When I first started out as a first-time author I was overwhelmed about what I should do. There’s so much information out there saying do this, do that and about what you should do in regards to editing, cover design, and marketing. It’s hard for anyone to know what they should do given how many opinions there are on what you should be doing. My first publishing experience was over two years ago now and I’ve since published over 10 books since then. But it’s nice to how far I’ve come since then.
This is not a post about what you should or should not do. Just to highlight some of the mistakes I’ve made. Most of these were financial ones.
Here are the five mistakes I made as a first-time author.
1. I paid way too much for editing. That’s a bit of an understatement! I was conned out of a lot of money for editing I didn’t need and the amount I paid. I met my two “editors” in the writing group I used to attend. They appeared professional and had good reviews so I thought I’d give them ago. When I got the quote, I was shocked and wish I’d followed my instincts and gone with someone else. I paid for a copy edit, developmental edit and proofread. This was supposed to take 4 months but eventually turned into an entire year. One single round of editing took 8 months!
Now I’m a professional editor myself now so I can appreciate that editing takes time but I was lucky to get one chapter a month from them without any kind of explanation. I didn’t get a developmental editor – in the end, I got barely more than a proofread. They completely messed up my manuscript and actually created more mistakes than there already was. The worse thing was they were people I trusted, but turned out to only be people out to get my money. The lesson I learnt here was you need to shop around for editors, get sample edits done and find someone you can trust and work well with.
2. I used a paid beta reader. Again this service was through my so-called editors. I didn’t know much about beta readers at the time and thought it would be good to have someone unbiased give me feedback. What I got instead was a joke. The woman told me I should make my novel like another author’s and thought it was about vampires. This was ridiculous as I only had one vampire in it who appeared in only three scenes.
3. I didn’t have any kind of budget. I know that publishing should be treated like a business and a business should be budgeted for. I just did whatever and spent money on things I didn’t need.
4. I didn’t have any real kind of plan in place. Once I published my novel out I thought the royalties would start rolling in, right? Wrong! I learnt that I needed to know how to plan and market that book rather than just winging it. A book needs to be treated like the product it is.
5. I paid for formatting. I had not one but two formatters. This cost ms a lot of wasted time and money on things I could have done myself. The first formatter was from Fiverr and she corrupted my files. The second one was a company who I hired to fix the problem and didn’t. In the end, I did find a professional formatter who did a good job.
6. I brought and gave away too much stuff. I brought bookmarks, key rings, and notebooks for my first book. I also gave away paperbacks and this all cost me a small fortune in postage. Most people didn’t seem very interested in the bookmarks or key-rings even though I had a nice person from my writing group design and make them for me. I think it’s best just to get bookmarks and maybe give away a couple of paperbacks. Keep postage to your own country as international postage costs a lot.
7. I spent too much money on things I didn’t need. I think it’s definitely a good idea to have a budget and have a plan in place whenever you start publishing. Don’t pay for editing you don’t need and don’t go for things you can’t afford.
You may think after all the hassle and problems I had on my way to publishing would actually have put me off. But I learnt some value lessons from that experiences both about business and publishing. Any author is bound to make mistakes when they first start out, but I think it’s how you learn from those mistakes that is important.
Thankfully working on my second book was much easier, I got to work with a proper professional editor and hopefully know more about what I’m doing now.
What mistakes did you make as a first-time author? If any?