You've drafted a book. You've spent countless hours writing, dreaming, editing, revising, and querying. And now...success! It's been accepted. You're on your way to being an author.
But being an author doesn't happen over night. We sometimes falsely assume being a writer equals being an author. It's not that simple.
The transition from writer to author is difficult, and for most of us, finding a mentor in our lives is next to impossible. When I started my journey, I didn't know anyone who had ever published a fiction novel. I had no one to seek advice from. I had the internet, which can be overwhelming and lonely.
A little over a year later, and I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with the author title. I'm still learning, I'm still growing, and I'm still figuring things out. But I've learned so much. I've made some author friends online. I've come across some amazing publishers who have been helpful and have really worked hard to help me achieve my dreams. I'm so blessed to have an amazing team at Hot Tree Publishing who want to see their authors succeed..
Some things, though, I learned the hard way....by making a mistake. Check out five mistakes I've made as an author. If you have your sights set on being an author or if you've just started, I'm hoping this post will help you avoid some of the pitfalls I've fallen for.
1. Being shy about your work
I told one person I was writing a book: my husband.
The perfectionist in me was terrified of failure. I figured my book would never get published, so why tell people? I felt like writing a book and not getting it published was worse than never writing at all. So I told no one.
Then I got my first contract. I was ecstatic. I was just ready to tell the world...and the publisher went bankrupt. With the failed deal came self-doubt.
When I got offered another contract, I was TERRIFIED. What if they, too, went bankrupt? I didn't want to tell everyone my book would be published only for it to fall through again and have to issue a "just kidding" announcement. So I waited, sitting quiet on the news until two weeks before Voice of Innocence was released.
Even then, I felt like vomiting when I put the initial publication notice on Facebook. I had never shared my work with anyone. What if people hated it? What if I was a failure? Would I have to move away and never show my face again?
It's hard to find confidence as a writer, especially the first time around. There are so many fears and what-ifs.
But you have to get over it. By not sharing my book early, I was met with a very quiet release day. There was little buzz. The girl named Lindsay Detwiler was basically just a whisper on Amazon and on the internet. I was disappointed.
I've learned with the release of each book how important a platform is. Each release gets easier because my blog and social media platforms are growing each day. As I pull more people in, release days keep getting better.
Seriously. The best advice I can give is: start telling the world who you are and what words you have to share now. Dig deep and find confidence. Your words are worth it. Believe in this.
2. Assuming people will just find your book
This mistake comes from society's impressions of writers.
We are taught to believe that getting a book published equals J.K. Rowling level success.
There are millions of writers out there waiting for discovery. There are millions of books on Amazon that are AMAZING but just haven't really been talked about.
It's easy to disappear into a sea of words online. You have to make sure people know about you, especially at the beginning.
Some authors take this to mean chirping about their book on Twitter every three seconds. I get it. I'm guilty of it too. We all want the world to buy our book. We think telling people "Buy my book" will work.
You have to build a genuine presence. You have to have a personality online. You have to be a real person. You have to show people what you've got in terms of writing before they will invest in you.
Blogging is one way to do this. Like everything, though, it takes time--time to get good at it, time to figure out SEO, and time to build followers. But it's an outlet to show the world who you are behind the book cover.
Networking is also fabulous. Some of the best ways to get new fans are to reach out to other authors. Find authors who are in the same boat as you. Find authors who have found success. Find a network of writers. This has been one of the best things that has happened from my writing career.
Don't be afraid to talk about your work. I'm not saying run around with a T-shirt that says "I'm an author" on it. But when people ask...talk. Talk about what you do. Talk about what it's like. I've found people are genuinely curious about the process. When you get an outlet...talk. Word of mouth marketing is sometimes more helpful than any other type of promotion.
Build a loyal following, and you'll find people will start to notice you.
3. Jumping into all forms of social media at once
Everything online about book marketing says to be active on all social media platforms. So I jumped in: Twitter, two Facebook pages, Blogging, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads.
And guess what? I was drowning. I had no idea how to effectively use Youtube and Twitter. I was overwhelmed. I ended up just constantly posting about my book. Mistake!
Now, I've found balance. I backed off a bit. I started mastering Facebook for promotion because I was most comfortable with it. Once I felt good about what I was doing, I added Twitter. Then I worked in Instagram. It's a process. I am still learning.
Do not overwhelm yourself. Pick one platform and learn to do it well. Then move on to something else. If there's a platform you hate, don't do it. It will be obvious to everyone you are forcing yourself to do it. If you aren't having fun on social media, you aren't going to successfully attract the right customers.
For me, Youtube is a struggle. I'm terrible on camera, as evidenced by last week: I accidentally posted an unedited version of my video chat. And yeah, it was bad. People got to see just how much effort and editing goes into making a semi-okay video for me. There was even a terrible, terrible, mouth open face I made at the end when searching for the stop recording button. Cringe!
I haven't given up on Youtube, and I'll continue to play with it now and then. But I know it will never be my strength. I love Facebook and blogging, so I focus on that. It's okay to not be a Youtube star or an Instagram queen. Find what speaks to you. Use social media to reflect the most important part of book marketing--reflecting who you are as a person.
4. Expecting every contest, promotion, and blog tour to equate to sales
I am an English teacher in addition to being an author. Teaching is not a job of instant gratification. You put in a ton of work to every lesson, but you don't always see the results instantly. There are days, even weeks, where you ask yourself: Am I doing anything successful here? Am I making any type of difference?
Book marketing is the same. You pour in time to social media. You send review copies. You put money into posters and Facebook posts, blog tours and contests.
But your numbers don't always reflect this right away. It's a slow, slow build for some of us.
Which is frustrating. We want to see the instant proof that something is working. We want to spend $20 on advertising and see our sales increase twenty fold.
It doesn't work like that.
Some things you do will fail miserably even though they work for others. Some things you think are a waste of time will pay off in the long run.
It's all a bit of a game. You've got to be willing to hang in there long enough to guess and check a bit, to try things and see what happens.
As my husband always reminds me, if it were easy, everyone would be an author. But it's not. It's a lot of work, a lot of time, a little bit of luck, and a whole lot of mistakes. Don't be afraid to make mistakes when it comes to promotion.
5. Giving away too many free copies
Everything I read when I started said to give out as many free copies as you could.
So I did. I gave one to basically everyone I knew. And I footed the bill.
I was also a sap for anyone who emailed me and said they would love to review a paperback copy but *insert sad story*. So I also sent them a copy and footed the bill, including expensive international shipping.
Listen, it's okay to give free copies. Your dearest friends, your family, people who have helped you along the way...give them copies. And spot copies to a person here or there who emails you with a sad story. It doesn't hurt to be generous, and you never know if that story is, in fact, true.
But do not put yourself in the poor house giving away your book.
I think sometimes as new authors, we worry our words aren't worth the expense to our close friends. We think if we give them a copy for free, we won't be judged as harshly.
The thing is--you will always be judged. You have to learn to deal with that. But you also have to learn your words are worth it. They do have value. Treat them as such.
You don't show up to your job and work for free. You expect to be compensated. Writing is the same. It's your time. It's your job. Don't be afraid to ask people to invest in you.
So give away copies to those closest to you. But don't be afraid to ask people to buy them either. By getting people to invest in you, even if it is an ebook, you will be showing the world your words do have value. You will gain confidence.
Give yourself credit. You are a writer. You are an author. Your words matter.