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SPQ 064: 6 Common Mistakes Many Authors Make

Written by Steve Scott on April 1, 2015. Listen to SPQ: iTunes | Stitcher | RSS Feed
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The Question

I’m a first-time Kindle author. I’m almost ready to publish my first book on Amazon, and I’m a little nervous about it. What are the common mistakes you think every author should avoid, whether it’s a first-time author or a seasoned veteran?

Biggest Takeaway

Steve’s Answer

Steve sees people make a lot of mistakes when they publish their own books. There are too many mistakes to cover in one podcast, so this episode covers six of the most common mistakes. Steve has covered some of these topics in previous episodes, so there are a lot of links to help you find more information.

Mistake #1: Not Picking a Niche

All first-time authors should pick a niche and serve that audience by continuously publishing books. If you have a book about making money with forex trading, and then you follow up with titles on training your dog and the wheat belly diet, you’re not serving the same audience. You’re not building a brand, either.

Steve is able to generate repeat business because he publishes books for the same audience. The more books he has in the marketplace, the more opportunities he has to connect with people. He explained how to determine the profit potential of a niche back in episode 3. A follow-up episode—episode 4—covered the importance of focusing on one niche at a time.

Mistake #2: Ignoring Profit Potential

When you pick a niche, you want to look at the three Ps: profitability, passion, and personal experience. You want to make sure your books are going to sell. If you’re into Argentinean worm farming, there’s probably not a huge market for books on that topic.

Steve recommends using the 30,000 rule when you get started. That means going to Amazon, looking at the bestseller rankings for a niche, and checking to see if there are any titles ranking 30,000 or lower. This indicates they are selling around five copies per day.

Mistake #3: Bad Cover Images

A lot of people want to get into self-publishing, but then they spend $5 on awful covers and wonder why their books don’t sell. People do judge books by their covers, so if you have a cheesy, unappealing cover graphic, people probably won’t buy your book.

Your cover is an investment in your book. If you invest in a good cover, you’re likely to make your investment back. Many people use Fiverr, but Steve does not recommend buying a book cover from this site. You should expect to pay anywhere from $80 to $200 for a good cover.

Mistake #4: Not Editing Your Books

Steve made this mistake early on. You need an experienced person with an editing background to review your book and correct all of the errors. Working with an editor can also help you identify the mistakes you make on a regular basis. In episode 12, Steve talks about finding an editor.

Mistake #5: Failing to Build an Email List

Steve’s email list is his top marketing strategy. When you launch a book, you need to have a few things in place. One is a lead magnet, or a free report you give away to get someone’s email address. You also need a squeeze page and an email marketing program such as AWeber. Steve discussed his email marketing strategy in episode 7. He also talked about the messages you should send to your email list in episode 44.

Mistake #6: Not Building an Author Platform

Kindle publishing is great, and Amazon is a good platform. However, you’re borrowing space on Amazon. The company doesn’t owe you anything, and they can change the rules at any time. You need to have your own author platform so you always have a place to talk to your audience.

An email list is great, but you also need a blog, podcast, or YouTube channel to connect with your audience. Steve suggests starting a blog so you can repurpose the content in the future. Steve talks more about building an author platform in episode 13.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. This isn’t a life-or-death situation. If something goes wrong, own up to it, and then try something else. Steve has learned a lot of lessons by making mistakes with his publishing business.

Resources and Links

SPQ 003: Steve explains how to determine the profit potential of a niche

SPQ 004: Steve discusses the importance of focusing on one niche at a time

SPQ 035: Learn more about the “30,000 rule” for picking a profitable niche

SPQ 012: Steve discusses the importance of working with a skilled editor

SPQ 007: Steve talks about email marketing best practices

SPQ 044: Steve discusses what you should be sending to your email list

SPQ 013: Learn how to build an author platform to promote your books

SPQ Resources: Check out Steve’s recommended resources for building your business

  • I agree with all six and would add in having a hook that separates your book from everything else on the market. With so many indie publishers out there you have to stand out.

    I’m re-reading The 100 Best Business Books of All Time and in the summary of Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, Jack Covert writes that there are two types of books – those that break new ground or those that show you a new way to think about the basics. That idea stuck with me and I hope to apply it to all the books I have coming out this year.

    • Actually George, I’d add that as well. Good point. There are soooo many “me too” books on Amazon that don’t sell. That’s because the author saw a book that was selling well, wrote (or outsourced) a copy and expected it to do well. Good to see that you’re thinking about how to be different. 🙂