Five Mistakes Authors Make That Keep Readers Away
You dream of becoming well-known and financially successful author and have done so almost your entire life. You envision your book displayed front and center at a popular bookstore with customers pushing and shoving to get the very first copies available. Young and old are lined up asking for your autograph and your publisher is pleading with you for a summary of your next great work.
This is a perfect scenario for a first-time writer but is rarely the case. It is not easy to get a book noticed by readers. There are so many new and upcoming authors out there that are vying for attention from booklovers that somehow your first efforts at writing may become totally lost in the shuffle.
Some of the most common mistakes made by writers, both new and seasoned, include:
1) The assumption that all writers have to do to be successful is write.
This thought is very similar to the notion that to be successful, all you have to do is work hard. There are so many farmers, factory workers and small business owners who Have worked their fingers to the bone, only to end up with barely enough to retire on. The same is true of writing. You can write every day, discipline yourself to produce pages and pages of written work and become a very talented and skilled writer and still end up with stacks and files of unnoticed and unappreciated work. What you really need to do is work smart. It is up to you not to just write your books but also to step up to the plate and toot your own horn. This may be very difficult for those introverted, nose-to-the-grindstone authors who live in attic garrets but it must be done and it must be done extensively for potential readers to sit up and take notice.
2) The belief that you are a one-man show.
It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a city to write a book. Sending your work out for publication before having others read and critique it is quite egotistical. You, as the author, need to be sure that your story or nonfiction message is clear, legible and free of mistakes. You can be the best editor in the world but there are always small errors that can unexpectedly pop up or missing words or letters that seem to have just disappeared. Hand your best writing buddies a red pen and a copy of your manuscript to review before publishing your book. Or hire an editor that knows everything there is to know about sentence structure and grammar.
Take it outside and read it out loud to yourself and a small audience to make sure the words flow and the message or story is clear.
3) Underestimating the importance of social media.
Gone are the days of traveling from city to city and bookstore to bookstore. Authors can now market their works on their laptops straight from their kitchen tables. Make every attempt to join at least four social media sites and actively participate with friends and fellow writers on a regular basis. Applaud the efforts of other individuals who work in the arts – photographers, filmmakers, screenwriters and artists – they are the ones who will appreciate what you do and will support you. Use social media to announce your own successes – the arrival of the first editions of a new book, an article you wrote, or an appearance you will be making. For even more emphasis on your work, consider adding videos of yourself speaking about upcoming works or even providing a short reading or summary of one of your books.
4) Inconsistent writing
Readers learn to love certain authors because they produce consistent writing that can be depended on. If your first book makes your readers really feel and truly relate and then your second proves to be shallow and insubstantial, you will probably have lost your return audience. Just as in the restaurant business, repeat business can be your bread and butter so always remember the importance of the reader when your writing begins to become less than stellar or boring and predictable.
5) Failing to sell and promote yourself.
Many writers are very shy and reticent – reluctant to talk about their successes or backgrounds. These individuals are going to have to work hard to overcome these handicaps because, yes, in this world of “greasy wheels,” it is vital that authors are able to sell themselves to their readers. One effective manner that it can be done is through Amazon Author Central. This site allows writers to write profiles, highlight upcoming works and events, connect with both writers and readers, and create an ongoing history of their successes. It is easy to join and simple to update and can be a real promotional tool for your career. Giving others the ability to contact you through this site or your email or personal website may open opportunities for speaking engagements, book signings or additional writing projects.
In a recent question and answer session with GoodbooksToday, author Theresa Ragan (Taming Mad Max), a New York Times and USA Today best-selling self-published author reveals some of the secrets to her many successes.
GoodbooksToday.com: Several of your books reached the Amazon Top 100 Best Seller List. How much do you believe your use of social media has factored into your impressive book sales?
T.Ragan: As of October, 2013, I have sold 800,000 ebooks. I believe 6 out of 10 of my books have hit the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller list. I think social media helps get the word out when I put a book on sale, but I give most of the credit for great sales to the time I spent learning my craft. I wrote for twenty years before ever releasing a book. For a book to reach the Top 100 Bestseller list, it has to have staying power, which to me means having the right book at the right time. Of course, luck is involved too.
GoodbooksToday.com: Do you have any advice for writers who are discouraged by lack of sales?
T.Ragan: My advise to writers lacking sales is to make writing a priority over promoting and marketing. I would suggest releasing three books before putting in a lot of promotional effort. That way, if you have a sale or give one book away for free to get new readers, you’ll be doing it for a reason – to get people interested enough to give your other books a try.
After I released six books, I spent three months trying everything The bad news is that because I did so many things at once, I m not really sure what worked and what didn’t. I made free video book trailers using Windows Movie Maker and put those on Amazon and YouTube. I blogged every week about my publishing journey, I blogged on any website that would have me, I said yes to all interviews, I spoke at conferences and on panels, I joined Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook. I sent an email every day to online reviewers asking them if they were interested in reading one of my books if I sent them a digital copy. I did blog tours and contests/giveaways. I found places like blog talk radio to interview me and I made a free website using Blogger. Once I made some money, I advertised on any site I could find where you could pay $15 to have your book on the sidebar for a month. I suggest getting three books out there and then trying everything you can to get exposure, which ultimately could turn into book sales.
GoodbooksToday.com: What current books are you working on?
T.Ragan: I am writing and negotiating the sales of Book 4, 5, and 6 of my Lizzy Gardner series. All thriller/mystery. Book 4 is due on December 15th.
GoodbooksToday.com: If you had to choose just one type of social media, which one would you select and why?
T.Ragan: This is difficult to choose just one, but for me, an author’s website is the most important tool. Although my website was built in a day and didn’t cost me a dime, I do provide lots of information for those writers or readers who are interested in learning more about me. Whenever I find a new author whose books I love, the first thing I do is search the Internet for their website. I want to know when they started writing and what other books they might have available. If they include other interesting tidbits about their writing process or their personal lives, all the better.
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