“If you want to change your life,” Harry Beckwith wrote in The Invisible Touch, “write a book.” But writing a book can also be tremendously frustrating and unrewarding.
Following are the 11 biggest reasons most first-time authors fail to receive the rewards they are due.
1. Unrealistic expectations. Don’t expect to get rich off your book, even if it’s a success by publishing standards. The vast majority of books fail to earn out their advance.
Instead, develop a personal marketing plan to leverage your career off your book. Instead of trying to make money on the book itself, use your book to open doors, promote your credibility and build relationships with readers.
2. Writing without a contract. Never write a book without a signed contract. Instead, prepare a polished proposal and two sample chapters.
Publishers are increasingly selective about the titles they accept. Often, less than 1 in 20 titles proposed are published. Writing a book that isn’t accepted is not a good use of your time.
3. No agent. You must be represented by a literary agent. Publishers rarely accept unsolicited book proposals. Unsolicited proposals are frequently returned unread or are simply discarded.
The right agent will know exactly which publishers might be interested in your book. Agents can also negotiate terms more effectively than you.
4. Weak titles. Titles sell books. The title of your book is like the headline of an advertisement. The title represents your one and only chance to attract the attention of acquisition editors or bookstore readers.
Successful titles stress the benefits readers will gain from your book. Successful titles arouse curiosity and offer solutions. They often include consonants and alliteration (repeated ‘hard’ sounds like G, K, P or T).
5. Title versus series. Focus on a series of books rather than an individual title. Publishers want concepts that can be expanded into a series rather than individual titles.
6. Going it alone. Successful careers involve a nurturing support group of readers and peers. Your quest should include the support of your friends, other authors, book coaches, readers and others who will help you maintain your enthusiasm while providing ideas, assistance and feedback.
7. ‘Event’ writing. Write a little each day rather than ‘going away’ to write your book. Stress is an author’s biggest enemy. When you attempt marathon writing, you’re putting an unrealistic burden on yourself. “What happens if I come back and my book isn’t written?”
8. Self-editing. Avoid unnecessary self-editing. It’s far more important to complete the first draft of your book than to agonize over the perfection of every word.
Editors will ensure that grammar is correct and ideas appear in the proper order. But they can’t do anything until you submit the final manuscript.
9. Failure to promote. Publishers are not promoters. Publishers are skilled at editing, manufacturing and distributing books. But they are not set up to give your book the marketing attention it deserves. A single publicist may represent over 100 books!
If you want your book to succeed, you have to promote it as well as write it.
10. Failure to back up and save. Save frequently when writing. Always save before printing. Never turn off your computer without making a copy of your files for off-premises storage. Never end a writing session without printing out a hard copy of the latest version of the chapter you’re writing.
11. Failure to plan future profits. Before writing your book, create a book marketing plan. Book sales should be just the first step in an ongoing relationship with your readers. Your plan should identify opportunities from consulting, newsletters, audio/video recordings, seminars, speeches and yearly updates.
A book can, indeed, change your life. But you must take charge; take a proactive role in promoting and leveraging its success.
Roger C. Parker is the $32,000,000 author with over 1.6 million copies in print. Do you make these marketing and design mistakes? Find out at www.gmarketing-design.com