Hi there, I’ve been involved in the publishing industry now for a long time, both as an acquisitions editor for several top Chicago publishers and then, since 2005, as the co-founder and president of the Jonathan Scott Literary Agency. Over the past fifteen years, I have seen my share of both successful and some not-so-successful projects and I have worked with a vast spectrum of authors with an equally vast array of personalities.
As a result of my experiences, I can say that many first-time (as well as experienced) authors make any number of mistakes in their pursuit of publishing fame and fortune: some are innocent enough—it’s a strange and somewhat antiquated industry that often times makes very little sense to both the novice and the publishing aficionado—while others are just plain embarrassing. So when Melissa Wilson asked me to lend my knowledge to a set of Top 10 Mistakes Authors Make, I jumped at the opportunity.
Over the next the month or so, I will be sharing this Top 10 list in the hopes that you may embark on your publishing journey with perhaps a little more insight and a little more savvy. While I cannot guarantee each of you will successfully publish the next Great American Novel, I can arm you with a set of guidelines that I hope will make the process run a little more smoothly both for you and for your harried and prospective agent or editor. Believe me, I’ve yet to meet a publishing professional who isn’t at least ten manuscripts behind and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It’s a peril of the trade.
#1: Do Not Assume That Your Work Is Done Once You’ve Turned in the Final Draft of the Manuscript
This is perhaps the most common misconception I’ve seen first-time authors make. Yeah, by all means revel in the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you email that final draft off to your editor. It’s a tremendous achievement and quite unlike anything you may ever have experienced. However…the truth is, while you may feel the worst is behind you, you’re wrong. You may very well have written the next New York Times bestseller, but unless you are prepared to market the heck out of your book and yourself as an author, that precious accomplishment of yours is not going to sell. It just isn’t. If no one knows who you are, no one’s going to pick your book off the shelf or download it from Amazon.
So what does this mean? It means you need to be aggressively letting everyone you know—and more importantly, everyone you don’t know—that you’ve published a book and that they need to go out and buy it. Sure, publishers have their in-house sales and marketing teams, but more often than not, they are going to rely on you to help them reach out to the marketplace. It’s never too early to start the pitch process. I’ve seen all too many worthy projects fall by the wayside because the author hasn’t been diligent in building his or her marketing platform. Quite simply, many publishers won’t even consider acquiring a new project unless the author has a proven publicity track record. It’s all about PLATFORM, PLATFORM, PLATFORM! This is perhaps the most overused word in the publishing lexicon. Get acquainted with it, make it your friend, and use it to your best advantage. Facebook, Linked-In, and Twitter are great places to start. If you don’t an account with one of these social media sites, sign up for one today!!