10 Mistakes Authors Make That Can Cost Them a Fortune (and how to avoid them)

Hi Folks,

The Microsoft Word for Writers series will return on October 30, but right now I wanted to share this very important reprint with you. I’ve trimmed away the non-essentials but kept the main points and the rationale. I’ve indicated omissions with an ellipsis. This series of excerpts is reprinted with permission from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com. Where I added anything, it’s inside brackets.


When it comes to books, promotion, and book production I know that it can sometimes feel like a minefield of choices. Although I can’t address each of these in detail, a number of areas are keenly tied to a book’s success (or lack thereof). Here are ten for you to consider:

1) Not Understanding the Importance of a Book Cover—Authors will sometimes spend years writing their books and then leave the cover design to someone who either isn’t a designer, or doesn’t have a working knowledge of book design or the publishing industry. Or worse, they create a design without having done the proper market research. … A survey of booksellers showed that 75% of them found the book cover to be the most important element of the book. Finally, please don’t attempt to design your own book cover. Much like cutting your own hair, this is never a good idea. {Recommendation: Professional EBook Cover Design}

2) You Get What You Pay For—There’s an old saying that goes You can find a cheap lawyer and a good lawyer, but you can’t find a good lawyer who is cheap. … If a deal [in marketing services] seems too good to be true, make sure you’re getting all the facts. Just because they aren’t charging you a lot doesn’t mean they shouldn’t put it in writing. And by in writing I mean you should get a detailed list of deliverables. Finding a deal isn’t a bad thing, but if you’re not careful it might just be a waste of money, so ask good questions before you buy. {Recommendation: Whether or not you do it yourself, treat marketing your book as if it’s a business, because it is. You have to work it constantly. See Angela & Richard Hoy’s 90 Days of Promoting Your Book Online}

3) Listening to People Who Aren’t Experts—When you ask someone’s opinion about your book, direction, or topic, make sure they are either working in your industry or know your consumer. If … you’ve written a book for teens, give it to teens to read. Same is true for self-help, diet, romance. Align yourself with your market. You want the book to be right for the reader. In the end that’s all that matters.

4) Hope is not a Marketing Plan—Hope is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t a marketing plan. Hoping that something will happen is one thing, but leaving your marketing to “fate” is quite another. … When it comes time to get your book out there, you need to have a solid plan in place or at the very least a set of actions you feel comfortable working on. … Once your book is past a certain “age” it gets harder to get it reviewed so don’t sit idly by and hope for something to happen. Make it happen. A book is not the field of dreams; just because you wrote it doesn’t mean readers will beat a path to your door.

5) Work it, or Not—Book promotion should be viewed as a long runway, meaning you should plan for the long term. Don’t spend all your marketing dollars in the first few months of a campaign. Make sure you have enough money or personal momentum to keep it going. Whether or not you hire a firm you must work … your marketing plan. Publishing is a business. You’d never open a store and then just sit around hoping people show up to buy your stuff. You advertise, you run specials, you pitch yourself to local media. You work it.  … Time will pass anyway. How will you use it?

{Folks, me again. For a limited time you can get a free, printable PDF copy of the ebook gleaned from my recent seminar, Emarketing & Social Media. Just Click Here. Okay, back to the blog post.}

6) Not Understanding Timing—Be prepared with your marketing early. … Timing can affect things like book events (especially if you’re trying to get into bookstores). Understand when you should pitch your book for review, start to get to know your market and the bloggers you plan to pitch. Create a list and keep close track of who to contact and when you need to get your review pitch out there. … A missed date is akin to a missed opportunity. {Recommendation: Keep in mind “major” dates for booksellers, like just before the holiday season, spring break, and summer reading.}

7) Hiring People Who Aren’t in the Book Industry—Hiring someone who has no book or publishing experience isn’t just a mistake, it could be a costly error. … Make sure you hire the right specialist for the right project. Also, you’ve probably spent years putting together this project, so make sure you make choices based on what’s right and not what’s cheapest. If you shop right you can often find vendors who are perfect for your project and who fit your budget. {Recommendation: While you’re here anyway, look around HarveyStanbrough.com for professional services from a successful writer, editor and publisher.}

8) Designing Your Own Website—You should never cut your own hair or design your own website. Period. … Let’s say you designed your own site which saved you [a few to several hundred or even] a few thousand dollars paying a web designer. Now you’re off promoting your book and suddenly you’re getting a gazillion hits to your site. The problem is, the site is not converting these visitors into a sale. How much money did you lose by punting the web designer and doing it yourself? Hard to know. Scary, isn’t it? {Recommendation: Don’t Do “Free” Sites. Pop-up ads and scrunched-up, out-of-the-box designs are not professional. Decide whether you want to put a professional face on yourself as a writer, and then choose accordingly.}

9) Becoming a Media Diva—Let’s face it, you need the media more than they need you, so here’s the thing: be grateful. Thank the interviewer, send a follow up thank-you note after the interview. Don’t expect the interviewer to read your book and don’t get upset if they get some facts wrong. Just gently, but professionally, correct them in such a way that they don’t look bad or stupid. Never ask for an interview to be redone. … The thing is, until you get a dressing room with specially designed purple M&M’s, don’t even think about becoming a diva. The best thing you can do is create relationships. Show up on time, show up prepared, and always, always, always be grateful.

10)  Take Advantage—There are a ton of resources out there for you. … The resources and free promotional tools that are out there now are almost mind-numbing, … things like social media. … Many authors rock out their campaign by just being on Facebook, or Wattpad or Goodreads. … Find out for yourself what works and what doesn’t. When it comes to marketing, the mistakes can cost you both time and money. Knowing what to do to market your book is important, but knowing what to avoid may be equally as significant.

2 thoughts on “10 Mistakes Authors Make That Can Cost Them a Fortune (and how to avoid them)”

  1. Harvey,
    I just met some wonderful folks here at the library here in Sierra Vista who spoke highly of your editing services. Ross Lampert and Neil Garra. Can you email me a time for us to have a conversation.
    Thank you.
    Barbara Hyde

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