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Common Mistakes of First-time Authors Common Mistakes of First-time Authors

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Today's guest post is from literary publicist Stephanie Barko, who shares her thoughts on planning for book marketing success from the very beginning of your book project.
  • Poorly designed or stock cover art
  • Unedited, under-edited or unprofessionally edited text
  • Under-funding of or lack of a book marketing budget
  • Invisible or inadequately visible online presence for author and title
  • Absence of platform and clear audience for the material

Book Covers make or break your ability to obtain reviews and readers. You can judge a book by its cover. As James Cox, Editor of Midwest Book Review puts it, "Stack #3 are those titles that are immediately rejected—not for their subject matter; not for being written by a first-time author; and not for their self-published, POD-published, or small press published status, but because they are poorly designed or defectively produced in terms of presenting substandard, inadequate, or otherwise unattractive covers."

Prior to being published, new authors frequently make mistakes that damage or even preclude their book’s marketability. Commonly, these errors include

Appealing covers summon buyers. Whether these buyers actually read your book is another matter, but the most important element for purchasing a publication is its wrapper. It has been proven that people choose a book by what they see and read on the cover, especially if they don’t know the author or the title.

Make sure your cover is designed by an award-winning book designer, not a general graphic designer. For different angles and musings on book covers, visit book design websites and blogs.

Editing is also critical to your book’s success. You want to interview several editors and hold their completed books in your hand. Choose a set of editors who are experienced with your genre. Among equally qualified candidates, hire those with whom you have some professional chemistry. For an explanation of the types of editing your work might benefit from, read Mindy Reed’s short piece, Types of Editing.

What is a reasonable Marketing Budget for a book launch?  Plan to spend $2,500 to $12,000 before and during the first three months of your book’s life. If you get an advance on your manuscript, I recommend spending the whole amount on marketing your book. 

Line-item expenses in a prep and launch budget might include research and fact-checking, editing, indexing, illustrating, cover and interior design, web design, optimization, maintenance, distribution, shipping, travel, publicity, and advertising. If you need media training or a public speaking coach, include that. If you are independently published, add in book fair and industry conference fees, book award submission fees, exhibitor costs, and presentation equipment.

An author’s Online Presence is absolutely crucial in today’s book market. Internet book sales have risen 18% year on year since 2002. For this reason, each author needs a web site that pulls incoming traffic from people who are searching on the book’s issues, title, and author name. 
The internet is so dynamic that each year the way to attract customers on the superhighway seems to morph. Right now, it’s social networking and backlinking.

Perhaps 12 million Americans now keep a blog because they’ve learned that updating it every couple of weeks will maintain or lift their page rank. If you are facile with a computer, use search engine optimization (SEO) tools to discover high-ranking keywords, and then repeat those appropriately throughout your web site, blog and press releases. Seek a web designer who is both imaginative and good at taking direction, while exhibiting a proficiency in English, design, programming, SEO, and business.

Finally, if you cannot define your book’s Audience and Platform, your book will never get off the ground. To market your book, you must be able to distill its issues and know who and where your readers are and how they search for information. Create your log line to attract them, and prioritize your first-year plan so that you fully fund and lead with the strongest device in your platform. 
 
Don’t end up in the slush pile! Spend time and money with your editing team, a book designer, an SEO guru, and a publicist, so your book is more likely to remain competitive among the 200,000 titles released in America each year.

Stephanie Barko is a Literary Publicist based in Texas. Clients include authors under contract with traditional publishers, small presses, and independently published writers. Visit www.authorsassistant.com/Barko.htm for genres accepted and services offered.


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Friday, April 16, 2010  |  Permalink | 
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