author mistakes

First Time Author Mistakes

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

April 25, 2022

Writers have a story to tell and the thrill of creating, revising, and polishing it into a completed book is hard to match. But published authors can attest to the fact that it is easy to make mistakes in the sometimes-complicated process of publishing a book. So let’s look at some of the most common first-time author mistakes makes and how to remedy them.

1. Not Enough Editing

Revising is the art of adding or subtracting content, moving content around, or adjusting the words and ideas within a story. But editing is a whole other animal, since it involves polishing and finalizing the writing (which sometimes includes removing or adding content, too). Many first-time authors skimp on editing because it is (admittedly) very hard to edit your own writing.

When we craft the words and phrases ourselves, it is sometimes difficult to see how changes can make them better. This crucial step, however, can be the difference between a good story or publication and a book that is well-written and polished from beginning to end. Paying for a professional editor to proof and look for inconsistencies or other problems might seem difficult to justify for a yet-to-be-published author, but it can make all the difference in the final product.

2. Incorrect Formatting

Another of the writing mistakes a new author may make has to do with the formatting of the book itself. Publication standards for books differ depending on the publisher as well as for self-published books. New authors should know ahead of time what the technical formatting requirements will be and how to prepare the book for publication. Many self-publishers provide guides or templates on formatting and styling just about any kind of book.


One important consideration for formatting a book is to think about what kind of margins are needed for the different types of bindings. Informational books like cookbooks, manuals, booklets, and other similar books may use a plastic coil or wire-o binding, and the margins for these are wider to accommodate the holes used to attach the binding. But traditional novels, on the other hand, may use what most people think of as “regular” bookbinding that utilizes glue to create a book spine.

This type of perfect binding requires large inside margins to provide room for the spine, so formatting the book’s elements with this in mind can save time and effort at the end stages of publication. Another self-publishing option for binding is using a saddle-stitch binding. For this type of formatting, often used on booklets or programs, new authors should understand how saddle-stitch binding affects pictures and graphics as well as how margins must adjust towards the center of the book to adapt to the binding.

Special Elements

One of the common author mistakes is mishandling special elements in their book, like the table of contents, chapter title pages, or even page numbering. Going back and creating a table of contents after the book is written affects page numbering, a hassle to proof after the fact. Many new authors don’t think about making the chapter title pages unique, missing the opportunity to change title fonts or include tie-ins to the upcoming chapters. While not technically a mistake, missing out on the chance to add character and interest to the book is an oversight.

3. Cover Art: Missing the Mark

When a reader picks up a book, the cover is the first thing they see. Many first-time authors minimize the importance of having striking, captivating cover art. Books that have a boring or unremarkable cover may miss out on readership, so authors should consider getting help from an expert to create a compelling cover that showcases the book inside. Self-publishing authors can easily get design assistance from a professional experienced in creating cover art through Publishing Xpress.

  • Top Tip: The cover can include more than just art, the title, and the author. One of the big new author mistakes made is not including an International Standard Book Number or ISBN on a book cover. This barcode number identifies the book, and self-publishing authors can apply for one for their publications just like big publishing houses do for their books. This number allows the book to be identified easily for sale and can be incorporated into the back cover of a book easily.

4. Considering all Publishing Options

Many writers dream of sending off a manuscript to a large publishing house only to have them send back a large retainer for publishing their book. But the reality is that many more new authors are turning to self-publishing their writing to guarantee that it will make it to print. Many now-famous authors have self-published their first book, too.

  • The Shack by William Paul Young –This 2007 self-published book ended up on the NYT Bestseller’s List for two years and eventually went on to sell over 10 million copies before being made into a movie.
  • The Martian by Andy Wier – Originally self-published in 2011, this book was picked up by a publishing house before being adapted for the big screen in 2015 with Matt Damon playing the lead role.
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova – Self-published in 2007, this book was acquired by Simon and Schuster and eventually became a movie in 2014. Lead actress Julianna Moore won an Oscar for her portrayal of the lead character.

For many first-time authors, self-publishing is NOT a mistake; in fact, it’s often the best option. It is actually a fairly simple process and Publishing Xpress can walk you through the steps from writing to holding the book in your hands.

5. Book Marketing Mistakes

Once the book is finished, much of the work is done – but not all of it! Getting the word out about the book is paramount to making sure the book gets into the hands of readers. Book marketing mistakes that many new writers make are not using social media correctly, not harnessing the power of your personal network, and not using market research to help with marketing your own book.

Social Media Musts

The easiest way to get the word out about your book is to tell people. Social media platforms are a great way to let potential readers know about the upcoming book and tweeting or posting about the book, characters, or sneak peeks of the book itself can create interest and excitement around its publication.

Other platforms like Instagram provide a visual way to tell the story of the upcoming book or show an early look at the writing process or even the cover art. Using email marketing is another social media strategy to let potential readers know about the coming publication. Some new authors even create a basic website to advertise their new book. Social media and emails can all link back to the website to create more interest.

Personal Network Power

Who do you know? New authors should always reach out to everyone they know to help get the word out about the new book. Don’t be shy about asking them to support your new book, because the people they reach might become your biggest fans.

Market Research

One of the new writer mistakes made is a failure to understand how other authors in the same genre are marketing their books. Books for young adults are marketed as YA, so knowing to use that abbreviation in your social media marketing, for example, can capture the audience’s attention much more quickly than without it. Understanding how readers of a specific genre refer to books and using it consistently can help you market your book more effectively to your target audience.

6. Book Blurbs: Don’t Miss Out!

Just like having an interesting cover, the back cover contents should be compelling for your readers. This brief description of your book, called the blurb, is key in hooking readers into the story inside the pages of your book. Not just a description, the blurb should leave the readers wanting to know more about the story and the characters. The best way to see how to craft a gripping blurb is to check out other books in the same genre for inspiration on writing a blurb that captures the tone and feel of your characters, setting, and story.

7. Pricing Your Book Too Low or Too High

After spending hours writing, revising, and editing your book and then working through the publishing process, it may be hard to imagine putting a price on your finished book. But pricing your book correctly is key to making sure readers decide it is something they are willing to buy. Priced too high, potential readers may walk away. Priced too low and readers may think the book’s dollar value correlates to the quality of the writing. In your general market research, observing book pricing is one of the things you can look at to help you price your book correctly. Authors can avoid making a pricing mistake and also determine their book cost based on a simple formula:

book production cost + profit you need to make = final book list price

Getting Published

New authors are bound to make writing mistakes along the journey towards the publication of their first book. Knowing which problems to watch out for ahead of time can make the process a lot easier and less stressful. And working with an experienced self-publishing company can help you make your book dreams a reality.

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