How to avoid 12 biggest mistakes of first-time authors

"If you want to change your life," Harry Beckwith wrote in The Invisible Touch,?"write a book."

Although there are tens of thousands of examples of lives that have been changed by a single published book, getting started in publishing can be very frustrating and unrewarding.

Here are the 12 most common, but easily avoided, mistakes that prevent first-time authors from enjoying the fruits of their labors.

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 planning on income from the sales of your book itself, use your book to open doors, promote your credibility, and build relationships with readers.

And, right from the start, identify back-end profit opportunities that you can immediately engage in as your book is published, and for years after.

2. Writing without a contract

Never write a book without a signed contract. Instead, prepare a proposal and concentrate on two, polished, sample chapters.

Publishers are increasingly selective 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.

In addition, as your book goes through publishing channels, it is highly likely that changes in content and direction will be suggested by your publisher.

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. A good agent becomes not only your ambassador, but your protector, helping you navigate the numerous traps contained in the contracts typically offered to first-time authors.

4. Weak titles

Titles sell books in a blink of the eye. Accordingly, spend a lot of time choosing the right.

The title of your book, in conversation and as the dominant image on the cover, is like the headline of an advertisement. Titles represent 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

Think in terms of a book series, rather than an individual title. Publishers want concepts that can be expanded into a series rather than individual titles.

The best titles become brands that can promote their authors for decades, by inspiring a series of pre-sold follow-up books.

6. Going it alone

Successful careers involve a nurturing a "support group" of friends, peers, and readers.

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.

In addition, consider professional coaches who will help you formulate your ideas and keep on schedule, and help you navigate the inevitable "bumps in the road."

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?"

Commit to write 20-45 minutes a day. Constant effort reduces stress and continuously reengages your subconscious mind.

8. Self-editing

Avoid unnecessary self-editing as you're writing. It's far more important to complete the first draft of your book than to agonize over the perfection of every word.

After you book is accepted for publication, your publisher's editors will ensure that grammar is correct and ideas appear in the proper order. Often, separate editors will review your book for content and grammer.

But, nobody can do anything until you submit the final manuscript!

9. Failure to promote

Don't depend on your publisher to promote your book. It's essential that you promote your own book.

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 backup 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, prepare 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 etc.

12. Failure to consider options

Consider alternatives to books printed and distributed by commercial publishers and sold in bookstores. Times are changing.

Consider options like self-publishing, print-on-demand, and e-books. Many books begin as self-published books and are later acquired by a larger firm.

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