Five Mistakes New Authors Make

Every author starts as a newbie, even if they held a job as a writer in some other capacity. The publishing business can be incredibly daunting for a newcomer: many authors work alone without much feedback, so their mistakes, while understandable, are also far too common. Thankfully, most of these mistakes can be easily avoided.

1) Not Paying for Editing

Think you can be your own editor? Think again.

Even the best author needs an editor to help clean up grammar or punctuation errors missed when self-editing. Beyond that, a skilled editor will find holes in the story or even where to break up large paragraphs into smaller, more digestible ones.

Of all the valuable investments an author makes in their business, editing is the most essential.

2) Telling Instead of Showing

The old adage “show, don’t tell” became a cliché for a reason. New authors frequently do it, because it’s in their comfort zone to deliver information that they want readers to know.

There are exceptions to this rule – sometimes we want our reader to know something directly from a character, and it can work. I did this intentionally in the first few chapters of my second novel, Jana, when the main character addresses the reader directly with key back story. But I only did it after opening with action and tension, and soon picked up the narrative again with forward-moving action.

If your story is told in the third person – which is the typical person most authors use – it’s essential to let your characters and their actions do the “telling” rather than actually telling your readers anything. Readers are smart; don’t spell everything out for them.

3) Never Reading Aloud

Want to find out where you’ve made a mistake, or where something doesn’t quite “sound right?” Read your manuscript aloud after you have polished and self-edited. Your errors will leap off the page. You might not know exactly what to call all of them, but you’ll have a much better idea of what to address. Don’t worry: your editor will find more, and that’s as it should be. Remember, you want your book to be as good as it can.

4) Failing to Have a Reader Platform

If you Google the title of this article, “Five Mistakes New Authors Make,” you’ll find plenty of other articles on the subject. But start reading them, and you’ll find that most articles of this type deal entirely with the mechanics of writing…something covered by points one through three here.

However, you won’t always find many practical tips for how to get your voice heard in the din of other new authors, old authors, and everyone else in between. Building a platform for your author business – and it is a business – means doing all the things you need to do to be heard: developing a line of communication with readers and followers by creating an email list, leveraging social media, and so on. You know, all those tacky “marketing” things so many sensitive authors don’t even want to touch, and that even fewer know how to do effectively. Mastering the art of marketing, or having someone to help with it, is essential.

5) Never Planning for the Business of Being a Writer

Want to build a business, not just a book? You should. The business of being an author involves much more than simply having a platform. Self-published authors are frequently overwhelmed, trying to be their own marketing department, public relations firm, and bookkeeper, but that’s just the start. They soon realize it takes a village to build a book, and they need a team.

Fortunately, there are companies out there who can walk authors through the entire publication process while providing world-class marketing and business coaching. Find out more by checking out our services or call (813) 528-2622.

remember 80s

Remember The 80s? Placing Scenes in History in My Most Recent Novel

Remember the 80s? How about the 70s, or even the 60s? Of course, I know the old expression: if you remember the 60s, you weren't there. But in my house, it was different. I was born in the 60s, but in my house it was pretty much like the 50s. No discussion of the war...

Self-Publishing: The Trouble with Going It Alone

Indie publishing is on the rise but tread carefully. Self-publishing is exactly how it sounds:everything depends on you and you alone. Sure, you get to make all of the decisions, but that also means you have to make all of the decisions. Editing, proofreading,...
weird

And Now, Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Now that I’ve reached the latter half of my sixth decade, I increasingly hear myself begin sentences “Back in the day…” or “I remember when….” It’s weird. In our eternally youth-obsessed culture, growing old itself is just plain weird.  And the current pandemic has...

Feeling A Little Bit Better

There's an old, very bad joke that goes something like this: It was Christmas, and everyone was feeling merry; so Mary went home. Then everyone jumped for joy, but Joy jumped out the window. I know those only work when spoken aloud, and in the #MeToo era, it's a...
Whizzers

The Glories of Language: Making Stuff Up and Other Fun Things I Do

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” - Pablo Picasso   One thing I was never especially afraid of was breaking the rules. What I was afraid of was getting caught. When I was young, I got into a tiny bit of trouble, but not much....
isolation

New “Writer Problems” Series, Topic #4: Isolation vs. Solitude

I’m a loner With a loner’s point of view —Bruce Cockburn, “Loner”   Writing a novel is a solitary activity. We all know this. And while there are some exceptions to the rule—screenwriters who work on a team in a “writer’s room,” partners who write a book...

What If I Don’t Want to Sell?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of giving a talk called Marketing Your Novel that was hosted by the Orlando Public Library. A good twenty people or so were kind enough to show up on a blazing Florida Sunday afternoon to hear me speak. The talk went well: I gave the group...
newsletter

A Sneak Peek at My Latest Quarterly Newsletter—And An Invitation

Okay, I'll admit right out of the gate that this isn't really a "sneak peek." My subscribers got it yesterday. Most of what I send them each quarter is content exclusive to subscribers, but every once in a while I'll share something here as well. The following is from...

How Do You Write About Sex—Seriously, Irreverently, or Not At All?

“Writing about sex is like engaging in sex: it’s hard. Or, it should be.” —Sean Murphy   Today I want to talk about fictional scenes where characters either discuss sex or engage in sexual activity. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, because I’m working...
identity

Who Are You? And What Do You Want?

Readers of this blog who are also movie buffs may be able to help me out today: tell me where I got that title about identity! I’m fairly certain there was an old movie or TV show where a character said, “Who are you? And what do you want?” But for the life of me, I...

A Little Pay Upfront…or A Lot More Pay Year After Year

So many writers think they should never pay for publishing. I don’t blame them for thinking that way, but here’s how it really plays out.

Authors are natural idealists, so of course we typically figure we can get a deal with a big publishing company, leading to smooth sailing and great success. But landing a deal with a publishing giant is easier said than done.

More often than not, a writer will never hear back from a publishing company. If you are fortunate enough to get a response, don’t be surprised to receive one that says “we cannot accept your manuscript at this time.” In other words, they don’t think they can make enough money off you.

The Big Five publishers – Penguin Random House, Hachette, McMillan, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins – operate out of a financial formula. That means a book by someone famous, a tell-all by someone once in the limelight, or a biography of a celebrity are sure to sell. There’s a guaranteed audience for those types of books. The great literary work of art you wrote…eh, who reads classics anymore?

Can you tweak your work to make it more marketable? Sure, but the big companies don’t give you any sufficient review or feedback either. How will you even know what to change?

Feel like you’re ready to give up? It happens. A lot. In the words of the late, great John Gardner, “Down goes another novelist.”

Getting from a manuscript to the final product has a lot of steps in between. Agent, editor, illustrator, publisher. Even if you do get that sought-after acceptance letter, the process can still be a nightmare.

Have an idea for the cover? You probably won’t get any say on how the book you labored over for years will look as a finished product. Don’t like the editor’s changes? Tough. Better make them all, or you’ll find yourself in breach of contract.

And as for the money…well, how do you think the Big 5 publishers have created such huge fortunes? Let’s just say your payout may not be quite what you expected. Your agent helped you get the deal, right? There goes 15% right off the top. And the publishing company themselves will gladly take more than their fair share of the pie.

So what do you get?

At $10/book, a large publisher would keep over 75% of each sale, paying the author as little as 8% for the first 150,000 books. Were you one of the fortunate few to get an advance? Well, before you even see that 8%, you have to pay back that advance. Let’s say it was $5,000. That means 6,250 book sales before you even start getting that big 80 cents per book royalty.

But not all experiences with publishing companies have to be this way. At Sahno Publishing, we think literary excellence is more important than a financial formula. Go to msahno.com for more information.

So I’ve been looking at some topics for blogs, and I find all kinds of great ideas.  One of the more amusing ones is posting about personal stuff or pet peeves, so your readers get to know you better. This idea can work, but it can also be a disaster. I’ve seen writers post all manner of personal stuff that, quite frankly, I don’t want to know. Worse, there’s no compelling reason to care. Does Glenda’s reader really need to know that she collects her own toenail clippings? Do my readers care that I don’t remember what I had for breakfast two weeks ago, but still remember the lyrics to every Frank Zappa song I learned when I was in high school?

I’m going to guess no. But pet peeves, well, that could be interesting…especially if they’re somehow relevant for writers, or just writing in general for civilians.

And then it hit me: with the continual (d)evolution of our language, there are some highly annoying phrases out there right now that make my skin crawl…that make me feel like that guy above. I’m sure I’m not the only one who majored in English who feels this way. Looking at articles online that address this topic-Most Annoying Words and Phrases of 2016, etc. – I find that even the perennial offenders like “whatever” or “like” don’t bother me as much as some of the others.

So here we go with my current, latest, on-the-fly Top Ten Words or Phrases That Will Make You Cringe.

  1. Adulting – I thought it was bad when the word parenting became not only accepted, but common. Never did figure out what was wrong with just saying raising children (maybe it was George Carlin: “Don’t plant ’em too deep!”), but okay…whatever! And now we have devolved to adulting? What’s next? Childing? This one is so weird that my phone autocorrected it to faulting when I typed it. Makes sense to me.
  2. Having said that/That being said – This is the new “um.” A totally unnecessary placeholder phrase. What surprises me is how many professional speakers, who are excellent at what they do, stick this into a talk…multiple times! I just came from an event with people who are way better speakers than me, and yet, I caught a few of them doing this…a lot.
  3. Epic – Okay, you know this one is bad. Worse than awesome. Let’s face it, awesome has, to some degree, become synonymous with cool. But if you say everything is epic, well, guess what? Nothing will be epic.
  4. At the end of the day – Having said that, I’m now going to be businesslike and make sure you know that, when it comes right down to it, at the end of the day…ah, just forget it.
  5. “No words” – I believe this gets written more than said, mainly on social media. It expresses horror, shock, sadness, etc., I guess. Problem is, you just wrote two words to tell us you have no words. See the problem?
  6. Cray cray – Okay, I’ll admit, I don’t think I’ve ever heard this from a person I actually know. This is more an obnoxious TV personality thing. But it’s beyond annoying. This is getting into punishable offense material. Just say crazy, okay? Better yet, don’t. Maybe that person has a genuine mental health issue.
  7. Porn – What? Porn, you say? Well, I’m talking about people calling everything that’s not porn, porn. Food porn. Nature porn. I don’t know that it necessarily devalues or legitimates actual porn, but it’s stupid, and kind of weird. Besides, do you really want to have to explain to your three-year-old when they ask, “Mommy, what’s word porn?”
  8. Vajayjay – Urban Dictionary has a great definition for this: The most annoying word known to woman. Now, I don’t know who started the trend – and again, I’ve never heard a person I know use it – but it’s childish. I get that some people think the word vagina sounds, well, overwhelmingly medicinal, but come on. There has to be a better solution.

Okay, there’s my list. I know, I only went as far as eight, but honestly…don’t you feel bad enough just from those?

You’re welcome.

slow

How Fast Is Too Fast? And How Slow Is Too Slow?

Do you crank out copy at a fast and furious rate? Or are you “the slow one,” the writer who labors over every word, phrase, or even punctuation mark? Or, even more weirdly, are you one of those writers who strikes a happy medium between racing and plodding? I must...
process

Create A Process That Works For YOU

This week’s topic: create a process that works for you. I can’t tell you how many times a fellow author’s quote has upset me for the simple reason that their opinion is presented as fact. Here are a few examples: “Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by...
kicking that can

Kicking That Can Down the Road

When I started writing my upcoming novel, I didn't have an agenda or even a plan. The story of Whizzers came about very organically, though it has roots in my own life from many years ago. To understand how I evolved as a writer, you almost have to understand how I...

More on Literary Fiction

While I'm recovering from some oral surgery I had last Friday, I'm inclined to just rest and update my blog another time. But I'll be on vacation soon, so I'd rather post something than nothing. With that, I recommend blog readers check out my fellow literary author,...
ebook

A Free Ebook From Sahno Publishing—And An Open Invitation For More

Regular readers of this blog might be surprised to see me write about giving an ebook away. In fact, I wrote a post a few months ago called Why I Think Giving Your Work Away Is (Mostly) A Bad Idea. So why the change of heart, you may ask? Actually, there's no change...
perils

Instafreebie and The Perils of Evil

Most of you who read this blog know that I'm not a big one on writing about the perils of evil...at least not at the same level as the serial killers or the kings of genocide. Sure, I've got some pretty bad people in my books: Johnny, the doper and rapist in Brothers'...
forget

Writers, Don’t Forget to Write It Down!

It's happened to the best of us, right? You have a great idea, and you really should write it down. After all, you don't want to forget it. But it's well past midnight, and you're in bed. In fact, you're getting sleepy...very sleepy...your eyes are starting to --...
answer

We’re All Looking For The Answer

Today’s post is a bit of a topic combo, if there is such a thing. What’s on my mind? Elements of a February 2019 post called No More For The Road and the March 2019 post I Survived Catholic School. Don’t worry. I won’t repeat what’s in them. You can read them for...
mask

COVID-19, Discipline, and an Uncomfortable Freedom

Last week, my wife and I did something we hadn’t done since March of 2020: we walked into a supermarket without wearing masks. This might not seem radical, but a word of explanation is in order here. My mother, who turns 86 this coming May, lives up the road from us...
fictional world

Creating a Believable Fictional World

When it comes to writing fiction, many authors sweat the small stuff. "Do I have what it takes to write realistic dialogue?" they wonder. "Am I creating a believable fictional world?" Or, most dire of all, "Will anyone care about my books?" These concerns are all...