1. The author doesn’t understand the publishing industry.
A surgeon once insisted that his manuscript was an ideal novel. He couldn’t understand why his experience as a surgeon didn’t completely prepare him for this totally unrelated career. He did, however, understand that it made no sense for a journalist or trained writer to open up one of his patients and start pulling key organs from the body.
There are all kinds of nuances, opportunities to get tripped up, and yes, deceived, in publishing a book without a lot of research about how to do it correctly or support by professionals with a proven track record.
2. Writing the manuscript is only the very first step.
The author either doesn’t have an editor for the book or doesn’t hire a book editor to work on developmental and line edits.
Book editors at major publishing houses in New York who write books would never consider publishing a book without a fantastic editor as a partner.
It can be tough on the ego of a first-time author to get a manuscript back with a long letter of edits, but, it’s much tougher to spend a lot of time and resources on a book falls short because it hasn’t gotten a “short hair cut” from someone who specializes in the way that books should read. There are plenty of editors; unfortunately for them and happily for writers, who were with publishing houses who are now doing freelance work in the new world of publishing. Find and hire one.
3. The final product does not meet industry standards because of cover design and interior layout.
Designing a cover that is eye-catching in a good way needs an experienced designer that specializes in book covers. That’s not a sister-in-law, a graphic artist at the local college, or the author in a DIY (do it yourself) fit of energy.
A dead giveaway to a reader that a book is self-published without even reading it is to see a cover that just doesn’t quite look right…the font, the colors and the image.
Again, there are plenty of experienced designers who worked for publishing houses at some point that are now freelancing. Find and hire one.
4. The author spends the whole budget on creating the book, but has not budgeted for promoting it.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it fall? Same thing with books, if a book is publishing but nobody knows about it, was it really published? (Yes, but not with a positive outcome).
Marketing and publicity are key to putting that book out into the world for people to find, read and fall in love. Save some money to, at the very least, buy books to send to tastemakers and to hand to people that may be able to help you. Get a website, create a social media platform, get to know other authors, booksellers and librarians who can help you spread the word at a minimum.
5. The author writes about a personal experience that actually does not appeal anyone other than family and friends, but extrapolates that it will be popular.
Literally dozens of people who have survived cancer, the death of a loved one, or another tragedy and have come up with the idea to write a book to help others with what they have gone through and contact me. My first question is “Did you read a book on the subject? What are comparable titles to your book?” Almost never has the first-time author looked up that information nor sought a book on the same subject on which they want to write.
It’s tempting to write a book when family or friends say, “Wow! You really went through something, you should write a book about it!” It may be interesting to them and the people you know. But, see if there is a more universal interest.
6. “This book is for everyone!” usually means it’s for no one. Knowing the target audience is key.
Novels and non-fiction books alike usually have a very target audience that learns about the book first. Then, if it has more universal appeal and word-of-mouth buzz starts, others outside the target audience find it and read it. But, the savviest authors never say, “This book is for just about anyone!” Know your audience. If you can’t figure it out, seek the help of a professional, a librarian, bookseller or someone who understands the industry and lives within it professionally.
7. Distribution, distribution, distribution (or lack thereof).
The biggest issue in publishing today is not having adequate distribution for indie or self-published books. Scores of times, I’ve tried to explain this to first time authors and they don’t understand until it is too late.
Of course you want it on Amazon. But, is it possible that local bookshops would be interested? Have you given yourself the proper amount of time to go through the Barnes & Noble indie book distribution process? Are there shops, museums or other specialty outlets that might be perfect for your book? Examples might be an office supply store for a book about being getting ahead in business, or a book about national parks might be ideal sold in national park shops around the country, or a book about horses might sell well in a tack shop.
JULIE SCHOERKE founded JKS Communications in 2000. For the past 11 years the firm has specialized in books. Her team has represented more than 1,000 books and 600 authors as well as several publishing houses.The firm specializes in creative, full-service campaigns that take their authors around the world and onto best seller lists, top media placement and into the hearts of readers everywhere.