The SheWrites website recently posted a Brooke Warner essay on ways aspiring authors can be tripped up by wishful thinking. If you’re an author—or a friend of one—you may recognize these thought patterns. I do! Their root is often simply impatience. After spending so much time writing the book—years, maybe—we want to move on. Warner says:
- New authors shortchange the time spent on their query letter, proposal, and marketing strategy, in the hope it can be planned and implemented in “a matter of months.” I am a prime example. I have sent out query letters for my “finished” manuscript, been mostly rejected (or ignored), worked on the manuscript more, revised my queries, tried again; lather, rinse, repeat. Finally, having worked with an external editor, I’m so much closer to having a publishable manuscript than when I was first querying—but I didn’t realize that then!
- Authors hope they can avoid doing promotion by outsourcing their social media activities. Although there are services that would do this for me, I’ve never considered it. I learn a lot from doing my own social media, and while I’m not 100% successful, at least it’s me, not a “a hollow message” that potential Facebook friends and Twitter followers see.
- As a last resort, they purchase social media lists. At best, a short-term strategy. Doesn’t work.
- They hope to avoid the additional delay and expense of having a book copyedited and proofread. I don’t know whose fault it is—ultimately, no one should be more committed to a good outcome than the author—but I’ve seen so many books lately that were not given the chance to be their best. Is this just a cosmetic quibble? When I see a book that consistently calls an Italian gentleman Signore Rizzo, when it should be Signor Rizzo, it shows me the author has a tin ear. And if he makes that kind of error (among so many others), how much care will have been taken with every other aspect of the writing?
Ultimately, authors must not be trapped by wishful thinking, because the competition is so tough. “Take this as a reality check that it’s hard, especially as a debut author, not only to sell books but also to get a book deal, to get serious media attention, to get reviews.” Eyes wide open, says Wagner, give authors the best shot at avoiding disappointment and achieving a satisfying publishing experience. But it’s hard not to wish it were all a little easier . . .