When I started writing Beyond the Rapids, I thought my main goal was to write a good book. While I ended up with something that eventually won an award, I could have saved myself a lot of time and re-writes.
I also thought that all I had to do was write a good book, find a publisher, and collect the royalties. Sadly, this is not how it works.
While the list of mistakes I made while writing my book is a long one (I’ve often joked that I should write a book entitles 101 Mistakes in Writing My First Book), I can easily pick out the top five. These are the mistakes that cost me the most in terms of time or money.
1. Did not get adequate feedback
Feedback is essential to any writer. Not only can other readers pick up pesky typos or clumsy sentences, but they can help in numerous other ways, as in pointing out unclear sections or inconsistencies. If you find readers who are skilled critics, they will tell you which places are boring and which ones were page turners. Believe me, you will need lots of confidence to successfully market your book, and getting honest feedback that helps you write a top-notch book is essential.
One thing I didn’t do was use the resources around me. I had heard of several people in my church who were published authors. Foolishly, I didn’t seek out any of them for help and advice. They would have told me about the world of writers’ conferences and critique groups, and could have saved me much time and money.
2. Did not start marketing before the book was ready to publication
Book marketing experts say that if you wait until you are ready to publish your book you’ve waited too long. They are right.
Think about new products that sell really, really well, like the iPad. Apple generated a lot of buzz in the media and technology circles so that there was pent-up demand for their new product. By the time the iPad was released, there were millions of customers ready to pay whatever Apple charged.
While your book may not sell as well as the iPad (don’t we all wish for a fraction of those sales!), the idea of generating buzz beforehand is a key part of a marketing plan.
If you haven’t done this, don’t despair. It will just be harder for you to get your sales to take off.
3. Did not have a platform
What is a platform and why do you need one? A platform is basically the credentials and following you stand on that allow you to generate interest in your book. A politician or star athlete uses his or her fame as a platform. A well-known teacher or expert uses their expertise.
What if you are not famous? You need to start building a platform early. In another post I’ll explain ways you can do this. For right now all I will say is I had no idea I needed a platform, didn’t have one, and my sales reflected this.
4. Did not know or pursue all my options for publishing
By the time I was ready to publish, I had been working on Beyond the Rapids for seven years. Frankly, I was a little sick of it and ready to be done. So I seized on the first good option for publishing and didn’t look any further.
Had I been better informed, I would have taken my manuscript to a writers’ conference for feedback and to try to present it to an editor of a traditional publisher. Given the genre and my lack of a platform, I might not have been successful. But I would have walked away with feedback and advice for publishing options.
5. Did not get into ebook formats soon enough
I didn’t get into ebook formats quickly because I didn’t want to hurt my paper copy sales. Big mistake. My royalty on paper copies sold through amazon.com is about $1.50. My royalty on the kindle version is about $5.00. Enough said.
I hope if you are thinking about writing and publishing a book, you can learn from my mistakes and save yourself lots of time and money!