Guest Post: Twelve Ways Authors Sabotage Their Success

This month, our blog post is courtesy of Craig Shemilt of Printorium Bookworks. Craig was one of our fellow presenters at the VPL's annual Self-Publishing Fair in February. As part of his keynote address, he identified 12 ways that authors can sabotage their success. Having seen several of these mistakes played out ourselves, we thought this was well worth sharing.

So, without further ado:

1. They wait too long to market their book

A good marketing campaign consists of a focused promotional plan that is implemented early enough to spark interest. Any book, traditionally or independently published, needs a minimum of six months' ramp-up time. You should get ready for your launch by having a website designed, a newsletter and mailing and media lists started, and your author events planned.

2. They don't budget appropriately

Be clear on your goals and your market from go, then consult with someone who can help you determine and create a realistic budget for your book. You don't want to spend all of your money on producing your book, with nothing left over for marketing.

3. They don't get to know other authors in their genre

Who else is writing in your genre? Pay attention to how fellow fiction or non-fiction writers are marketing their books and adopt some of their strategies. Seasoned authors have well-established communities of readers, and most readers are willing to buy multiple books in their area of interest.

4. They ignore social media

Use social media – traditional (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and/or book-specific (Goodreads and Wattpad) – to gain exposure for you and your book. Start slowly, posting to those platforms that you're comfortable with (it's better to post to one or two social networks meaningfully and consistently than to adopt several and have them languish). If you're not tech savvy, hire someone to help get you started.

5. They think bookstores don't matter

While it's true that a great deal of book shopping now happens online, local bookstores are important marketing allies, and most do support self-published authors. Having a community presence is important if you want to attract local media. If your local bookstore isn't interested in carrying your book, make sure they know where to order it, in case someone inquires.

6. They print too many copies

In order to get discounts, authors often print huge numbers of books to start. Again, consider your goals and your market, and begin with a realistic print run. You can always print more (perhaps adding cover testimonials and reviews). Why spend valuable dollars on storage space?

7. They don't spend enough time researching their market

Who's buying books in your genre? Have a well-defined picture of your audience. Don't expect to "write it, and they will come." Find your readers, and go to them. If you need to, hire someone to help you with market research, and fine-tune your promotional strategy accordingly.

8. They don't hire a professional to do their book cover

This is another corner you should never cut. Your cover is the first impression a reader has of your book. And make no mistake, readers do judge a book by its cover.

9. They don't have their work professionally edited

If you don't have enough money to hire a professional editor for your book, you should consider delaying publication until you do. Poor editing (or no editing) is the number one way to sabotage the success of your book.

10. They expect immediate book sales

Don't be disappointed if your money earned isn't exceeding your money spent right away. The sales process can be lengthy, and sometimes, the best way to create buzz for your book is by word of mouth and hand selling it, one book at a time. Remember, when you self-publish, your book never goes on a backlist. You can keep promoting and selling it until you've gone through your entire print run.

11. They don't have a website

Every author should have a website. It doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive, but it's a 24/7 sales tool that showcases your credibility. And, its a great way for customers just about anywhere to order your book!

12. They give up on their book too soon

Don't become impatient. If you've been marketing your book for a while and sales are slow, spend an hour or two with a professional book publicist who can tell you if you're on the right track. Succeeding in marketing is as much about making good decisions as it is about avoiding bad ones.

Writing is an art, but it’s also a business. In order to succeed, you’re going to have to put down your pen (or put away your keyboard), and put on your marketing and publicity cap. That’s not always easy, we know, but if you believe in your book and you market from your heart, your audience (and your sales) will grow organically.