Okay, I’ll be the first to admit I made a lot of mistakes when I published my first novel, but three really stand out especially because, if I hadn’t made them, it would have prevented me from making a long list of other mistakes.
The three big mistakes I made:
- Not reaching out to and interacting with other authors before I was published
- Not using beta readers
- Not getting my name out there early in the game (I’m primarily talking about on social media)
Of course, all three of these mistakes are invariably linked. If I’d developed relationships with other authors before I was an author myself, it would have helped to get my name out there, etc.
Why did I make these mistakes and why do they matter?
Mistake #1: Not reaching out to and interacting with other authors before I was published
I made this mistake because I foolishly thought I shouldn’t or couldn’t reach out to other authors until I was an author myself.
Looking back, I’m dismayed that I didn’t attend the GCLS conference the year before I published my book even though it took place in the city where I lived! I couldn’t possibly attend such a conference until I was an author myself, I reasoned.
No idea why I thought this, but it was undoubtably a confidence thing. At any rate, I was wrong, very wrong. Reaching out to other authors is the best thing you can do. As I’ve discovered, most of them are wonderful people and you can learn so much from them no matter where you are in your writing journey.
Note: When I say reach out and interact with other authors, I mean attend a conference (if you can) or follow and interact with them on Twitter or other social media platforms, etc. Don’t just send them your stuff and say, ‘hey, can you read this?’.
Mistake #2: Not using beta readers*
I made this mistake because I didn’t know authors used beta readers. Heck, I didn’t even know what a beta reader was.
Ever since I started using beta readers, my writing has gotten SO MUCH better. Of course, it took time to find beta readers and many of those I now use are authors themselves (see mistake #1).
I’m going to do a whole blog post on beta readers but trust me on this one. If you are an author, beta readers are invaluable no matter how great you think your writing is.
*What’s a beta reader: an avid reader or author (preferably of your genre) who reads a draft of your work BEFORE you even consider submitting it for publication. Beta readers can be people you know well or not at all. But they have to be people you trust to give you 100% honest feedback. For this reason, your significant other may not be the best beta reader candidate.
Mistake #3: Not getting my name out there early in the game
I made this mistake because:
a) I’d never spent a ton of time on social media and
b) I had a strong aversion to promotion (and I kinda still do).
I’m sure a lot of people can relate to these reasons.
Having never spent much time on social media meant that I wasn’t comfortable using it, partially because I didn’t really know how to use it. It also meant that I didn’t fully understand its importance in getting my name out there and in building relationships with both readers and other writers (see mistake #1 and #2).
One thing I did do right on the social media front was create new social media accounts for my author persona. Being an author is a business, it will make your life a lot easier if you keep it and your personal accounts separate.
So, my advice is don’t make these mistakes J Easy, right. Take baby steps. Reach out to one writer, create a Twitter account and maybe hit that tweet or retweet button every once in a while… You get the idea. And don’t get frustrated if it’s slow going at first, if you don’t get a lot of ‘likes’ or if a writer doesn’t reply right away or ever. Keep trying. Reach out to a different writer. Eventually you’ll find the people you ‘click’ with. Building relationships takes time and getting your footing on social media takes time too, but it will be time well spent.