you have any other suggestions you’d like to share? Please do leave a comment.
Article written by Jonathan Gunson
Author / CEO Bestseller Labs
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