Mistakes of Debut Authors
debut authors

Mistakes of Debut Authors

Stephanie Barko, Literary Publicist

Prior to being published, first time authors frequently make mistakes that damage or even preclude their book’s marketability.  Commonly, these errors include

  • Poorly designed or stock cover art
  • Unedited or unprofessionally edited text
  • Under funding of or lack of a book marketing budget
  • Inadequate online presence
  • Absence of book platform and clear audience for the material

Book Covers make or break your ability to obtain reviews and readers. You can judge a book by its cover.

As James Cox, Editor of Midwest Book Review puts it,

“Stack #3 are those titles that are immediately rejected — not for their subject matter; not for being written by a first time author; and not for their self-published, POD-published, or small press published status, but because they are poorly designed or defectively produced in terms of presenting substandard, inadequate, or otherwise unattractive covers.”

Appealing covers summon buyers.  Whether these buyers actually read your book is another matter, but the most important element for purchasing a publication is its wrapper.  It has been proven that people choose a book by what they see and read on the cover, especially if they don’t know the author.

Make sure your cover is designed by an award-winning book designer, not a general graphic designer.  For different angles and musings on book covers, visit book design web sites and blogs.

Editing is also critical to your book’s success.  You want to interview several editors and hold their completed books in your hand. Choose a set of editors who are experienced with your genre.  Among equally qualified candidates, hire those with whom you have some professional chemistry.  For an explanation of the types of editing your work might benefit from, read The Northwest Independent Editors Guild categories at https://stephaniebarko.com/2010/12/06/types-of-editing-2.

What is a reasonable Marketing Budget for a book launch?  Plan to spend $2.5 to $12K before and during the first three months of your book’s life.  If you get an advance on your manuscript, I recommend spending the whole amount on marketing your book.

Line item expenses in a prep & launch budget might include research & fact checking, editing, indexing, illustrating, cover & interior design, web design, optimization and maintenance, book distribution, shipping, travel, publicity, and advertising. If you need media training or a public speaking coach, include that.  Post-publication, add in book fair and industry conference fees, book award submission fees, exhibitor costs, and presentation equipment.

An author’s Online Presence is absolutely crucial in today’s book market.  Internet book sales have risen 18% year on year since 2002.  For this reason, each author needs a web site that pulls incoming traffic from people who are searching on the book’s issues, title, and author name.

The internet is so dynamic that each year the way to attract customers on the cyber superhighway seems to morph.  Right now it’s social networking.  Perhaps 12 million Americans now keep a blog because they’ve learned that frequently updating their content will maintain or lift their Google page rank.

Use search engine optimization (SEO) tools like Google Adwords to discover high ranking keywords, and then repeat those throughout your web site, blog and press releases.  Seek a web designer who is both imaginative and good at taking direction, while exhibiting a proficiency in English, design, WordPress, SEO, and business.

Finally, if you cannot define your book’s Audience and Platform, your book will never get off the ground. To market your book, you must be able to distill its issues and know who and where your readers are and how they search for books and information. Create a pitch to attract them and prioritize your first year plan so that you fully fund and lead with the strongest device in your platform.

Don’t end up in the slush pile!  Spend time and money with your editing team, a book designer, a web optimization guru, and a publicist, so your book is more likely to remain competitive among the almost 300,000 titles released in America each year.

Stephanie Barko, Literary Publicist was voted Best Book Promotion Service in Preditors & Editors’ 2010 Readers Poll and nominated by her peers for 2010 Book Publicist of the Year. Her award winning clients include nonfiction and historical fiction publishers and authors. Visit Stephanie at https://stephaniebarko.com.

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  1. Wow, Stephanie, if I were a writer, this invaluable advice might be daunting–but I have heard a real writer can’t be stopped.

    I’m glad I’m an editor.


  2. Thanks for laying all of this out so clearly. Yes, it’s daunting, but what a shame to go through all the WORK of writing a book and then blow the part that would make it successful. Thanks!

  3. Wow!! I’m a just the reader, wishing I was a writer, but this article is truly great! So much insight of the ‘behind the scenes’ of writing is intriguing to me. Thank you for sharing, Stephanie. 🙂

  4. This is truly invaluable advice: you really cover the ground! I just blogged about all the marketing mistakes I made in promoting my books: a real lesson in Reverse Book Marketing (there ought to be that kind of marketing: one can learn as much from one’s mistakes as from one’s successes, perhaps even more!)

    I hope authors can learn from my mistakes, but surely they ought to read your post for starts!

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