Writing and Publishing Tip
Start Your Book
Avoid the 7 Mistakes 95 Percent of Authors
by Diane Eble
Nearly all authors, published or not yet,
make at least one or two mistakes that, if it doesn't
ensure failure to get published in the first place, it
definitely hampers their ability to sell their books.
I know. I've made all of them at
one time or another. As an editor and book publishing coach,
I've also seen countless other authors make one or more of
We made these mistakes because
we didn't know any better. You will know better, once you've
read this article. That means you'll put yourself ahead of
95 percent of other people who will continue to make these
mistakes. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes.
Mistake #1: Starting your book too
While I'm all for taking action
rather than just dreaming that "someday I'll write a book,"
most people get an idea and immediately start focusing on
that idea. They never stop to ask some key questions, such
as, "Who will read my book? What else is out there on this
topic? What can I contribute uniquely to what's already out
there? Why do I want to get this book published?"
In fact, there are twelve key
questions I believe authors should ask and answer for
themselves, ideally before they even write their first word.
Thinking through key questions, doing some research on your
topic and your market, will ensure a salable book.
Mistake #2: Not knowing who their
This one is very, very common.
Many people want to write a book that appeals to
"This is a book on leadership,"
says one client. "Everyone needs to know these
Yes, but not everyone feels a
need to know these principles. My own book, MotherStyles:Using Personality Type to
Discover Your Parenting Strengths, could be said to
appeal to any mom. Realistically, however, only moms who are
motivated to understand themselves and others are likely to
buy it. In fact, when Janet Penley and I wrote the book
proposal (before writing the book, I might add), we
delineated eight key characteristics of the kind of mother
who would be likely to buy this book. In addition, we
identified two niche markets for whom this book would be of
When you know your market, when
you can picture your ideal reader, it makes it easier both
to write and market the book.
Mistake #3: Focusing solely on the book,
and not considering what else they can
Now, this is only a mistake if
you want to make money from your book. If you don't care if
you make any money from all your hard work, then you can
skip on down to the next point.
Seriously, most authors do not
make any kind of significant income from their book itself.
This is because a book has a perceived value of between $10
and $25. No matter how much expertise you pack into your
book, the public is conditioned to pay only this amount of
money for it.
On top of that, the royalty
structure is such that an author will only make between a
few cents to a few dollars on a book. The royalty amount a
publisher pays is only around 10 percent of net. Net means
what they get after they've given a retailer or other
distributor their discount, typically at least 45 percent.
If your book retails for $24.95, the net the publisher
receives might only be $13.72. Your royalty from that
would be $1.37. If you had an agent involved, they would get
15 percent off the top of your cut. That brings your
royalty, per book, down to less than $1.17 per book.
Do you see now why you can't get
rich on the book itself (or even pay your rent or mortgage)?
You'd have to sell 1000 books a month—which is very
unusual—just to make a little over $1000.
That's why you need to figure
out other ways to package your expertise, and structure the
book so that it is the beginning point of how people find
out about you and get involved with you. (See my article,
"Your Book is Only the Beginning," for ways to do this.)
Mistake #4: Trying to do it without
There's so much to learn about
just about everything nowadays, that the only way to succeed
in anything is to get help from someone who's been there,
done that. Someone who knows the pitfalls and shortcuts and
even where the likely detours are going to be, and how to
get back on track.
Barbara Stanny, in her books
Secrets of Six-Figure Women and Overcoming Underearning,
talks about two kinds of helpers. There are the Way Showers
who show you where to go and how to get there, and the
Messengers who have the information, ideas, referrals and
lead you need to get to where you want to go.
Look for Way Showers and
Messengers from books, reliable online resources, and
especially people you know who have already traveled the
path. Don't know anyone? Seek them out. Don't be afraid to write to
an author you admire or even an agent. We're all busy people
, but most people like to help go-getters who reach out.
Mistake #5: Getting bad
As you seek help, beware! There
are many people who promise you that in a few days or weeks,
you can finish you book and become a best-selling author. Be
very wary of such claims. Check the person out
I once fell for a scam that
promised to enable me to "Write a book in 14 days." Although
there were a few interesting ideas in the program, it simply
didn't work. The worst thing, though, was he never made good
on any of his bonuses. I did check out one of his
testimonials (he quoted a well-known copywriter I knew), but
I should have checked him out further. The "master writer of
45 published books" had no known books mentioned in
If anyone tells you anything
other than that writing a book takes work and planning and
that success, while possible, does not happen overnight—hang
onto your credit card!
Mistake #6: Not having a good
Most authors have no plan! You
wouldn't build a plan without a blueprint, would you? You
don't start out on a trip not knowing your destination, or
without mapping your route, would you? Yet, many authors
just think they can write their book and get it published
without any kind of plan whatsoever.
I know. I've done it! Don't. Get
the advice, devise your plan. Having a plan for anything
makes a huge difference.
Mistake #7: Not writing a book
If you want to sell your book to
publisher, a book proposal is indispensable. The only way
you will ever sell a book to a commercial publisher is to
send a top-notch book proposal.
Even if you self-publish, it's a
great exercise to write up a book proposal. This becomes
I liken writing a book to
painting a room. The most time-consuming part is the
preparation: cleaning the walls, taping up the trim, then
painting the trim. Writing a book proposal is like these
preparation steps. After that, writing the actual book is as
easy as rolling the paint on the walls.
Suggestions to Take Action
As "Your Book Publishing Coach," I don't
like to merely inform ... I like to inspire you to take
action on what you've just read. So here are some
1. To avoid all the mistakes
above, learn how to map out your plan, and begin your
book the right way—guaranteed—check out the . "Jump Start Your Book: 12
Steps to Writing r to Write a Book That Sells"
2. For more on the correct mindset an
author must have to make a living from their book,
sign up to receive the
audio class called "Make a
Living from Your Book—Starting Today!" You will not
only understand what it takes to become a successful
author, but you will actually begin outlining your book
idea at the end of the class. Those who took the class
affirmed that this is what happened for them—even though
they didn't believe they were ready to start their book!
So yes, you'll actually start writing your book ... but
you will also do it right, if you only avoid the mistakes
mentioned above as you go along (especially if you also
get Jump Start Your Book).
I am putting together a course on how to
write a winning book proposal. (I have sold every book I've
ever proposed using this approach--11 books in all, plus a
reprint despite three agents telling me, "Nobody's buying
reprints.") There's no obligation if you sign up--it will
just allow me to let you know when the course is
up for the notification now.