How To Avoid The 11 Biggest Mistakes Of First-Time Authors

This article, from Roger C. Parker, originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog on 8/5/09.

Writing, books, and personal branding go hand in hand. When you know how to write, and you use that power to write and promote a book, you can change your life.

Writing and promoting a book opens windows of opportunity–opportunities that would never otherwise show up. As a published author, you’re branded as an expert to new clients, prospects, and job opportunities. Your book becomes your business card, proving your expertise and professionalism. You can access experts you’d never, otherwise, be able to access.

You can leverage your book into whatever you want your life to be.

As Harry Beckwith wrote in The Invisible Touch, “If you want to change your life,”write a book.”

Success, however, is not guaranteed

Many first-time authors are not prepared for the possible land mines and pitfalls along the way. Many find writing a book to be a frustrating and unrewarding experience.

Fail to receive rewards

The following are the 11 biggest reasons many first-time authors fail to receive the rewards they expect:

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, right from the start, develop a personal marketing plan to leverage 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. Know how you’re going to profit from your book through follow-up information marketing, providing sales and services, or seminars, worksheets, and paid speaking and training.

I’m amazed by the number of authors I’ve interviewed for who have told me they devote their publishing advances and royalties to charity, knowing that profits from book sales will never equal the profits from their own back-end products and services.

2. Writing without a contract

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

Publishers are increasingly selective the titles they accept. Often, less than 1 in 50 titles proposed are published. Worse, most books change during the writing and editing process.

Writing a book that isn’t accepted is not a good use of your time!

3. No agent

It is essential that you 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.

More important, publishing contracts frequently contain “boilerplate” text that can sabotage your writing career before it begins. You must have an agent who knows what to look for and is able to negotiate more terms.

[Publetariat Editor’s note: while it’s true that most of the largest publishing houses won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, very many mid-sized, and most small, imprints will. Visit each imprint’s website to learn whether or not your unsolicited manuscript will be accepted. However, regardless of how your manuscript finds its way to an acquisitions person, when things get to the contract negotiations stage you must have an able and experienced representative at your side, whether in the form of a literary agent or an attorney well-versed in literary rights contracts.]

4. Weak titles

Titles sell books. The title of your book is like the headline of an advertisement. The title is the “headline” that helps you sell your project to acquisition editors as well as 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

Don’t think “book,” think “brand.” 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.

Do it right, and your first book becomes your brand, the “shorthand” that identifies you. Think in terms of brands like Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing series which has provided him over thirty years of quality lifestyle, challenging clients, and speaking opportunities throughout the world…and still does.

Read the rest of the article, including points #6-11, on the Personal Branding Blog. Also see Roger C. Parker’s Resource Center for more great marketing tips and articles.