If you want to be a successful author, you will be a busy one. Books do not sell themselves, and being lazy, whether it’s while writing the book or when promoting it, is going to end up with poor results. Here are some things not to do if you want to be successful as an author.
When it comes to being an author, the old saying, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well,” is very apropos, and “biting off more than you can chew” is never a good idea. Too often, authors with grandiose ideas begin books or blogs or marketing projects, but they never follow through on completing them or keeping up with them. Others simply have no idea how much work is involved in being an author; they like the idea and try it out, then do a mediocre job.
Below are ten things lazy authors do or fail to do that end up hurting them in the long run. Believe it or not, I have actually heard authors say all of these things. And then they wonder why their books don’t sell!
- “I print my pages off my printer and then bring them to a binder. It’s cheaper that way.” Maybe so, but no matter how good your printer is, people are going to be able to tell the difference in the color and quality. Also, I’m guessing you’re using 8.5 x 11 paper, which means your book isn’t going to fit very well on a library or bookstore shelf, even if it’s a children’s book, so it’s probably not going to get the attention or placement you would like.
- “I can’t afford to pay a proofreader/editor.” Maybe not, but neither can I afford to waste my time reading a badly edited book. Most book reviewers won’t either, and anyone who makes the mistake of reading your badly edited book won’t be recommending it to his or her friends, or worse, will be making a point of telling people not to read it.
- An author to an editor: “I don’t want to go through the edits and fix the book. Just do what you think is best.” It’s your book. The editor can do everything possible to make the book sound good, but he can’t work miracles, and he can’t read your mind. You might have written a wrong name or other information that the editor simply is not familiar enough with that he will catch the mistake. An author should go through the book and read it and re-edit it before it is proofread, and then proofread it again before it goes to print, and proofread the proofs as well. No matter how good the editor is, it’s the author’s book and the author needs to be responsible for it. As the author, your name is going to be on that book for all eternity, so shouldn’t you want to make sure it’s done right?
- “My editor says the book needs more development, but I’m going to let him do the developing.” You can bet your editor is going to charge you more if you think he’s going to develop your book. If you need more examples, more details, he may be able to include them, but they won’t be the same as your own words and experiences to provide support to your point or theme.
- An author to an editor: “I’m not good at writing. Let’s just talk about the issues on the phone and then you can fix them.” I’ve known many authors who write a rough draft but then don’t want to do any more writing. The author then expects the editor to work magic, and rather than the author doing any rewriting or even looking at the manuscript, the author expects the editor to call and get information from him on the phone and then fill in the blanks. While this process can work, it’s not editing, it’s ghostwriting really, and the editor should be paid accordingly; it also is much more time consuming. Furthermore, things are likely to be lost in translation. Granted, some authors are busy working for a living, or some aren’t really writers at heart but just want to write one book, in which case, they may not care as much about the written word being polished, but no matter how good the editor is, the result will be a book whose voice won’t be as authentic as if it had been written completely by the author.
- “I’m retired. I don’t want to be checking my email everyday or even every week.” Then don’t check it, but don’t expect to get a lot of book sales or speaking engagements if you don’t respond to people quickly. People don’t use snail mail anymore and even telephone calls are rare. If people want to talk to you about your book, interview you, or even order copies of your book, they are going to email you. If you want to play the author game, checking your email regularly is as necessary as rolling the dice to move forward. I’ve had newspaper reporters email me asking me for information and telling me their deadline is tomorrow. If I’m not checking my email at least once every twenty-four hours during the week, I could miss an opportunity.
- “I’m not comfortable with public speaking.” Public speaking is the number one fear for most people, but if you’re not going to talk about your book, how is anyone going to know about it? Yes, you can do a book signing, but I can tell you hardly any readers will attend a book signing unless you’re John Grisham or Stephen King. People are busy and want more than a quick run into a store to fork out twenty dollars and shake an author’s hand if they’re going to spend the time to go see you. Give a talk about your book and you’re sure to sell more books.
- “I’m not really into running around and delivering books to bookstores.” I know delivering books to people is time-consuming, but I can’t tell you how many authors who, when I ask them where there books are, tell me, “Just at the bookstore on Third Street” or something to that effect. They’ll add, “The manager there is really good to me, so I figure I’ll give that store an exclusive right to carry my books.” It might sound good, but what the author really means is, “I’m too lazy to get my books in other stores.” It’s great that your books are in one bookstore where the five hundred patrons who go to that store will see it, and maybe five of them will actually buy it, but what about the half a million other people who might be interested if only you had it in the stores they visit so they could actually see and purchase it?
- “I could care less if anyone buys my books. I just enjoy writing them.” I actually heard an author say this to the website person of an author’s association when he offered to put the person’s books on the association’s website. Talk about bad manners, not to mention, a waste of money. If you don’t care whether anyone reads your books, leave the manuscript in the box under the bed. Why spend the time and money having the book printed if you aren’t going to do anything to sell it?
- “Check out my new blog, my events page….[Three months pass] I don’t have time to update those.” Yes, as I started out saying, authors have grandiose plans. An author might get pumped up hearing about how effective blogging is so he goes online and makes a blog and posts something once or twice, and the next thing you know, six months down the road, you look at his blog and it hasn’t been updated in all that time. Or you visit his website and he has all his events for this month listed, but the dates don’t match up and you realize the Saturday, April 3rd event was in 2010 not 2011, and he hasn’t updated his events ever since. Not only is failure to update a website a turn off to the search engines, but it’s a turn off to readers who might wonder what’s going on with a website not being updated? Did the author drop dead? If you’re going to have a blog or an events page, you need to be committed to keeping them updated before you decide to go through with having them. Just as you need to be committed to understanding all the work required of being an author and being ready for it if you’re going to do a good job at it.
If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If you want to be an author, be a good one. Do what is necessary to produce a quality book, to market it widely, and to make sure your readers are happy with you by staying in touch with them and keeping them updated. A lazy author has a basement full of books not being sold. A busy author is a successful author.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.