Biggest Mistakes Authors Make

Fall colors along winding path

I have had the great pleasure of speaking and presenting during many different events and conferences over the years, and currently am doing so in various online groups and other virtual gatherings. One of which has been strictly online for ten years now — well ahead of the curve — long before Covid forced everyone to interact digitally. The Nonfiction Writers Conference had their Fall 2020 program this past week.

In addition to various speakers, they have what they call “Ask the Pro” sessions. During these short, fifteen-minute-freebie sessions, participants have the opportunity to ask their top-of-mind, burning, and critical questions about books to the various industry professionals who have volunteered their time and expertise to be there. Publicity and marketing are always popular topics. I thought I would share some of their questions and answers over the next few weeks since they apply to pretty much any author who is interested in promoting their books.

Question: What are some of the biggest mistakes authors make when they are about to launch their books?

Ooooh…this is such a great question. Rather than asking “what to do” this question asks for a “what not to do” list. Here are a few of the top answers:

  • Authors put a lot into launching and then they aren’t available for the responses that come in afterward. I know this sounds crazy and it’s probably not something you would do, but it’s actually not uncommon. When you go to all the trouble of planning campaigns to secure media attention, you need to build in time to respond to their requests. I have found many times that authors over plan their days and promotional activities and therefore have built in no padding to do the work and the actual media opportunities that come in. Not fun — for anyone — and not good planning!
  • Many authors don’t have a plan for each marketing channel with a spelled-out strategy pertaining to each of them. This really coincides with something I see fairly often and that is a resistance to writing it all down, being specific, and stating what will be done and when. I don’t know if it’s because they think they should just be able to remember what needs to be done or what, but one of my favorite sayings is this: Write it down. Your brain is for brilliance; not for remembering to pick up cat food. Develop a plan for each channel in advance and then stick to it, or make improvements as you go along.
  • They get into “hustler mode” rather than simply being genuine and helpful. It’s almost as if their posts become advertisements rather than simply sharing stories and helpful tips or advice to their readers. If you’re generous in your posts, imagine how much more the book contains. We’ve all seen perfectly wonderful, informative, generous, thoughtful people suddenly turn into promotion machines when launch day hits. Bad idea.
  • They don’t have their platform set up to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. Whether it’s a landing page on your website, your blog posts, email to your list, social media marketing, you need to have a reason for offering what you’re offering along with a “next step” for those who are checking you out. Otherwise, it’s simply missed opportunities, and these are often the same authors who say marketing and publicity don’t work, or worse, the person they hired didn’t know what they were doing.
  • They don’t have a plan beyond the initial launch. When I work with people, I often suggest they create a plan that goes out one year. That may seem like a long time, but the truth is it’s going to be a year from now very quickly, so what are you going to do for your book and your business between now and then? Thinking like this takes some of the pressure off of the launch and helps authors to remember that you can do it all….just not at the same time. Make a list of what you want to do, and then get it down on a calendar.
  • They never bothered to figure out their key messages. Or they never knew they had to, which means they aren’t a reader of Savvy Sunday News. 🙂 You must know your most important, overall core message, and then you should have another 5 to 7 key messages in order of importance.
  • They didn’t get media training. Anyone who knows me at all knows the importance of getting some training.  It’s easy for others to take control of an interview and send you down a path you really don’t want to go down if you don’t know how to get control back. Media training will help you to do this, and maybe keep the interview from going off track in the first place. Don’t just “hope for the best.” Know that you are in control (even though no other media person on the planet will tell you this. As a former media insider, I will tell you this!)
  • They didn’t prepare the pieces that will absolutely be needed. You may have a great book summary, but do you have some interview questions? Do you have bios of various lengths? B-roll? Do you have media lists? Appropriate pitch letters to various market segments? Having these things done ahead of time will save you when the requests start coming in.

There are more, but this is a good start. Seldom does one author forget all of the above items, but just about every author misses something. We live in a world with many choices before us. Knowing where you want to be, what you love to do, where your target market hangs out, and how they like to consume various media is the number one strategy for not only getting coverage but for selling books, too.

Bottom line

Remember, publicity is about getting the right kind of visibility. Once you do, then your marketing has to kick in to drive sales. Making sure you stay away from any of the “don’t dos” on this list will help ensure you and your book take advantage of the fabulous opportunities that come, and create the kind of results you truly want.

To your success!


P.S. Evie + Sarah (Evie Granville and Dr. Sarah Evans), authors of Modern Manners for Moms and Dads, are two amazing women who have built a wonderful following. I had the privilege of helping them with some media training, and below is what they had to say about it. I am humbled by their lovely comments:

“We highly recommend Joanne McCall’s media training expertise to anyone who is putting themselves or their brand in the public eye. She took us through mock interviews, managed us through our stumbling blocks, and gave us multiple, concrete strategies to help us handle interviews with grace and confidence, while still steering the conversation back to our book and brand. Joanne will help you create a professional and engaging message for your brand, and then guide you through the details of the layered and complicated interview process.” 

–Evie + Sarah

Me again. Thanks, you two. You’re a blast to work with, so keep getting that book out there!







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